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Hitler's Foreign Policy

Hitlers aims:
- Revise treaty of Versailles
- unite all German speaking people in one country (make a greater
Germany )
- living space (lebensraum) -- to be independent
o In the east wanted:
as far as the Caucasus and Iran .
o In the west:
Flanders ( Belgium ) and Holland .
Need Sweden to become colonial power.
Thought he should rule all Europe because otherwise it would fall apart as a nation.

Wanted the Sudetenland because it had:


Coal and copper mines
Power stations
Good framing land
The Skoda arms works, the biggest in Europe
Protection, bohemian Alps and chain of fortresses.
People there spoke German

Wanted Polish Corridor because:


- divided the country in two
- German speaking people

The Rhineland :
- wanted to rearm; control over it again.

Austria :
- Hitler was Austrian (NB)
- 8 million German speaking people
- was banned by treaty of Versailles (revise treaty)
- to help make Germany strong

Nazi ideology:
- hated treaty of Versailles (harsh and unfair)
- economic problem is insufficient land to sustain needs of growing population.
- Superiority of German (Aryan) race
- Against Jews and slaves
- Hatred of communism

Planning for conquest:


Achieving doctorial power
Dealing with internal opposition - having SA, secret police, enabling act
Withdraw from Geneva conference and League of Nations .
Gaining control of army after death of Hindenburg, army or Wehrmacht. SA would be
military forces.
Signed a non-aggression pact with Poland . (1934)
Recover economy through the New Plan.
In the long term:
Win over German people through education, censorship and propaganda.
Prepare German youth for future war.
Prepare German economy for war four year plan > 1936 1940
Weaken international system
Rearmament, at first secretly, but then openly

Economic planning
- overcome depression -- new plan was to satisfy middle and working class.
- Lay foundations for a stronger Germany .
- New plan introduced by Schacht:
o Imports limited
o Strengthen currency
o Increase government spending
o Reduce unemployment: Public works projects
Compulsory National Labour Service
Conscription (1935)
Filling the jobs of Jews and political opponents with unemployed
people

Removing and controlling opposition:


Trade unions, workers, women and Jews
National labour service
German Labour Front Beauty of Labour and Strength through Joy

To prepare Germany for Blitzkrieg (defeat the opposition quickly)

Were the economic plans a success?


New plan:
- Reduced unemployment from 6 million to 1.5 million
- Increased currency value
- Depended less on imports this went against world trade project
- Bad jobs
- Workers lost rights and were controlled through organisations
- Work through conscription, no good for economy.
- Hard workers and loyal people benefited. Lack of consumer goods, long working
hours made it bad. Things got better than the depression.
Four year plan:
- Reduced unemployment
- Prepared for blitzkrieg instead of bettering people
- Little consumer goods, not everyone received their promised Volkswagen.
- Depend on imports for 1/3 of their raw materials -> expansionist foreign policy.
- Economy prepared only for short termed war.

German rearmament
Hitlers aims could not be obtained without armed forces so he worked to make them
suitable for war.
Hitler had to rearm to be able to succeed. They had been the only ones to disarm so there
can be some sympathy for them. Treaty of Versailles --- reduced army to 100,000 men six
warships of over 10,000 tonnes. No submarines or air force.
In secret meeting in 1933, it was decided that 1933-35 Germany would rearm secretly. This
would include:
- 300,000 men instead of 100,000
- 1000 aircraft with secretly trained pilots
- barracks airfields and fortifications
- new air force - Luftwaffe and 2500 aircraft and 300,000 men
1933 took Germany out from league and armament conference
army to sign oath of allegiance
signed non-aggression pact with Poland to make it seem as though Germany was no threat
conscription MARCH 1935 announced publicly to have 500,000 men
Franco-Soviet pact 1935 - May
Anglo/German naval agreement 1935 June -
This let German navy to have 1/3 of tonnage of British navy and equal tonnage of
submarines.
Britain let this happen because it was to happen anyway and this way, Germany would have
a limitation.
Stresa Front admit conscription was bad. Guarantee to protect Austrian independence.
No one stopped German rearmament.
Britain had self-determination problems and did not want to spend on armed forces.
French did not stop because instead they put their money in building forts to defend from
Germany Maginot Line.

Italy was close to taking an action. Mussolini would not allow Anchluss. Placed his men in
threatening positions to warn Germans. 29 35 everything was good internationally, but by
1935 everything got uneasy.
Germans wanted the Saar because he wanted to reunite all German-speaking people. Had
large resources of coal and iron and railwaysresources important for German economy.

1935 plebiscite - 90% of people voted to join Germany after propaganda. After this got
courage do admit to conscription.

1936 March Rhineland , wanted it because it left Germany to open attack from Belgium ,
Holland and France . Insult to German self-respect. BIG GAMBLE. If French had marched
into Rhineland , Germany would have to leave.

France was through political crisis, did not want to risk war. Big division between right
winged and left winged. Britain said that Germany had only, moved into their backyard

Consequences Rhineland :
- Treaty of Versailles and Locarno treaties broken
- Germany was able to build line of forts there (west wall). So if Hitler broke treaty
of
- Versailles , no military action could go against them.
- Germany protect Ruhr troops were situated on border with France .
- Weakened little entente and Franco-Czech treaty

By 1939:
- Rome-Berlin axis turned into pact of steel.
- Chamberlain had introduced appeasement
- Germany was no longer isolated, because of Italy and sympathy Britain and France
had.
- Guarantees issued to defend Poland , Rumania and Greece .
Nazi-Soviet pact start of World War II

Tripartite axis pact Sept. 1940 Japan Italy and Germany .

Anschluss:
Forbidden by Treaty of Versailles because of self-determination. Austrians supported him.
Right wing and socialists clashed in street battles, political oppositions. Attempt by Germany
failed and many leaders imprisoned. League had promised to defend country, also Mussolini
and the Stresa Front.

Hitlers successes:
- Nazi totalitarian state and betterment in economy
- Remilitarisation of Rhineland
- Cooperation in Spanish civil war
- Rome/Berlin axis
- AntiComintern pact

Weakness of other powers: Stresa Front collapse, Anglo/German naval agreement. Maginot
line, remilitarisation of the Rhineland .

Russia was in Stalins purges so was weak.

Leading to Austria :
1934 - First Nazi attempt to take over, failed. Italy defended Austria . Chancellor Dolfuss
killed.
Mussolini would not defend Austrians after signing Rome-Berlin axis and Anti-Comintern
pact.

Austrian Nazis started trouble.


Hitler made Schuschnigg, Austrian chancellor, restore Nazi party rights and free political
prisoners and appoint Seyss-Inquart to be the minister of interior to give him control of
police.
England will not move a finger for Austria . France could have stopped Germany in the
Rhineland .

Steps.
Germany demanded postponement to plebiscite.
Seyss Inquart took over when Britain , France and Italy failed to help Austria .
Then invited Germany to restore order of opposing people.
13 march 1938 announced that Austria and Germany were now a single country.
Austrian opponents were sent to concentration camps.

