Munich Agreement: Wikis

  
  

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The Munich Pact (Czech: Mnichovská dohoda; Slovak: Mníchovská dohoda; German: Münchner Abkommen; French: Accords de Munich; Italian: Accordi di Monaco) was an agreement permitting Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without the presence of Czechoslovakia. Today, it is widely regarded as a failed act of appeasement against Nazi Germany. The agreement was signed in the early hours of 30 September 1938 (but dated 29 September). The purpose of the conference was to discuss the future of the Sudetenland in the face of territorial demands made by Adolf Hitler. The agreement was signed by Nazi Germany, France, Britain, and Italy. The Sudetenland was of immense strategic importance to Czechoslovakia, as most of its border defenses were situated there, and many of its banks were located there as well. Thus, when Britain and France gave the Sudentenland to Germany, it was implied that they allowed Germany to take over all of Czechoslovakia as well.

The state of Czechoslovakia was not invited to the conference, therefore the Munich Agreement is sometimes called the Munich Dictate by Czechs and Slovaks (Czech: Mnichovský diktát; Slovak: Mníchovský diktát). The phrase Munich Betrayal (Czech: Mnichovská zrada; Slovak: Mníchovská zrada) is also used because military alliances between Czechoslovakia and France were not honoured. However, today the document is typically referred to simply as the Munich Pact (Mnichovská dohoda) even in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Contents

Background

For several years, Adolf Hitler had been pursuing the goal of a Greater Germany, composed of all of the land in which German peoples lived. This was often expressed in terms of providing "living space" (German: Lebensraum) for the Germans. The Saar was reunited with Germany in 1935, following a plebiscite. Austria was annexed in early 1938. Once Anschluss was completed, Czechoslovakia was hemmed in by Germany on three sides. The portion of Czechoslovakia bordering Germany (the Sudetenland) had a substantial ethnic German population, constituting a majority in many districts. Geography thus combined with demographics to make Czechoslovakia the next target. That spring and summer, certain Sudeten Germans agitated for autonomy or union with Nazi Germany, and German officials demanded this additional territory.[citation needed]

Negotiations took place over the summer. While Czechoslovakia had a well-trained army, it was unable to fight its much larger neighbor without the aid of the Western powers, France and the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Chamberlain thought Hitler would be satisfied if his demand was met. By September 21, Czechoslovakia had been forced to accept the loss of the Sudetenland. On September 28, the British asked for a conference. The next day, the Great Powers of Europe met in Munich. Significantly, Czechoslovakia was excluded from the conference.

Resolution

Sequence of events following the Munich Agreement:
1. Germany occupies the Sudetenland (October 1938).
2. Poland annexes Zaolzie, claiming that this is an area with a Polish majority taken over by Czech army in 1918-1920 (October 1938).
3. Hungary occupies border areas (southern third of Slovakia and southern Carpathian Ruthenia) with Hungarian minorities in accordance with the First Vienna Award (November 1938).
4. In March 1939, Hungary annexes Carpathian Ruthenia (which had been autonomous since October 1938).
5. The remaining Czech territories become the German satellite Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
6. The remainder of Czechoslovakia becomes Slovakia, another German satellite.
From left to right: Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Ciano pictured before signing the Munich Agreement.

A deal was reached on 29 September, and at about 1:30am on 30 September 1938,[1] Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier signed the Munich Agreement. The agreement was officially introduced by Mussolini although in fact the so-called Italian plan had been prepared in the German Foreign Office. It was nearly identical to the Godesberg proposal: the German army was to complete the occupation of the Sudetenland by 10 October, and an international commission would decide the future of other disputed areas.

Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could either resist Nazi Germany alone or submit to the prescribed annexations. The Czechoslovak government, realizing the hopelessness of fighting the Nazis alone, reluctantly capitulated (30 September) and agreed to abide by the agreement. The settlement gave Germany the Sudetenland starting 10 October, and de facto control over the rest of Czechoslovakia as long as Hitler promised to go no further. On September 30 after some rest, Chamberlain went to Hitler and asked him to sign a peace treaty between the United Kingdom and Germany. After Hitler's interpreter translated it for him, he happily agreed.

