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World War II in Europe: Development and Costs

Appeasement as the Main Strategy Leading up to World War II

Among the strategies to which the allies resorted when managing the aftermath of the Great War, there was the method of appeasement. The policy presupposed making material and political allowances to the aggressive states with the aim of alleviating conflict. Most commonly, the term is employed to describe the foreign policy of the British government toward Italy and Germany in the period between the first and second World Wars. However, the strategy was also used by other allies against other aggressively intended states.

The reason the strategy of appeasement was used was to avoid the aggravation of military collisions. The nature of appeasement was manifold, including political, economic, and strategic causes.1 What is more, the policymakers’ ideologies played an important role in the development of appeasement. However, the policy did not turn out to be beneficial for the Allied Powers, having become “the most influential negative lesson.”2 In fact, appeasement was later viewed by historians as the passive reaction of Britain and France to the establishment and evolution of fascism in Germany and Italy.3 The crises in Czechoslovakia and Germany in the second half of the 1930s were expected to be resolved in a peaceful way. Although France was hoping to confront Hitler, it relied on Britain’s support in doing so.4 However, Britain was not in a hurry to help since its leaders had their own peculiar opinion on the matter. In fact, British leaders considered that leaving the state of affairs as it was would be enough to sustain peace, so they did not want to support France’s intentions.

Scholars note that if the allies’ aim of appeasement was to secure peace with Hitler, it was not fulfilled. The strategy was viewed as “politically naïve and morally bankrupt.”5 Despite being advised to refuse from the selected politics, Britain insisted on appeasement, which led to destructive outcomes for the country in particular and all the Allied Powers in general.6 Eventually, the strategy led to the emergence of World War II, the devastating results of which could be felt in numerous countries. Hence, it is viable to conclude that the policy of appeasement was not beneficial for the Allied Powers.

Costs of World War II in Europe

The politics of appeasement having proved unsuccessful, the Second World War became inevitable. Despite the agreements settled in the Munich Pact of 1938, which was signed by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, the situation became so tense that in 1939, the war on Germany was declared by France and Britain.7 The theater of World War II involved the majority of the world’s countries, but most of the human, financial, physical, and social losses were experienced by the European states. The war caused massive destructions of physical capital, including strategic buildings and housing facilities. The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by a number of inventions, including steam trains, petrol-fueled cars, and aircraft.8 During World War II, these and other machines were used by belligerents against one another. However, by the end of the war, many strategic places, including roads, bridges, and railroads, were destroyed.

Human losses of World War II exceeded those of World War I almost two times. While the first war took away nearly thirty-seven million people, the number of casualties of the second one was estimated to have reached between seventy and eighty-five million.9 Not only soldiers but also many civilians were killed in the war, as well as participated in it in various ways. Women and children helped to make clothes and prepared other important supplies for soldiers. Civilians had to learn how to protect themselves, and there is much evidence of their strength and fearlessness, including the ways of protecting their families and thinking of hiding places.10 Still, all the efforts were not enough to save millions of people from losing their assets and lives.

Some of the most prominent events showing the greatest courage during World War II involved the Battle of Britain, the struggle for Stalingrad and Leningrad in Russia, and the extermination of Jews. The Battle of Britain was the first military campaign fought exclusively by air forces. Despite the positive general outcome for the British, many thousands of people were injured and killed on both sides.11 One of the possible explanations for Germany’s defeat was the indecisiveness of German leaders.12 The losses on the Russian frontier were also highly numerous and substantial, including people and physical objects. The battle of Stalingrad of 1942 resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.1314 Although the Soviet army considerably evolved in urban warfare,15 It did not help the country to protect its people from the destructive power of fascists during the Leningrad blockade, which was remarkable for social losses.16 Finally, an infamous page in the war’s diary is the Holocaust, the title used for the extermination of millions of Jews during World War II.17 Despite the efforts of the Évian Conference to manage the problem, Jews were prosecuted by Nazis at numerous death camps.18

Overall, World War II led to a dramatic extent of destruction in terms of human lives, property, and economic damages. Many millions of people, both military and civilian, were killed.1920 It took all the participants of the war many decades to overcome the considerable social, human, financial, and economic losses.2122 The costs of the war were too high to neglect them, and ex-belligerents did everything possible to avoid their repetition.

