Rotten to the Core?
How America’s Political Decay Accelerated During the Trump Era
FUTURE historians, distributing praise and blame for the Munich "settlement," will of course take into account the long chain of things done which ought not to have been done, and of things left undone which ought to have been done, that winds itself through all the last twenty years of European history. In the light of this inheritance some of them will conclude that the policy which Chamberlain began unfolding early in 1938 was inevitable, and that Daladier and Bonnet too were inevitably forced, first to recognize that they could not balk that policy, then to adopt it with all the fervor of the convert. Others will think that with foresight and determination British and French statesmen could even in 1938 have maintained a balance of power on the Continent.
We cannot discuss here the more remote links in the chain. We cannot discuss who was responsible for errors in the Treaty of Versailles; for the League's inability to meet the heavy tasks laid upon it; for the deterioration of the world's economy; for the French and British failure to make a better effort to achieve disarmament; for Britain's subsequent neglect to rearm effectively through a long period when cabinet members were frequently assuring Parliament that all necessary steps were being taken;[i] for delays in reforming the French social structure; for the failure of French aëroplane production from 1936 to 1938; and for all the other mistakes of commission and omission (on both sides of the Atlantic) during the past twenty years.
Our task is to make a chronological examination of the Czech-German crisis of 1938. We shall try to set down, before all the details are known, but on the other hand while what we do know is still vividly in our minds, just one single chapter of the story which future historians will have to write in full. We shall see how what started as a two-sided negotiation between the Czech Government and the German minority in Czechoslovakia became an international negotiation under the auspices of an English "mediator," Lord Runciman. And we shall see how the mediation ended in a series of international ultimata -- from Hitler via Henlein to Beneš, then from Hitler to Chamberlain, then from Chamberlain and Daladier to Beneš, and finally from Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini to Beneš.[ii]
It is not for an American to say that Englishmen or Frenchmen should fight and die for causes which do not seem to them vital. The moral issue, then, will be touched on in these pages only incidentally. But this country has been profoundly affected by the destruction of the balance of power in Europe. So great a shift portends, if it does not register, a shift in the balance of power in the world. The results for the United States -- economic, political and strategic -- in both of the bordering oceans and in Latin America, are incalculable. So also are the results for international law, the observance of treaties and the concept of sovereignty in a world of which the United States, much as it wishes the contrary, is more and more inexorably shown to be a part. We are entitled, then, and indeed are in duty bound, to examine the political conceptions and the day-by-day actions which gradually led Britain and France to Munich. It is the expediency of those actions that concerns us here. Ethical aspects will be touched on only incidentally, and then, I hope, not in a moralizing vein; for I have too much fault to find with much of our own foreign policy from 1919 onwards to feel the inclination to utter any moral reproach.
Investigation of the "immediate origins" of the Czech-German crisis must begin with the events of February 1938. Hitler had just joined issue with the high command of the German Army and with the old German diplomacy over his intention to press his expansionist plans regardless of all risks. Inevitably he had won. With his record of easy victories in the past, who could oppose what he promised would be easy victories again? As a result, he had taken direct control of all Germany's armed forces and of the conduct of foreign policy. On February 20 he decided to try out the mettle of his foreign opponents. He had deduced from Lord Halifax's disclaimers of interest in Danubian affairs during a visit to Berchtesgaden three months earlier that no very stiff British opposition would be encountered. Having disposed of potential domestic opposition he now announced that he considered himself the guardian of the ten million Germans living in foreign states along the German frontiers -- a remark plainly aimed at the approximately seven million Germans of the Austrian Republic and the approximately three million Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. He was feeling his oats. It seemed a time for statesmen abroad to show prudence. Sir Austen Chamberlain once told me, "Germans can't take oats." His halfbrother, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, evidently had another opinion.
On the same day that Hitler spoke, Neville Chamberlain accepted Anthony Eden's resignation as Foreign Secretary. The next day, February 21, Parliament listened to Eden explain why he could not continue in the Chamberlain cabinet. He said he parted with the Prime Minister not over the narrow issue of whether or not to negotiate with Italy while Italian troops were still fighting in Spain, but because of "a real difference of outlook and method." "Within the last few weeks," he said, "upon one most important decision of foreign policy which did not concern Italy at all, the difference was fundamental." He could not approve of allowing it to seem that Britain would constantly yield to pressure, and he must resign. Replying, Chamberlain denied that there had been a "now or never" threat by Italy, and complained that Eden had not been quite fair. But in an obvious hint that he wanted a Four Power Pact, he declared that the peace of Europe depended upon the attitude of Germany, Italy, France and Britain; if they would understand and take account of each other's aims, he said, they would save the peace of Europe for a generation. The resignation of a British Foreign Secretary under such circumstances was widely likened to the fall of Delcassé in 1905. The comments of his chief accentuated the underlying cause. The Italian press gloated, and the German press shared its joy that Eden, symbol of collective security, had been forced out of office.
Such was the prelude to some further and very significant remarks made by Chamberlain on February 22 in the course of replying to a Labor motion of censure. He said: "If I am right, as I am confident I am, in saying that the League as constituted today is unable to provide collective security for anybody, then I say we must not try to delude ourselves, and, still more, we must not try to delude small weak nations into thinking that they will be protected by the League against aggression and acting accordingly, when we know that nothing of the kind can be expected." This was all very different from the attitude Mr. Chamberlain had taken in his pre-election campaign in 1935.[iii] Having handed Mussolini the head of the Foreign Secretary on a charger he handed Hitler two buckets of oats -- the suggestion that the Four Powers take charge of Europe, and the still more blunt statement that Britain was through, for all practical purposes, with the system of collective security. The outlines of the "policy of appeasement" were beginning to take shape.
Germany was elated. The press noted with satisfaction that Chamberlain had "smashed" Geneva. In Austria, where acute anxiety already existed as a result of Chancellor Schuschnigg's visit to Berchtesgaden, there was corresponding gloom. Schuschnigg had felt constrained to accept Hitler's demand that a Nazi, Dr. Seyss-Inquart, be put in the cabinet as Minister of the Interior, and the Austrian Nazis, encouraged thereby, had already begun to demonstrate afresh in many provincial cities. A showdown seemed imminent. Chancellor Schuschnigg decided to accept it boldly. He announced that "the threats which can be connected with the Berchtesgaden agreement cannot intimidate me," and summoned the Austrian people to a plebiscite on March 13 to decide whether they wished the maintenance of a free Austria. Before national feeling could thus be tested (indeed, to prevent it from being tested, although Hitler had often demanded a plebiscite on the question of Anschluss), Schuschnigg was presented with a Nazi ultimatum to resign or face invasion and bloodshed. Mussolini, his mentor and erstwhile protector, was too engaged elsewhere to consider offering him effective support. It crossed nobody's mind to appeal to the League. On the afternoon of March 11, the same day he received the ultimatum, Schuschnigg resigned. Hitler's troops nevertheless marched in the next morning and Austria disappeared as an independent state.
Just twenty days had elapsed since Eden's resignation and Chamberlain's notice to Hitler that Britain considered the League helpless to prevent treaty breaking and violence. Are we not justified in suspecting that the other "important decision of foreign policy" about which Eden said he differed "fundamentally" from Chamberlain touched precisely the future independence of Austria? He doubtless had pointed out to Chamberlain that it would simply encourage Hitler to intimate that if he moved into Austria the protests of London and Paris would merely be pro forma. And of course he entirely rejected the Chamberlain thesis that once Hitler had come into possession of Austria he would keep quiet. In both respects Eden was right.
The annexation of Austria brought under Hitler's rule two-thirds of the ten million Germans to whom he had alluded on February 20. Prague asked itself what was to be the fate of the other third. The German Government, its hands still full in Austria, hastened to give Czechoslovakia official assurances (March 11 and 12, 1938) that it had no designs against her. These assurances were communicated to the British Government and, indeed, were made public by Mr. Chamberlain. In taking this action the German Government underlined specifically the general position which Hitler often had taken up, notably when on March 7, 1936, addressing the Reichstag, he said: "Thus after three years I believe that today I can look upon the struggle for the restoration of German equality of rights as now concluded. . . . In Europe we have no territorial claims to put forward." True, the very action on which he predicated this statement -- the military occupation of the Rhineland -- had been taken that same day in repudiation of another promise, the Treaty of Locarno. And only a year earlier (May 21, 1935) Hitler had said of Locarno that it was "the most definite and most really valuable treaty of mutual assurance in Europe." [iv] Regarding Austria, too, Hitler's disclaimers of expansionist designs had been frequent and specific (January 30, 1934; May 21, 1935; etc.). There seemed reason indeed, then, to reassure Prague. At any rate the assurances were given, and doubtless the Prague Government assessed them at their proper value. More significant in its eyes, perhaps, was the fact that the German press soon began writing in a very hostile tone about Czechoslovak matters; for in a totalitarian régime the press is as much an agency of policy as any other branch of government, and often its utterances portend future events more accurately than do official pronouncements.
A second phenomenon noted in Prague was the increased activity of Konrad Henlein's Sudeten German Party. This group, formed in 1933 as the Sudeten "Home Front" and organized more formally in 1935, had at first merely demanded a larger share of state offices. It condemned totalitarianism and anti-Semitism, and disclaimed interest in "any kind of frontier revision." As recently as November 18, 1937, Henlein could speak as official leader of his party as follows: "The Sudetic German Party's stand toward the Czechoslovak State always has been positive and unequivocal. We do not fight against the State but against the ruling conception of the State. We are in opposition to the present government and the present system of foreign and domestic politics, but we fight on the basis of the State for a just order within it and for organic democracy and a foreign policy which meet the historic economic and geographic position of Czechoslovakia." He added: "I have always declared that we stand unequivocally for a democratic republican form of a Czechoslovak State." And again: "The Sudetic German Party is not an appendage of either National Socialism or Fascism, but wholly a native movement of long standing." [v] The Party nevertheless held aloof from legitimate political life and opposed bitterly the German "Activists" who had entered the Czechoslovak Parliament and taken positions in the cabinet. And as the prestige and expansionist power of Nazi Germany grew more and more impressive it became more and more totalitarian in program and action.
Germans and Czechs have lived intermingled in western Bohemia for generations. But when top dog and bottom dog change places there are difficult psychological as well as physical readjustments to be made. Germans and Czechs alike are made of stubborn stuff. Neither is very adaptable. Despite the equality of both before the law, the Germans found plenty of occasions for resentment against Prague. Some of it originated in the world economic crisis and was largely beyond the Government's control. Politically and culturally, the Sudeten Germans enjoyed the same rights as other citizens of the Republic. They had exact proportional representation in Parliament and in municipal activities; they had their own primary and secondary schools, their own technical high schools and their own university; and they were free to use their language in courts and in all intercourse with government authorities in districts where they exceeded 20 percent of the population. Altogether, they were the most decently treated minority in Central and Eastern Europe.
Yet the Czechoslovak Government admitted that the Sudeten Germans had grievances, and, beginning in 1936, started serious negotiations with them for the accord of "reasonable decentralization, with economic and administrative regionalism." The chief grievance of the Germans was that they did not have their full share of government posts. This was partly because until 1926 the Germans not only did not ask to participate in the government but refused to do so when asked; partly because it was difficult to give top positions in diplomacy and the army to persons not of certain patriotism. After 1926, when a German Agrarian and a German Christian Socialist took places in the Cabinet, progress was made in admitting Germans to the state bureaucracy, even in very responsible positions. But it is fair to say that the procedure was too slow. Even after 1936 President Beneš and Prime Minister Hodža found themselves hampered in negotiating with the Sudeten German Party. They could not in decency throw over suddenly the so-called "Activists," the Germans who had worked with them in the Government since 1926. Besides, an attempt to do so would have angered the Czech leftist parties and brought down the coalition government. Above all, their efforts at conciliation were constantly being upset by the way the Henleinists raised their ante whenever specific concessions were suggested.[vi]
Little by little, as will appear in a moment, Henlein dropped all pretense that he was a loyal Czechoslovak citizen asking redress of grievances rather than that he was Hitler's agent; and little by little the vituperation against Czechoslovakia in the controlled German press augmented. This caused alarm not merely in Prague but in all countries committed by their League membership to preserving peace and assisting Czechoslovakia, a League member, to defend herself against attack. France repeated categorically that she would carry out her special treaty obligations to her ally. The British Government did not conceal its dislike of the prospect that if she did so England must speedily become involved, either through obligations under the Covenant or as a practical matter of helping France on the Rhine.
For England this was a decisive moment. She either could take a firm stand for a European order based on collective security; or she could assume an equivocal position which, while possibly leaving her free to remain aloof for a time from any conflict which developed on the Continent, risked encouraging the dictatorial Powers to continue in the heart of Europe the methods of blackmail and power politics which had already worked so well in Manchuria and Ethiopia and were meeting with new success in Spain. Risks lay either way. Which way was least risky?
It is fair to Prime Minister Chamberlain to note that many of his Conservative supporters, including, probably, members of his own Cabinet, felt more community of interest with Fascism than Communism and also instinctively preferred Germany to France. Among British reactionaries, liking for Germany and fear of Germany blended curiously. They pictured Hitler as a guardian of capitalism, intensely disliked the idea of lining up on the same side as Soviet Russia, even inside the League of Nations, and glossed over the fact that whatever one thought of the Communist theories to which the Soviet rulers still paid lip service, and however repugnant the Stalin tyranny, Soviet Russia was for the time being a factor on the side of international peace. They professed themselves to be enormously impressed by accounts of German air superiority and stressed the mainly defensive value of the French fortifications. They discounted Soviet military power following the wholesale purge of army and navy chieftains, and asserted that in the circumstances Litvinov's influence in Moscow was to say the least uncertain. There obviously was some truth in these claims, though the prowess they attributed to the German air force grew to fabulous proportions and though many air experts continued to consider the Soviet air force, despite the purge and despite Soviet industrial dislocations, a formidable instrument of attack. In these circles little or nothing was said about the well-trained and patriotic Czech army, its "Maginot Line," and its wealth of modern armaments backed by one of the world's greatest arms factories. Little was said about Britain's undisputed control of the seas, or about the favorable manner in which, given that fact, the American Neutrality Law would work for Britain and her allies in time of war. Also ignored was the unfinished condition of Germany's defenses in the west; her insufficiency of raw materials needed to fight a war and feed a wartime population, despite frantic efforts to lay up supplies and produce ersatz materials; her unfavorable financial position; the resistance inside the German Army to steps involving risk of general war in such disadvantageous conditions; or the covert dislike of great sections of the German people for many Nazi policies -- racial, religious, economic and political.
Prime Minister Chamberlain was subject to the insistent pressure of this whole point of view, repeatedly emphasized in speeches by members of his own party, in pontifical leading articles in the London Times, and in the busy talk of London hostesses. His own character and background inclined him to regard it sympathetically. He has described what a nightmare war has always been to him. As a business man he saw the disadvantages of rearming to a degree and at a tempo which would seriously disturb the British economy and antagonize the City. And even as a business man, a colleague is reported to have characterized him as "a fellow with a retail mind in a wholesale line." A naïve or obstinate streak probably would make him believe that what Hitler said to him was meant, whereas the contrary things which were being said to others were not meant. His repugnance for war as such would be sincere, and certainly understandable; and he would be cautious enough by nature to feel that postponement of an issue is safer than facing up to it -- which may be so often, but is not so always. He would of course share the prejudice of the English upper middle-classes against France, and their sense of shame at having won the World War. An instinct for fair play would make him anxious to throw the under dog a bone, even somebody's else. And when suddenly he discovered that it was a top dog not an under dog with which he had to deal, he would be credulous enough to hope by successive bones to reduce its hunger and make it friendly and innocuous rather than stronger, greedier and bolder.
Such warnings as Chamberlain received came from persons like Eden and Churchill, whom he looked on as rivals inside his own party, or from Liberals and Laborites who were open political antagonists. It is possible that if he had seen even dimly ahead to the final developments of late September he would have prepared the British people to resist a capitulation along so wide a front. Lacking the sixth sense of foresight, he did not combat the influences to which I have referred, neither those external nor those within his own being.
In a most important speech in Parliament on March 24 Chamberlain foreshadowed the temporizing policy which he was to adopt throughout the new European crisis that followed close upon the Nazi annexation of Austria. This speech alternately blew hot and blew cold, appealing first to noble sentiment and then to less noble expediency. One thing Chamberlain did not do was speak plainly. "Peace," he announced, "is the greatest interest of the British Empire." He added that there were, however, certain things for which Britain would fight -- "the defense of British territory and the communications which are vital to our national existence," and "our liberty and the right to live our lives according to the standards which our national traditions and our national character have prescribed for us." Having made this declaration he turned to the League of Nations. He admitted that his "original belief in the League as an effective instrument for preserving peace has been profoundly shaken," but cautiously said that Britain's general obligations under the Covenant "may have no less significance" than her "definite obligations to particular countries," e.g. "defense of France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression," and "obligations by treaty to Portugal, 'Iraq and Egypt." In this connection, however, he refused flatly to give a "prior guarantee" to help Czechoslovakia in case of attack, or to help France in case she executed her pledge to do so. As he uttered these words, wrote the correspondent of the New York Times, "a roar of cheers went up from the packed Conservative benches behind him." Then he backtracked somewhat in an apparent effort to dissuade Germany from undertaking a fresh adventure at Czechoslovakia's expense by warning that what he had said was not to be interpreted as meaning that Britain "would in no circumstances intervene" to restore peace or maintain international order. "Legal obligations," he said, do not alone determine a nation's policy; and war, if it broke out, "would be unlikely to be confined to those who have assumed such obligations." He dismissed the Soviet Government's suggestion of a conference to discuss "practical measures" on the ground that it appeared to him to aim less at a consultation towards a settlement than "a concerting of action against an eventuality which has not yet arisen." He ended by saying that his Government "in no way underrate the definite assurances given by the German Government," congratulated the Czech Government on elaborating practical steps to be taken "within the framework of the Czechoslovak constitution to meet the reasonable wishes of the German minority," and urged that there was "no need to assume the use of force, or, indeed, to talk about it" in connection with the relations of the German and Czechoslovak Governments. "Such talk," he announced, "is to be strongly deprecated."
Prime Minister Chamberlain spoke on several subsequent occasions in similar vein. But we cannot find a more complete guide to the attitude, half monitory, half defeatist, which he took up alike toward foes and friends throughout the ensuing months, first of anxiety, then of alarm.
II. THE MAY CRISIS
Hitler's victory in Austria increased Nazi prestige throughout Eastern Europe, and nowhere, naturally, more than among the Germans of Czechoslovakia. Symptomatic was the resignation of the German "Activists" from the Cabinet. As for the German Social Democrats, Henlein showed what political minorities might expect in case of transfer to Germany by announcing that they no longer were to be considered members of the German race group. Despite the unfavorable turn of the tide, Prime Minister Hodža had been pressing ahead with a phase of his problem which was almost as difficult as his negotiation with the Sudetens -- the task of hurrying the Czech and Slovak coalition parties, varying in social and political shading from reactionary Agrarians to Social Democrats, into firm accord on some plan for conciliating the German minority. This he achieved on March 19, and soon thereafter he was able to announce in a broadcast that a "Nationality Statute" was to be drawn up, codifying existing rights for all minorities as well as incorporating new ones. The Henleinists rejected it in advance. So did the German press, which, one cannot repeat too often, is an organ of the German Government.
On April 24, only six weeks after Hitler's triumphant entry into Vienna, Henlein put forward the current demands of his party. His statement, made at Karlsbad, contained "eight points." They may be summarized as follows:
1. Full equality of status for Sudeten Germans and Czechs -- that is, abandonment of the conception that there is a Czechoslovak State containing a German minority.
2. A guarantee of this equality by recognition of "the Sudeten group of the German race" as a unified "legal personality."
3. Determination of the German area in Czechoslovakia, and legal recognition of its boundaries.
4. Full autonomy throughout this German area in every department of public life.
5. Guarantees for those living outside the area of their own race.
6. Removal of "all injustices done to the Sudeten Germans since 1918 and reparation for all damage they have suffered thereby."
7. Recognition of the principle of German officials in all German districts.
8. Full liberty for Germans to proclaim their Germanism and their adhesion to "the ideology of Germans." [vii]
These demands went far beyond anything formerly suggested; and the last in particular seemed like a Trojan Horse to the Czechs. The Czechoslovak Republic was a democracy, the German Reich a dictatorship. To give the German minority liberty to profess German nationality and political philosophy meant giving it liberty to propagate the current Nazi theory of race and the Nazi conception of totalitarian government.
But Henlein also asked something that in Prague seemed even more presumptuous. In addition to the "eight points," he called for "a complete revision of Czechoslovak foreign policy," i.e. the abandonment of the alliances with France and Russia and, presumably, the gravitation of Czechoslovakia into the German political and economic orbit. The Government refused to negotiate on this basis. But it announced the intention of pressing ahead with the Nationality Statute on which the coalition parties had agreed. Hodža's hope was to push it through Parliament and have it on the books by July.
