Munich Conference and the Annexation of Sudetenland
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe successful annexation of Austria fueled Adolf Hitler's ambition, and he looked on to the German-populated regions of western Czechoslovakia, a region which the Germans called Sudetenland. As early as 1933, Nazi Party members such as Konrad Henlein had already infiltrated the political scene in Czechoslovakia, stirring trouble. On 19 May 1935, Henlein's Sudetendeutsche Partei won three out of every five German Czech's vote, creating the second largest political party in Czechoslovakia. Starting in 1938, the Nazi propaganda machine fabricated false stories of the three million ethnic Germans being oppressed in Czechoslovakia, and demanded to gain control of these lands. Meanwhile, British ambassador to Berlin Sir Nevile Henderson did little to help. In fact, he did the opposite, calling the highly educated Czech president Edvard BeneŇ° "pigheaded" for leading his country to resist Nazi infiltration.
ww2dbaseCzechoslovakia partially mobilized its military on 20 May 1938 as a response. "It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future", Hitler said to his military advisors upon hearing the news of the Czechoslovakian mobilization. The threat, however, came at a great risk that Hitler was well aware of. Unlike Austria who lacked powerful allies, Czechoslovakia befriended Britain and France in the west and the Soviet Union in the east. The three powers had a keen interest in Czechoslovakia, for that she controls a series of strong fortifications that, if fallen, would open the gates wide toward the Balkans. The French fielded 100 divisions, and should Germany move against Czechoslovakia, there would had been only 12 divisions to defend the Franco-German border. Hitler knew that if a military conflict was to break out between Germany and Czechoslovakia, there would be a real danger of a war on two fronts, with a weak defensive line against the numerically superior French Army. Even the Czechoslovakian Army, which Hitler thought little of, had 30 divisions in reserve after full mobilization. Within the German Army itself, Hitler did not have unilateral support either. Erich von Manstein, for one, thought the move to be too daring. "[H]ad Czechoslovakia defended her self, we would have been held up by her fortifications," he said, "for we did not have the means to break through." In secret, some German Army leaders such as Franz Halder were organizing a revolt should Hitler come too close to plunging Germany into a war with Britain and France, a situation that was unwinnable according to the generals.
ww2dbaseWhat fueled Hitler in moving forth with the gamble was the appeasement sentiment from the top political leadership in the United Kingdom and France. As the political situation grew tense into Sep 1938, France, for example, went as far as demanding Czechoslovakia to cede the territory to Germany, otherwise France would not honor the mutual protection treaty that they had previously signed.
ww2dbaseOn 28 Sep 1938, Chamberlain convinced Hitler to host a multi-power conference to determine the Sudetenland issue. As Hitler barred Czechoslovakian representation to this meeting, Chamberlain cabled BeneŇ°, promising that the United Kingdom had Czechoslovakia's best interest in mind; upon hearing this, Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk responded "If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, god save your souls."
ww2dbaseThe conference took place beginning on 29 Sep at the F√ľhrerhaus in K√∂nigsplatz in Munich, Germany. Prior to the meeting, Hitler and Italian leader Benito Mussolini met to devise a common strategy; Chamberlain and French leader Daladier did no such thing. Once the meeting began, the four leaders were generally cordial. Chamberlain attempted to change Hitler's mind in terms of Czechoslovakian representation in the talks, but could only convince Hitler to allow two Czechoslovakian representatives to be nearby in an adjacently room without actually partake in the conference. According to Wilhelm Keitel, Daladier was adamant in doing what it takes to avoid war, saying "[w]e won't tolerate war over this, the Czechs will just have to give way. We will simply have to force them to the cession." The four decided the fate for Czechoslovakia by granting Germany Sudetenland; the agreement was dated 29 Sep, but was not signed by Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, and Daladier, in that order, until after midnight into 30 Sep. The two Czechoslovakian representatives were finally allowed to meet with Chamberlain and Daladier, but not Hitler and Mussolini, at this time; they noted that Chamberlain appeared to be exhausted while Daladier nervous, both avoiding prolonged conversations with them over this topic. Keitel was named as the military governor of Sudetenland per the agreement. The non-Germans who lived in Sudetenland were given ten days to leave; they were not allowed to take any of their possessions with them.
ww2dbaseSimilar to the situation in Austria months earlier, there were already many refugees in Sudetenland who had previously fled from Germany. Those who attempted to flee were denied visas by various countries, and many of them were deported back to Sudetenland, leaving them to certain persecution by the German occupation administration. Also like the Austrian annexation, the German propaganda machine publicized the crowds who welcomed the Germans while suppressing any anti-German sentiment.
