ABSTRACT: Subject of the study is a little-known aspect of Chamberlain’s appeasement policy, namely, the propaganda campaign towards the German public from September 1938 until May 1940. Although there is a vast literature about appeasement, Chamberlain’s efforts to reach the German people by way of propaganda have so far received no attention from historians. The thesis reconstructs for the first time the history of British German-language propaganda dur-ing Chamberlain’s premiership. The evolution of the institutional framework, the changing strategies and the contents of this propaganda campaign are described in detail, offering a deep insight into the thinking of the British Government about German society and exposing a naive belief in the power of propaganda.
In the thesis a new methodological approach is adopted by integrating the study of high poli-tics at the diplomatic level with the study of the propaganda campaign towards a foreign pub-lic. Whereas conventional interpretations consider appeasement a foreign policy strategy con-ducted exclusively on the diplomatic stage between the two governments of Britain and Ger-many, the author maintains that appeasement has rather to be viewed as a policy consisting of two equal and complementary pillars. The first pillar was the well-known dual policy of deter-rence and conciliation directed towards the Nazi regime at a governmental level. The second pillar was the propaganda campaign directed towards the German public over the heads of the Nazi regime. The propaganda campaign, while on the whole reflecting Chamberlain’s foreign policy on the governmental level, seems to have been regarded by the British government as an additional deterrent element to the diplomatic pillar: Hitler was to be warned that he would risk serious opposition from his own people if he provoked war, and thus be induced to seek a peaceful solution to his territorial claims. In this sense, the propaganda campaign was a safe-guard for the conciliatory part of appeasement, namely, the readiness to consider favourably Germany’s legitimate territorial and economic claims.
The thesis identifies five phases during which Chamberlain attached varying degrees of im-portance to the propaganda instrument in his dealings with Germany. Thus, the significance of propaganda increased in direct relation to the deterioration of Anglo-German negotiations on the diplomatic level. The propaganda pillar even outlasted the outbreak of war and the col-lapse of the first pillar: After negotiations on an official diplomatic level had come to an end on 3rd September 1939, Chamberlain sought to continue his policy of goodwill towards the German people by means of propaganda in the hope to stir up a revolution against Hitler.
In the end, however, British propaganda proved to be a failure. The author identifies two rea-sons for this. The first was a lack of credibility, i.e. the discrepancy between the picture of events as presented in British propaganda, and the reality as experienced by the German pub-lic. The second, and even more important, reason was, however, a whole host of unrealistic British assumptions about the Nazi state and the character of the German people. In particular, the British political elite unconsciously transferred British democratic traditions onto Hitler’s totalitarian regime. Chamberlain’s propaganda was based on the premise that public opinion did carry some weight in the Third Reich and that the German people, even though living un-der a dictatorship, would cherish similar political ideals of democratic participation and a dis-like of Hitler as British subjects.
07/2005, Degree: Ph.D., Supervisor: Prof. Alan S. Milward (+)