In Germany the moment seemed one to exploit. There had just been another cabinet crisis in France, the second within a month. Hitler was preparing to visit Rome. Following Henlein's Karlsbad speech, then, the German press received its signals to begin a fresh outburst of abuse against Czechoslovakia. Information from all directions made the British and French Governments feel that the situation was becoming more and more dangerous. Hitler was said to be preparing some action for the end of May or early June. At the end of April, then, the new French Premier and Foreign Minister, MM. Daladier and Bonnet, went over to London and arranged to coördinate the military forces of the two nations and in general to strengthen the London-Paris axis against the Berlin-Rome axis. They also agreed that Prague should be advised to pursue negotiations with Henlein as actively as possible, though both Governments were in accord that Czechoslovakia must not be expected to jeopardize her sovereignty or independent foreign policy. The French ministers stated their intention to live up to the terms of the Franco-Czech Treaty of Mutual Guarantee of October 16, 1925. The terms of this were specific. Each nation undertook to lend the other "immediate aid and assistance," in consonance with the League Covenant, in case Germany failed to observe the Locarno agreement and made an unprovoked attack. It was supplemented by the Franco-Soviet and Czech-Soviet Treaties of Mutual Assistance of May 2 and May 16, 1935. The latter contained a stipulation that the help which Soviet Russia and Czechoslovakia each promised to give the other in case of unprovoked attack was contingent upon France carrying out her prior pledge. In reaffirming that France would do this, MM. Daladier and Bonnet assumed responsibility for initiating whatever action might become necessary in that connection.
In due course (May 7) the British and French Ministers in Prague expressed to Foreign Minister Krofta the interest of their two Governments in seeing the Sudeten question solved peacefully within the Czechoslovak constitutional framework, and of their willingness to be of any possible help towards that end. They urged greater concessions than Hodža had included in his proposed Nationality Statute; and thereby, without of course meaning to cause delay, did in fact dissuade him from achieving at once the legislative program behind which the various governmental parties had been lined up. Hodža agreed to embark on fresh negotiations with these, as well as to negotiate further with the Sudetens. Looking back, we see that psychologically it might have been better had he put the new Statute on the books at once, and left talk about other concessions till afterwards. But Hodža and Beneš were confident of the good intentions of their friends in London and Paris and thought it wise to take their advice.
True, reports of another sort were also in circulation concerning real British aims. One was to the effect that at a British Cabinet meeting in May there had been support for the view that if war broke out over the Czech question Britain ought not to participate unless Italy joined the Reich. If true, the report throws interesting light on how consistently certain British minds have viewed the European scene. Another report was given currency by a cable from Mr. Joseph Driscoll, London correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune. This dispatch, printed May 15, said that the writer was "now privileged to shed what can truly be called official light on the real British attitude." To the query, "Will France and Russia fight for the Czechs?" the British answer is: "How can they fight?" Both France and Russia are geographically separated from Czechoslovakia. "Besides, the Russians have shot their best generals." Furthermore, Czechoslovakia lacks ground facilities for receiving a large additional force of airplanes from Russia. Mr. Driscoll comments: "Nothing seems clearer than that the British do not expect to fight for Czechoslovakia and do not anticipate that Russia or France will either. That being so, the Czechs must accede to the German demands, if reasonable." Mr. Driscoll's informant did not seem sure just what those demands would be. Nor had he yet made up his "official mind" as to whether the introduction of a cantonal system would be the wisest way of meeting them. Commenting on the suggestion that maybe the Sudetens could be gathered into one bloc, which might be administered autonomously, Mr. Driscoll wrote: "Instead of cantonization, frontier revision might be advisable. This would entail moving the frontier back for some miles to divorce this outer fringe from Prague and marry it to Berlin. A smaller but sounder Czechoslovakia would result." So remarkable a forecast of the mind of the so-called "Cliveden set," as revealed in the famous London Times editorial of September 7, as well as of Mr. Chamberlain's own subsequent actions, makes one wonder whether before he wrote his prophecy Mr. Driscoll may not have had contact with the Prime Minister, perhaps in a certain London drawing-room. Even his words about the German "fringe" in Czechoslovakia, used here in the middle of May to describe the "real" British attitude, find their counterpart in the editorial of the Times four months later.
The British attitude described by Mr. Driscoll as the "real" one did not, however, dominate Anglo-French action in the critical days just ahead. The Czechoslovak Government welcomed warmly the representations from London and Paris, and during the so-called "May crisis" it enjoyed the close coöperation of both capitals. This coöperation, together with the Government's own prompt action in mobilizing in reply to reports of a concentration of German troops near the Czechoslovak border, carried Europe through the weekend of May 21. Germany said that such movements of her troops as had occurred were merely "routine." But Beneš had learnt something from watching the fate of Austria after "routine" movements of German troops and shifts in the German command. He determined to be in a better position for instant resistance than Schuschnigg had been. He was supported whole-heartedly by the French General Staff, which had decided that French weakness in face of the reoccupation of the demilitarized Rhineland zone had been a mistake and opposed giving way to Germany any further.
War probably was nearer at this moment than it had yet been at any time since the Armistice. Actually, nothing irremediable happened -- nothing worse, in fact, than a crescendo of German press imprecations against Czech "violence" and British "duplicity." As at Nyon, when the British and French Governments took a determined and united stand and announced their intention of maintaining it regardless of consequences, there were no consequences.
By the end of May there was, on the surface, a general détente. Prague informed London and Paris that a formal invitation had been sent to Henlein to change his mind and negotiate on the basis of Hodža's Nationality Statute. Czech reservists had for the most part been sent home. The German press had quieted somewhat. June saw a series of talks between the Sudeten leaders and the Czech Government. On June 14 it was announced that both sides accepted as a basis for negotiations the draft Nationality Statute and a Memorandum, not as yet published, submitted June 7 by the Sudeten Party in amplification of the Karlsbad demands. The first round-table conference between cabinet members and Sudeten representatives took place June 23.
But actually [viii] the gulf between the two sides had already been seriously widened. The Sudetens in their Memorandum demanded that the State be reorganized into racial areas, that each area have virtual independence (meaning the establishment of a German, i.e. Nazi, state within the Republic), and that at the same time each have an equal voice in the affairs of the central government. Hodža would find it hard indeed to persuade the coalition parties to start along any such dangerous road. More important, Hitler, smarting under his rebuff in the May crisis, had taken "serious measures" to ensure that there should be no further interference in his projects in the east. Several months later he revealed in his great Nuremberg speech how on May 28 he had given orders to increase the German air force and immediately start extending the fortifications in the west.
The atmosphere obviously began changing following a visit by Henlein to Hitler on July 9. German press and radio attacks on the Czechs were resumed. Deputy Leader Frank of the Sudeten Party said the negotiations which had been going on were not "real" but were merely reconnoitering. About this time word began spreading -- cause or result of the stiffening Sudeten position? -- that the determination shown in London and Paris in May had again given way to nervousness and vacillation. News of the new German armaments was spreading. England was supposed to have notified France that she could not be expected to go beyond the blow-hot-blow-cold position taken by Chamberlain on March 24, and that the common front presented to Germany during the May crisis was to be counted an exception and not a precedent. In consequence, it came to be believed generally in inner governmental circles throughout Europe that France might not feel able to carry through her promises of help to Czechoslovakia in some new test of strength. This was particularly the case in the capitals of smaller states delicately poised on the fence separating the two great ideological camps. In Belgrade, for example, Premier Stoyadinovitch found means to let President Beneš know that he thought the zero hour had come when Czechoslovakia must follow Jugoslavia's example and make the best terms possible with the new dominant forces in Europe.[ix] The reply was that Czechoslovakia had a firm alliance with France, that she had profited from it in the past by receiving French loans and political support, that she considered she was performing a useful European function in serving as a bridge between Paris and Moscow, and that she would continue to rely on the word of her friends. Prime Minister Daladier on July 12 took occasion to repeat that France considered her solemn engagements towards Czechoslovakia sacred and beyond dispute.
Just a week after Premier Daladier had stated once again the continuing vitality of the Franco-Czech alliance the British King and Queen arrived in France on a much-heralded visit of state. On Monday, July 18, on the eve of setting out for Paris with his Sovereigns, Lord Halifax had received Hitler's personal deputy, Captain Wiedemann. The precise nature of their conversation is of course unknown. But it seems to be a fact that before starting for France, Lord Halifax sounded out Prague as to whether a British adviser would be acceptable in connection with the Sudeten dispute. Britain intimated that if the offer were not accepted, the fact that it had been made and rejected would be published. The inference was that the British public would thereupon demand that their government wash its hands entirely of all risks in connection with the Czech problem. To excuse what otherwise might have seemed interference in the domestic affairs of another state, the British Minister in Prague referred to President Beneš's suggestion, made in the spring while the German press was telling of Czech "atrocities" in the Sudetenland, that British observers be sent to the spot to ascertain for themselves that the German allegations were false; and indeed at that time the British staff in Prague was augmented so that this might be done. Using this as a precedent, London now asked Prague to accept an adviser or arbitrator in the whole Sudeten affair. While in Paris, Lord Halifax had a long private conversation with Daladier and Bonnet, much commented on at the time. None of the permanent officials of either foreign office was present -- not even a stenographer. Perhaps this secret conference planned the procedure of the Runciman Mission in detail. France declined a British suggestion to participate in the mission. To do so might make Czechoslovakia worry about the fidelity of her great ally; and the impression might also be given that France did not have full confidence in her great ally.
Perhaps President Beneš felt that the manner in which he was asked to receive Lord Runciman constituted polite blackmail. But besides having no real alternative to acceptance, he probably saw compensations, for the plan promised to commit England much more definitely to participation in Danubian affairs. He could not have foreseen that the rôle actually played by Lord Runciman (announcement of whose mission was made in London on July 25) would be little by little to whittle down the Czech position until the Government could no longer present a determined and unified front against any change in the fundamental position taken by England and France at the London meeting of April 28 -- namely that Prague ought to do everything possible to satisfy the wishes of its German citizens but that it was not to be expected to go beyond reforms within the framework of the Constitution.
A revealing statement was made by Chamberlain in Parliament the day after the announcement of the Runciman Mission. Replying to a criticism by Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Prime Minister denied that he had been "hustling the Czech Government," and said, "The very opposite is the truth." He continued: "Our anxiety has been rather lest the Czechoslovakian Government should be too hasty in dealing with a situation of such delicacy that it was most desirable that the two sides should not get into a position where they were set, and unable to have any further give-and-take between them." Sir Archibald's information was a few days out of date. The Germans had been voicing impatience and Chamberlain had been hustling the Czechs before it was decided to send Runciman to Prague. Thereafter time was needed to break down Czech resistance from within. Inside of two months the British Minister in Prague and his French colleague were asking for a midnight audience with President Beneš in order to exact from him acquiescence forthwith in Hitler's complete demands -- complete, that is, as known on that date!
On the day Runciman started for Prague, an American correspondent in London, Mr. Ferdinand Kuhn, Jr., noted that though the May 21 crisis had perhaps served as a warning to Germany it also had put Chamberlain in a strategically stronger position vis-à-vis Prague; he now could say that as Britain had stood by Czechoslovakia in one crisis Czechoslovakia must reciprocate by making terms with the Sudetens before another developed. Mr. Kuhn wrote: "The dramatic weekend of May 21 has left the ball at Mr. Chamberlain's feet; it is possible for him to lose the game for the Czechoslovak Republic." [x]
This aspect of the matter must have occurred to Hitler, and may have led Captain Wiedemann to tell Lord Halifax in July that his master accepted the idea of sending someone like Lord Runciman to Prague. Did the development of German policy from now on proceed according to prearranged schedule? Or did Chamberlain's admission that the Sudeten dispute must not be dealt with hastily bring home suddenly to Hitler the possibility of a British "plot" to postpone any crisis until too late in the autumn for his troops to march? At any rate, only a day or so after Runciman's arrival in Prague on August 3, information began reaching the British Government that German reservists were being called up, that men in service were to be held beyond their normal period, that vast armies of laborers were being conscripted for work on German fortifications in the west, and that military authorities were preparing to conscript civilian goods and services. We now know (speech of Mr. Chamberlain in Parliament, September 28) that in these circumstances the British Ambassador in Berlin was instructed in the middle of August to point out that these abnormal measures must be interpreted as threatening Czechoslovakia and might compel the Government of that country to take precautionary measures on its side; and that this would destroy all chance of successful mediation by Lord Runciman and "perhaps endanger the peace of every one of the Great Powers of Europe." He was sharply rebuffed. Foreign Minister Ribbentrop refused to discuss the military measures mentioned, and expressed his opinion that British efforts in Prague "had only served to increase Czech intransigence."
At Lanark, on August 27, Sir John Simon made a speech which had been heralded as intended to clarify the British position. If that was the intention it was altered. Sir John merely drew notice to what Chamberlain had said on March 24, and added a few ambiguous similes of his own. The March 24 statement, the reader will recall, had said that questions involving peace and war are not settled by legal obligations alone, and that if war broke out, "it would be unlikely to be confined to those who had assumed such obligations." As the reader will also recall, the statement in addition minimized the possibility that the League in a moment of crisis would attempt to protect small states from aggression, and -- to the cheers of Conservative Members of Parliament -- specifically withheld any "prior guarantee" to Czechoslovakia. The crisis now was at hand. The British Government still did not seem to know how to meet it. It had dropped its pose of optimism; it was preparing the Home Fleet to proceed to its fighting stations in Northern Scotland; but if it had already made up its mind precisely what it would do if Hitler adopted a completely irreconcilable position at the approaching Nuremberg Party Congress it was ashamed to take either the British public or the Czechoslovak Government into its confidence.
Simultaneously with Simon's speech at Lanark, Hitler started a tour of German frontier fortifications, carrying him from opposite Belgium down to opposite Basle and thence eastward along the Swiss border. Back in Berchtesgaden, he received Henlein on September 1 and again on September 2. Between those two conferences Henlein apparently paid a flying visit home, and the communiqué issued after the second interview said he had been able to give the Fuehrer "elucidations." The subject of all this fevered discussion was the compromise on the basis of cantonal self-government which had been worked out by Lord Runciman and Mr. Ashton-Gwatkin in consultation with President Beneš, and which had been presented to Henlein on August 28. The Czech tactical position was bad. President Beneš could not even tell the mass of his Sudeten citizens how far he wanted to go to meet their wishes for fear that if he did he would lose the last chance of securing the collaboration of the Sudeten leaders by impairing the possibility of their later on announcing a glorious triumph. Beneš was said to feel that a proclamation detailing the government proposals would close all line of retreat for Henlein, besides leaving nothing which later on he could point to as the fruits of victory. He therefore opposed making public the full Czech offer until after negotiations had been formally renewed.
As by now Henlein obviously was only a messenger boy, Lord Runciman considered it necessary to know whether the August 28 project would receive the seal of Hitler's approval. The most interesting thing about Henlein's resulting visits to Berchtesgaden was that they marked the transformation of Lord Runciman's rôle from that of mediator between two sets of Czech citizens to the rôle of mediator between the Czechoslovak Government and Chancellor Hitler. Did this happen on instructions from London, or did it merely seem to Lord Runciman a good idea to "bring Hitler in"? On the whole, foreign newspapermen in Berlin and Prague thought the latter. But however the inquiry originated, the reply which Henlein carried back to the British negotiators was most unfavorable. Hitler interpreted the approach as a sign of weakness and decided on a showdown. This became plain from Sudeten speeches and, of course more important, from the tone of the German press. One frank Sudeten deputy stated that the demands which his party had so far made were merely preliminary and indicated that the more Sudeten demands were granted the more would be produced.
The Czechoslovak Government nevertheless decided to go further, to make a new offer. They knew that many of the Sudetens -- including some of the deputies -- were much more moderate than Henlein and would really prefer autonomy inside the Republic to annexation to Hitler's Reich. They of course realized that in making one concession after another to the Sudetens while maintaining a strong stand against Hitler they were continuing a risky play; but the time for any other sort of tactics seemed past. Months back, they had decided on their policy: satisfaction of minority grievances; a strong stand against Nazi interference from outside. Everything about the Nazi political, economic and social system was antipathetic to them. They knew that an attitude of complaisance towards it, carried far enough, would bring them trade rewards and perhaps the same sort of temporary political security which Jugoslavia had won by making her peace with Italy. They had decided to do without those benefits. They realized that Germany's fortification of the Rhine would make it more difficult than formerly for the French Army to give them help effectively and promptly. But they knew the efficiency, gallantry and fidelity of the French High Command; also that it still considered vital what Foch had considered vital, namely the erection and maintenance of a strong bastion in the Bohemian mountains, recognized by all technicians as the military key to Eastern Europe. They knew France had nearly a million men under arms, that the British Home Fleet was about to assemble at its fighting stations in northern Scotland. They were being called on for greater sacrifices, the stakes were getting higher. But Beneš felt that he must make every possible concession, in the same spirit in which Serbia in July 1914 had accepted nearly the whole of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum. Would the Czechs then not have nearly the whole world on their side, as opinion everywhere had rallied to the Serbs? He knew all this was something of a gamble. But he felt the gamble was no more desperate than it had been in March or in May or at the time of Lord Runciman's arrival. He realized that in average English eyes Czechoslovakia represented nothing vital. He had read Chamberlain's defeatist statements with profound anxiety. But he believed that by going to the limit at British and French urging to satisfy the Sudetens he had put his country in an impregnable moral position. He did not see how in the end England could fail to say: "You have demonstrated that you want to meet any just grievances of your German citizens. You cannot be asked to go further. Stand here. We will back France if she backs you. Others will back you too." Of the French attitude, assuming British support, he presumably had no doubts.
The Czechs believed that, in the circumstances outlined, not only would France and Soviet Russia stand with them as they were treaty-bound to do, but Poland, Rumania, Jugoslavia and Turkey also. Italy they counted on to take up a bargaining neutral rôle, as in 1914. Even if Jugoslavia did the same, she would at the least keep Hungary quiet. But the Czechs were convinced that a military decision would never be necessary; that Hitler was a blackmailer much more than fighter; that in face of the coalition which could be formed against him he would not dream of making war. However, should he resort to arms in the circumstances which they foresaw, they were confident that he was doomed, and fairly quickly, no matter how much damage German airplanes might meanwhile inflict on foreign populations. They knew they would suffer first, and more than anyone else, if resistance led to this terrible result. For themselves, they preferred that risk to putting themselves by their own act irrevocably into Hitler's power.
The new Czechoslovak plan handed the Sudeten leaders on September 6, often called the "Fourth Plan," was intricate and, like all these successive demands and plans, is hard to summarize briefly. It provided that all nationalities should share proportionately in state offices and in state enterprises, monopolies, institutions and other organizations. This aim was to be realized gradually over a ten-year period, since the immediate wholesale dismissal of present officials was obviously impossible even if trained persons were immediately available to take their place, which they were not. The same proportionate principle would be observed in placing all government orders for supplies. A loan of a billion crowns would be raised immediately by the Government to aid areas badly hit by the crisis; and of this sum 700,000,000 would go to German districts. Maintenance of public order would be divided between the State police and the local police. The Language Laws would be modified to give full and universal equality with the Czechoslovak language to German and the other minority languages. The principle of national self-government would be established through a system of cantons. Public administration would be assured by State and local organs. The local organs would be elected by general, equal, direct and secret suffrage. They would deal with all matters not concerning the community of the State. The territorial basis of the regional organs would follow the lines of the declared nationality of the population, with due regard, however, to geographical and economic considerations and means of communication.[xi]
Lord Runciman considered that this Fourth Plan "embodied almost all the requirements of the Karlsbad 8 Points, and with a little clarification and extension could have been made to cover them in their entirety." But, as he pointed out later in his report, that would not at all "suit the policy of the Sudeten extremists."[xii] It so little suited Henlein that without waiting to receive the text he departed on the morning of September 6 to attend the Nuremberg Congress as Hitler's guest. Mr. Gedye, cabling the New York Times, reported the Henleinists as determined to continue stalling until after Hitler had declared himself publicly and irrevocably at Nuremberg. The Prague correspondent of the London Times, on the other hand, reported "strong hopes" in Government circles and in the Runciman Mission that the Germans would treat the plan as a basis for serious negotiation. He added: "Both London and Paris have given the plan their blessing and advised both sides to agree on it."
On the same day (September 7) that the Times correspondent reported British and French governmental support for a plan to reorganize the Czechoslovak State by cantons, the same paper suggested editorially that "it might be worth while for the Czechoslovak Government to consider whether they should exclude altogether the project, which has found favor in some quarters, of making Czechoslovakia a more homogeneous State by the secession of that fringe of alien populations who are contiguous to the nation with which they are united by race." Such a great storm was raised by this proposal, coming at so delicate a moment in the negotiations, from a paper identified with the so-called Cliveden clique, that the Government hastened to announce there was no connection between its own policy and the course suggested to Czechoslovakia by Mr. Geoffrey Dawson. But the harm had been done. The defeatists in France had been given new ammunition. So had Ribbentrop. Hitler had been shown that he could count on the insistence, in season and out, of the Britishers who had urged Chamberlain to adopt and follow through to its logical conclusion what they called a "realistic" policy of appeasement and peace.