ww2dbaseThe loss of Sudetenland damaged more than Czechoslovakian pride. From the military perspective, the loss of the Sudetenland region deprived the country of its natural defense (mountains) as well as its man-made fortifications (arguably the second best in Europe, after the French Maginot Line); this is especially disheartening since western Czechoslovakia was by this time surrounded on three sides by Germany. In fact, after Hitler had toured Sudetenland after the annexation, he was surprised to realize that if Germany had to resort to force to take Czechoslovakia, German troops would have been bogged down, thus would expose western Germany to a potential invasion for much longer. Economically, the loss of industrial facilities, mines, roads, and railways caused her to lose, directly or indirectly, 66% of its coal production, 80% of lignite, 86% of chemicals, 80% of cement, 80% of textiles, 70% of electric power, 40% of timber, and 70% of iron and steel.
ww2dbaseBelieving that Hitler would uphold his promise that Sudetenland represented his final territorial demand in Europe, Chamberlain noted that, now that this "most dangerous" obstacle to peace had been overcome, "I feel that it may be possible to make further progress along the road to sanity." In actuality, Hitler actually was frustrated by British and French concession of Sudetenland; he had secretly wished for resistance so that he would have the excuse to take the entire Czechoslovakia by force. Before Sudetenland was to be fully occupied by German troops, German leadership would already embark on revising the plans, both diplomatic and military, to acquire the rest of Czechoslovakia. On the diplomatic stage, nations in Eastern Europe began to doubt the sincerity Britain and France had toward their allies in the east; as a result, some of the Eastern European countries began to be friendlier toward Germany and the Soviet Union.
Wilhelm Keitel, In the Service of the Reich
William Manchester, The Last Lion
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Last Major Update: Jan 2007
Munich Conference and the Annexation of Sudetenland Interactive Map
Munich Conference and the Annexation of Sudetenland Timeline
|28 Mar 1938¬†||Konrad Henlein met with Adolf Hitler and received instructions to demand more than what the Czechoslovakian government could provide.|
|21 Apr 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler summoned Wilhelm Keitel to begin the discussion of turning Case Green into an actual operation against Czechoslovakia.|
|24 Apr 1938¬†||The Nazi-aligned Sudeten German Party issued the Carlsbad Decrees, demanding autonomy for Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia.|
|3 May 1938¬†||The German diplomats in London, England, United Kingdom reported that the British and the French were likely to support the German bid for the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in order to avoid war.|
|7 May 1938¬†||The United Kingdom and France urged Czechoslovakia to make concessions to Germany over the issue of Sudetenland.|
|9 May 1938¬†||Leader of the Sudeten Nazi Party Konrad Henlein cut off communications with the Czechoslovakian government.|
|12 May 1938¬†||Joachim von Ribbentrop instructed Konrad Henlein on how to speak with the British on the Czechoslovakia situation.|
|16 May 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler asked his top commanders how many German divisions were on the border with Czechoslovakia and were ready to move within a twelve hour window. The answer he received was twelve.|
|17 May 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler asked for the latest intelligence report on Czechoslovakian border defenses.|
|20 May 1938¬†||German military leaders updated the Case Green military scenario. Meanwhile, Czechoslovakian officials in Prague sent Germany a telegram demanding explanation on the arrival of German troops in Saxony near the border; the information that the Czechoslovakians had regarding the German troop movement was either inaccurate, or the Czechoslovakians had intercepted German messages regarding Case Green and were testing the Germans to confirm their suspicions. On the same day, Czechoslovakian military partially mobilized along the German border.|
|21 May 1938¬†||British Ambassador Nevile Henderson met with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop twice in Berlin, Germany on this date in regards to the tension over Czechoslovakia. British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax likewise met with German Ambassador Herbert von Dirksen in Berlin, Germany.|
|23 May 1938¬†||German Ambassador Herbert von Dirksen in London, England, United Kingdom noted that Germany had no intention of military aggression over Czechoslovakia.|
|28 May 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler ordered the military to prepare for an invasion of Czechoslovakia and ordered the mobilization of 96 divisions; the preparation was to complete by 2 Oct 1938.|
|30 May 1938¬†||German generals updated the Case Green military scenario, which was now being used as an invasion plan for Czechoslovakia.|
|1 Jun 1938¬†||British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told journalists that Sudeten Germans should be given more independence.|
|3 Jun 1938¬†||Ludwig Beck sent a message to German Army chief Walther von Brauchitsch, noting his concern that an invasion of Czechoslovakia would trigger military reaction by the western powers, which would spell doom for Germany.|
