British Politician. He is best remembered as the Prime Minister during the rise of German National Socialism and the start of World War II. Born in London, England, the second son of Joseph Chamberlain, a member of the British Parliament and politician for over 30 years, he followed his older brother Austin into politics as a member of the Conservative Party. He served as Minister of Health, and then twice as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1932, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he resolved the difficult international problem of Britain's war debt to the United States for loans during World War I. In 1937, he was elected Prime Minister, replacing Stanley Baldwin and serving for the next four years. He believed he could handle Hitler by adopting a policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany. In 1938, Hitler took over Austria, and then began making demands for the return of the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia bordering Germany. Chamberlain's appeasement policy led him, Hitler, Edouard Daladier of France, and Benito Mussolini of Italy to meet in Munich, Germany, where on September 29, 1938, the four countries agreed to return the Sudetenland to Germany. Czechoslovakia was not consulted on the agreement. When Chamberlain returned from Munich, he promised the British people that that the agreement would bring "peace in our time." Winston Churchill, then a Member of Parliament, called the Munich Agreement "a disaster of the first magnitude," leading the opposition of many in Parliament against the agreement. Six months after occupying the Sudetenland, Hitler had his Army take over the rest of Czechoslovakia. Several months later, Hitler began making demands on Poland, and the Polish Army mobilized for war. When Germany attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, Chamberlain reluctantly declared war on Germany two days later, supporting a treaty made years earlier with Poland for mutual defense. Following the defeat of Poland, Britain and France settled into a six month "Phony War" period with Germany, in which neither side actively attacked the other, and which Chamberlain hoped would lead to a peaceful resolution of the war. In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, and on 10 May 1940, Germany responded to Chamberlain's overtures for peace with a massive attack on France and the Benelux countries. Parliament gave Chamberlain a vote of no confidence and he resigned as Prime Minister when he realized his policy of appeasement had failed miserably. He was quickly replaced with Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. Chamberlain felt disgraced by the resulting war despite all of his efforts to maintain peace, and died seven months later.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Anne de Vere Cole Chamberlain