In plain fact, however, the Sudetens had already decided to act in the sense foreseen by Mr. Gedye. They found their occasion in a small fracas which occurred September 7 in the town of Moravská Ostrava. Nobody was hurt, but the affair served as a pretext for breaking off negotiations. Henlein rushed back from Nuremberg to Czechoslovakia, then once more to Nuremberg for further orders.
As September 12 approached -- the date set for Hitler's Nuremberg speech -- the situation was full of contradictions. Was it to be Der Tag at last? That Mussolini thought so is indicated by a communiqué of the Informazione Diplomatica which could hardly have been issued with any motive except to prepare Italy for a rôle of neutrality. The communiqué stated that though Italy favored autonomy for the minorities in Czechoslovakia, she never had suggested that they ought not to continue forming part of the fabric of the Czech State. The Rome correspondent of the London Times commented on "the impression conveyed during recent weeks that the Italian Government, while giving moral support to the German claims, wishes to hold aloof from the dispute." Nor did any mobilization of troops take place in Italy. In Czechoslovakia, President Beneš made a level-headed broadcast describing the new minorities plan as "conceived in the spirit of true democracy." "It guarantees the individual against the whole," he said, "the minority against the majority, freedom of thought, nationality rights, and equitable conditions for political, cultural and economic activities." And direct contact was resumed on September 10 between Prime Minister Hodža and two leading Sudeten deputies. On the other hand, rioting broke out again in various parts of the Sudetenland. In Germany, Goering, trying evidently to anticipate the note that he thought Hitler would strike, denounced "those ridiculous dwarfs in Prague," and wittily, in the circumstances, elaborated on the theme that the Czechs are "devoid of culture." The British Cabinet was reported split, one group, supported by the high permanent officials of the Foreign Office, favoring a plain statement that Czechoslovakia had gone far enough in her concessions; the other wishing to continue the old policy of "letting events take their course." In France, the Government announced that its military forces were ready -- fleet equipped and provisioned, 1,500,000 men under arms. Both the C.G.T., speaking for five million French workers, and the British Trades Union Congress, representing a similar number of British workers, asked their respective governments to stand firm, and promised coöperation.
It was in these circumstances that the British Foreign Office on September 11 invited foreign correspondents to assemble there for enlightenment regarding the British position. The announcement made to them was detailed and surprisingly strong. As reported by the Associated Press, it called attention to the Chamberlain and Simon statements of March 24 and August 27 respectively, and continued: "It was clear from the first statement that they [the British Government] contemplated the possibility not only of other countries but also of this country being involved and that Great Britain could not stand aside from a general conflict in which the integrity of France might be menaced." Across Downing Street, Chamberlain simultaneously was receiving representatives of the British press. His own interpretation of his position from March 24 to date must have been far less firm than the interpretation presented at the Foreign Office to the foreign newspapermen. At any rate, these latter almost at once received hurried word that no mention should be made of the Foreign Office in connection with the story just given them; they should say merely that the expression of view came "from a responsible source." The trained staff of the Foreign Office, and with them one faction of the Cabinet, had been defeated; Chamberlain "realism" prevailed.
The next day Chancellor Hitler committed himself to seeing the Sudeten issue through to a victorious conclusion. "I say," he shouted to the Nuremberg crowd, "that if these tortured creatures cannot obtain rights and assistance by themselves, they can obtain both from us." He avoided mentioning a plebiscite, but invoked the law of self-determination. As Chamberlain pointed out later (September 28), "for the first time, this speech promised the support of the Reich to the Sudeten Germans if they could not obtain satisfaction for themselves, and for the first time it publicly raised the issue of self-determination." Hitler expressed the hope that "foreign statesmen" would be convinced that what he said was "not mere words." And to reinforce the implicit threat he announced that half a million men were at work on the western fortifications -- "the most gigantic that ever existed" -- and that behind them stood a people in arms.
IV. BERCHTESGADEN AND THE ANGLO-FRENCH PLAN
With Nuremberg the crisis proper begins, though with lines tending to form differently from what might have been the case if the balance in London had not tipped in the afternoon of September 11 onto the side of caution and retreat.
Poland still was on the fence; but Colonel Beck felt himself strengthened as against his pro-French and pro-British colleagues. Insistent demands began appearing in the Polish press that the final settlement in Czechoslovakia must not subject the Polish minority there to "discrimination" in comparison with the German minority. The Polish appraisal of how events probably would move was evidently being modified rapidly from the opinion indicated on September 9 by a paper as friendly to the Government as the Kurjer Polski, which then could still write in a strong tone about the necessity of understanding and opposing Germany's "game of blackmail and menace" without another moment's delay. Blackmail, it began to seem, was going to work again; and Poland was not above taking a cut on the side.
Till Nuremberg, inner circles in both camps had put down Italy as potentially a neutral. She now moved over towards Germany. Mussolini's policy is understandable. It was incumbent on him to keep repeating that he was entirely, absolutely and irrevocably with Hitler -- up to the moment when he spoke and acted in a precisely contrary sense. There could be no grey zone of indecision in an affair like that! The judgment that at least until Nuremberg Mussolini intended to be neutral is obviously hard to substantiate. It can be based only on personal information, on comparatively small concrete indications, on a realization of how galling it had been for him to be reduced to the rôle of brilliant second, and on an understanding of the historical background which made the Italian people increasingly restless after they saw their traditional foes arrive in force on the Brenner. But when Hitler took a strong stand at Nuremberg, and England and France proceeded to take a weak one, Mussolini decided there would not be a war. He must give up his idea of being a neutral, receiving offers from both sides and benefits from the winner. In a long period of blackmail one side only would have any concrete payment to offer for his services: Germany. On September 12 the Tribuna labelled the firm statement of policy just issued from the British Foreign Office as "diplomatic bluff." The next day Informazione Diplomatica showed the new trend still more clearly by retracting its earlier stand and calling on Beneš to give up the Sudeten areas to Germany if he wished to maintain peace.
Such were the two chief results in Europe generally of Hitler's Nuremberg speech and the manner in which it was received in London and Paris -- a weakening of Polish confidence that the Allies would resist Germany; and a strengthening of the Berlin-Rome axis. Rumania's fundamental interests had not changed, nor her resolve to allow the passage of Russian troops going to the aid of Czechoslovakia. Jugoslavia still could not conceivably be taken into a war in partnership with Germany and Hungary against Czechoslovakia, France and England; Premier Stoyadinovitch would be thrown into the River Danube if he attempted anything so repugnant to every Serb and Croat tradition. With Rumania, Jugoslavia still could be counted on to keep Hungary quiet. She even might help at the right moment, for Belgrade had felt German pressure more and more uncomfortably since the annexation of Austria. Of course, if war did actually come, Poland might still at the eleventh hour revise her policy once again. Even, at the last moment, so might Italy.
September 13 was an important day. The Nazi rioting which had begun in the Sudetenland two days earlier reached such a pitch of violence that the Czechoslovak Government decided it was revolution and declared martial law in the affected districts. Lord Runciman has revealed that the incidents were, in his own words, "provoked and instigated" by the Sudeten extremists to prevent the resumption of negotiations, scheduled by Dr. Kundt for this very date, precisely as the Moravská Ostrava incident had been used by them to excuse the suspension of negotiations a week earlier. Responsible American journalists, among them Mr. John T. Whitaker of the Chicago Daily News, gave first-hand testimony that the Government did not permit Czech troops to help the police deal with the armed rebellion fomented in the Sudetenland by Gestapo agents and Henlein "legionnaires" from across the border. To this wise restraint the foreign observers attributed the fact that the rebellion, having little support among the populace, petered out without affording Hitler a pretext for open intervention.
Prague's declaration of martial law brought an ultimatum from Sudeten headquarters -- Henlein himself was in Germany with Hitler -- that the measure must be revoked by midnight. A deadlock ensued, for though the Government said they would consider revoking martial law as soon as order had been reëstablished they declined to do so under existing conditions. Sudeten leaders announced that from now forward they stood for "self-determination" -- the Nuremberg instead of the Karlsbad formula.
Learning of the Sudeten ultimatum, the rioting in the Sudeten area, the rupture of negotiations, and finally Henlein's flight across the frontier to escape arrest for treason, Paris begged London somehow or other to establish direct contact with Hitler. London did not need persuasion. Chamberlain has told us that at the moment of Henlein's flight Hitler "was contemplating an immediate invasion of Czechoslovakia." On September 13 there had been a meeting in London of the Prime Minister with the Defense Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff to marshal all Britain's naval and military might to meet the threat of a sudden Nazi coup. But again, as throughout August and the first half of September, the French Government failed utterly to understand its strong position vis-à-vis Britain. French defenses were fully manned. The French General Staff was confident of the Army's ability to fulfill its tasks. But the Government hesitated to give firm effect to the April agreement, the keystone of which had been the assumption that France would discharge her military obligations to Czechoslovakia in case of need. That agreement placed responsibility for the final decision on France. The Cabinet was split. Bonnet was against ordering the strong diplomatic stand favored by Paul Reynaud and others, counselled by the General Staff, and dictated by the whole post-war history of France. Daladier, torn between two rival conceptions, shirked compelling him to do so.
For France, this decision was critical. It set Chamberlain free to do what he had not been free to do in the spring -- take positive steps to meet Hitler's demands. He thought that it would be enough to accept the Nuremberg formula of self-determination, i.e. annexation in a nice wrapping. Without delay he opened communication with Berlin, and on the evening of September 14 issued a laconic communiqué that he would leave for Berchtesgaden the next morning, the result of Hitler's acceptance of his proposal to "come across" for a talk "with a view to trying to find a peaceful solution." It was a plan which, he subsequently stated, he had had in mind for some time "as a last resort." Even the British Ambassador had not been able to reach Hitler personally at Nuremberg, though certain unofficial Britishers were more fortunate. He would go himself, man to man.
The Prime Minister went to Munich by air, the first time in his 69 years he had been up in a plane, and thence by train to Berchtesgaden. What were Hitler's thoughts as he watched his own private motor, containing the British Prime Minister, draw up at the gates of the Berghof? Probably that those who had always advised him to be violent, to take risks, were right, that Neurath, Schacht and the other "moderates" were old-fashioned, wrong, and that Fritsch, Beck and the rest of the "Potsdam crowd" of generals who wished to avoid the risks of war were cowards or fools. A colorless communiqué at the end of the meeting merely announced that Chamberlain would return to London to consult his advisers (he had taken with him neither the Foreign Secretary nor the Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Government nor any leading Foreign Office official), and that discussions would be resumed in a few days. For the moment the public knew nothing positive as to what had happened. Had Chamberlain gone over to give Hitler a categorical warning or an ultimatum? This was the first idea. For if he had made up his mind to capitulate, would he have flown over so spectacularly, would he not have done it at home in a corner? We now know that he thought he had "come across" to chat about a compromise. But as he approached Hitler, hand outstretched, he found a pistol at his temple. The Sudeten Germans were to "return" to the Reich under the principle of self-determination; Hitler would help them do so, if necessary; "and he declared categorically that, rather than wait, he would be prepared to risk a world war." [xiii] Hitler threatened war so frankly that Chamberlain asked him why he had allowed him to travel so far, "since I was evidently wasting my time." The Fuehrer replied that if Britain would accept the self-determination formula he was willing to discuss ways and means to carry it out; and he agreed to refrain from active hostilities until Chamberlain could talk with his ministers -- provided nothing happened meanwhile in Czechoslovakia to "force his hand." So on this basis Chamberlain started back to London the next day, September 16. Landing at Croydon in the afternoon he announced that he would return to Germany in a few days and that when he did so Hitler had promised to "come half way" to meet him. So he drove off, cheers in his ears, to talk with Runciman and the "Inner Circle" of the Cabinet and to be received by the King.
As the Cabinet met the next day the press was full of rumors. Already the prevalent opinion was that Chamberlain had been so overcome by Hitler's vehemence that he had given up hope of trying to reconcile a program of compromise with a program of peace. Hitler must have the substance of what he wanted, and promptly. The rumor was that in order to preserve peace Chamberlain had adopted the famous Times proposal of September 7 -- the partition of Czechoslovakia -- though with a counterbalancing feature added, namely a guarantee of the resulting new Czechoslovak frontiers. Was it to be a direct and immediately effective guarantee or an offer to enter into some sort of undertaking like the one which had shown itself merely so much window-dressing in the case of Austria? On this subject as on everything else the Cabinet was reported to be divided. But the "Inner Circle," if divided, was divided three to one -- Chamberlain, Hoare and Simon against Halifax, titular Foreign Secretary, true, but a modest Christian gentleman, no match for such a dogged "realist" as Chamberlain and for the two statesmen who had filled his shoes at the Foreign Office before him and perhaps hoped by doing so again to vindicate their "realistic" abdications before Japan in Manchuria and Italy in Ethiopia.
In Paris the Cabinet was rumored to be even more sharply divided than before Chamberlain's trip. Daladier himself was now said to have set a limit on concessions to Hitler. Some Cabinet members, in the words of the Paris correspondent of the Times, advocated concessions, "with or without the consent of the Czechoslovak Government," far beyond what other members like Reynaud or Mandel felt "either honorable or desirable." Nobody mentioned Foreign Minister Bonnet among the ones disquieted at the way the "program of appeasement" was developing. On the contrary, his rôle throughout was to press for surrender. Perhaps his determination to carry it through at whatever cost sprang merely from nervousness and caution. He had gone to Geneva on September 11 for hurried talks with Foreign Minister Litvinov and the Rumanian Foreign Minister. That was before Berchtesgaden. No neutral foreign correspondent then in Geneva reports that the position of Rumania at that time, though cautious (as events proved her right to be), was not satisfactory from the French viewpoint. She informed both Soviet Russia and France that in case of a general war she would fulfill her duty as a League member in permitting the passage of Russian troops en route to the assistance of Czechoslovakia if that state -- her ally in the Little Entente -- became the victim of aggression within the terms of the Covenant. The same correspondents agree that the course advocated by Litvinov to Bonnet was clear: resistance to Germany in execution of the French and Soviet plan and in accord with the League Covenant, and immediate joint consultations by the French, Russian and Czechoslovak General Staffs as to how best to organize that resistance. As long ago as May the Manchester Guardian had reported that Litvinov was complaining to Bonnet in Geneva about French reluctance to undertake military conversations. Litvinov would naturally urge the same course now. He had built up his whole foreign policy on coöperation with the western democracies, he had worked hard to strengthen the Geneva system, and he stood (and stands) to lose his prestige and perhaps his head as a result of the failure of his policy. Did Bonnet faithfully and fully report the results of his talks with the Rumanian Foreign Minister to his cabinet colleagues in Paris? As to Russia, did he report, as now his friends allege, that the only concrete help Litvinov could promise was 200 airplanes and one division in 20 days? Or did he report much more important promises, and perhaps even a Soviet statement (since corroborated from German sources) that 500 Russian planes already were installed on the Czech flying fields long prepared for that purpose? There are many critics who say he simply emphasized his fears, shared by many Frenchmen and Britishers, that Stalin's purge had reduced the Soviet Army to chaos and that whatever Foreign Minister Litvinov might say was merely his own unsupported opinion.
On Sunday morning, September 18, the French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister flew over to London and were in consultation all day and all evening with Messrs. Chamberlain, Halifax, Simon and Hoare. Just after midnight a communiqué announced that they were in agreement as to the course to follow. What that course was to be the Czech Government foresaw only too well. Its representatives in London presented a note during the afternoon reminding the negotiators that Czechoslovakia's life was at stake in the discussions and warning that she would not accept responsibility for decisions reached in her absence, even by her alleged friends. Mussolini meanwhile had begun gallivanting around Italy, emitting verbal skyrockets twice daily. The Sudeten "legion" was gathered in Germany along the Czech frontier. A tornado of provocation and abuse was streaming out against Czechoslovakia from the German radio and press.
Through all this the Czech people and government held their nerve. In the Sudetenland, contrary to German descriptions of a "Czech hell," newspaper observers reported things quiet to the point of dullness. Czech radio and press restricted themselves to dignified statements of fact and to the texts of statements from all sources. Premier Hodža gave over the radio an outline of the Government's position. Repression of revolt, he said, was not persecution. "We have only fulfilled the task which naturally devolved upon an organized state system." As to the demand for a plebiscite in which Hitler's demand for annexation was now concealed, he said that if it had been practicable as a means of settling the complicated ethnographic problems of the areas in question it would have been used by the Peace Conference; but it would solve nothing and would merely produce a new set of problems of the same sort already in existence. Despite Henlein's refusal to negotiate, despite attempts at insurrection, the Government would continue trying to reach an understanding with all minority groups, and especially with the Sudeten Germans. The London Times rather deprecated this speech as too "uncompromising." As the editor wrote the word he knew of the decision already reached at Downing Street.
On Monday morning the blow feared by the Czechs fell. France, Czechoslovakia's ally, and Great Britain, whose representative had been leading the negotiations in Prague, presented a note at Prague bluntly informing the Government that the maintenance of European peace and what they interpreted as Czechoslovakia's own vital interests demanded that "the districts mainly inhabited by Sudeten Deutsch" must now be transferred to the Reich. Chamberlain and Daladier were dictating to Beneš what Hitler had dictated to Chamberlain.
Prague was told that the territory in question might be handed over either directly or as the result of a plebiscite. It probably would have to include areas where the Germans numbered more than 50 percent of the inhabitants. The two governments hoped to be able to arrange adjustments of the frontiers, where advisable, by some international body, "including a Czech representative." That same international body might also be charged to take up the question of the possible exchange of populations "on the basis of right to opt within some specified time limit." There followed the famous British offer to provide the Czechoslovak Government with some assurance of future security. It read: "Accordingly, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would be prepared, as a contribution to the pacification of Europe, to join in an international guarantee of the new boundaries of the Czechoslovak State against unprovoked aggression. One of the principal conditions of such a guarantee would be the safeguarding of the independence of Czechoslovakia by the substitution of a general guarantee against unprovoked aggression in place of existing treaties which involve reciprocal obligations of a military character." As Prime Minister Chamberlain wished to resume conversations with Hitler by Wednesday the 21st, "and earlier if possible," a reply was asked "at the earliest possible moment." [xiv]
V. THE CZECH PROTEST AND ACCEPTANCE
Prague, since its experience with Lord Runciman, and having seen the results of Chamberlain's visit to Berchtesgaden, had by now lost hope and confidence in London. But what about Paris? Had Foreign Minister Bonnet's colleagues in the French Cabinet been told the details of the Anglo-French note? President Beneš was not at all sure, nor did he know whether French friends like M. Herriot had been informed and had been persuaded to give their consent. There was difficulty in establishing communication with the Czech Legation in Paris, in charge of one of the country's most experienced and able diplomats, Stefan Osusky. Telephone connection across Germany (and France) was unsatisfactory; telegraphic communication was delayed; all through the discussions of September 20 Beneš had to do without counsel or advice from the personal friends in France with whom he had worked so often at Geneva. When the full story finally reached M. Bonnet's colleagues it was too late. Several of them were said to be furious. None was furious enough to resign.
After having sat all day with President Beneš and the heads of the coalition parties, the Czechoslovak Council of Ministers late in the afternoon of Tuesday, September 20, sent their reply to London and Paris. This note would normally have found place, one would suppose, in the British "White Paper" published the following week. That "White Paper" led off with the report submitted to Chamberlain by Runciman, dated September 21. This in itself was a curious chronological arrangement, and seems to give some credence to the suggestion made by American commentators that the whole Runciman report -- submitted after Chamberlain's visit to Berchtesgaden, after the Anglo-French conference in London where capitulation to Hitler was decided, and after the peremptory Anglo-French demands of September 19 -- was an attempt to provide ex post facto a convincing background for those developments. The natural document to follow the Anglo-French note would have been the reply to that note. It was a long, reasoned and strong reply, and would have made painful reading for the British and French public. It was omitted, and so far as I know has not yet been printed.
The principal points made in the note, of which I have a copy, are as follows:
The proposed partition of Czechoslovakia was contrary not only to that state's interests but also to the interests of its friends and allies and to the interests of peace in general. The Czechoslovak view had not been heard regarding the plan, though the Government had given notice it could not accept an arrangement made in its absence. Czechoslovakia was an organized democracy, and a decision like the one now demanded could not be taken except in consultation with parliament. Mutilation of the country would throw it "sooner or later under the absolute influence of Germany." The equilibrium in Europe would be altered, which would produce "consequences of wide import for all other states and notably also for France." A guarantee from the Great Powers would be greatly appreciated, once the present nationalities conflict had been regulated. Czechoslovakia had, "on the insistence of her friends," gone very far in negotiations with the Sudetens. One of the British Government's own declarations had emphasized that the solution to be found must lie "within the framework of the Czechoslovak constitution." Many Sudetens had welcomed the Government's last proposals as genuine and sincere. Despite the revolt stirred up from outside among a section of the Sudeten population, the Government was still ready to give effect to those proposals. Czechoslovakia respected treaties -- with friends, with members of the League of Nations, and with other peoples. She asked for application of the Treaty of Arbitration made between herself and Germany on October 16, 1925, "which many declarations of the present German Government have recognized as still being in effect." Czechoslovakia was ready to honor her signature to that treaty, and would abide by the result. This course would avoid conflict and bring a solution rapidly and in harmony with the dignity of the interested parties. To France she addressed a particular appeal -- to France, with whom she "always had been bound by esteem and devoted friendship as well as by an alliance to which no Government and no Czechoslovak individual would ever be a traitor." She had an attachment and traditional friendship for Great Britain, growing out of their mutual efforts on behalf of peace. The Czechoslovak Government was sure the British and French Governments meant well, and thanked them. But "it addresses to them once again a supreme appeal and begs them to reconsider their point of view," in Czechoslovakia's interest but no less in their own and in the interest of the peaceful and healthy evolution of Europe. "In these crucial moments it is not merely the fate of Czechoslovakia which is at stake, but that of other nations as well, and notably that of France."