|9 Jun 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler received an intelligence report on Czechoslovakian weapons and defensive installations.|
|18 Jun 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler ensured his military leaders that there was no danger of a pre-emptive attack by the British over the matter of Czechoslovakia.|
|16 Jul 1938¬†||Ludwig Beck sent another message to German Army chief Walther von Brauchitsch, noting his concern that an invasion of Czechoslovakia would trigger military reaction by the western powers, which would spell doom for Germany. He also included in this message that Brauchitsch should incite German Army generals to resign en masse in protest of Adolf Hitler's reckless invasion plan.|
|19 Jul 1938¬†||Ludwig Beck met with German Army chief Walther von Brauchitsch, attempting to persuade him to use his influence to put a stop to the invasion of Czechoslovakia. He also offered suggestions on what he thought Adolf Hitler's government should be doing, mainly social and civil concerns, instead of provoking war at this stage of Germany's rearmament.|
|3 Aug 1938¬†||The United Kingdom dispatched a mediator to Czechoslovakia in an attempt to persuade the Czechoslovakian leadership to cede Sudetenland.|
|6 Aug 1938¬†||British Ambassador to Germany Nevile Henderson noted to German diplomats that the United Kingdom would not risk British lives over Czechoslovakia.|
|15 Aug 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler announced to his military leaders that he intended to resolve the Czechoslovakian situation with force.|
|23 Aug 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler hosted Hungarian Regent Mikl√≥s Horthy at Kiel, Germany in an attempt to recruit him to assist in the aggression against Czechoslovakia; Hitler offered him Czechoslovakian territory for his help.|
|29 Aug 1938¬†||While Adolf Hitler toured the Westwall defenses in western Germany, German General Wilhelm Adam warned that Germany could not be able to defend against an invasion by France for more than three days should Germany deploy most of its forces for an invasion of Czechoslovakia. Adolf Hitler grew furious at Adam, who would retire from service at the end of the year.|
|31 Aug 1938¬†||Winston Churchill suggested that if United Kingdom, United States, and Soviet Union collectively asserted pressure on Germany, Germany might abandon its claims for the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia; he was unable to persuade fellow British politicians.|
|7 Sep 1938¬†||The newspaper Times of London published an editorial suggesting that Czechoslovakia had much to gain in terms of achieving ethnic homogeneity should it allowed Sudetenland to secede. Once again, leader of the Sudeten Nazi Party Konrad Henlein announced that he would cut off communications with the Czechoslovakian government.|
|9 Sep 1938¬†||Franklin Roosevelt announced that the United States would remain neutral on the topic of German pressures on Czechoslovakia.|
|10 Sep 1938¬†||At the N√ľrnberg, Germany rally, Hermann G√∂ring spoke about Sudeten Germans being oppressed by the Czechoslovakians.|
|12 Sep 1938¬†||On the closing date of the annual N√ľrnberg, Germany rally, Adolf Hitler spoke of striving for justice for Sudeten Germans. In France, General Maurice Gamelin reported to Prime Minister √Čdouard Daladier noting that the French military could easily overwhelm German defenses should France respond militarily to any German threats on Czechoslovakia.|
|13 Sep 1938¬†||The French cabinet met to discuss the German demands on Czechoslovakia, reaching no conclusion.|
|15 Sep 1938¬†||Neville Chamberlain visited Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden in southern Germany to discuss German demands on Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain expressed his personal approval for Germany's previous demands for Sudetenland, but would need to discuss further with his cabinet and the French. Hitler expressed his appreciation and promised that no military action would be taken.|
|16 Sep 1938¬†||Neville Chamberlain departed Germany and returned to London, England, United Kingdom. In the evening, he held a cabinet meeting to discuss the German demands on Czechoslovakia.|
|17 Sep 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler assigned an OKW officer to the Sudeten Freikorps.|
|19 Sep 1938¬†||The United Kingdom and France recommended Czechoslovakia to cede Sudetenland to Germany.|
|20 Sep 1938¬†||Sudeten Nazi leader Konrad Henlein urged Slovakians to demand autonomy with greater vigor.|
|20 Sep 1938¬†||At 1030 hours, Czechoslovakian military mobilized. At 1700 hours, Czechoslovakian President Edvard BeneŇ° rejected the British-French suggestion for Czechoslovakia to cede Sudetenland to Germany; going further, BeneŇ° asked the French whether France would honor the alliance in the case of a German invasion.|
|20 Sep 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler pressed the Hungarians to assert greater demands on Czechoslovakia.|