Bibliography

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Breaking the Wall of National History: How Looking Beyond the Nation-State Helps Us Understand the Past — and Perhaps the Future. 2010. Web.

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Civilians at War: Time to Remember. 2011. Web.

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Cooper, Chris. “Reluctant Appeaser: Douglas Hailsham and the German Problem 1932–1938.” Diplomacy & Statecraft 23 (2012): 446–470.

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Cumming, Anthony J. “The Warship as the Ultimate Guarantor of Britain’s Freedom in 1940.” Historical Research 83, no. 219 (February 2010): 165–188.

Death Camp Treblinka: Survivor Stories. 2012. Web.

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Glantz, David M. “The Struggle for Stalingrad City: Opposing Orders of Battle, Combat Orders and Reports, and Operational Maps Part 1: The Fight for Stalingrad’s Suburbs, Center City, and Factory Villages. 3 September–13 October 1942.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 21 (2008): 146–238.

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“Wishful Thinking or Buying Time? The Logic of British Appeasement in the 1930s.” International Security 33, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 148–181.

Robinson, Nehemiah. “Problems of European Reconstruction.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 60, no. 1 (November 1945): 1–55.

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Footnotes

1 G. Bruce Strang, “The Spirit of Ulysses? Ideology and British Appeasement in the 1930s,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 19 (2008): 481.

2 Robert O. Paxton and Julie Hessler, Europe in the Twentieth Century, 5th ed. (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2012), 329.

3 Norrin M. Ripsman and Jack S. Levy, “The Preventive War that Never Happened: Britain, France, and the Rise of Germany in the 1930s,” Security Studies 16, no. 1 (January–March 2007): 32.

4 Ripsman and Levy, “The Preventive War,” 32.

5 Norrin M. Ripsman and Jack S. Levy, “Wishful Thinking or Buying Time? The Logic of British Appeasement in the 1930s,” International Security 33, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 148.

6 Chris Cooper, “Reluctant Appeaser: Douglas Hailsham and the German Problem 1932–1938,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 23 (2012): 446.

7 Conflict in the Modern World: The Origins of World War I and World War II, 2008, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=43116.

8 The Need for Speed: Time to Remember, 2011, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=57673.

9 Casualties of War: Time to Remember, 2011, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=57665.

10 Civilians at War: Time to Remember, 2011, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=57672.

11 Anthony J. Cumming, “The Warship as the Ultimate Guarantor of Britain’s Freedom in 1940,” Historical Research 83, no. 219 (February 2010): 182.

12 M. P. Barley, “Contributing to its Own Defeat: The Luftwaffe and the Battle of Britain,” Defence Studies 4, no. 3 (Autumn 2004): 387.

13 Gregory Liedtke, “Furor Teutonicus: German Offensives and Counter-Attacks on the Eastern Front, August 1943 to March 1945,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 21 (2008): 566.

14 David M. Glantz, “The Struggle for Stalingrad City: Opposing Orders of Battle, Combat Orders, and Reports, and Operational Maps Part 1: The Fight for Stalingrad’s Suburbs, Center City, and Factory Villages. 3 September–13 October 1942,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 21 (2008): 184.

15 David R. Stone, “Stalingrad and the Evolution of Soviet Urban Warfare,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 22 (2009): 195.

16 Alexander N. Chistikov, “Revisiting the Leningrad Blockade,” Russian Studies in History 52, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 4.

17 Death Camp Treblinka: Survivor Stories, 2012, accessed June 13, 2019,https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=57465.

18 Evian 1938: The Fear Conference, 2009, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=45487.

19 Boris Sokolov, “How to Calculate Human Losses During the Second World War,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 22 (2009).

20 Nehemiah Robinson, “Problems of European Reconstruction,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 60, no. 1 (November 1945).

21 Breaking the Wall of National History: How Looking Beyond the Nation-State Helps Us Understand the Past—and Perhaps the Future, 2010, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=49391.

22 The Pursuit of Peace: Time to Remember, 2011, accessed June 13, 2019, https://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=96349&xtid=57670.