The Czech-German Treaty of Arbitration to which the Czechoslovak Government referred was made in 1925 as part of the Locarno settlement. When Hitler denounced the Treaty of Locarno he stated that the subsidiary treaties would continue in vigor. But apparently the suggestion of bringing the Arbitration Treaty into play to meet just the sort of emergency for which it was designed seemed in the jittery condition of British and French nerves too hazardous to merit serious consideration. With hardly more than a moment's interval the pressure on Prague was resumed and in much more peremptory fashion.
Before describing this new pressure we must pause for a glance at the Runciman report. The excuse for such an apparently unnatural digression is that ever since his return from Prague on September 16 Lord Runciman had been in constant consultation with the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and in these fateful days his views naturally influenced the judgments of his Government. What were those views? His report tells us.[xv]
The report falls into several distinct parts. The first summarizes Lord Runciman's attempts to evolve a compromise, first between Henlein's "eight points" and the Government's draft Nationality Statute, then between those same Henlein demands and the so-called "Fourth Plan." He gives as his opinion that the Moravská Ostrava incident was exploited by the Sudetens as an excuse to break off the negotiations, and that the further incidents which occurred after the negotiations had been resumed were "provoked and instigated" by the Sudeten extremists for the same purpose. He states that all negotiations ended finally on the night of September 13, and that as "the dispute was no longer an internal one" his functions as a mediator were thereupon at an end. He places responsibility for the final break on Henlein and Frank.
Nevertheless, continues Lord Runciman, he has much sympathy with the German case. Czechoslovak rule in the Sudeten areas for the last twenty years, "though not actively oppressive and certainly not 'terroristic,' has been marked by tactlessness, lack of understanding, petty intolerance and discrimination." He cannot say how far the resultant Sudeten mistrust of leading Czech statesmen is merited. But other more concrete complaints he does consider justified, such as those growing out of the use of Czech officials in German districts, the settlement of Czech agricultural colonists amidst the German population following the Land Reform act, the reported preferment of Czechs to Germans in state work relief, etc.
At this point Lord Runciman makes some specific suggestions. As disturbances had died down by the time he left Prague he proposes that the Czechoslovak Government withdraw its police from the Sudeten area at once, thereby reducing the causes of wrangles and riots. Be it noted in passing that this suggestion seems incongruous with Lord Runciman's earlier statement that the disorders had been instigated by the Sudeten extremists. Withdrawal of the police would have left the non-Nazi population at the mercy of these extremists; while just across the border, as admitted by Lord Runciman, Henlein's armed legions were gathered, ready to move in at the first opportunity.
Lord Runciman further proposes that the frontier districts "where the Sudeten population is in an important majority should be given full right of self-determination at once." He discourages a plebiscite as tending to prolong uncertainty. He notes that a "large number" of Germans would of course remain in Czechoslovakia, and a "certain number" of Czechs in areas transferred to Germany. For the Germans he recommends local autonomy on the lines of the "Fourth Plan." About the Czechs to be transferred to Germany he is silent; apparently they were to sink or swim as best they could in the Nazi sea, and the less said about them the better. His advice in this respect evidently commended itself to Chamberlain, for that was precisely the fate eventually reserved for the Czechs in Sudeten areas and for all the other political or racial minorities there. The Germans remaining in Czechoslovakia, a country whose twenty-year record for the treatment of minorities was the best in Europe, were much on Lord Runciman's mind. For almost a million Czechs, German liberals and "race enemies" whom he recommended turning over to Hitler, whose record for ferocious mistreatment of every opponent, active or passive, is without modern parallel, not a thought, not a line, not a word.
Runciman then turns to what he calls "the political side of the problem." How secure the integrity and security of the Czechoslovak Republic after she has made the sacrifices suggested? On the analogy of Switzerland, her policy should be "entirely neutral." He therefore recommends:
"(1) That those parties and persons in Czechoslovakia who have been deliberately encouraging a policy antagonistic to Czechoslovakia's neighbors should be forbidden by the Czechoslovak Government to continue their agitations; and that, if necessary, legal measures should be taken to bring such agitations to an end.
"(2) That the Czechoslovak Government should so remodel her foreign relations as to give assurances to her neighbors that she will in no circumstances attack them or enter into any aggressive action against them arising from obligations to other States.
"(3) That the principal Powers, acting in the interests of the peace of Europe, should give to Czechoslovakia guarantees of assistance in case of unprovoked aggression against her.
"(4) That a commercial treaty on preferential terms should be negotiated between Germany and Czechoslovakia if this seems advantageous to the economic interests of the two countries."
What Lord Runciman was in fact urging was that Czechoslovakia be required to abolish political liberties, suppress free speech and coördinate the press under a totalitarian régime; relinquish her ties with France and Soviet Russia; give up her responsibilities as a "grown up" member of the League of Nations; accept in return a guarantee by "the principal Powers," whoever they might be; and enter the German economic system. To keep order while this was being accomplished he suggested sending an international force into the Sudeten areas. A Commission under a neutral chairman would delimit the territory to be transferred to Germany and supervise details. As a last humiliation to the rump state remaining, he urged that the Sudeten Germans still scattered among its citizens be allotted "a permanent seat in the Czechoslovak Cabinet." A curious proposal to come from a private individual [xvi] touching the future internal organization of a state which the Prime Minister of Great Britain was engaged in dissecting on the grounds of self-determination!
Such, then, were the views which Lord Runciman brought back with him from Prague. Or were they modified in the period between his return and the day he signed his report? Certainly they differed from what they had been in the second week of September, when he still approved the "Fourth Plan." Be that as it may, the tenor of the report as presented chimed in with Mr. Chamberlain's predispositions; and the recommendation smoothed the way for the actions which now became the inevitable sequel of the Chamberlain policy to date.
Our story has reached the evening of Tuesday, September 20. All day bitter resentment over "the great betrayal" had pervaded every section of Prague, from the anxious statesmen up in the old castle to the crowds swirling around the newspaper kiosks. Grim determination to resist, at whatever cost, if necessary even alone, had marked every official statement, every shout of defiance in the streets, every remark overheard by foreign newspapermen in any quarter, every quiet comment from Army headquarters. Now at 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning the British and French Ministers were hurrying up to the Hradčany to see the President. Talk at such an hour would not be about compromise. France and Britain either were against Czechoslovakia or for her. Could it be the latter? Maybe there still was time. What would the Ministers say? This, I am informed, is the substance of what they said:
1. Great Britain and France have the duty of preventing a European war if it is humanly possible, and thereby also the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
2. The British and French Governments want the Czechoslovak Government to realize that if it does not unconditionally accept the Anglo-French plan it will stand before the world as solely responsible for the war which will ensue.
3. Czechoslovakia by refusing will also be guilty of destroying Anglo-French solidarity, because under no condition is Great Britain going to march, even if France were to go to Czechoslovakia's help.
4. If the refusal provokes a war, France wishes to notify the Czechoslovak Government officially that she is not going to fulfil her treaty obligations.
Mr. Basil Newton, the British Minister, added that in the light of the decision enunciated by his French colleague, M. Victor Lacroix, Great Britain's policy needed no further elucidation; if Czechoslovakia insisted on maintaining her position, Great Britain would have no responsibility for the consequences. President Beneš asked for the démarche to be put in writing, to record the threat and register what he considered to be the plain breaking of the French treaty. He was playing for time, hoping for a revolt in the French cabinet. The Ministers stated that this was impracticable. An immediate answer was required, as Prime Minister Chamberlain was in a hurry to proceed on his trip to Godesberg. The two Ministers spoke emphatically; their tone and manner did not differ from the brusque content of their message.
Even to a devoted admirer of the French people the French Minister's warning as reported above must appear to constitute in effect what President Beneš understood it to be, namely a unilateral repudiation by France of a treaty which the French Premier and Foreign Minister had repeatedly, recently and categorically affirmed a determination to honor, and on which the Czechoslovak Republic had based its whole international policy. Let us grant the force of every extenuating plea put forward on behalf of MM. Daladier and Bonnet. War was possible; they may have thought that by now it was probable. Every humanitarian motive must have inspired them to minimize that risk -- though it had been present in somewhat commensurate degree even when they were pledging fidelity to Prague during the spring and summer. They may sincerely have considered Soviet Russia unreliable, though here their position would have been more convincing had they not kept Moscow in the dark as to their conduct of negotiations and had they not rebuffed Litvinov's suggestion of joint staff talks. Chamberlain in this phase of his policy no longer merely was refusing to commit England to support France in case a Czech rejection of any part of the Hitler demands led to instant invasion; he had been making clearer and clearer that he would keep England out of the resulting war as long as possible. But all extenuating circumstances aside, until publication of the precise instructions sent M. Lacroix from Paris and of his resulting report proves the contrary, if that be possible, I cannot on the basis of information at my disposal from highly authoritative sources interpret the démarche made at Prague in the early hours of September 21 otherwise than as I have stated it here.[xvii]
His proposal for arbitration brushed abruptly aside, and an ultimatum for instant surrender ringing in his ears, President Beneš sent hurriedly to get his Ministers out of their beds. Soon after three o'clock they began to arrive. They talked till dawn, and after. As they talked, foreign correspondents considered that resistance was certain. At 4 a.m. Mr. Gedye cabled the New York Times that if Hitler wanted to talk to Beneš in the manner he had talked to Schuschnigg he would have to come to Prague, and to get there would have to fight his way through. "The die," he wrote, "is cast." It was not, but it soon was, and in a different shape from that foreseen by some who had followed events most closely and most intelligently.
Why did so resilient and tenacious a leader as Beneš decide to yield? The friends of the Czechs had gone. They stood alone, shorn of the support on which their whole policy had been predicated. That policy had been dual -- on the one hand maintenance of a resolute front, backed by the expressed will if need be to die, against foreign threats to impose a Nazi state inside the Republic's frontiers; and concurrently a sustained effort to appease the German minority in every way possible which did not produce that same result. It was possible to maintain that front alone. The army was ready, behind strong defenses; the people were prepared for any sacrifice. Perhaps after a time France would repent and come in. Perhaps Soviet Russia would help anyway, as her Minister in Prague vowed she would. Some authorities thought that even single-handed the Czechs could withstand the German army two months; some argued that since Germany's annexation of Austria and her acquisition of a less fortified sector of frontier that sort of duel would last only three or four weeks. Much might happen in Europe -- and in Germany -- even in that time.
But probably these were not the considerations which weighed most in the minds of Beneš and his ministers as they argued in the high-ceilinged state chamber of the Hradčany or stood gazing from its windows over the grey city in the early morning light. They had been subject to a grinding strain for months, and were worn and weary. Probably what they thought of most was the imminent death -- that night, perhaps -- of thousands and thousands of persons under those quiet roofs; of hundreds of thousands more to be bombed there and in other towns and villages through successive days and nights; and of the mounting toll of tens of thousands of young soldiers from whom ought to stem the future Czech and Slovak race.
Beneš and the others were not cowards. Some of them had risked their lives over and over during the war. They had differed among themselves regarding the conduct of negotiations in the past weeks. The largest Czech party, the Agrarians of Dr. Hodža, had always tended to favor compromise with Germany more than some of the others; they favored capitulation now before force majeur, particularly if the alternative was to fight with the help of Soviet Russia only. Some of the military men may well have concurred. Their southern flank was exposed since the German annexation of Austria. More important, their established plan of strategy depended for success on the German Army being split between two fronts, east and west. Czechoslovakia had about 35 divisions against about 140 German divisions. But France had three times as many trained reserves as Germany. With France an antagonist, Germany would have to keep more than half her troops in the west. Hitler then would have perhaps 60 divisions to throw against Czechoslovakia. It would not be enough. The Czech troops were as well equipped, man for man, as any army in the world, their defenses were formidable in the extreme, above all they would be fighting in defense of their own country. Russian reinforcements would also begin to arrive through Rumania. If Germany attempted to cut these off by moving through Hungary, that would automatically bring Jugoslavia into the war, and Rumania too if she were not in already. Such was the Czech program.[xviii] It was a promising one. But it depended for success on a French offensive in the west. Beneš himself had been brought up in the political knowledge that the destinies of a small Central European state are ruled by the Great Powers. The two Great Powers who had been his mentors and friends now peremptorily told him to yield. If he refused, what was there ahead for Czechoslovakia except to be another Spain, with Britain perhaps intervening on the side of the aggressor under a cloak of non-intervention? In fine, when these men who had charge of the Republic's destinies faced the supreme decision -- Peace or War? -- they proved to be too much the civilized and intellectualized product of the last war, too thoroughly "men of Geneva," to be able deliberately and of their own accord to pick up a brutal bully's gage, thrown at their feet by two such messengers as these.
By nine o'clock the sense of the Cabinet was that there was no road open from the trap in which, as they considered, they had been landed by France, instigated or abetted by England. In the afternoon Messrs. Newton and Lacroix were called in by Foreign Minister Krofta and handed the Government's reply. In the streets the crowds were milling about angrily as stump speakers called on them to march on the President's Palace and force him to order resistance, or standing silent and grim, the women weeping. When evening brought news of the capitulation there was a concerted converging of the crowds towards the Palace and towards the General Staff building; but one after another the leaders of the Government begged them through loud speakers to be calm, to wait, and at last after General Syrovy had added his appeal they began after midnight to disperse to their homes. In Spain, a passionately revolutionary people had forced a hesitant bourgeois government to fight for their liberties. The Czechs, solid in their nationality through ages of oppression, washed across by the marching armies of many generals and princes, accepted the word of their leaders and withdrew sullenly to their homes, prepared to bear the worst even though sure somehow of a different tomorrow for their sons or their sons' sons.
The reply which Mr. Krofta handed to the British and French Ministers on the 21st was not made public, and so far as I know has not until now been published. It read as follows:
"Forcé par les circonstances et les insistances excessivement pressantes et à la suite de la communication des Gouvernements français et britannique du 21 Septembre de l'année courante, dans laquelle les deux Gouvernements ont exprimé leur manière de voir au sujet de l'assistance à la Tchécoslovaquie si elle refusait d'accepter les propositions franco-britanniques et serait, à la suite de cela, attaquée par l'Allemagne, le Gouvernement de la République Tchécoslovaque accepte dans ces conditions avec des sentiments de douleur les propositions française et britannique en supposant que les deux gouvernements feront tout pour les faire appliquer avec toute sauvegarde des intérêts vitaux de l'Etat Tchécoslovaque. Il constate avec regret que les propositions ont été élaborées sans la consultation préalable du Gouvernement Tchécoslovaque.
"Regrettant profondément que sa proposition d'arbitrage n'ait pas été acceptée, il les accepte comme un tout en soulignant le principe de la garantie comme elle est formulée dans la Note et les accepte en supposant que les deux gouvernements ne tolèreront pas l'invasion allemande sur le territoire tchécoslovaque qui restera tchécoslovaque jusqu'au moment où le transfert du territoire après la fixation de la frontière nouvelle par la commission internationale dont on parle dans les propositions, pourrait être effectué.
"Il est d'avis que la proposition franco-britannique suppose que tous les détails de la réalisation pratique des propositions franco-britannique seront fixés d'accord avec le Gouvernement tchécoslovaque."
Note some key phrases in this document, for they constitute the contractual basis on which the British and French Governments proceeded to act. "Under extraordinary pressure" from the French and British Governments, wrote the Czechoslovak Government, it accepted their propositions "on the assumption that the two Governments will do everything to apply them with every safeguard for the vital interests of the Czechoslovak State." It deplores that the propositions were worked out without consultation with Prague and it draws attention to the fact that the proposal of arbitration was rejected. It accepts the propositions "as a whole" and places special emphasis on the principle of the promised guarantee. It refers to its understanding that the territory to be transferred to Germany will remain Czechoslovak until after the suggested International Commission has fixed the new frontier, and that no invasion will be tolerated.
VI. THE GODESBERG ULTIMATUM
With this Czech capitulation on certain specified conditions in his pocket, Prime Minister Chamberlain set out for Godesberg. It was Thursday, September 22; he had been delayed a day by the Czech suggestion of arbitration. He was accompanied by Sir Horace Wilson, who since 1930 had held the post of Chief Industrial Adviser to the Government and who had replaced both Sir Robert Vansittart, Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Government, and other principal Foreign Office officials in the most important recent diplomatic negotiations. Chamberlain's three-hour interview with Hitler took place, however, in the presence only of Hitler's German interpreter. The discussion apparently did not turn upon the substance of Hitler's demands. That -- as the text of a letter from Chamberlain to Hitler the next day reveals [xix] -- had already been granted. Hitler was to have the "predominantly Sudeten German" areas in Czechoslovakia, and in these Chamberlain agreed there was no need to hold a plebiscite.
But Chamberlain boggled at Hitler's demand that German troops immediately march in and seize them. The two leaders separated for the night with this matter of procedure seemingly the only outstanding issue between them. In Chamberlain's eyes, though, the matter was a very important one, for he knew that to bare the deal for what it actually was -- a capitulation to the threat of military force -- would revolt British and French opinion, and indeed public opinion throughout the world generally. Further, the Czechs had insisted that the new frontier must be delimited by an International Commission before the occupation occurred -- a not illogical condition. To let Hitler reverse the procedure and march in at once might sting the Czechs into revolt and bring on a war in spite of everything.
The next morning, then, Chamberlain sat down and wrote a letter to Hitler ratifying the Nazi claim to the predominantly German areas of Czechoslovakia and saying he was sure the Czechs would accept the German proposal for a plebiscite to determine how far the frontier need be "adjusted" beyond the predominantly German area -- i.e. beyond what came later to be called the "50-percent line." But he asked if it would not be satisfactory to Hitler if the areas in question became "part of the Reich at once in principle," and very shortly afterwards by formal delimitation, thus eliminating an immediate military occupation. In England that "would be condemned as an unnecessary display of force." He noted that if Hitler moved his troops the Czechs might resist, "and this would mean the destruction of the basis upon which you and I a week ago agreed to work together -- an orderly settlement of this question rather than a settlement by the use of force." Pending the German occupation, he suggested that maintenance of law and order in certain agreed Sudeten German areas might be entrusted to the Sudeten Germans themselves. This was contrary to the Czech condition that the lands to be transferred should remain Czechoslovak until after delimitation of the new frontier by an International Commission. Chamberlain nevertheless offered to ask the Czechs to adopt a different course to facilitate the transfer.
The reply to these suggestions was a furious tirade.[xx] Hitler pointed out that on February 22 he had promised to take the initiative "in putting an end to any further oppression of these Germans," and that he had reiterated that determination at Nuremberg. The situation "from day to day, and, indeed, from hour to hour, is becoming more unbearable." The Czechs had gone mad. Their German victims were fleeing the country wholesale. The situation "is unbearable, and will now be terminated by me." He implied, using President Wilson's Fourteen Points as a parallel, that any British undertakings for the future were valueless in his eyes. "What interests me, your Excellency, is not the recognition of the principle that this territory is to go to Germany, but solely the realization of this principle and the realization which both puts an end in the shortest time to the sufferings of the unhappy victims of Czech tyranny, and at the same time corresponds to the dignity of a Great Power." The Sudetens were not coming back to Germany "in virtue of the gracious or benevolent sympathy of other nations," but on the basis of the right of self-determination and "the irrevocable decision of the German Reich." He referred to his willingness to allow plebiscites to carry out "subsequent corrections" in the frontier he had laid down. The plebiscites might take place under an international commission or a mixed German-Czech commission. "During the days of the plebiscite" he would be ready to withdraw his troops from "the most disputed frontier areas." But he would not allow a territory "which must be considered as belonging to Germany" to be left without the protection of the Reich. He repudiated Chamberlain's appeal to his own agreement to achieve a settlement without the use of force. There existed "no international power or agreement," he said, "which would have the right to take precedence over German right." He referred scornfully to Chamberlain's plea that it would be difficult to recommend the German plan in London. For Chamberlain it was only a question of political imponderables, but for Germany it was a question of "primitive right" and "the national honor of a great people."