|21 Sep 1938¬†||Poland demanded Czechoslovakia to hold a plebiscite for the Zaolzie region, claiming the region, with its Polish majority, wished to join Poland. The French responded to the question from Czechoslovakian President Edvard BeneŇ° from the previous day, noting that they would only only honor the terms of the alliance if BeneŇ° agreed to cede Sudetenland to Germany, thus avoiding war. Seeing no help from the French, BeneŇ° turned to the Soviet Union, which would only honor the mutual defense treaty if the French honored theirs. Receiving no support from the nations who were supposedly his allies, BeneŇ° gave up and accepted the German demands for Sudetenland in the late afternoon.|
|22 Sep 1938¬†||Seeing that the Czechoslovakians gave in to German demands, Hungary also made demands of their own on Czechoslovakian territory. On the same day, Sudeten Freikorps occupied two Czechoslovakian towns close to the German border. In Prague, the Czechoslovakian cabinet resigned. In Bad Godesberg, Germany, Chamberlain met Adolf Hitler; the German leader demanded Czechoslovakia to allow German troops to occupy Sudetenland by 1 Oct 1938.|
|23 Sep 1938¬†||In the evening, Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler met again in Bad Godesberg, Germany. Hitler demanded Czechoslovakia to leave the Sudetenland area by 28 Sep 1938; Chamberlain expressed frustration that Hitler was now demanding more than what had originally been discussed; after some heated discussion, Hitler returned to the original demand of 1 Oct 1938.|
|24 Sep 1938¬†||As Neville Chamberlain departed Bad Godesberg, Germany to return to London, England, United Kingdom, Adolf Hitler promised him that the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia would be the last German territorial demand in Europe. In France, the French government rejected the latest German demands; the French military partially mobilized in preparation for war.|
|26 Sep 1938¬†||Adolf Hitler spoke at the Berlin Sportpalast in Germany, claiming that whether Europe was to go into war or remain in peace, it was now up to Czechoslovakian President Edvard BeneŇ°. He also announced that Sudetenland was to be Germany's last territorial demand in Europe. In the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt sent Hitler a message in an attempt to maintain peace. Also on this day, French General Maurice Gamelin told Britain that France possess enough strength to overwhelm German defenses should France go to war over German threats on Czechoslovakia.|
|27 Sep 1938¬†||In the early afternoon, Adolf Hitler moved several divisions to the German-Czechoslovakian border. In the late afternoon, he called for a military parade on the Unter den Linden boulevard in Berlin, Germany to rouse a patriotic sentiment; Berlin citizens responded coolly, however. In the United Kingdom, British military mobilized for war, school children were evacuated from London, while trenches were dug in the city's parks. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain recommended Czechoslovakian President Edvard BeneŇ° to accept a partial military occupation of Sudetenland by the Germans. In the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt called for an international conference in an attempt to maintain peace. The King of Sweden also attempted to calm Hitler down, sending him a message advising him that German's current strength was no match for the combined strength of the opposing powers. Even the chief of the German Navy Erich Raeder attempted to convince Hitler to not provoke war. Late in the day, Czechoslovakia finally received some foreign support when Yugoslavia and Romania declared that they would offer military assistance should Hungary use force against Czechoslovakia.|
|28 Sep 1938¬†||Neville Chamberlain proposed to Adolf Hitler a conference between European powers to resolve the issue of Czechoslovakia; Hermann G√∂ring convinced Hitler to accept such an offer rather than waging war. Meanwhile, Chamberlain sent Czechoslovakian President Edvard BeneŇ° a message to express that Britain was to represent Czechoslovakia in the upcoming conference with Germany, and Britain would keep Czechoslovakia's best interest in mind.|
|29 Sep 1938¬†||The Munich Conference between Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, and Daladier took place at the F√ľhrerbau building in M√ľnchen in Germany, during which Britain and France ceded Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany in an attempt to avoid war. The two Czechoslovakian representatives at the conference were locked in an adjacent room, not permitted to actually participating in the negotiations.|
|30 Sep 1938¬†||Shortly after midnight, Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini, and √Čdouard Daladier, in that order, signed the Munich Agreement at the F√ľhrerbau building in M√ľnchen in Germany, which ceded Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany; the actual document was backdated to the previous day, 29 Sep 1938.|
|30 Sep 1938¬†||Upon returning to the United Kingdom, outside 10 Downing Street in London, Chamberlain announced that "I believe it is peace for our time".|
|1 Oct 1938¬†||Following the German annexation of Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, efforts began to arrest Sudetenland residents who opposed the Nazi government.|
|11 Oct 1938¬†||Wilhelm Keitel reported to Adolf Hitler, noting that the German military was poised to invade Czechoslovakia without needing much time to prepare.|
|15 Oct 1938¬†||The Czechoslovakian government resigned after Germany occupied the Sudetenland.|
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