Reactions:
League nothing
Britain and France opposed but did nothing.
USSR was suspicious of Germany and Czechoslovakia and Poland prepared for a similar
state.

Consequences:
Germany stronger.
Italy looked towards Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea . Mussolini was Hitlers pawn.

The Czech Crisis 1938- 1939


Czechoslovakia was set up after PP settlement, self-determination. From Austria-Hungary .
Buffer state against communism. Little Entente new buffer states. Home of several
nationalities. Conflicts amongst them. Slovaks + Germans against Czechs.

Konran Heinleid --- German in Czechoslovakia that wanted to give Sudetenland to Germany
.
Sudaten German Peoples Party Henleid meetings with Hitler and got $$ from him. Hitler
supported for transfer of Sudetenland to Germany .

1938, Hitler stronger because:


- army economy and people prepared for war
- stresa front failed, Britain agreed to naval agreement
- remilitarisation of the Rhineland . Security to west.
- Treaties signed with Italy and Japan .
- The Anschluss had placed Czechoslovakia like a fish in the jaws of a shark
- Soviet Union had domestic upheaval to upheaval with Stalins purges and the Five
year Plans.
1938- Hitler instructed generals to make plans to invade. He told Heinland to make trouble
in Sudetenland .

Plans:
Told generals to make plans to invade. Heinland was to make trouble as riots. Then he was
to make impossible demands for independence so the Czech government would reject them
and followers could make riots to show that government had no control. Then German army
would maintain order, as Czechs had failed to do so.

There were two risks:


Czechoslovakia was well equipped for fighting, army only a little smaller than Germany .
USSR and France would help.
France did not have good army and had failed to show resistance in 1936. In 1938 they
would do less. USSR was in was with Japan and had economic and political problems.
Czechoslovakia also had allies with Rumania and Yugoslavia .

1. Berchtesgaden where Hitler told chamberlain that it was his last territorial aim in
Europe and that he would be willing to go to war for the Sudetenland . Poland and Hungary
also demanded borders.

2. Godesburg - Chamberlain went for Hitler to agree with a proposal, but Hitler said he
wanted all of Czechoslovakia . Chamberlain returned to Britain to prepare for war.

3. Munich Mussolini was alarmed and proposed a four-power conference, France, Italy
Germany and Britain , Czechs nor Russians were invited.
They agreed to:
- immediately transfer the Sudetenland to Germany .
- Later transfer to Teschen to Poland and Ruthania to Hungary .
- Britain and France to protect rest of Czechoslovakia .

Czechoslovakians were forced to sign the Munich Agreement or face Germany .


Czechoslovakia had to sign because had no allies.

Hitler said it was his last claim on Europe and that Britain and Germany would never go to
war.
Consequences:
- weakened Czechoslovakia . made it an easy target in 1939.
- Hungary , Yugoslavia and Rumania tried to come to terms with Germany
- Mussolini was encouraged in his ambitions for southeast Europe and looked for
closer ties with Germany .
- Hitler believed Britain and France would not fight to protect rest of Czechoslovakia
.
- Convinced Russians that they could not rely on British and France and would have
to make their own arrangements where Germany was concerned.
- Gave Britain and France time to rearm. Germany also gained time.

End of Czechoslovakia :
Munich ended Czechoslovakia , it was stripped of defences and abandoned.
million Germans still living in Bohemia .

1939- Poland was next step for Germany . Anglo/French guarantee to Poland to help if
Germany was to invade. Rumania and Greece were also given guarantees.

Appeasement: policy to avoid war with threatening powers, giving in to demands as long
as theyre reasonable

Two phases:
mid 20s 37 war must be avoided. Britain and France accepted things fairly
unreasonable all together.

Chamberlain believed in taking initiative. Would find out what Hitler wanted and negotiate
it.

Beginning of appeasement seen in Dawes and Young Plan and Locarno Treaties.

Why was appeasement reasonable at the time?

- Essential to avoid war after the glimpses of Sino-Japanese war and Spanish civil
war, war seemed devastating. They were afraid of innocent civilians dying in bombs.
- Britain was in economic crisis, could not afford rearmament and expenses of Great
War.
- British government supported by pacific public opinion. Italy and Germany had
grievances. Britain should show sympathy. Remove need of aggression.
- League hopeless. Chamberlain thought only way to solve dispute was through
face-to-face meetings.
- Economic cooperation would be good for both. If Britain helped economy with
trouble, Germany would be grateful.
- Fear of communist Russia spreading.
- Nobody should treat Britain without respect.
- Britain did want to fight Japan in east at same time as fighting Germany in west.
- It would give Britain more time to get stronger, make Germany get scared of
Britain .

Poland September 1939:


East Prussia had been split from Germany to create a Polish corridor . Here was city, Danzig
, where most people were German.
Hitler convinced Hungary to invade Ruthenia and made Czechs and Slovaks be under
German protection, German troops marched into Prague . No more Czechoslovakia . Hitler
moved from lebensraum, to correcting the errors of Versailles .

1 week later, Hitler took Memel from Lithuania

Chamberlain realised Hitler had lied, the Sudetenland wasnt his last territorial objective.
Appeasement was not working. Public opinion agreed.

Other Treaties:
- Dawes Plan (1924)
o USA lend money to Germany to help pay reparations. France knew she was
going to get paid and let the Ruhr go.
o German currency reorganised
- Young Plan (pact of Paris ) (1929)
o Reduce amount of reparations by 75% gave her 59 years to pay.
o Never worked because of Wall Street Crash
- Kellogg Briand Pact (1928)
o First only France and U.S.A
o Agree not to go to war for 5 years
o Settle disputes by peaceful means
o Included: USA , Germany , USSR , Italy and Japan .
- Washington Naval Conference (1922)
o Limit navies (British, American, French and Japanese)
o Not to build any new battleships or cruisers for 10 years.
o 5:5:5:3 ratio always kept

- both created stable economic conditions and optimism about peace. Didnt reduce German
grievances at all.

Poland :
Hitler wanted city of Danzig , where most inhabitants were German and the Polish corridor ,
which had once belonged to him.
Preparing to invade Poland :
- March 1939 Hitler convinced Hungary to invade Ruthenia and Czechs and
Slovaks to place themselves under German protection.
- Then marched into Prague and Czechoslovakia ceased to exist.
- 1 week later Memel from Lithuania .

All this went against his promise of the Sudetenland being his last-territorial objective.
Chamberlain was appalled. He realised appeasement was not working. Hitler had now
moved from lebensraum to correcting the errors of Versailles . Czechoslovakia no longer
had a majority German population.

April 1939 Anglo-French guarantee to Poland Britain and France predicted Poland to be
the next victim. Hitler had reason to believe that it was a bluff (as previous pacts had failed
to work, e.g. Stresa Front, Munich Agreement).

May 1939 Pact of Steel Germany and Italy to stand by each other through war. Was
issued after Italy invaded Albania who had guarantees from other countries.
Britain and France tried to ask Russia for help, but did not pursue it.

Hitler began to consider possibilities of two front war with Russia in east and Britain and
France in West, he was terrified. However, Britain and France turned down Russia s treaty
of mutual assistance.

