I heard this book reviewed recently on Radio 4 and then luckily it appeared as if by magic in my local Surbiton library. Appeasing Hitler (Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War) by Tim Bouverie.
It’s NOT a heavy read. It looks as if it should be, but the story skips along at a gentle jog. The characters of the key players, Chamberlain, Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and many more shine through their actions and quotes from 1930 up to the outbreak of war in 1939.
Appeasement was Great Britain’s policy throughout this time, whilst fascism and communism spread powerful tentacles across Europe and came face to face in bloody conflict in Spain. Overlaying this battle for hearts and minds were the old ideas of Empire and the access this gave the Western economies to cheap oil, food, minerals and labour.
Add to this melting pot rival political and social visions the global economic downturn following the Wall Street crash, religious upheaval and the implications of the Treaty of Versailles for the German working person, and with hindsight Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement to Mussolini and Hitler was a disaster.
The fruits of appeasement were horrific: one by one regions and people fell to military aggression in the East, Africa and the West: Manchuria (part of modern day China) to the Japanese, Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) to Italy, Spain to General Franco. To Hitler and the Nazis the Rhineland, Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia all fell during the policy of appeasement before the final straw of a carving up of Poland by the Russian Communists from the east and Germany from the West triggered the outbreak of war.
What makes this book brilliant and the history accessible is the personal detail we get of the key players such as Chamberlain flying to Berlin in Edwardian style clothing and an umbrella meeting Hitler and Goering in full military uniforms. Or Lord Boothby meeting Hitler for the first time and shouting ‘Heil Boothby’ to an astonished German Chancellor.
And finally, all the really big questions Europe faces today, have strong echoes in this past period of chaos. It’s no coincidence that Tim Bouverie was a political journalist at Channel 4 News between 2013 to 2017 covering the EU Referendum and a General Election.
This is a great read!