The Munich Agreement (Czech: Mnichovská dohoda; Slovak: Mníchovská dohoda; German: Münchner Abkommen; French: Accords de Munich) was an agreement permitting German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along borders of Czechoslovakia, mainly inhabited by Czech Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany among the major powers of Europe without the presence of Czechoslovakia. It was an act of appeasement. 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 Czechoslovakia in the face of territorial demands made by German dictator Adolf Hitler. The agreement was signed by Germany, France, Britain, and Italy. The Sudetenland was of immense strategic importance to Czechoslovakia, as most of its border defenses were situated there.
Because the state of Czechoslovakia was not invited to the conference, 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 Agreement even in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
A deal was reached on 29 September, and at about 1:30am on 30 September, 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 Germany alone or submit to the prescribed annexations. The Czechoslovak government, realizing the hopelessness of fighting Germany 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 30th 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.
On 30 September, upon his return to Britain, Chamberlain delivered his famous "peace for our time" speech to delighted crowds in London.
Though the British and French were pleased, as were the German military and 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". 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".
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 defence 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.
Daladier believed he saw Hitler's ultimate goals. 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." . 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 traumatized 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!).
Outwardly, Joseph Stalin was also upset by the results of the Munich conference. The Soviets had not been represented at the conference and felt they should be acknowledged as a major power. 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 an Eastern 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.
However, with the release of the Soviet archives, new interpretations suggest that Stalin in fact was upset as he wanted war to go west, not east. He felt Germany could entangle Western Europe to Russia's benefit. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was an astute measure to move Germany west, protect the east momentarily, and Stalin never put any faith in it past that end. (This in direct contradiction to reports that Stalin was literally dumbfounded upon hearing of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, and mental inability to issue orders to the army for several days.)
The Czechoslovaks were greatly dismayed with the Munich settlement. With Sudetenland gone to Germany and later southern Slovakia (one third of Slovak territory) occupied by Hungary and the area of Zaolzie by Poland (the disputed area west of the Olza River - 801.5 km² with a population of 227,399), 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 then-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.
The Sudeten Germans celebrated what they saw as their liberation. Also the Poles were happy with the outcome. 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 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. The Munich Agreement therefore preserved Hitler in power.
Invasion of the remainder of CzechoslovakiaEdit
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. In 1937, the Wehrmacht had formulated a plan called Operation Green (Fall Grün) for the invasion of Czechoslovakia 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 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 mobilize 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 move on Poland in September started World War II in Europe.
Quotations from key participantsEdit
- Neville Chamberlain, announcing the deal at the Heston Aerodrome:
...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 ...
- 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."
- Winston Churchill, denouncing the Agreement in the House of Commons:
"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.
- Adolf Hitler, in his speech to his generals on 22 August 1939, a week before the invasion of Poland:
"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."
- German occupation of Czechoslovakia
- Concentration camps Lety and Hodonín in the Czech republic
- Appeasement of Hitler
- Western betrayal
- Lesson of Munich
- ↑ Gilbert, Martin and Gott, Richard, The Appeasers (Weidenfeld Goldbacks, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1967), p. 178.
- ↑ Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, The Inner Circle (Macmillan, 1959), p. 122.
- ↑ Kirkpatrick, p. 135.
- ↑ Viscount Maugham, "The Truth about the Munich Crisis", William Heinemann Ltd, 1944.
- ↑ Shirer, William The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940, 1969, De Capo Press, pages 339-340.
- ↑ Jean-Paul Sartre, Le sursis
- ↑ (German) Klaus Hildebrand, "Das Dritte Reich". Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte. München 1991, S. 36
- ↑ Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Murray 1984, pp. 178–184
- ↑ Murray 1984, p. 183
- ↑ [Terry Parssinen|The Oster Conspiracy of 1938: The Unknown Story of the Military Plot to Kill Hitler|Pimlico Press|2004|ISBN 1844133079]
- ↑ Reinhard Müller, Deutschland. Sechster Teil (München and Berlin: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1943), pp. 116-130.
- ↑ Herzstein, Robert Edwin The Nazis (Time-Life Books World War II Series) New York:1980 Time-Life Books Page 184
- ↑ Text of Hitler's 22.08.1939 speech (German)
- Krejčí, Oskar: "Geopolitics of the Central European Region. The view from Prague and Bratislava" Bratislava: Veda, 2005. 494 p. (Free download)
- Lukes, Igor & Erik Goldstein (editors) The Munich Crisis, 1938 : Prelude to World War II, London ; Portland, OR : Frank Cass Inc, 1999.
- Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York: Touchstone Press, 1959.
- Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John Munich: Prologue to Tragedy, New York: Viking Press, 1965.
- Tauchen, Jaromír: "Czech Republic and the nullity of the Munich Agreement" In A Brief Introduction to Czech Law. Rincon: The American Institute for Central European Legal Studies (AICELS),2008. p. 103 - 110.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Munich Agreement|
- The Munich Agreement - Text of the Munich Agreement on-line
- The Munich Agreement Original reports from The Times
- British Pathe newsreel (includes Chamberlain's speech at Heston aerodrome)
- Peace: And the Crisis Begins from a broadcast by Dorothy Thompson, October 1, 1938
- Post-blogging the Sudeten Crisis - A day by day summary of the crisisar:معاهدة ميونخ
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