This article by Mr Wear is a classic example of how historical fact can be twisted and distorted by the misreading of evidence, the failure to interpret the evidence correctly or by ignoring alternative evidence completely.
Mr Wear relies heavily on revisionist historians in an attempt to describe the Czech Crisis and the Munich Agreement. I have used the recognised standard works regarding Hitler between 1936 and 1945: “Hitler, Nemesis” by Ian Kershaw and “The Third Reich in Power” by Richard Evans.. Most of the following article use these excellent books as the main source. So let us look at Mr Wear’s distortion of the historical facts.
At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, 3.25 million German inhabitants of Bohemia and Moravia were transferred to the new Czechoslovakia in a flagrant disregard of Woodrow Wilson’s ideal of self-determination.
Actually, probably true. Not that it would have made any difference to Adolf Hitler’s aims and objectives. Czechoslovakia was simply in the way of further expansion east.
From 1920 to 1938, repeated petitions had been sent to the League of Nations by the repressed minorities of Czechoslovakia.
There was no repression of German minorities in the Sudetenland. This was false history put about by the German propaganda ministry. It was also the EXCUSE that Hitler was to use to march in to the Sudetenland in 1938. In fact, according to Mr Evans, Czechoslovakia had the fairest rules and regulations in Europe regarding its minorities; German minorities in Czechoslovakia were allowed to use German when dealing with officialdom, German was used in schools in the relevant districts, German minorities were represented in the Czech government and German minorities took place in coalition governments. To put it bluntly, Sudeten Germans had full civil rights.
By 1938, the Sudeten Germans were eager to be rid of Czech rule and become part of Germany.
…mainly due to the effects of the depression. Industry in the region was badly affected and there was a lot of unemployment in the mid thirties. The rise of Hitler and the perceived ( but not actual) economic revival of Germany caused many to look to Germany as a solution to their problems.
In a fair plebiscite, a minimum of 80% of Sudeten Germans would have voted to become part of the new Reich.
Well this is supposition not based on fact. There never was a plebiscite. In elections in 1935, 65% of Germans voted for Sudeten minority parties.
The Czech cabinet and military leaders decided on May 20, 1938, to order a partial mobilization of the Czech armed forces. This partial mobilization was based on the false accusation that German troops were concentrating on the Czech frontiers.
The reaction of the Czech government was understandable. The partial mobilization was not an attempt to put pressure on Germany; it was the result of reports coming from a variety of sources of German military build up on the borders. By the 21st may, this build up had been classed as a false alarm.
Czech leaders hoped that the resulting confusion would commit the British and French to the Czech position before a policy favoring concessions to the Sudeten Germans could be implemented.
That wasn’t a hope.That was fact. Ribbentrop was informed by the British government that if an invasion did occur in May, then the French would go to war with Germany and Britain would be obliged to support them. As to concessions, the Czech government had allowed German minorities access to the civil service and had issued business contracts to Sudeten businesses as early as 1937.
Although the plot failed, Czech leaders granted interviews in which they claimed that Czechoslovakia had scored a great victory over Germany.
…and it was the foreign press, especially the press in Britain and the US that claimed Hitler had backed down under pressure. Hitler, to put it lightly was not amused!
By the 1930s, the majority of the British people believed that Germany had been wronged at Versailles.
Based on what evidence, I don’t know. Many did believe Germany was badly done by at Versailles, but … the majority?
The British people now broadly supported the appeasement of Germany in regaining her lost territories. If appeasement meant granting self-determination to the Sudetenland Germans, the British people approved.
The British people supported appeasement because they did not want a war with Germany. Contrary to popular belief in Nazi la la land, the British did NOT want a war. The support for appeasement had nothing to do with a support for Sudeten Germans, it was a desire for the continuation of peace. The First World War was still a recent memory for many British people.
The British mission completed its study in September 1938, and it reported that the main difficulty in the Sudeten area had been the disinclination of the Czechs to grant reforms.
