Munich Agreement

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Goering and Hitler (partly obscured), (unknown), Count Ciano, Mussolini, Édouard Daladier and Neville Chamberlain concur after signing the Agreement. Neville Henderson, British Ambassador to Germany, on right.

The Munich Agreement (German: Münchener Abkommen) was concluded during the night of 29/30 September 1938, by the political leaders of Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, the 'four powers bloc'. The UK and France were the leading members of the League of Nations.

Chamberlain knows that the time has come to act [on Czechoslovakia] because the Versailles Treaty is on its deathbed.... ~ Pierre-Étienne Flandin, former French Premier, in a speech in the French Parliament, February 1938.[1]

The French Press violently attacked the warmongers, and Léon Garibaldi writing in Eclaireur de Nice said:

The support that France might want to give Czechoslovakia would, in any case, be totally ineffective. Let us remember that the French people are not cannon fodder. No-one has the right to drag the French people into a war which does not affect our frontiers and our independence; and the bones of a little French soldier are worth more to us than all the Czechoslovaks in the world.[2]


Disputes had arisen between the Czechs, who constituted just 43 per cent of the population of Czechoslovakia[3] and the other minority populations in that country, whom the Czechs had oppressed, almost since the establishment of this new artificial State[4][5][6] in 1919. Its almost arbitrary borders, mostly those of the Austrian Crown Lands, had been handed down at the Paris Peace Conference following the end of The Great War and the collapse of the Central Powers.

Alexander Powell, the famous English writer, said in 1928: "that of all the countries of eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia was the best risk [of trouble]. This lies in the selfishness displayed by the Czechs of Bohemia in their relations with others." He continues: "the Czechs have stubbornly refused to listen to reason, even when arguments for a change in their attitude have been advanced by friends. Their frontiers were fixed at Trianon 'for all time', they assert, and in their refusal to consider any revision they are adamant. Their uncompromising attitude is doubtless attributable to the fact that just at present they are [feeling] considerably 'above themselves'. But such a frame of mind is hardly surprising in a people who obtained their independence so recently, so suddenly, who have had good fortune literally thrust upon them."[7] Hitler described Czechoslovakia as "a structure manufactured at untenable situation"[8].

Czechoslovakia had for centuries been part of Austria and Hungary. In particular, the ethnic Germans, who had lived there for up to 900 years and formed 25% of the population, were singled out for especially poor treatment by the Czechs, and great unrest began to forment in the Sudetenland region, where ethnic Germans constituted the majority. The British sent a special commission headed by Lord Runciman to investigate and examine the overall situation, and to speak to all the leading actors in this matter. He recommended partition.

Article 19 of the League of Nations' Covenant, which was incorporated in the Versailles Treaty, said:

The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable, and the consideration of international conditions which might endanger the peace of the world.[9]

It was therefore agreed by the four European Great Powers (three of whom drew up the offending 1919 treaties) that adjustments to the borders would have to be made. The Agreement by the four European Great Powers was to award the full annexation by Germany of the borderland areas in Czechoslovakia named the Sudetenland, where more than three and a half million mainly ethnic Germans lived (equating to the entire population of Ireland), and which had before 1919 been part of Austrian Crown lands. From a German and moreso an Austrian perspective this was simply peaceful revanchism.

Most of Europe celebrated the Munich Agreement, which was presented as a way to prevent a major war on the continent (as per Article 19, above). The famous French author Alfred Fabre-Luce gave it his "rapturous approval"[10] and the former French Prime Minister Pierre-Étienne Flandin sent Hitler a telegram of congratulations[11]. The British Ambassador in Berlin, writing the following March, stated "the incorporation of Austrians and Sudeten Germans into the Reich was in principle not an unnatural development, was not an ignoble aspiration for Germans, and was not even ethically immoral. Both the Ostmark [Austria] and Sudetenland were inhabited by populations almost entirely German living on the frontiers of Germany and their incorporation was in conformity with rights of self-determination."[12]

See also


  1. Werth, Alexander, France and Munich, Hamish Hamilton, 1939; reprint by Howard Fertig, New York, 1969, pps:55-4, 56-7.
  2. Werth, 1939/1969, p.118-9.
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year 1938 (for 1937), London, 1938, p.188.
  4. The Tragedy of Trianon by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E., LL.B., London, 1928, pps: 25-6, 57-8.
  5. Czecho-Slovakia Within by Count Bertram de Colonna, London, 1938, p.9.
  6. The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor, London, 1961, p.201.
  7. Powell, E. Alexander, Embattled Borders, London, 1928, p.227 and chapter VI.
  8. Speech by German Chancellor Hitler at the National Socialist Party Congress, Nuremberg, Germany, 12th September 1938.
  9. Newman, Bernard, Danger Spots of Europe, London, 1938, p.20.
  10. Werth, Alexander, France 1940-1955, London, 1957, p.8-9.
  11. Werth, 1957, p.92n.
  12. Woodward, Prof. E.L., Butler, Rohan, & Lambert, Margaret, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Third Series, vol.iv, His Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1951, p.279.