One can hardly conceive of a more flamboyant communication from the Head of one great state to the Prime Minister of another who was his guest. Chamberlain had come to Godesberg determined to have peace at almost any price. It looked as though Hitler were determined to have war at almost any price. Chamberlain could not in the circumstances abstain from letting the Czechs know that the danger of general war was now imminent; advice was sent to Prague to mobilize. A few hours were needed by Chamberlain to collect himself and swallow whatever was left of his pride. His reply was courteous but brief.[xxi] He asked for a memorandum stating Hitler's demands and a map showing the areas which would be transferred subject to the proposed plebiscite. He said that he would at once forward the memorandum to Prague, with a request that the Czechoslovak Government reply to it at once. He asked that in the meanwhile Hitler renew his assurance to continue abiding by the understanding reached at Berchtesgaden on September 14,[xxii] and just renewed the night previous, that German military forces would not take any action to prejudice the "mediation" while it was still in course. At a final meeting that night he received the memorandum and, presumably, the assurance, valid until the expiration of what was in fact an ultimatum. For not until now had Mr. Chamberlain been informed of the time limit, October 1, by which German troops would have to enter Czech territory. He was stung to "bitter reproach," in his own words of September 28. Yet, as he reported on that later occasion, the conversation subsequently proceeded in "more friendly terms than any that had yet preceded it" -- an interesting sidelight on the effectiveness of righteous indignation and plain speaking.
The Hitler memorandum, or ultimatum, was duly delivered to the Czech Minister in London by Lord Halifax the evening of the next day, September 24. He did not press for its acceptance; he simply transmitted it. It led off with a short introduction referring to the "completely intolerable" situation of the Sudeten Germans and describing briefly the map attached, on which were shown the areas to be ceded outright and occupied at once, as well as the additional areas in which a plebiscite would be held "over and above the areas to be occupied."[xxiii] Following the preamble, the memorandum was composed of six specific proposals and an appendix, as follows:
"1. Withdrawal of the whole Czech armed forces, the police, the gendarmerie, the customs officials and the frontier guards from the area to be evacuated as designated on the attached map, this area to be handed over to Germany on the 1st October.
"2. The evacuated territory is to be handed over in its present condition (see further details in appendix). The German Government agree that a plenipotentiary representative of the Czech Government or of the Czech Army should be attached to the headquarters of the German military forces to settle the details of the modalities of the evacuation.
"3. The Czech Government discharges at once to their homes all Sudeten Germans serving in the military forces or the police anywhere in Czech State territory.
"4. The Czech Government liberates all political prisoners of German race.
"5. The German Government agrees to permit a plebiscite to take place in those areas, which will be more definitely defined, before at latest the 25th November. Alterations to the new frontier arising out of the plebiscite will be settled by a German-Czech or an international commission. The plebiscite itself will be carried out under the control of an international commission. All persons who were residing in the areas in question on the 28th October, 1918, or were born there prior to this date will be eligible to vote. A simple majority of all eligible male and female voters will determine the desire of the population to belong to either the German Reich or to the Czech State. During the plebiscite both parties will withdraw their military forces out of areas which will be defined more precisely. The date and duration will be settled by the German and Czech Governments together.
"6. The German Government proposes that an authoritative German-Czech commission should be set up to settle all further details.
"Appendix. The evacuated Sudeten German area is to be handed over without destroying or rendering unusable in any way military, commercial or traffic establishments (plants). These include the ground organization of the air service and all wireless stations.
"All commercial and traffic materials, especially the rolling-stock of the railway system, in the designated areas, are to be handed over undamaged. The same applies to all utility services (gas-works, power stations, etc.).
Finally, no food-stuffs, goods, cattle, raw materials, etc., are to be removed.[xxiv]
Prime Minister Chamberlain's report of Chancellor Hitler's attitude thoroughly alarmed both the British and French cabinets. Had so much surrender been in vain? Was it possible the man would fight about how he was going to be served the dish which he had ordered should be prepared for him free? Directions were given for the war machines on both sides of the Channel to hold themselves ready for an immediate emergency. Gas masks were distributed; trenches to serve as shelters during air-raids were started in the parks. Late in the afternoon of Sunday, September 25, Daladier and Bonnet arrived in London by air and were closeted with the British Ministers until after midnight. They had before them the reply of the Czech Government, in which General Syrovy had replaced Dr. Hodža as Prime Minister.
The Czech Minister in London, transmitting the reply, wrote that his Government had accepted "the so-called Anglo-French plan for ceding parts of Czechoslovakia . . . under extreme duress," on the understanding that it was the end of the demands to be made upon it, "and because it followed from the Anglo-French pressure that these two Powers would accept responsibility for our reduced frontiers and would guarantee us their support in the event of our being feloniously attacked." The Czech Government referred to the fact that while Chamberlain was at Godesberg it had received from the British and French Ministers in Prague notification that their two Governments could no longer take the responsibility of advising the Czech Government not to mobilize. On Chamberlain's return from Godesberg, however, it had been handed a new proposition. The Minister commented:
"It is a de facto ultimatum of the sort usually presented to a vanquished nation and not a proposition to a sovereign State which has shown the greatest possible readiness to make sacrifices for the appeasement of Europe. Not the smallest trace of such readiness for sacrifices has as yet been manifested by Herr Hitler's Government. My Government is amazed at the contents of the memorandum. The proposals go far beyond what we agreed to in the so-called Anglo-French plan. They deprive us of every safeguard for our national existence. We are to yield up large proportions of our carefully prepared defences, and admit the German armies deep into our country before we have been able to organize it on the new basis or make any preparations for its defence. Our national and economic independence would automatically disappear with the acceptance of Herr Hitler's plan. The whole process of moving the population is to be reduced to panic flight on the part of those who will not accept the German Nazi régime. They have to leave their homes without even the right to take their personal belongings or, even in the case of peasants, their cow."
The Minister declared Hitler's demands in their new form to be "absolutely and unconditionally unacceptable," and concluded:
"Against these new and cruel demands my Government feel bound to make their utmost resistance, and we shall do so, God helping. The nation of St. Wenceslas, John Hus and Thomas Masaryk will not be a nation of slaves."[xxv]
What was in sober fact the difference between what Hitler demanded and Chamberlain was willing he should receive? Why had Chamberlain come back from Godesberg so solemn, why was the rhythm of war preparations being speeded more and more insistently? The British public were asking themselves this as a new week opened, a week everyone felt must be decisive in the great issue of peace versus war. They were provided with a new basis for judgment by the morning newspapers of Monday, September 26, which carried for the first time an accurate summary of the original Anglo-French plan and also the text of the Godesberg memorandum. Thus they could compare the two positions, though of course without the help of the text of the Czechoslovak note declining the original proposal, and telling why; without exact knowledge as to the sort of pressure which had been exerted in Prague in the early morning of September 21; and without knowledge of the important conditions attached to the subsequent Czechoslovak acceptance.
The Anglo-French plan had proposed the incorporation in Germany of predominantly (over 50-percent) German areas of the Czechoslovak Republic, either by a direct transfer or as a result of a plebiscite. An international body containing a Czech representative would arrange any necessary adjustments of frontiers and perhaps arrange also for the exchange of populations on the basis of a right to opt for either German or Czech nationality within a specified time-limit.
The Godesberg ultimatum required military occupation of the Sudetenland forthwith, up to a frontier shown on an accompanying map prepared by Hitler.
The Anglo-French plan had provided that when the amputation had occurred the new Czechoslovak state should receive an international guarantee, in which the British Government would join, to replace the existing military alliances with France and Soviet Russia.
The Godesberg ultimatum said nothing about a guarantee.
Such were the two main differences between the terms Hitler gave Chamberlain at Berchtesgaden and the ultimatum which he presented to him at Godesberg. They were sufficiently great so that whereas in the first instance the British and French had forced Czechoslovakia to accept by threatening to leave her alone to fight the ensuing war, in the second instance Halifax simply transmitted the ultimatum to the Czechoslovak Minister in London without exerting any pressure. In the meanwhile, Britain and France had advised Prague not to delay mobilization any longer; and in both countries war measures had been redoubled.
The situation was summed up for many Britishers in a letter printed that Monday morning in the Times from L. S. Amery, Colonial Secretary in the Baldwin Cabinet. "What," he asked, "has been the result of the Czechs' acceptance of what was, in effect, Herr Hitler's first ultimatum? Of recognition of their sacrifice for the sake of peace, of discussion of how the transfer of territory might be carried out in order and decency, not one word. Only fresh attacks on a peaceful State by bands organized and equipped in and by Germany, the renewed threat of imminent invasion in overwhelming force, and a campaign of abuse from the official German wireless and Government-controlled Press which for sheer beastliness has never been equalled." The Prime Minister, he said, had returned from Godesberg, "not with any agreement to settle the ways and means of carrying out the first ultimatum, but with a second ultimatum, which, in effect, means that the Czechs are to evacuate their defences and deprive themselves of all power of resistance, in order that the rest of the business of dismembering their country shall be carried out at Germany's will and pleasure." As to the meaning for Britain of this rebuke of the Prime Minister's efforts, Mr. Amery added: "Once we told the Czechs they could not expect our help if they rejected our advice we implicitly pledged our help if they accepted it. Our guarantee to them ran from that moment."
Daladier and Bonnet had arrived in London on Sunday evening, September 25. They were joined on Monday by General Gamelin, who, some allege, was irked that only the more pessimistic sections of his reports on the state of the French Army had been quoted to the authorities in London, while his general conclusions that as a whole the Army was ready to fulfil its tasks successfully and win an ultimate victory were suppressed or glossed over.[xxvi] We know now (Chamberlain speech of September 28) that the French Ministers stated once again that if Czechoslovakia were attacked France would fulfil her treaty obligations. In reply, Chamberlain gave them a pledge which so far as can be judged had never been given before. He said that if French forces as a result became engaged in hostilities against Germany, Britain would feel obliged to lend them support.
However, talk between the British and French representatives probably was less about how to wage a war than about how peace might yet be preserved. A conference was already in view, though of a different nature from the one which actually took place later in the week at Munich. On Sunday Mr. Chamberlain had asked the Czechoslovak Minister in London, Mr. Jan Masaryk, whether, if Hitler could be brought to agree, the Czechoslovak Government would be willing to meet German representatives and the delegates of other Powers in an international conference to consider the Anglo-French plan and the best method of bringing it into effect. On Monday Mr. Masaryk answered that his Government would be ready to take part in an international conference at which Germany and Czechoslovakia, among other nations, would be represented, to find a different method of settling the Sudeten German question from that expounded in Herr Hitler's proposals, keeping in mind the possibility of reverting to the so-called Anglo-French plan.[xxvii]
Hitler was to make a decisive speech Monday evening at the Sport Palace. In preparation, he had sent an envoy to consult with Mussolini and Count Ciano on Sunday on a train at Schio, in the province of Venezia, where II Duce was busy making a series of speeches.[xxviii] Did he secure a promise of immediate Italian military support? Certainly not an enthusiastic one. But, as already remarked, the policy of neutrality planned earlier by Mussolini had become less practicable after Hitler had committed himself so far at Nuremberg and after Chamberlain's two trips to Canossa. Mussolini was being forced further and further into the German camp. He could not avoid promising help, but certainly he would try at the same time to put on the brakes; for even though Britain had not yet given France the unreserved promise of support which was forthcoming in London on Monday morning, he nevertheless realized better than Hitler that she might well decide to do so. Count Ciano has since told us (November 30) what Italy's course would have been in the event of war. In a localized German-Czech war, she would adopt a position of reserve; but in a general conflict she would consider herself threatened and would range herself on Germany's side. Obviously this is what Mussolini would have had to promise to do. What course he actually would have found expedient in a war beginning between Germany alone on one side and a most formidable coalition of Powers on the other is at least open to speculation.
London could not be sure that Hitler was aware of the grim foreboding with which his Sport Palace pronouncement was being awaited. Would the people around him -- Ribbentrop who despised England, Goebbels who despised France, Himmler who hoped to clamber to new heights in times of crisis -- lay the situation before him in all its gravity? After the cabinet meeting, Chamberlain decided to send the Fuehrer a personal letter of appeal and warning. He chose as messenger Sir Horace Wilson, who had been with him at Godesberg.
In his letter [xxix] Chamberlain explained that while the Czechoslovak Government adhered to their acceptance of the Anglo-French plan, they would not evacuate the Sudeten areas and permit the immediate occupation of these by German troops in advance of settling the terms and limits of the cession. Chamberlain repeated the arguments used at Godesberg in favor of an orderly settlement instead of one imposed by force, and added that "the development of opinion since my return confirms me in the views I expressed to you in my letter and in our subsequent conversation." He told what would be the results of meeting Hitler's demands: "Czechoslovakia would be deprived of every safeguard for her national existence. She would have to yield up large proportions of her carefully prepared defenses and admit the German armies deep into her country before it had been organized on the new basis or any preparations had been made for its defense. Her national and economic independence would automatically disappear with the acceptance of the German plan. The whole process of moving the population is to be reduced to panic and flight." Chamberlain then put to Hitler approximately the same proposal which he had put to Prague through Mr. Masaryk on Sunday, and to which he had received a favorable response. He asked Hitler to meet Czechoslovak representatives "with a view to settling by agreement the way in which the territory is to be handed over," and he offered to have a representative of the British Government participate. The only differences between Hitler and himself turned on the method of carrying out an agreed principle. He "most earnestly" urged the Fuehrer to accept his proposal and avoid the human misery that would follow a conflict.
In presenting this appeal Sir Horace Wilson was accompanied by Ambassador Henderson. They arrived at the Chancery about four-thirty o'clock on Monday and conversed with Hitler for an hour. Hitler informed them that departure from the terms of the Godesberg ultimatum was impossible. It is not known whether at this meeting he added the same startling information which the Italian Ambassador in Berlin, Bernardo Attolico, was able to transmit to his Government at 7:30 P.M. -- namely, that Hitler had determined not to wait till Saturday, October 1, but would march at 2 P.M. on Wednesday.[xxx]
Shortly after seven o'clock Hitler proceeded in pomp to the Sport Palace, historic rally hall of the Nazi Party. Addressing the massed formations before him (with a group of the Sudeten "Free Corps" occupying a prominent place), and the unseen people of Germany clustered around radios and loud-speakers in homes and cafés and public squares, he stuck to his requirements. "That Beneš" must give up the Sudetenland by October 1 or have war on his hands. The German demands were final. He expressed complete disbelief in Czech promises, but he did not specifically state that if Prague failed to meet them at once he would take military action in advance of October 1. He obviously wished to keep his listeners from recognizing clearly that the German claims for the cession of the Sudetenland were no longer in practical dispute, that the only question remaining was one of timing and procedure. Nor did he give any inkling of the stiffening opposition which his demands were awakening abroad, as shown by the vast British and French military preparations. Perhaps he still was under illusions himself about the probable British course; for it was not until his second talk with Sir Horace Wilson the following morning that the latter told him "in precise terms" that if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, and if France went to her help, Britain would help France.
Continuing his speech, Hitler repeated that he desired peace, and promised that "when the claims of other minorities have been satisfied we will guarantee the integrity of the Czech State." He said he had told Chamberlain this, though it does not appear in his Godesberg memorandum; also that "after the Sudeten German question is regulated we have no further territorial claims to make in Europe." There were no German claims, he said, against France or Poland. He guaranteed the inviolability of the territory of all Germany's neighbors. "This is no mere phrase. It is our holy will." French or Polish listeners, or Dutch or Swiss or Danish ones, may have withheld enthusiastic applause as these words came into their homes over the radio, thinking of similar assurances officially conveyed to the Czechoslovak Government at the moment Hitler was gobbling up Austria. But that lack was of course not registered with the throng in the great auditorium, aglare with lights, shining with banners, overflowing with what the London Times correspondent called "hysterical but organized devotion."
The frenzied enthusiasm increased as the Fuehrer turned to a staccato denunciation of Beneš, the Czech people, and their inhuman cruelties toward the Germans. The Czechoslovak President's name was greeted with cries of "Hang him! Hang him!" The surge of voices, as in a menagerie where all the animals have gone mad, but by some trick can still be made to bay and howl in unison, will not soon be forgotten by anyone who listened through to the end. In the opinion of connoisseurs of Hitler speeches it was not a particularly effective one. There were in it more pauses and non-sequiturs than usual, a note of shrillness, of pleading, that seemed to betray a mind hesitating and frightened to plunge ahead as recklessly as the mystic will dictated. That would have been natural. Never before had the moment for suiting the action to the word been so imminent. On the other hand, the speech was careful and consistent in one respect already mentioned. Never by a phrase did Hitler let his hearers know that the real dispute no longer was between him and Beneš but between Germany on the one hand and Britain and France on the other. Never did he let them guess that it was not a parade into Czechoslovakia which hung in the balance, but a European war.
After hearing Sir Horace Wilson's report of his first conference with Hitler, and after reading the Hitler speech and discussing it with the "Inner Cabinet," Chamberlain at 1 A.M. on September 27 announced his continuing hope that Berlin would not reject his proposal of a conference. "It is evident," he admitted, "that the Chancellor has no faith that the promises made will be carried out." But he pointed out that these were not Czech promises to the Germans direct, but to the British and French in the first instance. He pledged the British Government to see them carried out "with all reasonable promptitude," provided the German Government agreed to settle "terms and conditions of transfer by discussion and not by force."
This marked a new step in the effort to persuade Hitler to abide by his Berchtesgaden demands as embodied in the Anglo-French plan. Britain now underwrote Czechoslovakia's acceptance of that plan. Concurrently another method of persuasion was adopted, probably designed to give food for thought to Mussolini as well as to Hitler. An "authoritative statement" issued from the Foreign Office early in the evening of September 26 contained the following significant paragraph:
"The German claim to the transfer of the Sudeten areas has already been conceded by the French, British and Czechoslovak Governments, but if in spite of all efforts made by the British Prime Minister a German attack is made upon Czechoslovakia, the immediate result must be that France will be bound to come to her assistance, and Great Britain and Russia will certainly stand by France." [xxxi]
Beyond the blunt warning here given as to Britain's procedure in case Hitler carried out his threat to march, there was the intimation that at last London was in touch with Moscow and had agreed on a course of joint action.
What did M. Bonnet, back now in Paris, think of this categorical pledge of British help, supplementing publicly the pledge given him and Daladier by Chamberlain in London that same morning? The two together marked a final accomplishment which so many of his predecessors at the Quai d'Orsay had worked in vain to achieve. London -- pled with, prayed to, cajoled and threatened -- had never said in so many words what she would do in case France became involved in a war over some problem in Central or Eastern Europe. Here, on the eve of what might be another great war arising over Czechoslovakia, Bonnet held in his hands the pledge which Poincaré and Viviani had needs do without in reaching their fateful decision in August 1914 -- a pledge which at that time might even have averted the World War. Once again France stood at the parting of the ways. This time by her side she would find England from the start -- reluctant, still seeking a way to save peace, not well prepared, but reconciled to accepting France's decision if in her eyes it seemed necessary to risk a possible war to win a tolerable peace.
We do not know M. Bonnet's thoughts, but the following is on record. The Havas agency in London received a typewritten copy of the communiqué from the Press Bureau of the British Foreign Office at 9.15 P.M. It transmitted the text to Paris, describing it as a "declaration of the Foreign Office." The Action Française, whose former devotion to monarchism has largely given way to interest in Fascism, reported that when news of the British communiqué reached Paris several deputies called on M. Bonnet at the Quai d'Orsay and asked him if he could guarantee its authenticity. Reply: "We have not received any confirmation." M. Léon Bailby's Jour, though the communiqué was being printed as a matter of course in all the British papers, and on front pages in America, called it "most suspect." Emile Roche, in the République, asked if it were not being circulated in order to heighten the tension with Germany by bringing in Soviet Russia. The Liberté, a paper of openly Fascist tendencies, on September 30 reported an interview with Daladier. Question: "What was the origin of the unbelievable dispatch speaking of the aid which England and Russia would give France?" Answer: "From an official of no importance." The Matin on October 2, continuing the campaign, referred to the "soi-disant 'communiqué' of the Foreign Office" as "a clever lie." [xxxii]
As a matter of fact these and other French papers which labelled anyone accepting the communiqué as "war-mongers" went further than was necessary in their efforts to protect M. Bonnet's course from criticism. The French Foreign Minister did not himself call the British Foreign Office communiqué a lie; he simply is reported to have said it lacked confirmation. The attitude which President Beneš understood the French Minister in Prague to have stated on September 21 may not have been M. Bonnet's attitude in the new circumstances. He may really have been as firmly determined now to execute the terms of the French treaty with Czechoslovakia as he presumably had been earlier in the summer, and may have been glad at heart to hear both from Chamberlain personally and from the Foreign Office that Britain would help if the necessity arose. The quotations given here from the French press may have reported Bonnet and Daladier incorrectly. There have been previous occasions when French papers did that. What is of prime importance is the lack of enthusiasm with which Bonnet received a public statement of British policy regarding what has always been considered the essential touchstone in Anglo-French relations, and the further fact that defeatist rumors calling the statement untrue were permitted to circulate through large sections of the French press without, so far as can be found, adequate contradiction.