German army was only ready to invade Poland , not ready for war. Did not want Czech
affair to repeat, he knew there was to be a war, but first he had to isolate Poland .

August 23 1939 signed Non-Aggression pact with Russia , for Russia not to attack
Germany to protect Poland . As a result, Russia would get half of the Polish conquer.

Justifying the Non-Aggression pact:


- Stalin needed time to prepare for war
- Germany would be weakened by Britain and France
- Fear of two-front war with Japan
- Secured peace for 1 years
- New land would protect them and help him spread communism

Hitler thought this Non-Aggression pact would make Britain and France less likely to help
Poland .

Poland refused to give in to Hitler


- would fight with determination
- Every polish house to be a fortress
- Hitler will have more to lose than to gain

September 1 1939 Hitler invaded Poland


September 3 1939 war declared on Germany

Causes of world war two:


- failures of league
- Paris Peace settlement effect on eastern Europe
- appeasement
- weakness of League
- effects of great depression
- Hitlers invasions
- Pacts and treaties
- USSR signing Nazi-Soviet Pact

Hitlers Foreign Policy


This document was written by Stephen Tonge. I am most grateful to have his kind permission to
include it on the web site.

Brief Summary
1933 Germany left the League of Nations.

1934 Attempted Nazi coup in Austria crushed.


Poland and Germany sign alliance.

1935 Germany broke the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles

1936 German troops reoccupied the Rhineland.


Rome-Berlin Axis signed

1938 Anschluss with Austria.


Sudetenland handed to Germany as a result of the Munich conference.

1939 Rest of the Czech lands occupied by the Germans.


Germany invaded Poland.
WWII began.

Hitlers Foreign Policy Aims

When Hitler came to power he was determined to make Germany a great power again and to
dominate Europe. He had set out his ideas in a book called Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that he
had written in prison in 1924. His main aims were

1. To destroy the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany after her defeat in World War One.
Hitler felt the Treaty was unfair and most Germans supported this view.
2. To unite all German speakers together in one country. After World War One there were
Germans living in many countries in Europe e.g. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland. Hitler hoped
that by uniting them together in one country he would create a powerful Germany or
Grossdeutschland.
3. To expand eastwards into the East (Poland, Russia) to gain land for Germany (Lebensraum-
living space).

His tactics involved using the threat of violence to achieve his aims. He realised that his potential
foes, France and Britain, were reluctant to go to war and were prepared to compromise to avoid a
repeat of World War One. He was also an opportunist who often took advantage of events for his
own benefit.

His foreign policy successes in the 1930s were to make him a very popular figure in Germany.
As one German political opponent described:

Everybody thought that there was some justification in Hitlers demands. All Germans hated
Versailles. Hitler tore up this hateful treaty and forced France to its knees. people said,
hes got courage to take risks

1933-4
Hitler protested at the fact that the Allies had not disarmed after World War and he left the
disarmament conference and the League of Nations in 1933. He intensified the programme of
secret rearmament.

In 1934, Germany and Poland concluded an alliance, the first of his infamous ten year non-
aggression pacts. This caused a surprise in Europe at the time. The alliance broke Germanys
diplomatic isolation while also weakening Frances series of anti-German alliances in Eastern
Europe. For the next five years Poland and Germany were to enjoy cordial relations. However
like many of his agreements, this was a tactical move and Hitler had no intention of honouring
the agreement in the long term.

In July 1934 an attempt by Austrian Nazis to overthrow the government in their country was
crushed. The Austrian Prime Minister Dollfuss was killed in the attempt. Hitler at first supported
the attempted coup but disowned the action when it was clear it would fail. Italy reacted with
great hostility to the prospect of Austria falling into Nazi hands and rushed troops to the border
with Austria.

In January 1935 the Saar voted to return to Germany. This region had been placed under the
control of the League of Nations by the Treaty of Versailles. This allowed the French to exploit
its coalfields for 15 years. The vote to return to Germany was supported by over 90%. It was a
major propaganda boost for Hitler who could claim that his policies had the backing of the
German people.

In March, using the pretext that the other powers had not disarmed, Hitler announced that
Germany was going to reintroduce conscription and create an army of 36 divisions. He also said
that Germany was going to build up an air force (the Luftwaffe) and expand her navy. All of
these actions were against the terms of the Treaty of Versailles but were very popular in
Germany.
Britain, Italy and France formed the Stresa front to protest at this action but took no further
measures. This united front against Germany was further weakened when Italy invaded
Ethiopia.

A factor that helped Hitler was the attitude of the English. They felt that Germany had
been very harshly treated at Versailles and there was a lot of sympathy for the German
actions. The memory of the horrors of the First World War was also still very strong in
Britain. They were also very anti-communist and worried more about Stalin.

Protecting their own interests, the British concluded a naval agreement with Hitler that limited
the German navy to 35% of Britains. No limit was placed on the number of submarines that
Germany could develop.

The Rhineland 1936

Under the Treaty of Versailles the Germans were forbidden to erect fortifications or station
troops in the Rhineland or within 50 kilometres of the right bank of the river. In 1935 when
Mussolini attacked Ethiopia, Hitler ignored international protests and supported Mussolini. This
ended Germanys international isolation and the Italians signalled their acceptance of German
influence in Austria and the eventual remilitarisation of the Rhineland.

Most people expected the Germans to send troops into the Rhineland, the question was when?
On 7 March 1936, in one of his many Saturday surprises, Hitler announced that his troops had
entered the Rhineland.

The British were not prepared to take any action. There was a lot of sympathy in Britain for the
German action. Without British support the French would not act. The French had built the
Maignot line, a series of forts on the German border and felt secure behind it.

The force that Hitler had sent into the Rhineland was small but he had gambled and won.

He said

The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my
life.If the French had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw
with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been
wholly inadequate for even moderate resistance.

He drew the conclusion that Britain and France were weak and that he could get away with more
aggressive actions.

Alliance with Mussolini 1936

In June 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out. Both Hitler and Mussolini sent aid to General
Franco who was fighting against the popularly elected government of Spain. This closer co-
operation between the two Fascist dictators led to an alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis. It
was an agreement to pursue a joint foreign policy. Both agreed to stop the spread of communism
in Europe. This relationship became closer in 1939 with the signing of The Pact of Steel.

Austria 1938

Hitler had long wished to bring the land of his birth under German control. There was a Nazi
party in Austria and many in Austria supported the union of both countries. Although there had
been a failed coup attempt in 1934, Germany had extended its influence in Austria by 1938.

In February 1938 the Austrian Prime Minister, Schuschnigg, met Hitler at Berchtesgaden in the
Alps. At the meeting the Austrian chancellor was threatened and was forced to place leading
Austrian Nazis in his Government.

On his return to Austria, Schuschnigg tried to stop spreading German influence by calling a
referendum. This enraged Hitler and Schuschnigg was forced to resign. German troops were
invited in by the new Nazi Prime Minister, Seyss-Inquart.
Hitler returned in triumph to Vienna where he was greeted by euphoric crowds. This was the city
where before World War One he had lived as a down and out. Hitler incorporated Austria into
the Reich as the province of Ostmark. This event became known as the Anschluss.

