Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Ciano pictured
before signing the Munich Agreement.
Chamberlain and Hitler
Hitler and Mussolini
(Sept. 30, 1938), settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France,
and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland in western
Czechoslovakia. After his success in absorbing Austria into Germany
proper in March 1938, Adolf Hitler looked covetously at Czechoslovakia,
where about 3,000,000 people in the Sudeten area were of German origin.
It became known in May 1938 that Hitler and his generals were drawing up
a plan for the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovaks were
relying on military assistance from France, with which they had an
alliance. The Soviet Union also had a treaty with Czechoslovakia, and it
indicated willingness to cooperate with France and Great Britain if they
decided to come to Czechoslovakia’s defense, but the Soviet Union and
its potential services were ignored throughout the crisis.
As Hitler continued to make inflammatory speeches demanding that Germans
in Czechoslovakia be reunited with their homeland, war seemed imminent.
Neither France nor Britain felt prepared to defend Czechoslovakia,
however, and both were anxious to avoid a military confrontation with
Germany at almost any cost. In mid-September, Neville Chamberlain, the
British prime minister, offered to go to Hitler’s retreat at
Berchtesgaden to discuss the situation personally with the Führer.
Hitler agreed to take no military action without further discussion, and
Chamberlain agreed to try to persuade his Cabinet and the French to
accept the results of a plebiscite in the Sudetenland. The French
premier, Édouard Daladier, and his foreign minister, Georges Bonnet,
then went to London, where a joint proposal was prepared stipulating
that all areas with a population that was more than 50 percent Sudeten
German be returned to Germany. The Czechoslovaks were not consulted. The
Czechoslovak government initially rejected the proposal but was forced
to accept it reluctantly on September 21.
On September 22 Chamberlain again flew to Germany and met Hitler at
Godesberg, where he was dismayed to learn that Hitler had stiffened his
demands: he now wanted the Sudetenland occupied by the German army and
the Czechoslovaks evacuated from the area by September 28. Chamberlain
agreed to submit the new proposal to the Czechoslovaks, who rejected it,
as did the British Cabinet and the French. On the 24th the French
ordered a partial mobilization: the Czechoslovaks had ordered a general
mobilization one day earlier.
In a last-minute effort to avoid war, Chamberlain then proposed that
a four-power conference be convened immediately to settle the dispute.
Hitler agreed, and on September 29, Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier, and
the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met in Munich, where Mussolini
introduced a written plan that was accepted by all as the Munich
agreement. (Many years later it was discovered that the so-called
Italian plan had been prepared in the German Foreign Office.) It was
almost identical to the Godesberg proposal: the German army was to
complete the occupation of the Sudetenland by October 10, and an
international commission would decide the future of other disputed
areas. Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could
either resist Germany alone or submit to the prescribed annexations. The
Czechoslovak government chose to submit.
Before leaving Munich, Chamberlain and Hitler signed a paper
declaring their mutual desire to resolve differences through
consultation to assure peace. Both Daladier and Chamberlain returned
home to jubilant, welcoming crowds relieved that the threat of war had
passed, and Chamberlain told the British public that he had achieved
“peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time.” Chamberlain’s
policies were discredited the following year, when Hitler annexed the
remainder of Czechoslovakia in March and then precipitated World War II
by invading Poland in September. The Munich agreement became a byword
for the futility of appeasing expansionist totalitarian states, although
it did buy time for the Allies to increase their military preparedness.
1. Germany occupies the Sudetenland (October
2. Poland occupies Zaolzie, an area with a Polish minority (October
3. Hungary occupies border areas (southern third of Slovakia and
southern Carpathian Ruthenia)
with Hungarian minorities in accordance with the First Vienna Award
4. Carpathian Ruthenia receives autonomy.
5. In March 1939 the remaining Czech territories become the German
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
6. From the remainder of Czechoslovakia Slovakia is created, becoming
another German satellite.
Agreement concluded at Munich, September 29, 1938,
between Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy
GERMANY, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, taking into consideration
the agreement, which has been already reached in principle for the
cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory, have agreed on the
following terms and conditions governing the said cession and the
measures consequent thereon, and by this agreement they each hold
themselves responsible for the steps necessary to secure its fulfilment:
(1) The evacuation will begin on 1st October.
(2) The United Kingdom, France and Italy agree that the
evacuation of the territory shall be completed by the 10th October,
without any existing installations having been destroyed, and that the
Czechoslovak Government will be held responsible for carrying out the
evacuation without damage to the said installations.
(3) The conditions governing the evacuation will be laid down
in detail by an international commission composed of representatives of
Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Czechoslovakia.
(4) The occupation by stages of the predominantly German
territory by German troops will begin on 1st October. The four
territories marked on the attached map will be occupied by German troops
in the following order:
The territory marked No. I on the 1st and 2nd of October; the
territory marked No. II on the 2nd and 3rd of October; the territory
marked No. III on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of October; the territory marked
No. IV on the 6th and 7th of October. The remaining territory of
preponderantly German character will be ascertained by the aforesaid
international commission forthwith and be occupied by German troops by
the 10th of October.
(5) The international commission referred to in paragraph 3
will determine the territories in which a plebiscite is to be held.
These territories will be occupied by international bodies until the
plebiscite has been completed. The same commission will fix the
conditions in which the plebiscite is to be held, taking as a basis the
conditions of the Saar plebiscite. The commission will also fix a date,
not later than the end of November, on which the plebiscite will be
(6) The final determination of the frontiers will be carried
out by the international commission. The commission will also be
entitled to recommend to the four Powers, Germany, the United Kingdom,
France and Italy, in certain exceptional cases, minor modifications in
the strictly ethnographical determination of the zones which are to be
transferred without plebiscite.
(7) There will be a right of option into and out of the
transferred territories, the option to be exercised within six months
from the date of this agreement. A German-Czechoslovak commission shall
determine the details of the option, consider ways of facilitating the
transfer of population and settle questions of principle arising out of
the said transfer.
(8) The Czechoslovak Government will within a period of four
weeks from the date of this agreement release from their military and
police forces any Sudeten Germans who may wish to be released, and the
Czechoslovak Government will within the same period release Sudeten
German prisoners who are serving terms of imprisonment for political
Munich, September 29, 1938.