The name of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin is inexorably linked by history with the appeasement of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany. But it wasn’t Chamberlin and England that allowed Hitler his remarkable sting of foreign policy achievements. It was the capitulation of Germany’s neighbors, many in the face of crises that Hitler manufactured, that solidified Hitler with the German people.
I am asking neither that Germany be allowed to oppress three and a half million Frenchmen, nor am I asking that three and a half million Englishmen be placed at our mercy. Rather I am simply demanding that the oppression of three and a half million Germans in Czechoslovakia cease and that the inalienable right to self-determination take its place.
— Adolf Hitler's speech at the NSDAP Congress 1938
The incorporation of the Sudetenland into Germany that began on October 1st, 1938 left the rest of Czechoslovakia weak, and it became powerless to resist subsequent occupation. Part of the borderland region known as Zaolzie was occupied and returned to Poland. On March 15, 1939, the German Wehrmacht moved into the remainder of Czechoslovakia as Hitler watched from Praque Castle. Czechoslovakia now ceased to exist.
Next up was Poland. Poland had signed a mutual defense treaty with England and France. If Hitler invaded, France and England were bound to come to the aid of Poland. Once again, it was a manufactured crisis. SS troops dressed in Polish Army uniforms attacked a German radio station on the border. Hitler faked outrage, and declared a “defensive action” to protect Germany.
France and England declared War on Germany. Germany responded in kind. Chamberlin was replaced by Churchill, and the rest was history.
The lesson from pre-world war II Germany is that bullies will go as far as the nations around them allow them to go. Dictators will manufacture a crisis, and then seek to resolve it, earning the praise of their citizens.
Item: President Trump declares an “emergency” at the US/Mexican border. Claiming there is a crisis, Trump threatens ruin upon the Mexican economy, threatening to raise tariffs 5% a month on Mexican products unless Mexico capitulates to Trump’s demands. Over the weekend, the Mexican President appeased Trump, acquiesing to his demands.
The thing about history is that you never know where a dictator that manufacturers a crisis will pop-up. Even, tragically, as President of the United States. What we do now will be judged as harshly by history, as history now judges Chamberlin and other European leaders in 1938-1939.