Again the British and French did nothing. The new Prime Minister in Britain was Neville
Chamberlain. He wanted to prevent another European war breaking out. He decided to follow a
policy called Appeasement.

Appeasement was a policy of giving into Hitlers reasonable demands in order to prevent
war. It was a very popular policy in Britain at the time.

The Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) 1938

The next target for Hitler was the country of Czechoslovakia. It


had been founded after World War One. It was the only
democracy in Eastern Europe and possessed a good army. It also
contained a number of national minorities (it was nicknamed
little Austria-Hungary) including a large German minority in
an area known as the Sudentenland. Hitler encouraged the
Germans living there to demonstrate against Czech rule. The
leader of the Sudeten German Party was Konrad Henlein.

Hitler decided to use the grievances of the Sudeten Germans to bring the area under German
control. He secretly set the date of 1 October for war with Czechoslovakia if the issue was not
resolved. Throughout the summer of 1938 the crisis grew worse. The Sudeten Germans backed
by Nazi propaganda agitated for greater autonomy (independence).

Chamberlain hoped to avoid war and felt that there was some justification in the German demand
for the region. He flew to Germany and met Hitler twice, at Berchtesgaden and Bad
Godesberg. However although it seemed an agreement had been reached, Hitler made new
demands and it looked as if Europe was on the brink of war.

Mussolini was ill prepared for a war and proposed a conference of Britain, France, Germany and
Italy. This met at Munich on 28 September. The Czechs were not even invited. The British and
French agreed to Hitlers demands and it seemed as if the threat of war was averted.
Chamberlain and Daladier, the French Prime Minister, received heroes welcomes when they
returned home. The Czechs were bitter at the loss of territory including most of their border
fortifications and were now virtually powerless to resist the Germans.

In March 1939, Hitler took over the rest of the Czech lands after encouraging the Slovaks to
declare independence under German protection. The Czech president, Hacha was invited to
Berlin and was threatened that if he did not agree to German occupation, Prague would be
bombed. Significantly this was the first non-Germanic land that Hitler had seized. This
occupation outraged public opinion in Britain and marked the end of appeasement. In the
same month the German speaking town of Memel was seized from Lithuania.
Poland 1939

The occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia had led Britain to guarantee Poland that if she was
attacked she would come to her aid. Under the Treaty of Versailles the newly created state of
Poland was given the German speaking port of Danzig and land known as the Polish Corridor
in order to give it access to the sea.

Hitler wanted to destroy Poland in order to gain living space (Lebensraum).Hitler demanded the
German speaking town of Danzig from Poland and the building of a motorway to link East
Prussia with the rest of the Reich.

However the demand for Danzig was not the real issue for Hitler. He said

Further successes can no longer be attained without the shedding of bloodDanzig is not the
subject of the dispute at all. It is a question of expanding our living space in the eastthere is
no question of sparing Poland.

He accused the Poles of mistreating the German minority in other parts of Poland. Nazi
propaganda greatly exaggerated stories of attacks on the German minority. The Poles refused to
hand over the town of Danzig.

A Very Surprising Alliance!

As the summer wore on tension grew. Both Britain and France and Germany were trying to gain
the support of the USSR in the event of war. Stalin did not trust Britain and France and felt they
were encouraging Hitler to attack Russia. He had been greatly angered by the Munich agreement.

Although both Germany and the Soviet Union had been bitter enemies up to 1939, the world was
stunned to learn that they had reached an agreement on 23 August 1939. This was a Ten Year
Non-Aggression pact. Both countries benefited from this agreement. For the Soviet Union it
allowed her more time to prepare for war and she gained a lot of territory in Eastern Europe.
Germany was assured that if she attacked Poland she would not have to face a two-front war.

Nazi Soviet Non Aggression Pact

Secret Additional Protocol.


On the occasion of the signature of the Non-Aggression Pact between the German Reich and the Union
of Socialist Soviet Republics the undersigned plenipotentiaries of each of the two parties discussed in
strictly confidential conversations the question of the boundary of their respective spheres of influence
in Eastern Europe. These conversations led to the following conclusions:

Article I. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic
States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent
the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the
interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.
Article II. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the
Polish State, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded
approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San.

The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance
of an independent Polish State and how such a state should be bounded can only be
definitely determined in the course of further political developments.

In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly
agreement.
Article With regard to South eastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in
III. Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinterest in these areas.

Article This Protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.


IV.

Moscow, August 23, 1939.

War

Hitler hoped that the news of the Pact with Russia would stop France and Britain from going to
war if Germany attacked Poland. He was surprised when Britain and Poland concluded a mutual
defence treaty. Mussolini informed him that Italy was unprepared for war and he postponed the
invasion of Poland. A flurry of diplomatic activity achieved nothing and on 1 September
Germany invaded Poland. On 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany.

World War Two had begun.

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11 November, 2013

Second World War >


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Munich Agreement

Munich Agreement
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Sudetenland
Munich Agreement
Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Primary Sources
Student Activities
References

During the weekend of 23rd October 1937, Nancy Astor and her husband, Waldorf Astor, had thirty
people to lunch. This included Geoffrey Dawson (editor of The Times), Nevile Henderson (the recently
appointed Ambassador to Berlin), Edward Algernon Fitzroy (Speaker of the Commons),
Sir Alexander Cadogan (soon to replace the anti-appeasement Robert Vansittart as Permanent
Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office), Lord Lothian and Lionel Curtis. They were happy that Neville
Chamberlain, a strong supporter of appeasement was now Prime Minister and that this would soon
mean promotion for people such as Lothian and Lord Halifax.

According to Norman Rose, Lothian gave a talk on future relations with Adolf Hitler. "He wished to
define what Britain would not fight for. Certainly not for the League of Nations, a broken vessel; nor
to honour the obligations of others. As he had explained to the Nazi leaders, 'Britain had no primary
interests in eastern Europe,' areas that fell within 'Germany's sphere'. To be dragged into a conflict
not of Britain's making and not in defence of its vital interests would bedevil relations with the
Dominions, fatal for the unity of the Empire. For the Clivedenites, this was always the bottom line...
In effect, Lothian was prepared to turn central and eastern Europe over to Germany." Geoffrey
Dawson also agreed with Lothian and this was reflected in an editorial in The Times that he wrote a
few days later. (1)

In November, 1937, Neville Chamberlain sent Lord Halifax in secret to meet Adolf Hitler, Joseph
Goebbels and Hermann Gring in Germany. In his diary, Lord Halifax records how he told Hitler:
"Although there was much in the Nazi system that profoundly offended British opinion, I was not
blind to what he (Hitler) had done for Germany, and to the achievement from his point of view of
keeping Communism out of his country." This was a reference to the fact that Hitler had banned
the Communist Party (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Germany and placed its
leaders in Concentration Camps. Halifax had told Hitler: "On all these matters (Danzig, Austria,
Czechoslovakia) ... the British government... "were not necessarily concerned to stand for the status
quo as today... If reasonable settlements could be reached with... those primarily concerned we
certainly had no desire to block." (2)