Later, after Munich had produced the result which MM. Daladier and Bonnet had become persuaded was advisable, the truth about the communiqué came out. Already on September 28 Chamberlain had publicly confirmed the accuracy of the British position stated in the communiqué when he said that on September 26 "we told them [Daladier and Bonnet] that if as a result of these obligations [to Czechoslovakia] French forces became actively engaged in hostilities against Germany, we should feel obliged to support them." In other words, two days before the Liberté reported Daladier as saying that the Foreign Office communiqué came from "an official of no importance," Chamberlain had given Daladier a similar statement of the British position. And the Matin spoke of the communiqué as "a clever lie" four days after Chamberlain had made public declaration of a policy identical with the one which the communiqué announced. On September 30 the British Foreign Office reaffirmed the accuracy of the communiqué, with an expression of surprise (according to the Petit Parisien of October 1) that such confirmation should be needed for an official British statement. On October 3, speaking in the House of Commons, Anthony Eden referred to the communiqué approvingly as one of the factors which had helped avert hostilities. And finally, on October 4, in his official governmental declaration, M. Daladier said: "On the evening of September 26, in an official information to the press, it was stated in London that if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, France would go to her aid and that 'Great Britain and Russia would certainly be on the side of France.'" (Temps, October 5.)
Never since the formation of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 had London been willing in time of peace to make such a promise. Historians will speculate as to the manner in which a Poincaré would have utilized that categorical pledge, even at this eleventh hour, to line up behind Britain, France and Russia so solid a coalition of powers from the Baltic to the Ægean as would have thrown Mussolini back into neutrality and called Hitler's bluff. If Hitler's threats were after all not a bluff, he would in those circumstances have had the short war and the sure defeat which some of his Reichswehr officers were hoping for as the only way of ridding Germany of him and his associates. But a Poincaré was not Foreign Minister of France.
Before quitting these important days when London was stiffening its position in a desperate effort to convince Hitler it meant business, and while the French position was what can only be described as anomalous, we must note two or three other events. On Friday, September 23, with the foreknowledge of London and Paris, the Czech Government had mobilized. But for two days Prague was almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, apart from diplomatic dispatches, and it was not till Sunday or Monday that details of the extraordinary celerity and steadiness of nerve with which the order had been obeyed began reaching foreign newspaper readers. On Monday, September 26, Mr. Chamberlain at last agreed that Parliament should be called; the notice went out for a session on Wednesday. In the early hours of the same day President Roosevelt sent an appeal for a peaceful settlement to Chancellor Hitler and President Beneš, and to the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and France. He asked them to remember their obligation under the Kellogg-Briand Pact not to resort to war. Britain and France replied at once with warm expressions of gratitude. Beneš cabled that for twenty years his government had followed the policy of settling international disputes by peaceful means. It would never do anything to violate the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It asked nothing better than to settle the crisis in accordance with the arbitration treaty with Germany. What Berlin thought of the Roosevelt message may be judged from the fact that no mention of it was at first allowed in the German press. Hitler's reply, dispatched a day later, uncompromisingly refused responsibility if war should come and put all responsibility on President Beneš. He did not mention the Kellogg-Briand Pact or arbitration, but instead stated ominously that "the possibilities for arriving at a just settlement are exhausted with the proposals of the German memorandum." Along with this reply, the President's appeal finally found place in the German press. One other appeal was issued on the same day as President Roosevelt's. Speaking at Verona, Mussolini called on Britain and France to abandon the Czechs before war became inevitable.
Though Tuesday, September 27, marked something of a lull so far as the British public was concerned, it was a day of great suspense in government circles. At a second interview with Hitler that morning, Sir Horace Wilson found the Fuehrer's mind unchanged. He now also was informed (if he had not already been informed the previous afternoon) that German "action" was fixed for 2 P.M. the next day, Wednesday.[xxxiii] In accordance with Chamberlain's instructions, Sir Horace thereupon told Hitler "in precise terms" just what a German attack on Czechoslovakia would involve, namely French and British military intervention. The story is that he stood up to make the statement and repeated it a second time "at dictation speed." This is said to have so enraged Hitler that the Britisher thought it best to leave the room for a few moments. On his return he found Hitler much more quiet. So far as we know, this was the second time during the crisis when Hitler had to listen to some plain talk. Once again it seems to have affected him in an interesting manner. In the afternoon Sir Horace started back by air for London.
Rumors that Hitler was threatening immediate action of course got about in Berlin. The information reaching most of the foreign correspondents was that the action planned was general mobilization, and this was the report which the British news agency, Reuter's, telegraphed from Berlin in the afternoon. It correctly stated 2 P.M. the next day as the deadline for the Czech capitulation. The Berlin correspondent of the London Times reported that "well-informed circles" believed general mobilization had been set for 2 P.M. the next day, and an advance against Czechoslovakia for the day following. To give color to the most serious interpretations of what was afoot, long lines of German units equipped for active service paraded silent Berlin streets during Tuesday evening and saluted Hitler as he stood on a balcony of the Chancellery. Not many outstretched arms were seen among the surprised crowds, no "heils!" were heard. "Be silent, this is serious," one old man said in the hearing of a friend of mine to an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth. The universal lack of enthusiasm, amounting to dismay, amazed Hitler. Doubtless it influenced him in the communications he had with London, Paris and Rome during the next twelve hours.
In the evening, possessed of the very disturbing information from Berlin, Mr. Chamberlain broadcast a message to the British public. He spoke of the letters he had been receiving from mothers and sisters of the men who would risk their lives in war. Then came a phrase which in a flash revealed for some of his listeners the theory which he had entertained for so many months as to the real nature of the problem at hand: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing." In other words, Mr. Chamberlain had imagined, and despite every rude shock still imagined, that he was dealing with a frontier dispute 500 miles distant, not with the problem of German expansion and possible German hegemony on the Continent. The Prime Minister then admitted that he understood the Czech refusal to accept the Godesberg memorandum; yet he felt that "if only time were allowed" a solution could be found. But Hitler was insisting that the Sudeten territory be handed over to him immediately and be immediately occupied by German troops "without previous arrangements for safeguarding the people within the territory who were not Germans, or did not want to join the German Reich."
"I must say," Chamberlain continued, "that I find this attitude unreasonable." The British Government guaranteed the Czech Government's promise to hand over the territory as agreed. So long as a chance for peace remained, he would pursue it, even by a third visit to Germany if that seemed likely to do any good. Meanwhile, he asked calmness in the face of the military preparations under way. War was not necessarily at hand. "However much we may sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbor, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account. If we have to fight it must be on larger issues than that. I am myself a man of peace to the depths of my soul. Armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me; but if I were convinced that any nation had made up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force, I should feel that it must be resisted. Under such a domination, life for people who believe in liberty would not be worth living."
It was a sober, sincere speech. A single sentence betrayed a parochial view of the European situation. But the eloquent peroration revealed that another view, long articulate but always subordinate, was fighting for supremacy. Here obviously was a statesman who felt that his country was coming very close to war. He hated it, but he began to fear that his effort to give his antagonist everything he wanted was now to be defeated by that gentleman's unwillingness to wait a moment till it could be put in his hands in an orderly manner. Hitler insisted on snatching. The Czechs (rightly, Chamberlain had to confess) would then resist; and, since France still asserted that in these circumstances she would go to their aid, general war would result.
To underline the Prime Minister's gravity of tone and the seriousness of his utterance, orders were given, and published in the Wednesday morning press, to mobilize the British Fleet. About the same time -- that is, after midnight -- Sir Horace Wilson, just back by air from Berlin, presented to Mr. Chamberlain the text of Chancellor Hitler's reply to his latest appeal. Part of the reply had been delivered in the Sport Palace address and part to Sir Horace verbally: there was to be no Czech-German conference; the time limit stood; "action" was scheduled for 2 o'clock the coming afternoon. Hitler could not bring himself, he wrote, to admit that the Czech arguments transmitted by Chamberlain "can be regarded as seriously put forward." There was provision for a vote "under no outside influence" and for "a very wide degree of German-Czech agreement on matters of detail to be reached subsequently." The military occupation would not go beyond the red line and it "represents no more than a security measure which is intended to guarantee a quick and smooth achievement of the final settlement." Without this "indispensable" measure, the present "unbearable circumstances" in the Sudeten territories might drag along indefinitely. Yet there was just the hint of a conciliatory note in some of the statements. It was absurd to speak of Czechoslovakia being "crippled in her national existence or in her political and economic independence." There could be no question about any "checks" to the independence of Czechoslovakia or about the "well-known fact" that after the cession Czechoslovakia "would constitute a healthier and more unified economic organism than before." In this connection he repeated formally an offer which he had brought forward in his Sport Palace speech, namely that "under the condition which I laid down [military occupation] I am even ready to give a formal guarantee for the remainder of Czechoslovakia." [xxxiv]
In France, meanwhile, the public had been worn down to something like resignation to the ordeal looming ahead. Hitler had written that "the inexorably deadly enemy of the German people is and will be France." [xxxv] They were about ready to take him at his word. They were fatigued by his violence. Compromise to all reasonable limits had failed to satisfy him in this particular dispute. Perhaps even war would have compensations in comparison to life on the edge of a volcano.
The French press, however, was in a state of confusion and self-contradiction very different, according to all observers, from the sangfroid displayed by the French people. Again, as in the case of the communiqué of September 26, there were signs that political predispositions or outside pressure were leading many newspapers into extraordinary interpretations of ordinary facts. We have described what happened in Berlin on Tuesday, September 27, and the news reports which were sent from there by Reuter's and various correspondents of responsible British and American newspapers. The French agency, Havas, also had reported Hitler's warning to Sir Horace Wilson about measures to be taken "in the absence of a satisfactory answer from Prague" before 2 o'clock the next afternoon. The Havas account was milder -- and less accurate, we now know -- than the other reports. And all of them were less threatening than the stark truth that Hitler had issued what was in effect a definite ultimatum expiring the next day and that negotiations were almost in a deadlock. At 2:40 A.M. on Wednesday morning the official German news agency, D. N. B., denied that general mobilization was set for 2 P.M.[xxxvi] At once a number of French rightist papers rallied to the idea that the information of Reuter's and the others was false. The Action Française, accepting the Berlin denial, stated definitely that it was false, and commented: "The plot against Peace continues." The Journal des Débats protested against "plotters and adventurers who work with false reports." Léon Daudet in the Action Française on the 29th blasted the "sanglantes crapules" who spread the "false news" that Hitler had been threatening mobilization. Europe Nouvelle later invited M. Daudet to turn to the third page of the same edition of his paper to read Mr. Chamberlain's categorical statement of the day before -- that the German Chancellor had told Sir Horace Wilson of his intention to take "action" at 2 P.M. on the Wednesday, precisely as reported in the most pessimistic Berlin dispatches of Tuesday.[xxxvii]
We are left wondering who was spreading false news and whose was the plot. It is to the credit of the French people that with so many strange charges flying about they kept their heads and quietly and loyally obeyed the successive calls to the colors.
The British Parliament met at long last on Wednesday, September 28,[xxxviii] to receive Mr. Chamberlain's account of his stewardship and learn how, if at all, war might still be avoided. Lord Baldwin, Lord Halifax, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other peers were in their gallery, the foreign diplomats in another. The Prime Minister recapitulated the events of the summer, adding many details which have been noted in their proper place in the present account but which until then had not been made public. Coming to the letter which Sir Horace Wilson had brought back from Berlin the previous evening, he recalled how as he read it he thought that "the differences and the obscurities had been narrowed down still further to a point where really it was inconceivable that they could not be settled by negotiations." So strongly did he feel this, he said, that he had been impelled that very morning to send one more communication to the Chancellor, as follows:
"After reading your letter I feel certain that you can get all essentials without war and without delay.
"I am ready to come to Berlin myself at once to discuss arrangements for transfer with you and representatives of Czech Government, together with representatives of France and Italy if you desire.
"I feel convinced we could reach agreement in a week. However much you distrust Prague Government's intentions, you cannot doubt power of British and French Governments to see that promises are carried out fairly and fully and forthwith. As you know I have stated publicly that we are prepared to undertake that they shall be so carried out.
"I cannot believe that you will take responsibility of starting a world war which may end civilization for the sake of a few days' delay in settling this long-standing problem." [xxxix]
Note in passing that Chamberlain mentioned a discussion between Hitler, himself and representatives of the Czech Government, plus French and Italian representatives if Hitler so desired. He did not leave to Hitler the decision as to whether Czech representatives would be present: that was a condition of his proposal.
Continuing his speech, the Prime Minister said that "at the same time" as this final appeal went forward to Hitler he sent the following personal message to Mussolini:
"I have today addressed last appeal to Herr Hitler to abstain from force to settle Sudeten problem, which I feel sure can be settled by a short discussion and will give him the essential territory, population and protection for both Sudetens and Czechs during transfer. I have offered myself to go at once to Berlin to discuss arrangements with German and Czech representatives and, if the Chancellor desires, representatives also of Italy and France.
"I trust your Excellency will inform German Chancellor that you are willing to be represented and urge him to agree to my proposal which will keep all our peoples out of war. I have already guaranteed that Czech promises shall be carried out and feel confident full agreement could be reached in a week." [xl]
Here, again, Mr. Chamberlain referred to a conference that would include Czech representatives.
The Prime Minister then confirmed reports of Hitler's warning to Sir Horace Wilson that German "action" would begin at 2 P.M. that same afternoon. In this connection, proceeded Mr. Chamberlain, word had just come from Rome that the Italian Ambassador in Berlin had seen Ribbentrop promptly and had requested a 24-hour delay in mobilization so that Mussolini might search for a peaceful settlement. In response (announced Mr. Chamberlain, to cheers from the House) Hitler had just agreed to the postponement.
At this point, as the London Times diplomatic correspondent put it, "things began to happen." A few moments before, Lord Halifax had been seen to receive a message in the Peers' Gallery. He hurried out. Two sheets of paper were soon being passed to Sir John Simon, on the Treasury Bench, but he could not for a moment or so distract the Prime Minister from his account of his "last, last effort" for peace. Seizing on a pause, Sir John pressed the papers into Mr. Chamberlain's hand. The House sat tensely silent during the full minute he took to read them. Then he said quietly that Hitler had invited him, with Mussolini and Daladier, to come to Munich the next morning. "I need not say," he added, "what my answer will be."
The House went wild. London was not going to be bombed just yet. On the Prime Minister's motion the House adjourned to Monday, October 3 -- two days later than the German deadline of October 1. But before that was done the principal Opposition leaders wished the Prime Minister God-speed. "I am sure," said Mr. Atlee (Labor), "that every Member of this House is desirous of neglecting no chance of preserving peace without sacrificing principles." Sir Archibald Sinclair (Liberal) referred to the British pledge to see that the Czechs executed their acceptance of the Anglo-French plan (they had not, be it emphasized, accepted anything further, apart from expressing a willingness to meet with German representatives in an international conference); he added that he hoped the Prime Minister would go to Munich equally determined to "see that the Czechoslovak State in its new frontiers will have a chance of economic survival and complete freedom and independence."
There was no mention by the Prime Minister of his previous insistence that Czechoslovakia be represented at the new parleys. Nor did anyone else present think of inquiring about this point. The Czech Minister, Mr. Masaryk, did inquire. He telephoned the Prime Minister late in the day, and then sent him a letter. The Prime Minister's decision was not made public.
Perhaps this is as good a moment as any to refer to certain actions by President Roosevelt which seem to have played a part in producing Mussolini's intervention in Berlin and Hitler's subsequent invitation for a meeting of the "Big Four" to settle Czechoslovakia's fate. On Tuesday, September 27, Washington heard of the German plans for the next day. The President decided that the rather uncompromising response which Hitler had made to his earlier note about the Kellogg-Briand Pact could serve as an excuse now for further observations. In a new message addressed to Hitler alone Roosevelt by implication refuted the assertion that responsibility for the decision between peace and war rested entirely on Beneš. "Present negotiations still stand open," the President telegraphed. "They can be continued if you give the word." Nothing, he continued, stood in the way of widening the scope of those negotiations "into a conference of all the nations directly interested in the present controversy." If war broke out, the President had in advance pinned the responsibility where it belonged.
On Tuesday evening President Roosevelt sent a cable to Mussolini also. The inspiration for it is not known, nor have its contents been published, but a good deal of speculation has occurred as to the timing of the various events with which it was interrelated.[xli] It would be intensely interesting to know whether either the message to Mussolini or the second message to Hitler was sent in the knowledge that London and Paris were ready to adopt the idea of a conference in which no Czech delegate would be heard. On Sunday, Chamberlain had suggested a conference of Czech, German and other representatives on how to bring the Anglo-French plan into effect; and on Monday he had received Prague's acceptance. Thereupon, Sir Horace Wilson had proposed the idea to Hitler. The same sort of a conference was mentioned in the Chamberlain messages to Berlin and Rome early on Wednesday, September 28. Wasn't this what Roosevelt had in mind, rather than a conference where no Czech representative would be present? Yet preparations for the latter kind of conference (i.e. Munich) must already have been under way in the European capitals. We might suppose that the President felt disillusioned, judging from his scathing remarks a month later (October 26) about "peace by fear" being no better than "peace by the sword."
According to recent information, Roosevelt's message to Mussolini was transmitted informally to the Italian Foreign Office on Wednesday morning by one of the secretaries of the American Embassy, as Ambassador Phillips was absent in Florence. On his return to Rome in the afternoon, Mr. Phillips delivered a formal confirmation. Whether the message of the President or some communication from the British Prime Minister reached Mussolini first, and the consequent question of how glory and responsibility should be allocated, must be left to the historians. At any rate, there were two or more telephone calls from Rome to Berlin on the 28th. Following these, Hitler postponed military action and invited the three foreign premiers to meet him at Munich the next day. The historians will also investigate, perhaps, how Mr. Chamberlain knew when he began his speech in Parliament that Mussolini had succeeded in arranging the former but did not yet know about the latter. Perhaps (as the New York Times reported on November 1 from a "fully authoritative" source) Chamberlain sent two messages to Mussolini, one, unpublished, asking him to dissuade Hitler from the impending military action, the second, contained in the supplementary "White Paper," suggesting a conference.
What made Mussolini on this Wednesday morning so much more persuasive with Hitler than he had been previously?
We can choose between two theories. Mussolini had been berating the democracies as "cowards" since Berchtesgaden. Now he had learnt positively that they really were getting ready to fight. He doubtless also had heard that the French plan of campaign was to keep as large a German force as possible busy on the Maginot line and meanwhile to take the offensive against Italy. Was he forced to inform Hitler that, far from sending Italian troops to help him, he might be needing help at home? His navy would be bottled up between Suez and Gibraltar. His food would soon run low. If he remained neutral the victory of the democracies would ruin his prestige; and even if he joined in the fight they would, as things stood, win eventually anyhow. On all counts he must favor peace. Did he imply all this over the telephone so unmistakably that Hitler, himself informed -- at the eleventh hour but "in precise terms" -- of Britain's determination, felt impelled to hesitate? Or, alternatively, did Chamberlain simply turn to Mussolini as a deus ex machina, saying that Hitler could have the substance of everything he wanted if only Mussolini and he would devise some way of making the surrender palatable to the British and French publics? Such might have been the purport of the unpublished telegram.
Was Munich "peace by fear?" The reader will have to judge -- from the record of what went before, from the text of the Agreement signed at the Fuehrerhaus early on the morning of September 30, and from what has subsequently happened.
Chamberlain had said he would resist to the last any attempt to dominate the world by force, and presumably the British public shared his determination. The Times correspondent in Paris telegraphed that the Chamberlain phrase summed up all the feelings of the French public as Premier Daladier prepared for his journey to Nazi headquarters. Continental France had been Germany's next-door neighbor too long, had seen her own soil invaded too recently, to become optimistic as suddenly as did insular Britain, with her very different traditional attitude toward European happenings. Like their allies across the Channel, all Frenchmen grasped at the chance of a last-minute escape from the horrible necessity of war. Yet, as the Times put it, optimism was kept within sober limits, for all felt that a long and difficult negotiation was ahead.
Arriving at Munich on Thursday for this negotiation, the heads of the two great democracies found themselves in strange surroundings. Chamberlain alighted from his plane about noon to a roar of "heils!" and reviewed a troop of black-shirted Elite guards while the band played "God Save the King" and "Deutschland über Alles." After a visit to his hotel he proceeded through crowded streets to Hitler's personal headquarters, the Fuehrerhaus. Mussolini and his son-in-law Ciano were met by Hitler at the old Austrian frontier (shades of the Anschluss!). The arrangement permitted the two dictators an hour's quiet talk together before public appearances began and before the conference. The Duce received an ovation from the Munich crowds second in warmth only to that given Chamberlain. The British Prime Minister was the most popular; the tribute that went to him for his peace efforts was certainly sincere. It was his first meeting with Mussolini, and Daladier's first with Hitler or Mussolini. Daladier, reported by observers as looking worn and tired, was greeted cordially also; but though his presence in Germany was said to be especially welcome to the authorities it naturally awakened less interest among the populace, who thought of him as a secondary figure.
By one o'clock all the principals had assembled at the Fuehrerhaus. It was decided, on Mr. Chamberlain's suggestion, that (as Mr. Frederick T. Birchall put it in his dispatch to the New York Times) some Czech representatives ought to be on hand "to receive and pass on to their Government the decisions of the Conference." The Czech Minister and an official from the Czech Foreign Office therefore arrived by air late in the afternoon "to await results." Prague announced that in the event Czechoslovakia were invited to participate, former Premier Hodža would join them as chief representative. This forethought was needless. No Czech was ever admitted to the conference room. The "Big Four" worked intimately together, alone. In a separate room a corps of assistants phrased and codified the ideas agreed upon within. Preliminary decisions were over by 3 o'clock, when there was an adjournment for an hour and a half. Already newspapermen were able to report that an understanding was in sight. The second sitting adjourned for dinner at 8:30 P.M. and resumed at 10. Then came the definite information that an accord was about to be signed. At one A.M. on Friday, September 30, the statesmen affixed their signatures and parted for the night. Several correspondents who saw them emerge have described their faces. Demaree Bess (Saturday Evening Post, December 3) said Daladier seemed "sunk in the depths of despair," Chamberlain had his usual "poker face," while Mussolini had a "broad smile" and Hitler was "walking on air."
