Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)
TITLE: The costliest delay of the 20th Century
By Clive McLaren
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There are many examples in the Bible, about doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Ecc ch 3 vv 7b and 8b (N.I.V) apply especially to the illustration below.
Appeasement was used by Neville Chamberlain to placate Germany and Italy, in the hope that they, especially Hitler’s Germany, would not provoke a Europe-wide conflict. His delaying tactics were supported by right wing ministers such as the influential Lord Halifax, who along with Chamberlain, hoped that by giving concessions to a militaristic dictator, who had designs on Eastern Europe, it would strengthen Western Europe against the increasingly belligerent Russia under Stalin.
Hitler maintained that all he wanted was to cede Sudetenland to Germany, as it was the German speaking region of Czechoslovakia; therefore culturally belonging to Germany. However Chamberlain knew from early in 1937, that Hitler wanted to annex Austria, invade all of Czechoslovakia and that he also wanted a free hand in Eastern Europe. This vital and disturbing information had been provided by an MI6 agent named Hugh Christie; his report to the British Government was based on his secret conversation with Hermann Goering on 3rd February 1937.
In March of 1938, Hugh Christie once again gave Chamberlain the crucial intelligence that Germany’s Military elite had made it clear that they could remove Hitler if the Allies would support them. Had he acted then, it may have averted World War 2.
In May of 1938, the leader of the Austrian Nazi Party invited Hitler to occupy Austria, after removing the moderate Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg. This annexation was breaking the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany had signed in 1918.
Hitler had already broken the non-intervention policy he had signed along with 26 other countries, by providing Military supplies, including troops and the use of his newly formed Luftwaffe, in support of Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Therefore Chamberlain already knew that Hitler was not to be trusted and that his military ambitions would only increase as he expanded Germany’s territories.
Instead of forming a strong coalition of European Governments to stand up against Nazi Germany, the leaders of Britain, together with France and Italy met Hitler in Munich on September 29th 1938, signing this now infamous agreement, giving Hitler the impetus he needed to annexe Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. The Czech head of State, Eduard Benes, was not consulted or invited to the meeting! When he protested at this decision, Chamberlain informed him that Britain would not go to war over the issue!
British Ministers including Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden also protested strongly, saying Britain had acted dishonourably. France had also reneged on their treaty with Czechoslovakia to defend them against any aggression by another State.
The Czech army was considered at the time to be one of the best in Europe, but Chamberlain’s duplicity and prevarication insured that they would not join the Allies against Hitler.
Six months after agreeing with the Allies that he would leave Czechoslovakia alone as long he was given Sudetenland, Hitler’s Panzer Divisions invaded, thereby breaking the Munich Agreement.
On September 3rd 1939, two days after Hitler had invaded Poland, Neville Chamberlain announced to the British people that it had entered into a state of war with Germany. Britain and France were at last honouring their Treaty obligations, but sadly too late.
The underlying fear that Stalin was the real threat, which may have influenced Chamberlain in his delaying tactics, proved partially correct, what he hadn’t foreseen, however, was that Hitler and Stalin had made a secret non-aggression pact and carved Poland up between them, so by October 6th, only five weeks later, Poland ceased to exist.
Neville Chamberlain although still popular with the British public at the end of 1939, could not persuade the opposition parties to form a National Coalition Government to fight the war against Germany. He resigned, soon after, ill health forced him to leave office in October 1940, and two months later he died.
Winston Churchill, the man who had constantly warned Chamberlain that Hitler could not be trusted or controlled by appeasement; and that the Allies should make a political stand against him as early as 1937, became Britain’s Prime Minister for the duration of the war.
It is estimated that over 70,000,000 people died in World War Two.
4th January 2008.
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