Opportunity, Appeasement, and Aggression
During the eighteen months before September 5939 the Great Powers of Europe were nominally at peace; never outside war had the continent known so sustained a period of tension and fear. The conflict which followed was Hitler’s; seldom has the way of the aggressor been made so inviting. The circumstances within which the outwardly bloodless conquests of these months took place and the ease with which they were accomplished were the work of other men and earlier events. The natural predominance of Germany in Central Europe was Hitler’s opportunity, not his handiwork. In Bohemia the conflict between Czechs and Germans was centuries old, and in Berlin no government since 1919 had genuinely accepted the new frontiers of Eastern Europe as final. Hitler was helped in the 1930’s by the internal conflicts of the Austrian people and the nervous credulity of Schuschnigg; by the anomalies and weaknesses of Versailles and the climate of bitterness and idealism in which they had been created; by the weary ignorance of Baldwin, the frightened intrigues of Bonnet, and the moods and opinions of a Britain and a France which were generally given the foreign policies they desired and the politicians they deserved.
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