The story was leaked to the journalist Vladimir Poliakoff. On 13th November 1937 the Evening
Standard reported the likely deal between the two countries: "Hitler is ready, if he receives the
slightest encouragement, to offer to Great Britain a ten-year truce in the colonial issue... In return...
Hitler would expect the British Government to leave him a free hand in Central Europe". (3) On 17th
November, Claude Cockburn reported in The Week, that the deal had been first moulded "into usable
diplomatic shape" at meetings of the Cliveden Set that for years has "exercised so powerful an
influence on the course of British policy." He added that Lord Halifax was "the representative of
Cliveden and Printing House Square rather than of more official quarters." (4)

David Low, had a cartoon published in the Evening Standard, showing James Garvin, Nancy
Astor, Philip Henry Kerr and Geoffrey Dawson, holding high the slogan "Any Sort of Peace at Any
Sort of Price". The term Cliveden Set was first used by the Reynolds News on 28th November, 1937,
in an article that argued that the group were highly sympathetic to fascism. (5)
David Low, Any
Sort of Peace at Any Sort of Price (November, 1937)

Nevile Henderson, the British ambassador in Berlin, constantly warned the British government
that Nazi Germany was building up its armed forces. In January 1938 he reported: "The rearmament
of Germany, if it has been less spectacular because it is no longer news, has been pushed on with
the same energy as in previous years. In the army, consolidation has been the order of the day, but
there is clear evidence that a considerable increase is being prepared in the number of divisions and
of additional tank units outside those divisions. The air force continues to expand, at an alarming
rate, and one can at present see no indication of a halt. We may well soon be faced with a strength
of between 4000 and 5000 first-line aircraft.... Finally, the mobilisation of the civilian population and
industry for war, by means of education, propaganda, training, and administrative measures, has
made further strides. Military efficiency is the god to whom everyone must offer sacrifice. It is not an
army, but the whole German nation which is being prepared for war." (6)

Sudetenland

Henderson believed that we would lose a war with Nazi Germany. He therefore recommended that
the British government should apply pressure on President Eduard Bene of Czechoslovakia to give
up the Sudetenland, with its largely German-speaking population, to Germany. Henderson's
biographer, Peter Neville, pointed out: "So strong was this conviction that he sometimes erred on the
side of prejudice against the Czechs and their president, Bene". (7)

In March 1938 Hugh Christie told the British government that Hitler would be ousted by the military if
Britain joined forces with Czechoslovakia against Germany. Christie warned that the "crucial
question is How soon will the next step against Czechoslovakia be tried?... The probability is that the
delay will not exceed two or three months at most, unless France and England provide the deterrent,
for which cooler heads in Germany are praying." (8)
Neville
Chamberlain, Nevile Henderson and Adolf Hitler (30th September, 1938)

In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, met Hitler at his home in
Berchtesgaden. Hitler threatened to invade Czechoslovakia unless Britain supported Germany's
plans to takeover the Sudetenland. After discussing the issue with the Edouard Daladier (France)
and Eduard Benes (Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain informed Hitler that his proposals were
unacceptable. (9)

Henderson pleaded with Chamberlain to go on negotiating with Hitler. He believed, like Lord Halifax,
the Foreign Secretary, that the German claim to the Sudetenland in 1938 was a moral one, and he
always reverted in his dispatches to his conviction that the Treaty of Versailles had been unfair to
Germany. "At the same time, he was unsympathetic to feelers from the German opposition to Hitler
seeking to enlist British support. Henderson thought, not unreasonably, that it was not the job of the
British government to subvert the German government, and this view was shared by Chamberlain
and Halifax". (10)

Munich Agreement

Benito Mussolini suggested to Hitler that one way of solving this issue was to hold a four-power
conference of Germany, Britain, France and Italy. This would exclude both Czechoslovakia and the
Soviet Union, and therefore increasing the possibility of reaching an agreement and undermine the
solidarity that was developing against Germany. The meeting took place in Munich on 29th
September, 1938. Desperate to avoid war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with Joseph Stalin and
the Soviet Union, Chamberlain and Daladier agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In
return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. (11)
David Low, What, no
chair for me? (30th September, 1938)

The meeting ended with Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini signing the Munich
Agreement which transferred the Sudetenland to Germany. "We, the German Fhrer and Chancellor
and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that
the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for
Europe. We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as
Symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are
resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other
questions that may concern our two countries." (12)

Nevile Henderson defended the agreement: "Germany thus incorporated the Sudeten lands in the
Reich without bloodshed and without firing a shot. But she had not got all that Hitler wanted and
which she would have got if the arbitrament had been left to war... The humiliation of the Czechs
was a tragedy, but it was solely thanks to Mr. Chamberlain's courage and pertinacity that a futile and
senseless war was averted." (13)

Most of the newspapers agreed. For example, the Daily Express reported: "Be glad in your hearts.
Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your husbands and your sons will
not march to war Peace is a victory for all mankind. If we must have a victor, let us choose
Chamberlain. For the Prime Minister's conquests are mighty and enduring - millions of happy homes
and hearts relieved of their burden. To him the laurels. And now let us go back to our own affairs.
We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up from the Continent to confuse us." (14)
David
Low, Evening Standard (10th October, 1938)

Some newspapers such as the The Manchester Guardian criticised the agreement. "If Germany's
aim were the economic and financial destruction of Czechoslovakia the Munich agreement goes far
to satisfy her. But, it may be urged, while the Czechs may suffer economically, they have the political
protection of an international guarantee. What is it worth? Will Britain and France (and Russia,
though, of course, Russia was not even mentioned at Munich) come to the aid of an unarmed
Czechoslovakia when they would not help her in her strength? Politically Czechoslovakia is rendered
helpless, with all that that means to the balance of forces in Eastern Europe, and Hitler will be able
to advance again, when he chooses, with greatly increased power." (15) Henderson wrote to
Chamberlain and told him to ignore these comments: "Millions of mothers will be blessing your name
tonight for having saved their sons from the horrors of war. Oceans of ink will flow hereafter in
criticism of your action." (16)

Opponents of appeasement, in the Conservative Party such as Robert Boothby, were appalled by
what had happened: "The terms of the Munich Agreement turned out to be even worse than we had
supposed. They amounted to unconditional surrender. Even Gring was shocked. He said
afterwards that when he heard Hitler tell the conference at Munich (if such it could be called) that he
proposed to occupy the Sudeten lands, including the Czech fortifications at once... But neither
Chamberlain nor Daladier made a cheep of protest. Hitler did not even have to send an ultimatum to
Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain did that for him." (17)