The Führerbau, in which the Agreement was signed, is today a school, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München

On 30 September, upon his return to Britain, Chamberlain delivered his famous "peace for our time" speech to delighted crowds in London.

Reactions

Though the British and French were pleased, as were the Nazi military and German diplomatic leadership, Hitler was furious. He felt as though he had been forced into acting like a bourgeois politician by his diplomats and generals. Hitler now regarded Chamberlain with utter contempt. A British diplomat in Berlin was informed by reliable sources that Hitler viewed Chamberlain as "an impertinent busybody who spoke the ridiculous jargon of an outmoded democracy. The umbrella, which to the ordinary German was a symbol of peace, was in Hitler's view only a subject of derision".[2] Also, Hitler had been heard saying: "If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers".[3]

Although the initial British reaction was generally positive, as the population had expected war, it quickly turned sour. Despite royal patronage - Chamberlain was greeted as a hero by the royal family and invited on the balcony at Buckingham Palace before he had presented the agreement to Parliament - opposition was present from the start and Clement Attlee and the Labour Party opposed the agreement in alliance with what had been seen, up to then, as the die hard and reactionary element of the Conservative Party.

In later years Chamberlain was excoriated for his role as one of the Men of Munich - perhaps most famously in the 1940 squib Guilty Men. A rare wartime defense of the Munich Agreement came in 1944 from Viscount Maugham, who had been Lord Chancellor at the time. Maugham viewed the decision to establish a Czechoslovak state including substantial German and Polish minorities as a "dangerous experiment" in the light of previous disputes, and ascribed the Munich Agreement largely to France's need to extricate itself from its treaty obligations in the light of its unpreparedness for war.[4]

Daladier believed he saw Hitler's ultimate goals, but as a threat. He told the British in a late April 1938 meeting that Hitler's real aim was to eventually secure "a domination of the Continent in comparison with which the ambitions of Napoleon were feeble." He went on to say "Today it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow it will be the turn of Poland and Romania. When Germany has obtained the oil and wheat it needs, she will turn on the West. Certainly we must multiply our efforts to avoid war. But that will not be obtained unless Great Britain and France stick together, intervening in Prague for new concessions but declaring at the same time that they will safeguard the independence of Czechoslovakia. If, on the contrary, the Western Powers capitulate again they will only precipitate the war they wish to avoid." [5]. Perhaps discouraged by the arguments of the military and civilian members of the French government regarding their unprepared military and weak financial situation, as well as traumatised by France's bloodbath in the First World War that he was personally a witness to, Daladier ultimately let Chamberlain have his way. On his return to Paris, Daladier, who was expecting a hostile crowd, was acclaimed. He then told his aide, Alexis Léger: "Ah, les cons!" (Ah, the fools!)[6].

Joseph Stalin was also upset by the results of the Munich conference. The Soviets, who had a mutual military assistance treaty with Czechoslovakia, felt betrayed by France, which also had a mutual military assistance treaty with Czechoslovakia. The British and French, however, mostly used the Soviets as a threat to dangle over the Germans. Stalin concluded that the West had actively colluded with Hitler to hand over a Central European country to the Nazis, causing concern that they might do the same to the Soviet Union in the future, allowing the partition of the USSR between the western powers and the fascist Axis. This belief led the Soviet Union to reorient its foreign policy towards a rapprochement with Germany, which eventually led to the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.[7]

The Czechoslovaks were greatly dismayed with the Munich settlement. With Sudetenland gone to Germany, Czecho-Slovakia (as the state was now renamed) lost its defensible border with Germany and its fortifications. Without them its independence became more nominal than real. In fact, Edvard Beneš, the President of Czechoslovakia, had the military print the march orders for his army and put the press on standby for a declaration of war. Czechoslovakia also lost 70% of its iron/steel, 70% of its electrical power, 3.5 million citizens and the famous Škoda Works to Germany as a result of the settlement.[8]

The Sudeten Germans celebrated what they saw as their liberation. The imminent war, it seemed, had been avoided.

