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Did people agree with Churchill's stand on appeasement?

Source 8

Part of a letter to Churchill from an American citizen, August 1939


CHAR 2/361/15 (images 16 and 17)

We've highlighted the parts of the document which appear in the transcription below.

Simplified Transcript

Dear Mr Churchill

I’ve sent you several letters and news clippings. I now want to warn you that hostility is growing towards Britain here in the US. The cowardly policy of appeasement followed by the Chamberlain government is causing this. Even Spain thinks it can now push Britain around by demanding Gibraltar.

Chamberlain’s weakness has allowed the Nazi to take over Danzig and start persecuting Jews there. The world thought Danzig was under the protection of the League of Nations …

The only solution is to get rid of Chamberlain and his government and replace them with a strong government.

Being British born, I resent the way appeasement has made people think of the British as cowards.


William J Stempel

Original Transcript

600 West 157th Street
New York, August 2nd 1939

Hon. Winston Churchill, Ack[knowledge]. Thank
London, England.

Dear Mr Churchill;-

Relative to the letters and many clippings I have sent you apprising you of the feelings of the Americans towards the Chamberlain appeasement policies. please be informed that with the passing of the days hostility is growing, especially now that the craven and cowardly appeasement policies of the Chamberlain government is even causing a weak impotent bankrupt Spain to demand the return of Gibraltar, no doubt egged on by Nazi-Fascist influence.

Chamberlains weakness has permitted the barbarous and sadistic Nazi to continually fortify and actually possess Danzig, and persecuting Jewish residents of Danzig, exiling them, the world has been under the impression Danzig was a free city under the protection of the League of Nations …

… The only solution is the immediate abolishment of the weakling Chamberlain Government and a strong one in its place, even then it may be to late to offset the irrepairableharm hehas done.

As British Born, I resent the actions of the Chamberlain Government and its stigma of craven cowardice it is bringing upon the British Empire and its people.

Very truly yours
W[ilia]m J Stampel

What is this source?

This is a letter written by a British-born resident of the US in 1939. At this point war had almost broken out in Europe and the US was beginning to feel threatened by the rise of Japan in the Pacific. Japan had invaded China in 1937 and had begun building an empire in Asia in a bid to rival the US.

Background to this source

This letter was written at a time of crisis in Europe. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had followed a policy of appeasement towards German leader Adolf Hitler, giving him a series of concessions, especially in 1938. In 1939 Hitler had effectively taken over Czechoslovakia completely, breaking all his previous promises. It now looked as though he was about to do the same to Poland.

In the years 1935–38 the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been pursuing aggressive policies such as building up German arms and demanding territories. In 1936 he marched troops into the Rhineland and there’d been no resistance. In 1938 he joined Austria to Germany. In September 1938 he demanded the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia should become part of Germany. War looked very likely but British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to meet Hitler in Munich and effectively gave him what he wanted, assuming that this would satisfy Hitler and guarantee future peace. This turned out to be a false hope and Hitler took over the rest of Czechoslovakia, then threatened Poland.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating how far people agreed with Churchill’s views on appeasement in the 1930s. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. How does the writer describe Chamberlain’s policies?
  2. According to the writer, what’s happening to Britain’s reputation?
  3. What has happened in Spain?
  4. What is happening in Danzig?
  5. What does the letter writer want?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
Americans support appeasement.

This is a calm and measured letter.

Appeasement damaged Britain’s reputation.

Churchill was a lone voice against appeasement

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • The context of this source is vital to understanding how historians can use it. It was written at a time when Hitler had reached a series of agreements and broken each one in turn. Opinion in the US was very anti-German but also critical of the British government for allowing Hitler to make so many gains.
  • Hitler’s claims were based on the city of Danzig and the Polish Corridor. This was an area of German territory which had been cut off from the rest of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. The German city of Danzig was made a Free City under the control of the League of Nations. It still was at the time of this letter, so the reference to Nazis taking it over may be exaggerated or based on the actions of Germans inside Danzig rather than official German troops.
  • The author refers to Gibraltar which is a territory on the southern tip of Spain which had been ruled by Britain since the 1700s.

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