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The Failure of the League of Nations in the 1930’s

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1 The Failure of the League of Nations in the 1930’s

2 The Gathering Storm As we have discussed previously, the economic crisis of the 1930’s provides the context for the collapse of collective security . The failure to ensure disarmament and the growth of aggressive militaristic/nationalist states in the shape of Japan, Germany and Italy undermines the Leagues efforts to ensure a vision for world order as envisaged at Versailles. Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the irrelevancy of the international community’s response i.e. The Lytton Commission , illustrate this. As does, Hitler’s withdrawal for the Disarmament Conference in 1933 and the League itself in 1935. To compound this Mussolini’s colonial ambitions in Abyssinia (October invasion) destroys any great power equilibrium that might have ensued from the Stresa Front (April agreement) in Arguably, this factor more than any other was the turning point during the 1930’s and provided an accelerator towards future conflict in 1939.

3 Why was the Abyssinian Crisis so significant as an accelerator to war?
Clearly , the crisis demonstrated once again a lack of unity between Britain and France in dealing with threats to security in Europe. It also alienated Mussolini and pushed him towards Hitler(Italy withdraws from the League in Nov 1937). Arguably, however, the real significance of Abyssinia rests in the fact , that the crisis represented a green light to Germany’s military and geographical expansion. This more than anything else was the most dangerous and important result of the crisis and leads directly to: The remilitarisation of the Rhineland by Hitler in March 1936. he Rome Berlin Axis in October 1936 (which leads to the Pact of Steel in May 1939). The Anti Comintern Pact in November 1936. The Anschluss in March 1938

4 What was Britain and France’s diplomatic strategy for dealing with this new reality? - The bankruptcy of Appeasement The Anschluss marked a clear escalation of Nazi policy as it involved the clear obliteration of an independent state set up by the peace treaties. The British government in response merely made a formal protest while the French were in the process of changing governments and therefore made no response. Rapid and risky action by Hitler had reaped rich reward and resulted in a momentum for further territorial gain. The 3.25 million German minority in Czechoslovakia (an area known as the Sudeten land) provided the next target for Hitler and the next test of Britain and France’s diplomatic strategy. Britain and France were prepared to concede to Hitler’s demands for the unification of the German speaking people in the Sudetenland with German itself. This was confirmed at the Munich Conference of September There , Chamberlain (British PM), Daladier (French PM), Hitler (Germany’s Furher) and Mussolini (Italian Duce) agreed that Germany would receive all Czech territory where Germans were in the majority. The Czech government were not invited or even consulted. This represented the zenith of the policy of appeasement adopted since 1919.

5 The implications of Munich?
Both morally and practically the implications of the Munich Agreement were enormous. The allies had betrayed Czechoslovakia. Although her remaining territory was formally guaranteed, the state was doomed by the loss of her defensible frontier, 70% of its industrial resources, and also by the encouragement that Sudeten success gave to other separatists. Britain and France’s relief that war had been avoided was short lived and by March 1939 Hitler’s army seized Prague. The agreement was no check on Hitler’s ambitions. The Munich surrender also resulted in another casualty i.e. The relationship between the western democracies and the Soviet Union. To Stalin and others the Munich Agreement, showed at best that the diplomacy of the western powers was incapable of checking German ambitions, and at worst represented a tacit agreement to Germany’s desire to demolish the last remnants of Versailles and its quest for “living space” in eastern Europe. The direct consequence of this was the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact or German-Soviet Pact of August To the world this was a non aggression treaty designed to last 10 years. In secret, however, it divided the territories between the German and Soviet borders into spheres of influence. In short, Hitler received Stalin’s approval for invasion of the Polish corridor and Danzig. In return, Stalin reversed the losses suffered by Russia during the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War (i.e. The rest of Poland, the Baltic states and Finland).

6 A lesson learnt too late
A lesson learnt too late? – Poland and the final crisis in the summer of 1939 The futility of Britain and France’s Munich policy was truly exposed by the spring of 1939. The failure of the League to address the issue of Germany’s Eastern borders, the appeasement of German ambition in Austria and the Sudetenland, the invasion of the remaining parts of the Czech state, and the Nazi-Soviet pact had resulted in a certain inevitability where Poland’s fate was concerned. Public opinion in Britain and France had moved away from a policy of conciliation towards Hitler by the Spring of Clearly this was too late. The new bullish stance, as represented by the “Polish Guarantee”, by Chamberlain regarding Poland would have little or no impact by this stage. The “Twenty Years Truce” that had existed in Europe since the end of the First World War was to come to an end on the 1st of September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany. Task: Look at the period from 1935 to 1939 and determine how the policy of appeasement contributed to the outbreak of war in September 1939.

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