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The Munich Agreement

September 29, 1938

 “The Munich Agreement, an early example of modern ‘summit diplomacy,' . . . concluded the ‘revisionist phase' of Hitler's foreign policy, brought the Czech ‘remant state' to the German side as a satellite for a ‘breathing pause' of barely six months, and created an estrangement between the western powers and the Soviet Union that was deep and fraught with consequences.” [1]

The Republic of Czechoslovakia was created in 1919 out of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It contained the nationalities of Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Magyars, Ruthenes, and Poles.  Trouble was inevitable between the various nationalities.  This was especially true of the Germans who resisted living under the rule of foreigners.  Hitler was determined to eliminate the Czechoslovak state, but had obstacles in the way like the Czech's strong defense in the Sudeten Mountains.   

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British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was careful to say before the conference that he would not give assurance that Britain would help France in case they were later called upon to help Czechoslovakia against Germany.  Chamberlain knew that Czechoslovakia was land-locked and that Britain's navy would not be able to help.  Using Chamberlain's hesitancy, Hitler decided to go ahead with his plans to use the Sudeten Germans to destroy the Czechs. 

On September 12, 1938, Hitler made a speech saying he would come to the assistance of the oppressed Sudeten Germans, and that he was constructing in the west the strongest defenses ever made by man.  The threat of war became so severe that Chamberlain went to Berchtesgaden to plead with Hitler not to go to war.  Hitler demanded that the Sudetenland should be handed over to Germany.  Without consulting the Czechs, Chamberlain made an agreement that those areas containing more than 50% Germans should be handed back to Germany, and got the Czechs and France to agree with this solution.             

Hitler now made more demands at Berchtesgaden.  Hitler wanted German troops to occupy the Sudetenland.  He demanded that the land containing a majority of Poles and Magyars should be returned to Poland and Hungary.  If the Czechs did not agree with his terms by October 1st the German army would march across the boarders.  Chamberlain and Daladier accepted Hitler's terms and put pressure on Czechoslovakia to sign their own death sentence.

Mussolini suggested that the four powers should get together and resolve the problem.  The final meeting was held in Munich Germany, Britain, France, and Italy were represented.  Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were not.  Without consulting the Czechs, the four powers decided that the Sudetenland should be given to Germany.  Britain and France told the Czechs that if they did not agree they would have to fight the Germans themselves.  Chamberlain and Daladier felt there was little they could do but to accept Hitler's terms because each of their military preparedness.    Hitler immediately broke the agreement by invading Czechoslovakia. 

Winston Churchill was appalled by the policy of appeasement at Munich.  “I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which nevertheless must be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and that France has suffered even more than we have . . .  And do not suppose that this is the end.  This is only the beginning of the reckoning.  This foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and make our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” [2]

The Munich Agreement was a huge success for Hitler and continued to have much more success, and made Hitler the master of Central Europe.  October 1 the Czech guards left their posts and the Germans occupied the Sudetenland.  The Polish and Hungarian troops took over areas of Czechoslovakia which contained a large portion of Poles and Magyars.


Notes:

[1] The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (New York; Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991) pp 610-611.

[2] Snyder, Louis Leo, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (New York 1976) pp. 236-237


 Bibliography:

The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich Volume 2 (New York; Macmillan Publishing Company 1991) pp. 610-611.

Snyder, Louis Leo, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (New York 1976) pp. 236-237

<ctrueman@wsglf.org.uk>. “Czechoslovakia and the Crises of 1938”

<http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/czechoslovakia_1938.html> 9/5/03


Researched and Written by:
Kirstin Oberg
HIST 2260: Modern World History
September 12, 2003

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