In the debate that took place in the House of Commons on 3rd October, 1938, Clement Attlee, the
leader of the Labour Party, stated: "We all feel relief that war has not come this time. Every one of us
has been passing through days of anxiety; we cannot, however, feel that peace has been
established, but that we have nothing but an armistice in a state of war. We have been unable to go
in for care-free rejoicing. We have felt that we are in the midst of a tragedy. We have felt humiliation.
This has not been a victory for reason and humanity. It has been a victory for brute force. At every
stage of the proceedings there have been time limits laid down by the owner and ruler of armed
force. The terms have not been terms negotiated; they have been terms laid down as ultimata. We
have seen to day a gallant, civilised and democratic people betrayed and handed over to a ruthless
despotism. We have seen something more. We have seen the cause of democracy, which is, in our
view, the cause of civilisation and humanity, receive a terrible defeat... The events of these last few
days constitute one of the greatest diplomatic defeats that this country and France have ever
sustained. There can be no doubt that it is a tremendous victory for Herr Hitler. Without firing a shot,
by the mere display of military force, he has achieved a dominating position in Europe which
Germany failed to win after four years of war. He has overturned the balance of power in Europe. He
has destroyed the last fortress of democracy in Eastern Europe which stood in the way of his
ambition." (18)

Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail, immediately sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler: "My dear
Fhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian
problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war
with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your
excellency's star which rises higher and higher." (19)

The Munich Agreement was popular with most people in Britain because it appeared to have
prevented a war with Germany. However, some politicians, including Winston Churchill and Anthony
Eden, attacked the agreement. These critics pointed out that no only had the British government
behaved dishonorably, but it had lost the support of Czech Army, one of the best in Europe.

Members of the Cliveden Set were delighted with the Munich Agreement. According to Lord Lothian,
"Chamberlain had pulled off a masterly coup". He told Waldorf Astor: "Nobody else could have done
the trick and I've no doubt prayer helped the result. He'll be the darling of the Western world - a most
unexpected position - for a while." Lothian predicted "some nasty moments as the Germans march
into the Sudenten territory and the worthless Czechs and Social Democrats flee before them."
Lothian was now convinced that Hitler would not now go to war: "My own impression is that Europe,
including the Nazis, have now turned their back on world war, if only because a general war means
letting Russia loose in Europe, and trust a final settlement, including disarmament, may be possible
if Neville's lead is followed up." (20)

Invasion of Czechoslovakia

On 15th March 1939, the German Army seized the rest of Czechoslovakia. In taking this action Adolf
Hitler broke the Munich Agreement. "Prague, a sorrowing Prague, yesterday had its first day of
German rule - a day in which the Czechs learned of the details of their subjection to Germany, and in
which the Germans began their measures against the Jews... Bridges were occupied by troops and
each bridge-head had a heavy machine-gun mounted on a tripod and pointing to the sky. Every
twenty yards along the pavement two machine-guns were mounted facing each other. Suicides have
begun. The fears of the Jews grow. The funds of the Jewish community have been seized, stopping
Jewish relief work. The organization for Jewish emigration has been closed." (21)

Nevile Henderson was devastated by Hitler's action: "Hitler had staged another of his lightning
coups, and once more the world was left breathless... By the occupation of Prague, Hitler put himself
once for all morally and unquestionably in the wrong, and destroyed the entire arguable validity of
the German case as regards the Treaty of Versailles... By his callous destruction of the hard and
newly won liberty of a free and independent people, Hitler deliberately violated the Munich
Agreement, which he had signed not quite six months before, and his undertaking to Mr.
Chamberlain, once the Sudetenlands had been incorporated in the Reich, to respect the
independence and integrity of the Czech people." (22)
The British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, now realized that Hitler could not be trusted and
his appeasement policy now came to an end. David Low, one of his main critics wrote: "He wanted
peace - but so did we all. No one impugned his motives, but only his judgment. That his
appeasement approach to Hitler was wrong was soon demonstrated, for the ink was hardly dry on
the Munich agreement before the Fhrer was openly and noisily preparing his next step. But
devotion to Chamberlain was so strong that his friends were unwilling to admit it. Having committed
themselves to a fairy-tale, they could not bring themselves to face cold reality." (23)

Tweet
By John Simkin (john@spartacus-educational.com) September 1997 (updated April 2016).

Main Article

Primary Sources
(1) Neville Chamberlain, letter to King George VI (13th September, 1938)

The continued state of tension in Europe which has caused such grave concern throughout the
world has in no way been relieved, and in some ways been aggravated by the speech delivered at
Nuremberg last night by Herr Hitler. Your Majesty's Ministers are examining the position in the light
of his speech, and with the firm desire to ensure, if this is at all possible, that peace may be restored.

On the one hand, reports are daily received in great numbers, not only from official sources but from
all manner of individuals who claim to have special and unchangeable sources of information. Many
of these (and of such authority as to make it impossible to dismiss them as unworthy of attention)
declare positively that Herr Hitler has made up his mind to attack Czechoslovakia and then to
proceed further East. He is convinced that the operation can be effected so rapidly that it will be all
over before France or Great Britain could move.

On the other hand, Your Majesty's representative in Berlin has steadily maintained that Herr Hitler
has not yet made up his mind to violence. He means to have a solution soon - this month - and if
that solution, which must be satisfactory to himself, can be obtained peacefully, well and good. If not,
he is ready to march.

In these circumstances I have been considering the possibility of a sudden and dramatic step which
might change the whole situation. The plan is that I should inform Herr Hitler that I propose at once
to go over to Germany to see him. If he assents, and it would be difficult for him to refuse, I should
hope to persuade him that he had an unequalled opportunity of raising his own prestige and fulfilling
what he has so often declared to be his aim, namely the establishment of an Anglo-German
understanding, preceded by a settlement of the Czechoslovakian question.

Of course I should not be able to guarantee that Dr. Benes would accept this solution, but I should
undertake to put all possible pressure on him to do so. The Government of France have already said
that they would accept any plan approved by Your Majesty's Government or by Lord Runciman.

(2) Hannah Senesh, diary entry (17th September, 1938)

We're living through indescribably tense days. The question is: Will there be war? The mobilization
going on in various countries doesn't fill one with a great deal of confidence. No recent news
concerning the discussions of Hitler and Chamberlain. The entire world is united in fearful suspense,
for one, feel a numbing indifference because of all this waiting. The situation changes from minute to
minute. Even the idea there may be war is abominable enough.
(3) Neville Chamberlain held a Cabinet meeting on 24th September 1938. Duff Cooper , First Lord of the
Admiralty, wrote about it in his autobiography, Old Men Forget (1953)

The Cabinet met that evening. The Prime Minister looked none the worse for his experiences. He
spoke for over an hour. He told us that Hitler had adopted a certain position from the start and had
refused to budge an inch from it. Many of the most important points seemed hardly to have arisen
during their discussion, notably the international guarantee. Having said that he had informed Hitler
that he was creating an impossible situation, having admitted that he had "snorted" with indignation
when he read the German terms, the Prime Minister concluded, to my astonishment, by saying that
he considered that we should accept those terms and that we should advise the Czechs to do so.