This was the text, dated September 29:[xlii]
"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 the 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 the 1st October. The four territories marked on the attached map [xliii] 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 held.
"6. The final determination of the frontiers will be carried out by the international commission. This 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 offences."
There followed an Annex, signed by the four statesmen, as follows:
"His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the French Government have entered into the above agreement on the basis that they stand by the offer, contained in paragraph 6 of the Anglo-French proposals of the 19th September, relating to an international guarantee of the new boundaries of the Czechoslovak State against unprovoked aggression.
"When the question of the Polish and Hungarian minorities in Czechoslovakia has been settled, Germany and Italy for their part will give a guarantee to Czechoslovakia."
There also were three subsidiary declarations, each similarly signed:
"The Heads of the Governments of the four Powers declare that the problems of the Polish and Hungarian minorities in Czechoslovakia, if not settled within three months by agreement between the respective Governments, shall form the subject of another meeting of the Heads of the Governments of the four Powers here present."
"All questions which may arise out of the transfer of the territory shall be considered as coming within the terms of reference to the international commission."
"The four Heads of Government here present agree that the international commission provided for in the agreement signed by them to-day, shall consist of the Secretary of State in the German Foreign Office, the British, French and Italian Ambassadors accredited in Berlin, and a representative to be nominated by the Government of Czechoslovakia."
The Agreement was interpreted in the German and Italian press as a victory for the dictators and vindication for their bold policy. But the first demonstrations in Munich and Berlin and in Rome, and even more, of course, the shouting crowds in the streets of the two capitals the next day, showed that relief from the sudden anxiety of the past two days was the first and dominant reaction among the general public. In London and Paris, where the markets before the close on Thursday afternoon had shot upwards on the receipt of promising news from Munich, some restraint was noticeable at first and comments even late that evening were still to the effect that rearmament must go on and mobilization continue. The universal sense of relief in Paris did not, as the Times correspondent there phrased it, have "anything craven about it." But it was unmistakable.
The leading editorial in the London Times on Friday morning was of course devoted to praise of Mr. Chamberlain's heroic and successful efforts to ward off a conflict which would have been "both criminal and grotesque," and to approval of the Munich negotiations "as at least a step towards substituting an agreed peace for an imposed peace." Nevertheless a second editorial printed by the Times that same morning called for some form of "national service" on the ground that "there must be just as great a difference between our future conception of national defense and our recent conception as there was between our recent conception and the conception prevailing before 1914." Thus in the very moment when his policy was crowned with success, the editor of the Times showed that though he had urged it on the Government out of very lofty principles he nevertheless recognized a rather unpleasant note of compulsion about it.
On Friday morning, before leaving Munich, Mr. Chamberlain had an intimate conversation with Chancellor Hitler. Before separating they put their signatures to the following short and simple declaration:
"We, the German Führer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe.
"We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
"We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe."
Thus the British Prime Minister sought to reap some continuing good to set beside the immediate achievement that Europe was not at war. The policy of appeasement was to continue. The Fuehrer was delighted. It was all quite in consonance with the program of "Mein Kampf" -- to win England's friendship and so her tolerance towards successive phases of German expansion in the east. He had had two successes only six months apart. First Austria had been annexed, now Czechoslovakia had been successfully disintegrated and would be swiftly reduced from a sovereign to a dependent State. Lord Halifax in July had offered assurance of peace in the west, based on Anglo-German collaboration, provided Germany would assist in reaching a peaceful settlement of the Czech problem. Assistance was hardly the word for what Hitler had offered since Berchtesgaden. Yet here were the assurances he had wanted. Strange, Chamberlain did not even seem to be indignant or rebellious at having been forced to grant Germany primacy in Europe on her own terms. He actually drafted out in his own hand Nazi Germany's laissez-passer for further journeys across frontiers of "faraway" lands.
Back in London after announcing the Anglo-German peace declaration, Mr. Chamberlain received a wild public ovation and the honor of stepping out onto the floodlit balcony of Buckingham Palace with his Sovereigns to acknowledge the cheers of the densely packed crowds. Leaving the Palace about seven, he went to Downing Street where he uttered some memorable words to the people who had been waiting there all afternoon. "This is the second time in our history," he said, "that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time." The women in the crowd were almost hysterical. As one observer wrote, they probably had not read the terms of the Munich Agreement, but they knew it signified peace. Before they dispersed, the crowd sang "For he's a jolly good fellow" and the National Anthem. From the Dominions congratulations flowed in. The scattered sour notes from New Zealand and Canada were not audible till later.
In Paris there were parallel evidences of popular relief, enthusiasm and thankfulness. Premier Daladier's triumphant journey from Le Bourget to the War Ministry was punctuated by cries of "Vive Daladier!" and "Vive la paix!" In the evening, at a Council of Ministers, President Lebrun thanked him for his "enlightened and practical patriotism and courage." The Paris-Soir began its leading editorial "Peace, peace, peace!" Almost alone among leading French political writers, "Pertinax," consistent in the opinions which over the past twenty years had led to his being at some moments called a reactionary, at others a radical, labelled Munich "the great deliquescence." Signor Mussolini's welcome home was described by the London Times correspondent as one of "frenzied enthusiasm." By a coincidence, it was precisely the anniversary of his return a year before from his last visit to Hitler. His success this time was even more popular. Hitler arrived in Berlin Saturday. It was not clear to the public just how or why Germany had come so near the brink of war. They still had heard nothing about Roosevelt's second message to Hitler, Chamberlain's offer to guarantee the fulfilment of Czech promises, his appeal to Mussolini, or Mussolini's intervention. Only from the Sport Palace speech on the 26th, and from the troops parading with full equipment in the Wilhelmstrasse on the 27th, had they guessed the seriousness of Germany's plight. Yet they could unite to give the Fuehrer a tumultuous popular triumph, for he both had won what he set out to get and had won it without a fight.
Only in Prague was it different. There the response to Munich was sullen despair. Capacity for surprise or anger, even for disillusionment, was gone. The Czech representatives at Munich had been refused a hearing. When the ink was dry on the document partitioning their country the British called them in and handed them a copy. The Czech Minister to Germany said he would like to make some observations. He was told that as the matter was closed he might spare himself the trouble. In Prague, it was the German chargé (not the British or French Minister) who first went to Foreign Minister Krofta to discuss the Munich decision. He called bright and early at 6:30 A.M. on Friday morning. Later in the morning the British Minister delivered to Mr. Krofta a message from Mr. Chamberlain saying he expected to receive the Czech reply by noon. No wonder, for the German troops were to begin moving the next day. The Government protested that it was being given no time to consider a matter of historic importance involving crushing responsibility. But in face of the British insistence they had no recourse but to yield to a decision taken, as they said, "without them and against them." At 5 P.M. the full extent of the catastrophe was made known to the Czechoslovak public. Premier Syrovy said over the radio: "This is the most difficult moment of my life. I have taken the decision to save life and save the nation. Superior force has compelled us to accept." He was followed by the Commander-in-Chief of the army which had not been allowed to fight. He reminded his listeners that soldiers by their oath promise unconditional obedience to the state. The true soldier, he said, must endure failure.
From the Sudetenland, meanwhile, began a panic-stricken exodus of Czechs, Jews, German Social Democrats and other non-Nazis. Where were they to find shelter and food? They could not pause to ask or plan. Whatever their eventual fate, the first thing they had to do was flee before they were beaten and put in concentration camps or shipped to western Germany for forced labor on the frontier fortifications. There was precious little time. Premier Syrovy's broadcast was at 5 P.M. Friday afternoon. As the Czech police and officials withdrew, Henlein's Nazis began mopping up in approved style. Henlein had left no doubt what would happen. Speaking on the air on Friday he said his political opponents deserved no mercy and would get none. "We shall imprison them," he said, "till they turn black." At 2 P.M. on Saturday, October 1, the day and hour Hitler had predetermined, the German troops started marching into Zone I. Zone II was occupied Sunday, and Hitler himself accompanied in triumph the army that on Monday marched into Zone III. Many who tried to flee were refused admission to Czech areas. Those who could not flee -- who had no means, who had no time, or who were told by Prague to stay where they were -- could stay and "turn black."
IX. THE MUNICH AGREEMENT IN PRACTICE
Chamberlain and Daladier based their stand against the Godesberg ultimatum chiefly on the fact that it abandoned the orderly method laid down in the Anglo-French plan. Readers will recall the British Prime Minister's arguments. He was against a military occupation in advance of setting its limits; against leaving Czechoslovakia without safeguards, as would happen once the frontier areas and their great fortifications had fallen into German hands; against the threat to her national and economic independence; and against subjecting the non-Nazi parts of the population to "panic flight." They will also recall how Hitler scoffed at these arguments.
The best attempt to give a reasonable defense of what was done at Munich was the speech made by Lord Halifax in the House of Lords on October 3. It parallels fairly closely the speech made the same day by the Prime Minister in the Commons, but is somewhat fuller. Some of the points made by the two government spokesmen have merit, at any rate on the assumption that on the date mentioned they still were entitled to presume -- what many doubted from the moment they read the Munich text -- that Czechoslovakia had not already fallen, at one blow and absolutely, under German domination and that her power of effective resistance to German demands would not go rapidly to zero. Thus, as Lord Halifax pointed out, the Godesberg memorandum envisaged occupation of possible plebiscite areas by German and Czech forces until the date of the plebiscite, whereas by the Munich Agreement these were to be occupied by an international force. Of course Lord Halifax did not know on October 3 that Germany would "persuade" Czechoslovakia of the advisability of a direct settlement, hence that there would be no plebiscites, and hence that no international force would be called in to provide an international atmosphere. He might, as suggested above, have foreseen these developments. But he would naturally hope for the contrary; for it was on that hope, however baseless it now appears to have been, that the Chamberlain and Daladier Governments presented Munich to world opinion as an act in defense of Czechoslovakia's real interests and for the preservation of a European order founded on negotiation rather than force.
Lord Halifax also noted that the Godesberg memorandum, besides demanding that the Czechs turn over intact such things as commercial and utility plants and rolling stock in the ceded territories, also "provided that no foodstuffs, goods, cattle or raw materials were to be removed" by the Czechs; in contrast, he pointed out, the Munich Agreement merely bound the Czechoslovak Government not to damage existing "installations." Lord Halifax might have suspected that this term "installations" would lead to all sorts of disputes, and he might have foreseen, for the reasons already cited, that these disputes could only be settled (as rapidly proved to be the case) in Germany's favor. The ingenuity of whatever technician at Munich suggested the superbly ambiguous word "installations" evokes admiration. But Lord Halifax naturally did not dwell on this aspect of it in his speech. We must suppose, since he was not at Munich, that he did not understand to what extent the Agreement simply stuffed all the Godesberg demands about goods and machinery and food reserves and cattle into a single portmanteau expression.
In some relatively minor particulars Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax were entitled to praise the Munich settlement. But on the greater matters involved it is hard to accept their judgments. Appearance and substance seem too far apart.
The Munich Agreement met Hitler's Godesberg deadline: the military occupation of Sudeten territory began on the day he had fixed. The limits of the territory that must be turned over eventually were not fixed before the occupation began. Czechoslovakia was to be rendered helpless before she had a chance to decide whether the whole of what was asked of her was reasonable and acceptable.
True, there were two modifications in the Godesberg schedule. Part of the "predominantly German territory" fixed by fiat was to be absorbed by Germany in four rapid bites instead of one; the remainder (which came to be called Zone V) was to be delimited by an International Commission "forthwith," so that it could be taken over by German troops on October 10. The Commission would designate additional territories for plebiscites. The map issued in the supplementary "White Paper" which contained the Munich Agreement naturally could show only the four zones definitely scheduled for successive occupation beginning October 1. This map was widely printed in the world press. By comparison with the Godesberg map, also inserted in the "White Paper," it looked very fine. If the reader will turn to the map at the end of this article he will see that the net result was the same as Godesberg -- or, rather, more disadvantageous for Czechoslovakia.[xliv] Furthermore, since the arrival of the German data on which this map was compiled for FOREIGN AFFAIRS, the German occupation has been extended at several points. Chamberlain and Halifax, employing almost identical phraseology, praised the Munich Agreement for establishing as a criterion the "preponderantly German character" of the areas affected and for leaving the interpretation of that phrase to the International Commission. They compared this with the fact that the Godesberg line "took in some areas which were certainly not of a preponderantly German character." Yet the result of leaving the task of interpretation to the Commission was that the line as eventually drawn was worse for the Czechs than Godesberg. If Godesberg would admittedly have given Germany "some areas certainly not of a preponderantly German character," then Munich must have done so also -- and added to the number.
How did the Munich peacemakers propose to safeguard the independence of the rump Czechoslovak state which would remain after Germans, Poles and Hungarians each had taken their slice? This question had loomed very large in Mr. Chamberlain's protests against the Godesberg procedure. As if to show the secondary importance which it occupied at Munich it was dealt with in an Annex. The British and French Governments in this Annex stated that "they stand by the offer" made in the Anglo-French plan "relating to an international guarantee of the new boundaries of the Czechoslovak State against unprovoked aggression." What was the offer by which they were standing? Under the Anglo-French plan the British Government "would be prepared, as a contribution to the pacification of Europe, to join in an international guarantee of the new boundaries of the Czechoslovak State against unprovoked aggression." The words which I have italicized show how tentative the offer was. If an international guarantee did not materialize, Britain was not formally bound. In the same Annex, Germany and Italy said at Munich that they would give a guarantee to Czechoslovakia, but only after the question of the Polish and Hungarian minorities had been settled. Now England and France either were not willing to share responsibility for the drawing of Czechoslovakia's new frontiers with Poland and Hungary, or were not allowed to do so.[xlv] Nevertheless, the British guarantee to Czechoslovakia as contained in the Munich Agreement would not become formally operative until those other frontiers had been settled, until Germany and Italy declared themselves satisfied, and either announced their respective guarantees separately or, the more usual procedure, joined with England and France to embody the guarantee in a separate treaty. Indirectly, then, London added its pressure to the pressure which Berlin and Rome were exercising on Czechoslovakia to force her to yield territories to third parties not even mentioned in the Anglo-French plan or in the Godesberg memorandum. And pending the completion of that procedure no formal British guarantee existed. These considerations were not discussed in any detail by Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax.
The next day Sir Thomas Inskip said in Parliament, replying to Opposition questions, that the formal Treaty of Guarantee "has yet to be drawn up and completed in the normal way, and, as the Foreign Secretary has stated in another place, there are some matters which must await settlement between the Governments concerned." He proceeded: "Until that has been done, technically the guarantee cannot be said to be in force. His Majesty's Government, however, feel under a moral obligation to Czechoslovakia to treat the guarantee as being now in force. . . . His Majesty's Government would certainly feel bound to take all steps in their power to see that the integrity of Czechoslovakia is preserved." Let us leave aside the fact that a verbal statement by a Minister is not, anybody will agree, as solemnly binding as a direct written guarantee incorporated in a treaty with other nations signed by a Prime Minister. Consider the matter in a more practical light. Would a Czechoslovak appeal to Britain while Poland and Hungary were annexing Czechoslovak territory in October have elicited British military help? Obviously not. Those were the other matters awaiting settlement spoken of by Sir Thomas Inskip. The guarantee, then, was to come into effect later, if and when Czechoslovakia's enemies were ready to join in. Moral obligations were, in the circumstances, cold comfort to the Czechs. They concluded that the terms of the British undertaking must either have been so inadequately considered, or the paragraph of the Annex containing it so loosely drawn, that the guarantee amounted to much less in practice than perhaps Mr. Chamberlain sincerely intended should be the case.
Mr. Chamberlain confirmed this view on November 1 when he said that the question of the guarantee could not be "cleared up" (those were his words) until the whole question of minorities in Czechoslovakia had been settled. Referring to "our original offer" to enter into a new international guarantee, he said that "what the terms of that guarantee will be and who will be partakers in that guarantee is not a question on which I can give the House any further information today." He referred to the Inskip speech, but did not repeat the Inskip statement that a moral British commitment was already in existence. He did, however, add one very important observation, namely that Britain had never given a frontier guarantee, but simply a guarantee against unprovoked aggression. That, he remarked, was "quite a different thing." It was -- as different, in view of the relationship in which Czechoslovakia found herself towards her immediate neighbors, as insecurity and security, fact and fancy.
Mr. Chamberlain had protested to Hitler at the prospect of "panic flight" and in his solemn broadcast when war seemed imminent he had spoken of the necessity of safeguarding in advance those "who do not wish to join the German Reich." If he gave thought at Munich to the fate of the non-Nazis and anti-Nazis in the Sudetenland the question did not touch his imagination with any more effective result than it apparently touched Lord Runciman's a few weeks earlier. Not one phrase in the Agreement set any limits to the action which Hitler might take against persons falling into his power. If he felt like persecuting them to pay off racial or political grudges he was free to do so. There was eventually to be a right of option as to citizenship. Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax referred to it in their formal statements of October 3, but omitted to mention that the right was to be exercised not under the supervision of the International Commission but under a German-Czech commission. The Prime Minister's speech of November 1 rectified the omission, but added nothing to refute the criticism of Mr. Attlee that the protection of the optants clause was illusory. The fact is that the details were left fluid, would be settled only after Czechoslovakia had capitulated, and then would be carried out by a commission on which the Czech member could only, in the circumstances, bow and say "yes."
Even if the right of option is ever given practical application, and even if it then does not prove a farce in view of the Nazi pressure in the annexed areas, presumably it will be available only for Czechs and Slovaks. What will happen to anti-Nazi Germans and Jews? Was it "realistic" for the British and French negotiators at Munich to imagine, if they did imagine, that the German Reich would ever willingly let a single German go, even if he was in need of a long course of regeneration in a concentration camp? And certainly Czechoslovakia was in no frame of mind to risk German anger by receiving many German refugees. She had had too much trouble with a German minority to care about building up a new one. Besides, Prague was jammed, the whole national economy was dislocated, and even some Czechs who had fled from the Sudetenland were being shipped back there. In practical fact, then, for the miserable Germans who did not wish to become Nazis, and for the Jews, no security whatsoever was provided.
Over all the faults of the Munich Agreement the British and French apologists threw the cloak of the International Commission, consisting of Baron von Weizsaecker, of the German Foreign Office, the British, French and Italian Ambassadors in Berlin, and the Czech Minister. Its wide if extremely vague powers were put forward as the principal excuse for considering that the annexation ratified at Munich was not a surrender to force but an orderly transfer under international supervision.
The correspondent in Berlin of the London Times reported cryptically on October 5 that "sharp differences" had occurred between the Czech and German members of the Commission as to what constituted "predominantly German" districts. Mr. Joseph Driscoll, in London, was better informed. He telegraphed to the New York Herald-Tribune that same day that Ribbentrop had been insisting on using for a yardstick the ethnic situation as it had been in 1918 rather than the present situation, and that he had won his point. The next day the Commission announced its findings as to Zone V -- its first important public decision. Some of the areas which the Czechs were ordered to give up were very far from being "predominantly German" according to the Czechoslovak census of 1930. In desperation, the Czech Government protested directly to Mr. Chamberlain (cf. London Times, October 10). The exact terms of the telegram are not known; probably it was an appeal as well as a protest. Neither availed.
What had in fact happened was even more unfavorable to the Czechs than Mr. Driscoll had reported. Since the Germans would not accept the 1930 census figures the International Commission had fallen back on the census of 1910 -- 28 years old! Their excuse was that the Munich Agreement cited the Saar 1935 plebiscite as a model for the plebiscites planned for the Sudetenland.[xlvi] The Commission accepted the German demand that not merely the proposed plebiscites, but in addition quite different ethnic matters (even though these were covered in paragraphs of the Munich Agreement which did not mention the Saar) should also be settled on the analogy of the Saar. This was an arbitrary decision, and the way in which it was then interpreted was very curious. The Saar plebiscite was in general based on the residence of voters in the Saar on the date of the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. Since there was no way of deciding the ethnic complexion of the Sudeten areas at that same moment, the Commission decided to go back to 1910, the date of the last Austrian census, rather than forward to 1930, the date of the Czechoslovak census. In vain did the Czechs point out that in prewar Austria, to which the Sudetenland belonged, the figures were rigged against them. For example, all officials unless they were one hundred percent Czech were counted as German, and all Jews were counted as German. In addition, since the World War, many German-speaking people, former officials and others, had left the Sudetenland for Austria; and as a result of the breaking-up of the big feudal estates, many Czech agriculturists had moved in. So the prewar census did not give anything like a fair picture of existing fact. If this was considered irrelevant, the Czechs asked why a situation existing in an area of mixed population after 20 years of Czech rule was any more open to criticism than a situation existing after 300 years of Austrian rule?