Hitler's determination to go through with his plan for the invasion of all Czechoslovakia in 1938 provoked a major crisis in the German command structure. The Chief of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck, protested in a lengthy series of memos that it would start a world war that Germany would lose, and urged Hitler to put off the projected war. Hitler called Beck's arguments against war "kindische Kräfteberechnugen" ("childish calculations"). On August 4, 1938, a secret Army meeting was held. Beck read his lengthy report to the assembled officers. They all agreed something had to be done to prevent certain disaster. Beck hoped they would all resign together but no one resigned except Beck. However his replacement, General Franz Halder, sympathised with Beck and together they conspired with several top generals, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Chief of German Intelligence), and Graf von Helldorf (Berlin's Police Chief) to arrest Hitler the moment he gave the invasion order. However, the plan would only work if both Britain and France made it known to the world that they would fight to preserve Czechoslovakia. This would help to convince the German people that certain defeat awaited Germany. Agents were therefore sent to England to tell Chamberlain that an attack on Czechoslovakia was planned and their intentions to overthrow Hitler if this occurred. However, the messengers were not taken seriously by the British. In September, Chamberlain and Daladier decided not to threaten a war over Czechoslovakia and so the planned removal of Hitler could not be justified.[9] The Munich Agreement therefore preserved Hitler in power.

Invasion of the remainder of Czechoslovakia

Map of the Sudetenland Reichsgau.

Germany stated that the incorporation of Austria into the Reich resulted in borders with Czechoslovakia that were a great danger to German security, and that this allowed Germany to be encircled by the Western Powers.[10] In 1937, the Wehrmacht had formulated a plan called Operation Green (Fall Grün) for the invasion of Czechoslovakia[11] which was implemented as Operation Southeast on 15 March 1939.

On 14 March Slovakia seceded from Czechoslovakia and became a separate pro-Nazi state. On the following day, Carpathian Ruthenia proclaimed independence as well, but after three days was completely occupied by Hungary. Czechoslovak president Emil Hácha traveled to Berlin and was forced to sign his acceptance of German occupation of the remainder of Bohemia and Moravia. Churchill's prediction was fulfilled as German armies entered Prague and proceeded to occupy the rest of the country, which was transformed into a protectorate of the Reich.

Meanwhile concerns arose in Great Britain that Poland (now substantially encircled by German possessions) would become the next target of Nazi expansionism, which was made apparent by the dispute over the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig. This resulted in the signing of an Anglo-Polish military alliance, and consequent refusal of the Polish government to German negotiation proposals over the Polish Corridor and the status of Danzig.

Prime Minister Chamberlain felt betrayed by the Nazi seizure of Czechoslovakia, realising his policy of appeasement towards Hitler had failed, and began to take a much harder line against the Nazis. Among other things he immediately began to mobilise the British Empire's armed forces on a war footing. France did the same. Italy saw itself threatened by the British and French fleets and started its own invasion of Albania in April 1939. Although no immediate action followed, Hitler's invasion on Poland on September 1 officially began World War II.