It was then suggested that the Cabinet should adjourn, in order to give members time to read the
terms and sleep on them, and that we should meet again the following morning. I protested against
this. I said that from what the Prime Minister had told us it appeared to me that the Germans were
still convinced that under no circumstances would we fight, that there still existed one method, and
one method only, of persuading them to the contrary, and that was by instantly declaring full
mobilisation. I said that I was sure popular opinion would eventually compel us to go to the
assistance of the Czechs; that hitherto we had been faced with the unpleasant alternatives of peace
with dishonour or war. I now saw a third possibility, namely war with dishonour, by which I meant
being kicked into the war by the boot of public opinion when those for whom we were fighting had
already been defeated. I pointed out that the Chiefs of Staff had reported on the previous day that
immediate mobilisation was of urgent and vital importance, and I suggested that we might one day
have to explain why we had disregarded their advice. This angered the Prime Minister. He said that I
had omitted to say that this advice was given only on the assumption that there was a danger of war
with Germany within the next few days. I said I thought it would be difficult to deny that such a
danger existed.

(4) Statement issued by Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler after the signing of the Munich
Agreement (30th September)

We, the German Fhrer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting
today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first
importance for the two countries and for Europe.

We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as Symbolic of
the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the
method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may
concern our two countries.

(5) Editorial in the Daily Express (30th September, 1938)

Be glad in your hearts. Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your
husbands and your sons will not march to war Peace is a victory for all mankind. If we must have a
victor, let us choose Chamberlain. For the Prime Minister's conquests are mighty and enduring -
millions of happy homes and hearts relieved of their burden. To him the laurels. And now let us go
back to our own affairs. We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up from the Continent to
confuse us.

(6) The Manchester Guardian (1st October, 1938)

No stranger experience can have happened to Mr. Chamberlain during the past month of adventures
than his reception back home in London. He drove from Heston to Buckingham Palace, where the
crowd clamoured for him, and within five minutes of his arrival he was standing on the balcony of the
Palace with the King and Queen and Mrs. Chamberlain.

The cries were all for "Neville," and he stood there blinking in the light of a powerful arc-lamp and
waving his hand and smiling. For three minutes this demonstration lasted. Another welcome awaited
the Premier in Downing Street, which he reached fifteen minutes later. With difficulty his car moved
forward from Whitehall to No. 10. Mounted policemen rode fore and aft and a constable kept guard
on the running board of the car.

Every window on the three floors of No. 10 and No. 11 was open and filled with faces. The windows
of the Foreign Office across the way were equally full - all except one, which was made up with
sandbags. Everywhere were people cheering. One of the women there found no other words to
express her feelings but these, "The man who gave me back my son."

Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain stood for a few moments on the doorstep acknowledging the greeting.
Then Mr. Chamberlain went to a first-floor window and leaned forward happily smiling on the people.
"My good friends," he said - it took some time to still the clamour so that he might be heard - "this is
the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany 'peace with honour.' I believe
it is peace for our time."

No one in this country who examines carefully the terms under which Hitler's troops begin their
march into Czechoslovakia to-day can feel other than unhappy. Certainly the Czechs will hardly
appreciate Mr. Chamberlain's phrase that it is "peace with honour."

If Germany's aim were the economic and financial destruction of Czechoslovakia the Munich
agreement goes far to satisfy her. But, it may be urged, while the Czechs may suffer economically,
they have the political protection of an international guarantee.

What is it worth? Will Britain and France (and Russia, though, of course, Russia was not even
mentioned at Munich) come to the aid of an unarmed Czechoslovakia when they would not help her
in her strength?

Politically Czechoslovakia is rendered helpless, with all that that means to the balance of forces in
Eastern Europe, and Hitler will be able to advance again, when he chooses, with greatly increased
power.

(7) Lord Rothermere, telegram to Adolf Hitler (1st October, 1938)

My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the
Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread
of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I
salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher.

(8) Robert Boothby, Recollections of a Rebel Hardcover (1978)

The terms of the Munich Agreement turned out to be even worse than we had supposed. They
amounted to unconditional surrender. Even Gring was shocked. He said afterwards that when he
heard Hitler tell the conference at Munich (if such it could be called) that he proposed to occupy the
Sudeten lands, including the Czech fortifications at once, 'we all knew what that meant'. But neither
Chamberlain nor Daladier made a cheep of protest. Hitler did not even have to send an ultimatum to
Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain did that for him. Ashton-Gwatkin of the Foreign Office brought it from
Munich to Prague for presentation to the Czech Government. He had breakfast with our Military
Attach, Brigadier Humphrey Stronge, before he showed it to the British Minister, Basil Newton.
Stronge said that Czechoslovakia could never accept such terms, as they involved, amongst other
things, surrendering all the fortifications, and thereby rendering her defenceless. Ashton-Gwatkin
said that they had got to accept, and that there was no alternative. Stronge, in his own words, was
'staggered'; and wondered what the outcome could possibly be. Later that day, after a heated
argument with some of his generals and politicians, Benes capitulated.

(9) Clement Attlee, speech in the House of Commons (3rd October, 1938)

We all feel relief that war has not come this time. Every one of us has been passing through days of
anxiety; we cannot, however, feel that peace has been established, but that we have nothing but an
armistice in a state of war. We have been unable to go in for care-free rejoicing. We have felt that we
are in the midst of a tragedy. We have felt humiliation. This has not been a victory for reason and
humanity. It has been a victory for brute force. At every stage of the proceedings there have been
time limits laid down by the owner and ruler of armed force. The terms have not been terms
negotiated; they have been terms laid down as ultimata. We have seen to day a gallant, civilised and
democratic people betrayed and handed over to a ruthless despotism. We have seen something
more. We have seen the cause of democracy, which is, in our view, the cause of civilisation and
humanity, receive a terrible defeat. ... The events of these last few days constitute one of the
greatest diplomatic defeats that this country and France have ever sustained. There can be no doubt
that it is a tremendous victory for Herr Hitler. Without firing a shot, by the mere display of military
force, he has achieved a dominating position in Europe which Germany failed to win after four years
of war. He has overturned the balance of power in Europe. He has destroyed the last fortress of
democracy in Eastern Europe which stood in the way of his ambition. He has opened his way to the
food, the oil and the resources which he requires in order to consolidate his military power, and he
has successfully defeated and reduced to impotence the forces that might have stood against the
rule of violence.

(10) Winston Churchill, The Second World War (1948)

For the French Government to leave her faithful ally Czechoslovakia to her fate was a melancholy
lapse from which flowed terrible consequences. Not only wise and fair policy, but chivalry, honour,
and sympathy for a small threatened people made an overwhelming concentration. Great Britain,
who would certainly have fought if bound by treaty obligations, was nevertheless now deeply
involved, and it must be recorded with regret that the British Government not only acquiesced but
encouraged the French Government in a fatal course.

(10) In his memoirs Lord Halifax attempted to justify his appeasement policy that culminated in the
signing of the Munich Agreement in September, 1938.

The criticism excited by Munich never caused me the least surprise. I should very possibly indeed
have been among the critics myself, if I had not happened to be in a position of responsibility. But
there were two or three considerations to which those same critics ought to have regard. One was
that in criticizing the settlement of Munich, they were criticizing the wrong thing and the the wrong
date. They ought to have criticized the failure of successive Governments, and of all parties, to
foresee the necessity of rearming in the light of what was going on in Germany; and the right date on
which criticism ought to have fastened was 1936, which had seen the German reoccupation of the
Rhineland in defiance of treaty provisions.

