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History - The Munich Agreement

Hitler does away with the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles

1933 was an important year for what was about to happen in the years coming in Europe and be later on considered as a significant turning point. Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany and attempted to ease or even put an end to the restrictions that were placed on his country by the Treaty of Versailles, which resulted into a great depression and crisis in Germany. He therefore decided to take over in his country in order to start acting and became an immensely strong and influential leader who could easily persuade the suffering. The process of rearmament was secretly begun and the conscription to the German army was introduced. Later on the remilitarization of the Rhineland zone took place followed by the annexation of Austria two years later which became the last step to truly bury any remnants of the treaty.

The Sudetenland
Czechoslovakia at that time was an ally of France and Russia and there was particulalry one region that Hitler was interested in getting – the Sudetenland, an area inhabited by almost three million ethnic Germans. This region used to belong to the Austrian territory in the past and the German ethnic group living there claimed to have been mistreated which was used as an excuse by Hitler to claim this territory . The propaganda campaign in the mater of this region was begun in 1938. Moreover, Hitler considered Czechoslovakia back then as being strongly influenced by German´s enemy – the Soviet union.

The following summer, there was a demand by the pro-Nazi Czech Germans to sucede from Czechoslovakia. The Czechs could not resist it easily without the support and help from their allies or Great Britain. This lead to the signing of the famous Munich Agreement on September 29, 1938 between Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who became best known for issuing this document, did not gain much popularity, though, for this policy of appeasement. This step is by some historians even regarded as a refusal of Allies to confront Nazi aggression. Chamberlain, on the other hand, was convinced that this was a sensible and a wise step preventing the entire Europe from a potential outbreak of another war. He believed to have done a compromise, though enabling the Nazi Germany to gradually expand their power eastward by gaining this strategic territory.

How did Hitler reach the agreement?
On September 22, after the talks over the Sudentenland broke down, Hitler gave Great Britain and France an ultimatum of 2 p.m. on 28 September after which he said he would invade Czechoslovakia which would look like a war. Mussolini stepped in and proposed a four-power conference, to which the Russians and the Czechs were not invited. This conference was held on 29 September, at 12.45 pm. Hitler repeated his demands at this meeting and Mussolini proposed a compromise which met Hitler´s requirements. It was accepted by Chamberlain and Daladier and Hitler was given everything he asked for.

The Munich Agreement itself was not actually signed until 1 pm on 30 September, but it is dated September 29. The Czech Army was supposed to pull back from the German areas of Czechoslovakia by 10 October. An ‘International Commission’ was to oversee the occupation, and plebiscites were to be held in areas of mixed race. The Agreement guaranteed the boundaries of the new Czecho-Slovakia, and Britain and France promised to support Czecho-Slovakia against future attack. In the end, the Germans took much more land than had ever been given at Munich. The plebiscites were not held and the guarantees were never kept.

Chamberlain returned to London with what he described as ‘a piece of paper. Churchill called the agreement „a total, unmitigated defeat“. Wild crowds cheered Chamberlain – ‘the man who gave me back my son’ one woman called him (meaning her son did not now have to go off to fight a war). Chamberlain said he had got ‘peace with honour…. Peace in out time’. However, what followed later on can definitely not be called as peaceful since the German expansion and ever growing attempt to seize power kept going further and further.

Lucia Šírová
Gymnazium Vazovova

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Contact : Richard Jones-Nerzic