Appeasement: Before and After the War
- Compare the appeasement of Adolf Hitler before the war to the concessions made by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Stalin after the war.
- Analyze the differences between the two situations.
- Consider how grouping the two instances together might have modern political implications.
While British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed he preserved the peace in 1938 when he approved the cession of the Czech Sudetenland to Germans, Adolf Hitler planned the conquest of Europe. British concessions to Germany are still regarded as the ultimate failure in diplomacy. Even the word commonly used to describe those fateful actions, appeasement, continues to carry a negative connotation. In the late years of the war, another dictator attempted to gain power and concessions from the Western democracies. Through years of diplomacy Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill balanced the need to win the war with the demands and actions of Joseph Stalin. Critics of the Allied leaders have often compared their actions to the ill-fated efforts of Chamberlain. Many historians discount the link between the two because they do not consider the complexity of the war years and the lack of control the Western Allies had over Stalin.
- Evaluate the similarities and differences in the treatment of Hitler and Stalin by the western democracies.
- Discuss the political nature of the term appeasement and why it might be used today in the context of Iraq and Iran or even modern Russia.
- Discuss the policy of appeasement used by Britain in the prewar years. If necessary, have students first review the provided Web resources on appeasement.
- Next, start a general comparison between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. How were they similar and different? Consider their leadership styles, treatment of their own people, and the nature of the government they each controlled.
- Lead the discussion to focus on the end of World War II and Stalin’s broken promise to adhere to the principles of the Atlantic Charter, which was to allow elections in liberated territories. Considering the similarities between Hitler and Stalin, ask students to speculate why Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill allowed Stalin to dominate Eastern Europe.
- Now have students read the Roosevelt and Stalin articles (both internal and external resources). They should take notes on the following topics: attempts to hold Stalin accountable, concessions made to Stalin, Stalin’s promises, the barriers faced by the leaders during World War II, and potential options to stop him. Use the provided worksheet to help organize note taking.
- As a class discussion, a blog entry, a journal, or essay, have students explain the major differences between the two progressions of events.
- As a follow-up, relate the idea of appeasement to modern times. It was used in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq and in more recent references to Iran. How is this term politically charged? Why do some people insist that Roosevelt appeased Stalin in the same way that Chamberlain appeased Hitler? Use the Modern Use of the Term Appeasement links below to help provide a current context for these questions.
Roosevelt and Stalin