I have little doubt that if we had then told Hitler bluntly to go back, his power for future and larger
mischief would have been broken. But, leaving entirely aside the French, there was no section of
British public opinion that would not have been directly opposed to such action in 1936. To go to war
with Germany for walking into their own backyard, which was how the British people saw it, at a time
moreover when you were actually discussing with them the dates and conditions of their right to
resume occupation, was not the sort of thing people could understand. So that moment which, I
would guess, offered the last effective chance of securing peace without war, went by.

(11) The Manchester Guardian (17th March, 1939)

Prague, a sorrowing Prague, yesterday had its first day of German rule - a day in which the Czechs
learned of the details of their subjection to Germany, and in which the Germans began their
measures against the Jews and against those people who have "opened their mouths too wide."
Prague's streets were jammed with silent pedestrians wandering about, looking out of the corners of
their eyes at German soldiers carrying guns, at armoured cars, and at other military precautions.
Some Czechs were seen turning up their noses at the Germans. Germans were everywhere.
Bridges were occupied by troops and each bridge-head had a heavy machine-gun mounted on a
tripod and pointing to the sky. Every twenty yards along the pavement two machine-guns were
mounted facing each other.

Suicides have begun. The fears of the Jews grow. The funds of the Jewish community have been
seized, stopping Jewish relief work. The Prague Bar Council has ordered all its "non-Aryan"
members to stop practicing at once. The organization for Jewish emigration has been closed.
Hundreds of people stood outside the British Consulate shouting: "We want to get away!" This is
only the beginning. According to an official spokesman of the German Foreign Office in Berlin last
night, the Gestapo (secret police) will have rounded up hundreds of "harmful characters" within the
next few days. So far about fifty to a hundred men have been put in local gaols. "There are certain
centres of resistance which need to be cleaned up," said the spokesman. "Also some people open
their mouths too wide. Some of them neglected to get out in time. They may total several thousand
before we are through. Remember that Prague was a breeding-place for opposition to National
Socialism." The head of the Gestapo in Prague is reported to have been more definite: "We have
10,000 arrests to carry out." Already, say Reuter's correspondent, everyone seems to have an
acquaintance who has disappeared.

(12) Leonard Cheshire, The Light of Many Suns (1985)

Another priority for Hitler was to establish himself in the eyes of his own people as an invincible
leader capable of winning against any odds. His occupation of the Rhineland in 1936 and the
annexation of Austria a year later could never have succeeded had he been resisted, but he had
shrewdly and correctly judged that he would not be. Hitler now needed to eliminate Czechoslovakia
as a potential threat to his Southern flank. If he could do that without provoking Britain and France
into war, he would be free to turn his entire military might against the East. However he was militarily
at a considerable disadvantage. Czechoslovakia disposed of some thirty-five divisions,
approximately the same as Germany, and knew that she would be fighting for her life. On the
Western and Northern Fronts there were seventy French divisions and a few Belgian and Dutch.
Britain had six, but as yet there was no commitment to Europe. Poland on the Eastern Front was an
imponderable for which some contingency plans would have to be made. Clearly, one cannot
calculate a nation's military power just by counting its divisions, but there can be no denying that,
had Hitler's adversaries agreed upon concerted military action, he could never have succeeded. The
German high command knew this and warned Hitler that what he was contemplating was militarily
impossible, but Hitler replied: "Don't worry, they won't fight." ....

For Hitler, Munich was a moment of supreme triumph, for Britain one of shame and disaster. Yet it
was also to prove Hitler's undoing and the making of Britain. Munich had not given Hitler everything
he wanted, but it put him, almost unbelievably, within striking distance of his ultimate goal. Had he
been content to continue as he had started, with the same caution and astute sense of timing,
quietly waiting until French and British vigilance dissipated, as it surely would without further
provocation, it is highly probable that he would have succeeded. Prague he could easily have
afforded to leave alone now that he had neutralised Czechoslovakia; a sudden swoop on Danzig
and there would then remain only Russia who would have had to fight a hopeless single-handed
war. But the triumph of Munich proved too much for Hitler and the temptation to march victoriously
into Prague too great, with the result that he abandoned the caution that had served him so well and
fatally changed what had hitherto been a winning game. First he aggravated rather than allayed
Britain's and France's fears by telling them that the agreement had not given him what he wanted
and by rearming yet faster still. Then on 12 March he sent his armies into Prague and followed them
three days later. Ensconced in Hradschin Castle, the highest point of the city, and looking
triumphantly over the lands he had coveted for so long, he thought that his dream of an Eastern
Empire that would last a thousand years had virtually been fulfilled. But within a fortnight the picture
was to alter completely. On the last day of March, Chamberlain, though subjected to many
conflicting pressures, suddenly decided to offer Poland an unconditional guarantee of military
support should her territory be invaded. By any standard it was a courageous, indeed a historic, act,
one which has not received the credit that it deserves. On Hitler the effect was instantaneous and
dramatic. After a few moments of utter disbelief, he banged on the table in a blind fury and shouted
out: "I'll cook them a stew on which they'll choke."

Student Activities
Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler and the First World War (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler and the German Workers' Party (Answer Commentary)

Sturmabteilung (SA) (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler and the Beer Hall Putsch (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler the Orator (Answer Commentary)

Who Set Fire to the Reichstag? (Answer Commentary)

An Assessment of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (Answer Commentary)

British Newspapers and Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

Lord Rothermere, Daily Mail and Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

The Hitler Youth (Answer Commentary)

German League of Girls (Answer Commentary)

Night of the Long Knives (Answer Commentary)


The Political Development of Sophie Scholl (Answer Commentary)

The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group (Answer Commentary)

Kristallnacht (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

References
(1) Norman Rose, The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity (2000) pages 169-173
(2) Lord Halifax, diary entry (19th November, 1937)
(3) The Evening Standard (13th November 1937)
(4) Claude Cockburn, The Week (17th November, 1937)
(5) Reynolds News (28th November, 1937)
(6) Neville Henderson, report to the British government (January 1938)
(7) Peter Neville, Nevile Henderson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(8) Hugh Christie, report to MI6 (March, 1938)
(9) A. J. P. Taylor, British History 1914-1945 (1965) page 527
(10) Peter Neville, Nevile Henderson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(11) Graham Darby, Hitler, Appeasement and the Road to War (1999) page 56
(12) Statement issued by Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler after the signing of the Munich
Agreement (30th September, 1938)
(13) Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission (1940) page 167
(14) The Daily Express (30th September, 1938)
(15) The Manchester Guardian (1st October, 1938)
(16) Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission (1940) page 168
(17) Robert Boothby, Recollections of a Rebel Hardcover (1978) page 130
(18) Clement Attlee, speech in the House of Commons (3rd October, 1938)
(19) Lord Rothermere, telegram to Adolf Hitler (1st October, 1938)
(20) Norman Rose, The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity (2000) page 190
(21) The Manchester Guardian (17th March, 1939)
(22) Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission (1940) page 209
(23) David Low, Autobiography (1956) page 309