The Munich Conference was a pivotal moment in history when world leaders gathered to decide the fate of nations.
In 1938, The Munich Agreement was proposed as a measure to prevent Hitler from escalating military action, that could potentially cause World War Two – in order to keep this from happening, Czechoslovakia was compelled to surrender Sudetenland to Nazi Germany; most of Europe, including Neville Chamberlain and the vast majority of Germans, deemed Hitler’s demands to be reasonable, as they thought a country only established in 1918 was not worth a second world war to protect its territory.
It was on September 22nd 1939 that Hitler demanded Sudetenland be surrendered over to Germany, and all of the Czechoslovak population to be evacuated by the 30th of September. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlian, travelled to Germany on more than one occasion, once to Berchtesgaden and then Badgoesberg, to reach a somewhat peaceful agreement with Hitler, but the Furher’s demands continued to grow. In a last-minute attempt to avoid the outbreak of a second world war, Neville Chamberlain proposed a ‘four power’ Munich conference meeting in order to help settle the dispute.
The Munich Agreement
On September 28th 1939, the Czechoslovakian government agreed to let Hitler occupy Sudentenland due to pressure from Britain and France, but did not agree to hand over the remaining areas which were not highly populated by Germans; on September 29th, a deal was reached. The Munich Agreement was signed by Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Édouard Daladier and Benito Mussolini around 1:30 a.m. on September 30th 1939. The treaty agreed to allow Hitler to annex Sudetenland into Nazi Germany.
“I am fulfilling the most painful duty which can ever have fallen upon me, a duty which is worse than dying … the forces arrayed against us oblige us to recognize their superiority and act accordingly.” – General Sirovy, the Czech Prime Minister as he addressed his people.
At the Munich conference which was held in Munich, no one from the Czechoslovakian government was present – Chamberlain had requested that the Czech ambassador of Berlin be in attendance, but he was not permitted to be in the same room as Hitler.
Once Neville Chamberlian had returned home, elated at the agreement as the threat of war had been quashed, he addressed the people of Britain exclaiming that the Munich Agreement had brought “peace with honour”, however Chamberlian appeared to be the only person relieved by this pact. Winston Churchill himself, now estranged from the government, was one of the few to oppose the signing of the agreement, and described it as an “unmitigated disaster”.
The Taking of Sudentenland
Hitler’s plan to create a ‘greater Germany’ was already in motion, as on March 12th 1938 he had already annexed Austria into Nazi Germany and now had his sights set on Sudetenland. Sudentenland was a part of Czechoslovakia that was predominantly German-inhabited.
The Czechoslovakian government had hoped that Britain and France would come to their aid, should the threat of invasion be brought to them, but instead Prime Minister Chamberlian travelled to Germany on more than one occasion to meet with Hitler and discuss his demands.
With these demands and the fear of another looming world war, Britain, Italy, and France effectively agreed on Czechoslovakia’s behalf to let Hitler apprehend Sudentanland.
As part of the Munich Agreement, by October 10th 1939, the more highly German-populated areas of Czechoslovakia were to be surrendered to Nazi Germany. On the night of October 1st, the German military marched into Sudentanland.
How The Munich Agreement Failed
As time would tell, and as Churchill declared, the Munich Agreement was short-lived and fruitless; Hilter, undeterred by appeasement continued to annex the remainder of Sudentenland, and by March 1939 Czechoslovakia no longer existed.
“If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I’ll kick him downstairs” Adolf Hilter in response to Chamberlain leaving Munich.
On September 1st 1939, World War Two was initiated when Hitler broke his promise and invaded Poland – this prompted Britain and France to declare war on Germany by the 3rd of September, causing the start of World War Two – a war which would last six years.
It seems the Munich Agreement failed for many reasons – the blind eye turned to the dangers of rising Nazi powers, Britain’s growing concerns over another world war (which was, according to Churchill, “throwing a small state to the wolves” in exchange for peace), and the systematic failure of Europe’s leaders when it came to the validity of Adolf Hitler’s promises.
“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.” – Winston Churchill speaking after the signing of The Munich Agreement.
This was the story of the Munich conference.
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