Absolute rubbish. The reason why Britain put pressure on the Czech government to give the Sudeten Germans autonomy was because the British knew that Germany intended to attack Czechoslovakia within weeks. The Czech government had no option but to comply. The irony was that Hitler lost his excuse to invade Czechoslovakia because the Czechs had agreed to his public wishes. It must be made clear here; Hitler did not want to invade Czechoslovakia simply to rescue oppressed German minorities. He wanted to destroy Czechoslovakia as a nation.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden to discuss the Czech problem directly with Hitler
They talked. Hitler threatened to attack Czechoslovakia and Chamberlain angrily threatened to walk out of the room. Hitler backed down and agreed not to use force in his demands for the Sudetenland. Afterwards Hitler bragged that he had forced Chamberlain to agree to the annexation of the Sudetenland. In turn, Chamberlain was confident that he had changed Hitler’s mind regarding an invasion of Czechoslovakia and that Hitler’s aims were only minimal. On 21st September, the Czechs finally agreed to the principle of the autonomy of the Sudetenland. Hitler, the next day organised more disruption in the Sudetenland by voluntary paramilitary units in order to keep alive the excuse for a full invasion of Czechoslovakia.
A problem developed in the negotiations when Chamberlain met with Hitler a second time.
It certainly did. Hitler went from discussing the principle of an autonomous Sudentenland to talk of an actual immediate occupation of the area. Hitler gave a time frame of 2 – 4 days for the Czechs to withdraw from the area. At that point, according to Ian Kershaw, news of the mobilisation of the Czech army arrived. Hitler whispered to Chamberlain that he would accept the 1st October for the Czech withdrawal from the Sudetenland.
This was the very same day that Hitler had planned weeks earlier for the attack on Czechoslovakia. Goebbels in his diary indicated that the German army would be ready for invasion by the 28th September.
Meanwhile, in London attitudes towards Hitler and his intentions were starting to harden. On 26th September, Britain and France told Hitler that the Czechs would not be forced into accepting new terms and that any military invasion of Czechoslovakia would mean war.Hitler’s initial reaction was “so be it”! Hitler was set on an invasion on the 1st October.
Then, on 28th September, Hitler changed his mind. He settled for a negotiated settlement. This was due to a meeting with Mussolini. Mussolini proposed a transfer of power guaranteed by Britain and starting on 1st October. An International Boundary Commission would work out details of the settlement. Hitler accepted the Italian/French/British proposal. Chamberlain and the French went to Germany and the Munich Agreement was signed. Germany was close to achieving the first small part of its military expansion into Czechoslovakia. The document itself, to Hitler, was meaningless.
On 1st October, Germany took over the Sudetenland.
The British war enthusiasts lost no time in launching their effort to spoil the celebration of the Munich Agreement.
There was no enthusiasm for war, but an increasing skepticism of Hitler’s intent. The mood had hardened dramatically. Most politicians knew what was coming and Britain prepared for war with an increase in arms production. Most politicians saw the Munich Agreement as the betrayal of the Czech people.
Eden advised the House to regard the current situation as a mere pause before the next crisis.
…and he was correct in his assessment. This distrust of Hitler was not misplaced. On 21st October 1938 Hitler gave the Wehrmacht a new directive of which “liquidation of remainder of the Czech state” was but one part.
The warmongering that led to World War II was increasing in Great Britain.
No, Mr Wear. The pessimism and hardening of attitudes towards Germany was down to the threat of Adolf Hitler and his need to expand the German empire into the heart of Europe.
Hitler was dismayed at the steady stream of hate propaganda directed at Germany. In a speech given in Saarbrücken on October 9, 1938, Hitler said…
…lots of things IN PUBLIC which he did not say to his generals and chef Nazis. Hitler was not going to tell the German people that the march towards war was HIS responsibility.
On 15th March 1939, German forces moved into the rest of Czechoslovakia. Poland was next on the list. For the British and French, Poland was to become the line in the sand.
Richard J Evans: The Third Reich in Power, p 656 – 688.
Ian Kershaw: Hitler, Nemesis, p 87 – 125, p 157 – 180.