Quotations from key participants

...the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine (waves paper to the crowd - receiving loud cheers and "Hear Hears"). Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you ...
"My good friends, for the second time in our history a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time." (Chamberlain's reference to Beaconsfield's return from the Congress of Berlin in 1878)
  • Chamberlain in a letter to his sister Hilda, on 2 October 1938:
"I asked Hitler about one in the morning while we were waiting for the draftsmen whether he would care to see me for another talk….I had a very friendly and pleasant talk, on Spain, (where he too said he had never had any territorial ambitions) economic relations with S.E. Europe, and disarmament. I did not mention colonies, nor did he. At the end I pulled out the declaration which I had prepared beforehand and asked if he would sign it. As the interpreter translated the words into German, Hitler said Yes, I will certainly sign it. When shall we do it? I said "now", and we went at once to the writing table and put our signatures to the two copies which I had brought with me."[citation needed]
"We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat...you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude...we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road...we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting". And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."
"The enemy did not expect my great determination. Our enemies are little worms, I saw them at Munich. [...] Now Poland is in the position I wanted. [...] I am only afraid that some bastard will present me with a mediation plan at the last moment."[12]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Gilbert, Martin and Gott, Richard, The Appeasers (Weidenfeld Goldbacks, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1967), p. 178.
  2. ^ Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, The Inner Circle (Macmillan, 1959), p. 122.
  3. ^ Kirkpatrick, p. 135.
  4. ^ Viscount Maugham, "The Truth about the Munich Crisis", William Heinemann Ltd, 1944.
  5. ^ Shirer, William The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940, 1969, De Capo Press, pages 339-340.
  6. ^ Jean-Paul Sartre, Le sursis
  7. ^ (German) Klaus Hildebrand, "Das Dritte Reich". Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte. München 1991, S. 36
  8. ^ Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
  9. ^ [Terry Parssinen|The Oster Conspiracy of 1938: The Unknown Story of the Military Plot to Kill Hitler, Pimlico Press, 2004, ISBN 1844133079]
  10. ^ Reinhard Müller, Deutschland. Sechster Teil (München and Berlin: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1943), pp. 116-130.
  11. ^ Herzstein, Robert Edwin The Nazis (Time-Life Books World War II Series) New York:1980 Time-Life Books Page 184
  12. ^ Text of Hitler's 22.08.1939 speech (German)

External links


Simple English

The Munich Agreement was an agreement between France, Italy, Nazi Germany and Britain. After Germany invaded the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, the British and French prime ministers tried to get Hitler to agree not to use his military in future in return for the land he had taken. Hitler agreed to sign a promise. At first people thought the agreement was a success, but Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939, which led to the start of the Second World War.

Contents

Background

Czechoslovakia was a strong country, with a modern army in 1938. Hitler wanted Lebensraum, and wanted to have all Germans in Czechoslovakia united with Germany. As most of the German speaking population of Czechoslovakia was in the Sudetenland, Hitler set his sights there first. He knew that most of the industrial strength of Czechoslovakia would be lost with the Sudetenland leaving Czechoslovakia. Britain, France and the USSR had all agreed to support Czechoslovakia if it came to war.

Crisis Point

On September 12th 1938 Hitler told Sudeten Germans that he would support them. On 15th, Chamberlain met with Hitler in a last ditch attempt to avert war. Hitler moderated his demands, saying he was only interested in parts of Czechoslovakia, and Chamberlain thought it reasonable, and that Hitler would be satisfied. However, on the 22nd, Hitler changed his demands saying he wanted the whole of the Sudetenland. The British Navy mobilised and war seemed imminent.

29th September

Mussolini persuaded Hitler to attend a 4 power peace conference in Munich on the 29th September. The conference was held between four leaders, Hitler for Germany, Mussolini for Italy, Chamberlain for Britain, and Daladier for France. The Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia were not invited.

At the conference Mussolini put forward a plan (really written by the German Foreign Office) that the Sudetenland was to become part of Germany immediately. The German army was to march into the Sudetenland the following day and claim it as German territory. Britain and France agreed, Czechoslovakia was not even consulted and the USSR was horrified. Chamberlain returned to Britain to receive a hero's welcome as he had achieved "peace for our time" with his appeasement policy.

Benes, the Czech president, resigned. He felt betrayed after Britain and France's promises to help Czechs. On the 1st October, Germans walked into the Sudetenland, and Hungary and Poland also helped themselves to land in Czechoslovakia where people of that nationality had been living.

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