Munich Agreement

 

Signatures of the Munich Agreement

On September 30th 1938 Britain, France and Germany signed the Munich Agreement. The agreement gave the Germans the Sudentenland which was part of Cechoslovakia. The Czechs who were not party to the agreement were forced to go along.

Even before Anchluss, Hitler had begun demanding the ethnic Germans of the Sudetenland (an area of Czechoslovakia) be given independence. In fact, what he wanted was for the Sudetenland, (which was well defended) become part of Germany. The French had a defense treaty with Czechoslovakia, and had tried to convince the British to oppose German demands. The Czechs, led by Eduard Benes, refused the demands of the Germans. They hoped the British and French would agree. British Prime Minister Chamberlain gave early indications he would accede to Hitler’s demands. Chamberlain made clear it was only right that Sudeten’s be given the right to vote on behalf of their future. Furthermore, Chamberlain confirmed that Britain was unwilling to go to war on behalf of the Czech government.

Prime Minister Chamberlain flew to Germany three times to try to reach an agreement that ultimately called for a total surrender to Hitler’s demands. On September 29th, the final visit, Chamberlain met together with French Premier Daladier, Italian leader Mussolini, and of course Hitler. This meeting, to decide the fate of Czechoslovakia, took place without the presence of the Czechs. An agreement was reached, under which the Sudetenland districts of Czechoslovakia were ceded to Germany, without a plebiscite. The Czechs were not allowed to remove any arms or anything else from that area. Czechoslovakia was given no say in in this agreement. German troops began the occupation on October 1st. Chamberlain returned to London, a temporary hero, proclaiming he had “achieved peace in our times”. F.D.R.’s involvement in the events unfolding in Europe was tangential, at most– and was limited to supporting the notion of a negotiated settlement. History’s judgment of the agreement has been harsh. The name, “Munich Agreement” will always be known as a sentinel of appeasement– an agreement to demands that do not avoid, rather intensify conflict, and make the prospect of war truly inevitable.