The reader's attention is directed to the map appearing at the end of this article. Since this was prepared, the final German-Czech protocol of November 20 has transferred to Germany various additional small areas, scattered along the frontier shown here. Many of these areas are purely and typically Czech. But even on our map the solid black frontier line is seen to extend beyond the red Godesberg line to include several points which are interesting strategically or economically.[xlvii] In the end the Czech member bowed to the Committee's decision setting the 1910 census as the standard for judging the ethnic composition of disputable areas. Once that had been done there of course was no need for plebiscites. In all, when the Commission had finished delimiting the Fifth Zone, it had handed over to Germany 215 parishes which according to the 1910 Austrian census had possessed a Czech majority, or, according to the Czech 1930 census, 315 parishes.[xlviii] Subsequently, as already stated, other changes in the frontier have occurred. The total Czech minority handed over to the Reich as a result of Munich is now estimated to number some three-quarters of a million, though Mr. Chamberlain's optimistic figure on November 1 was "something like 580,000." The Germans still living scattered through Bohemia and Moravia number about 250,000. These figures reveal once again the difficulty of drawing any satisfactory line in mixed ethnic areas. But the strong indications are that where doubt existed the Germans have in general been given the benefit of it, and that in individual cases the reasons for neglecting the ethnic line have been strategic and economic.
It was when he discovered that England and France were going to support self-determination on a 28-year-old basis rather than on the basis of current fact that President Beneš determined to resign. He announced the fact to his "dear fellow citizens and friends" on October 5. When some of his military and other counsellors had appealed to him to throw the Czechoslovak Army, even at the last minute, into a desperate and probably hopeless resistance, he had refused. He still counted -- even when the surgeons were gathered around the Munich operating table -- on the British and French sense of fair play. Surely, he thought, they would secure a partitionment on a strictly ethnic line. His people were sacrificing the historic Bohemian frontiers and were losing the many hundred thousands of their brothers who lived mingled with Germans in the predominantly German areas. He hoped that unnecessary grounds for Czech resentment and future irredentism would not be laid. When it appeared that this consideration would not play a very important part in the discussions of the International Commission at Berlin it was too late to resist. Before the question of the census date had arisen plainly, and been settled in Germany's favor, the German troops already were moving into the first zones. The fortifications, with all their secrets, were in the enemy's hands. Precisely the situation which the Czechoslovak Government had foreseen, and against which Mr. Chamberlain himself had protested so eloquently between Godesberg and Munich, had now occurred. The terms and limits of the cession had not been fixed in advance. Czechoslovakia was crippled and helpless. While she still was strong her friends had not felt they should or could help her. Now that she was weak they watched, silent, as the procedure to which they had consented was carried to its logically inevitable conclusion.[xlix]
Of course President Beneš had other reasons to resign. If he remained in the office to which he had been constitutionally elected Germany could continue to penalize his country, perhaps by favoring the partition of Slovakia between Poland and Hungary. His resignation was couched in dignified terms, without rancor or reproach. He appealed for unity and quiet strength. "The crown of the tree which is our homeland has been cut off, but the roots of the nation stand fast in the soil." He left the country by airplane on October 22. Further to mark how completely the new Czechoslovak State differed from the Republic which since the war had stood as an island of democracy in Eastern Europe, the new Foreign Minister, Dr. Chvalkovsky, hastened to Berlin. Monuments and pictures of the Republic's two Presidents began to be removed. As the Prague papers put it, "We have finished with the Western Powers."
The International Commission faded rapidly from the picture. It took, or registered, other decisions, but none comparable in importance to its acceptance of the 1910 Austrian census. The Czechs had no further hope or trust in the Commission. They must face the hard fact that they now were defenseless vassals of a mighty neighbor who could exact any economic or political concession by merely threatening to take a few more of their villages or to close their trade outlets. The Germans had no more need of the Commission. England and France were glad to let their part in it pass rapidly and quietly into obscurity.
So much for Czechoslovakia.
Was Munich "peace for our time"? Appeasement if it means anything means satisfaction. Is Germany satisfied with her acquisition of a territory roughly the size of Belgium, close on the heels of her acquisition of Austria? Is her ally Italy satisfied? Viewing the present state of mind in those two countries, are the British and French people satisfied? Can we say that the Europe we survey at the close of 1938 is satisfactory all-around and that there is promise of sincere reconciliation, orderly evolution and peace?
The Munich honeymooners ran rapidly into some inclement weather.
Within a few days of the signing of the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German pact the German Minister of Economics, Walther Funk, was touring the Danubian and Balkan States, cashing in economically on Germany's new pivotal position in Europe. Back in Berlin from Ankara, Sofia and Belgrade, he reported on October 17 that he had "great economic reconstruction plans" for Jugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey, where there would be "extensive road construction and telephone and cable installation," and outlets also for German railway and bridge material and the products of Germany's machine and chemical industries. In return, he continued, "Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor possess almost everything Germany needs, especially ores," and he noted that they also could supply Germany with agricultural products. He had made a trade credit of 150,000,000 marks to Turkey. On October 18, still striking while the iron was hot, he extended another of about 60,000,000 marks to Poland. On October 25 the results of his visit to Belgrade materialized in a new German-Jugoslav trade treaty, planned to balance exports and imports and to fix a stable ratio between the mark and the dinar.
Obviously, it is too early to speak of complete German economic dominance in the Balkans as a foregone conclusion. Rumania, Jugoslavia, Bulgaria, even Hungary, have a good deal of will and some ability to resist. But the trend is plain. Mr. Chamberlain hastened to accept as natural Dr. Funk's erection of a German commercial juggernaut in Central and Southeastern Europe. For geographic reasons, he remarked on November 1, Germany must be considered as occupying "a dominating position" in that region. But there were men both in the City and in business who were less well satisfied. And across the Channel, some Frenchmen thought indignantly of the billions of francs spent since the war on arming France's protégés so that they might continue an independent political and economic existence, and of the sums devoted in those lands to propaganda on behalf of French trade and culture.
British discontent with German trade practices found sudden expression on November 30 in a frank statement by Robert S. Hudson, Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, that they were "destroying trade throughout the world." He noted that Germany was obtaining a "stranglehold" in Central and Southeastern Europe and elsewhere by paying more than the world price for wheat, barley, eggs and other commodities and by selling in exchange machinery and other German products at less than the world price. Germany was of course carrying on this unfair competition "at the expense of her own people." This was none of Britain's affair. But the wider aspects of the procedure certainly were, and if British industries could not secure fair competitive conditions they would have to say to Germany: "We will fight you and beat you at your own game."
British opinion, divided as to the effectiveness of Mr. Chamberlain's course in trying to pacify the dictators by kind words, concessions and pacts, united in annoyance when Chancellor Hitler, eagerly seconded by the controlled German press, began referring to all of Mr. Chamberlain's critics as war-mongers. The Fuehrer's speech at Saarbruecken on October 9 contained two extraordinary statements. The first was that "at the beginning of this year" he had "made a decision to lead back into the Reich 10,000,000 Germans who still stood outside." That remark branded as false all the Fuehrer's own statements made subsequent to January 1938 to the effect that he would respect the integrity and independence of Austria and Czechoslovakia. The other was a warning that the present leadership in England and France must not be changed if satisfactory relations with Germany were to continue. "In England," said Hitler, "it is merely necessary that instead of Chamberlain, a Duff Cooper or an Eden or a Churchill come into power. We know that the aim of these men would be to start war." The subsequent press campaign recalled the Italian vendetta of February against Mr. Eden. But this affair was even more aggravating. Direct instruction from the head of the German Reich as to who should or should not participate in the British Government was received in London with very poor grace.
On the heels of this came reports [l] that Germany, in return for holding to the ratio embodied in the Anglo-German naval treaty, was preparing to demand a 3-to-1 preponderance in the air. Hadn't the Anglo-German pact of September 30 referred to the naval treaty as symbolic of the desire of the two peoples never to go to war again? Would Hitler so soon call it into question by attempting to trade it off for concessions in the air? The reports were not verified, but they persisted and added to the restlessness of some sections of the British public. Nor was the sense of exacerbation diminished by fresh pressure in the German press for prompt attention to Germany's colonial demands, summed up in the October 29 statement of General von Epp, leader of the German Colonial League, that what was wanted was not a colony here and there but Germany's former colonial realm "as a whole."
In the Far East, too, Munich had repercussions. Seizing on Britain's moment of obvious weakness, the Japanese on October 12 landed troops in South China and attacked Canton, isolating the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong and cutting off China's last direct link with the sea. As a result, Hong Kong besides facing bankruptcy has become a liability strategically. In July both Chamberlain and Halifax had given Japan blunt warnings that British interests in China would be protected. Now all that happened when Japanese troops began operating outside Hong Kong was a "reminder" from the British Ambassador in Tokyo that Anglo-Japanese relations might be disturbed.[li] The Far Eastern ally of Germany and Italy had chosen her moment well. The success enabled the Japanese extremists to settle themselves more firmly than ever in the saddle. Their next step was to slam shut the door in China which western Powers had liked to think was still ajar.
Then with a crash burst the campaign of anti-Jewish atrocities, unleashed throughout Germany at a given hour one night in retaliation for the assassination in Paris of a German diplomat by a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy who had seen his family pauperized and shunted from pillar to post by the Nazis. Horror and disgust swept in a wave across the civilized world. Nowhere was the reaction more instantaneous and sincere than in England. Even Hitler's best friends were surprised and shocked by the pogrom and by the official decrees which followed the mob violence. The Marquess of Londonderry, inveterate apologist for German actions and ambitions, denounced as "detestable" what Hitler had ordered or permitted to occur in his rigidly controlled state.[lii] He still was for peace through the establishment of personal contact between the leaders of the Four Great Powers; but he was plainly on the defensive, and stated clearly that if Britain ever were "faced with a policy of truculence and threats," and could not overcome it by the policy she had tried to follow, namely peace based on friendship and a "helping hand," then she would adopt another policy in return, namely one of truculence and vehement protestation. And Lord Baldwin, who thought on October 4 that "there was nothing else on earth" that his successor Mr. Chamberlain could have done in September except go to Berchtesgaden, expressed on December 8 what his feelings had been when "like a bolt from the blue" he found "world misery" at "our very doors." He appealed for funds to help relieve the explosion in Germany of "man's inhumanity to man" -- to help find for thousands of men, women and children "despoiled of their goods, driven from their homes" some "hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest." The German press replied elegantly by calling him some of the names they had called President Benes.
In France less concern was evident, at least in the press, over the latest wave of Jewish atrocities. Traditional French hospitality to political and racial refugees, though severely strained by previous influxes of unfortunates, and dampened somewhat by the Government's quite frank desire not to offend the Reich, nevertheless still survived. There probably was no less worry in France than in England over the post-Munich international outlook. But social questions engaged public attention; and the general relief that peace had been preserved, and the abstinence of great sections of the French press from any really critical appraisal of the results of the Daladier Government's foreign policy, for a time held anxiety in check. As in England, the sponsors of the Munich Agreement kept up a good front. M. Bonnet, addressing an enthusiastic assemblage of his constituents at Perigueux on October 8, sought to allay French regrets over what had happened to Czechoslovakia. "One criticism I cannot accept," he said, "and that is that France broke her word. That is not true. We never swerved from our attitude. We said: 'If Germany resorts to force, France will carry out her pledges of assistance.' We also said we would seek by every means to avoid such a resort to force and to obtain a peaceful solution of the Sudeten German problem" (Temps, October 10). On October 27 M. Daladier, breaking with the more leftist sections of the former Popular Front, maintained a similar thesis: "I cannot permit anyone to speak of the capitulation of France. . . . What was done at Munich was a rational act."
On both sides of the Channel rearmament meanwhile continued, and on both sides of the Rhine. The 500,000 men engaged on work along Germany's western frontier were reported still busy with new fortifications. Along her new frontier to the east she was seizing the opportunity to test out her heaviest guns against the Czech "Maginot line" to demonstrate their efficiency in reducing modern concrete fortifications. Italy, though foreseeing a deficit of 4,755,000,000 lire in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1939, planned expenditures on air, naval and land forces aggregating 2,485,000,000 lire more than in the current year. The new French armaments budget recommended by the Finance Committee of the Chamber of Deputies was larger than for the preceding year. So was the naval budget, with a good part of the increase earmarked for new construction. In England, assurances were given in the House of Commons that aviation shortages and defects in anti-aircraft defenses brought to light in the September crisis would be immediately remedied. The Air Ministry announced on November 10 that it will increase its expenditures by 75 percent in the fiscal year beginning April 1, not including the sums needed for civilian defenses or anti-aircraft equipment. The prediction that Mr. Chamberlain would soon be forced to announce conscription, despite his October 6 promise never to do so in time of peace, has not been fulfilled as these lines are written; instead, a volunteer "national register" has been opened by Sir John Anderson, new Minister for Civilian Defense. It remains to be seen whether the pounding of critics like Winston Churchill and Lloyd George will finally shake the present cabinet from the lethargy which marked the rearmament activities of the Baldwin régime.[liii] Some of the firm things which Mr. Chamberlain has been allowing his cabinet ministers to say recently give ground to suppose a change is on the way. For example, Earl De La Warr, President of the Board of Education, on December 4 spoke of the "deep and growing feeling" that there really was nothing Britain could do to satisfy German discontent, that "friendly words and friendly actions are mistaken for cowardice and that only armaments can speak effectively."
In November it began to be reported that France and Germany were ready to sign a pact of friendship similar to the one Chamberlain and Hitler had signed at Munich. Mussolini probably had his own opinion as to just how much that sort of a pact amounted to. But it must have seemed to him a good moment to make plain once again, in Berlin as well as in Paris and London, his high "nuisance value" as make-weight between Germany and the two great democracies. At any rate, on November 30 there suddenly exploded in Italy a great campaign for the acquisition of French territories in the Mediterranean. In a Chamber where no mouse would dare squeak without Mussolini's permission, deputies stood and shouted for several minutes on end for the annexation of Tunisia, Corsica, Nice and Savoy. Everyone in the Chamber, excepting only the Ministers on their benches and the foreign diplomats and journalists in the galleries, joined in this amazing manifestation which was started and stage-managed by Roberto Farinacci, former Secretary-General of the Fascist Party. His first cry -- "Tunisia, Tunisia" -- was taken up by Achille Starace, present Secretary-General of the Party, who added "Corsica" for good measure. Then came the shouts for "Nice" and "Savoy." The President of the Chamber, Admiral Ciano, father of the Foreign Minister, joined in the demonstration. Count Ciano himself on the speaker's tribune remained impassive. Premier Mussolini sat immobile, "staring straight ahead," reported Arnaldo Cortesi, "his teeth clenched and his arms crossed over his chest." The next day, the Leghorn Telegrafo, personal organ of Count Ciano, said over the signature of its chief writer on foreign affairs that this all was in the spirit and according to the principle of Munich. Citing Munich as precedent, the writer said injustices must be repaired and frontiers rectified so as to bring about "a better distribution of European and colonial territories." The Corriere della Sera announced that Munich had not resolved all Europe's problems and that "the Munich method can and should again be applied, and with equal success." Some of the additional places mentioned in the papers for attention were Jibuti, Suez and Majorca. Lavoro Fascista announced threateningly that "anyone wishing to be Italy's friend must repair the injuries done her." Virginio Gayda, bellwether of Italian journalists, called Munich merely the starting point of work "begun, but not finished." The Italian nation is "ready for anything," he said, even "if necessary" to march against France.
What did all this really signify? Some thought it nothing more than a diversion staged in Rome to facilitate Hitler's next drive towards the east. Danzig and Memel had been ripened in the Nazi hothouse and were about ready for plucking. The stage for larger-scale action in the same direction was being set by a German press campaign about the hardships of the Ukrainians, divided among three harsh taskmasters, Russians, Poles and Rumanians. But such an interpretation makes Signor Mussolini out more altruistic than is usually the case with dictators. Was not Mussolini, rather, reminding Hitler that the pay-off for his acquiescence in the Austrian annexation and his help at Munich was due and overdue? Nuisance value can only be maintained if one is never too securely in any camp. Since German troops reached the Brenner, the Duce may be very much Hitler's number two. But he must seek to remind him from time to time that he might conceivably shift over if among the fruits of "appeasement" there is not some plum at last for him.
Some of the other events of the late autumn have been perplexing, especially to students of Anglo-French relations. Only two weeks after England had belatedly signed the agreement with Italy which binds both countries to respect the status quo in the Western Mediterranean, the Italian campaign for French lands in that region was opened in the Italian Chamber. It was disavowed by the Fascist Government but continued in the government-controlled press. On December 3, accepting the disavowal, Mr. Chamberlain announced he would go to Rome in January for a talk with Signor Mussolini. Some interpreted this as a hint to Hitler that Chamberlain was just a shade disappointed at the way Germany had been living up to the spirit of Munich. Then on December 6 M. Bonnet received Herr Ribbentrop in Paris, and the two Foreign Ministers put their signatures to the following brief document:
"1. The French Government and the German Government share fully the conviction that pacific and good neighborly relations between France and Germany constitute one of the essential elements in the consolidation of the situation in Europe and the maintenance of general peace. The two governments will in consequence use their best endeavor to assure the development of relations between their two countries in this direction.
"2. The two governments take note that between their countries no question of a territorial order remains in suspense and they solemnly recognize as definitive the frontier between their two countries as it is at present established.
"3. The two governments are resolved, under the reservation of their special relations with third party powers, to remain in contact on all questions interesting their two countries and to consult together mutually in the event that any ulterior evolution of these questions might risk leading to international difficulties.
"In faith whereof the representatives of the two governments have signed the present declaration, which enters into effect immediately."
The German Foreign Minister, who had been practically smuggled into Paris, sped to the Quai d'Orsay through streets where the crowds stood stolid and silent. Not a Nazi flag flew. The ceremony took place in the Salon de l'Horloge. In that same room M. Briand, Mr. Kellogg and the representatives of other peace-loving states had set their hands in 1928 to a pact outlawing war. The Kellogg-Briand Pact bound its signatories to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. The Franco-German declaration of 1938 recognizes the German-French frontier as definitive and beyond that merely obligates the two countries to consult over differences which may arise, reserving by implication the right to fall back on war as a last resort. Mr. P. J. Philip certainly did not exaggerate when he telegraphed his paper that "peace between two nations was never registered more simply."
Although Mr. Chamberlain had been at pains to assure M. Daladier that the Anglo-German accord did not in the slightest degree affect the Anglo-French alliance we may not unreasonably suppose that Hitler hoped it might have precisely that effect. At least Berlin may have reasoned it would worry France into joining hands with Germany on something like Germany's own terms -- first and foremost, probably, by the final annihilation of the Franco-Russian mutual assistance treaty, long Germany's No. 1 desiderata. And indeed in his tirade against the Communists on October 27 M. Daladier took a long step in that direction. Had it been one of Hitler's prerequisites to a Franco-German treaty? That treaty, in turn, may have been planned in Berlin to have a chilling effect on Anglo-French relations, or at least to worry England into slackening her criticism of some features of German domestic policy and perhaps into adopting a more helpful attitude towards Germany's colonial demands. But on the whole the Anglo-French entente does not seem so far to have suffered. It is fair to say on Daladier's behalf that in authorizing the signature of the treaty with Germany he was no more than paying back Chamberlain for the Anglo-German pact and for the Anglo-Italian Treaty of last spring, called into effect this autumn, Paris couldn't help thinking, at a rather inappropriate moment.
Above all, Berlin attempted by the Anglo-German pact to divert England from Central and Eastern Europe. And in fact, in a speech already quoted, Mr. Chamberlain did actually describe that region as one where Germany would naturally be expected to be dominant. Similarly, Berlin attempted by the Franco-German pact to divert France from Central and Eastern Europe. This was less necessary than before the eclipse of France's former protégé, Czechoslovakia, but the Soviet-French Treaty still remains in existence, at least on paper, and its final extinction ranks high among German aims. Each of the two pacts supplements the other. Italy, meanwhile, emphasizes her nuisance value and the importance of her rôle in a possible conflict between her partner of the Rome-Berlin axis and the democracies. Still united in blackmail -- as in the Ethiopian crisis, the Czech crisis and throughout the Spanish civil war -- each aims at securing the maximum rewards for itself without straining the partnership too far.
What judgment is one to give, in such circumstances, on the policy of appeasement? An American, be it repeated, must try to avoid moralizing. But must he accept the policy as having been expedient? The American Ambassador at the Court of St. James' seems to do so. Urging that differences between democratic and dictator governments be not allowed to grow into "unrelenting" antagonisms, he remarked on October 19 that "after all, we have to live in the same world whether we like it or not." Observers not so close to 10 Downing Street see difficulties in a live-and-let-live policy in a world where others do not reciprocate good feelings and soft actions. Might not Mr. Chamberlain have done better to adopt a motto implying more reciprocity than "appeasement"? After all, one can feel that by September 29 something like the Munich Agreement had become the only alternative to open hostilities without feeling that the policy which pointed toward Munich necessarily was expedient in February, or in July, or in August, or when Chamberlain decided to "come across" to meet Hitler face-to-face at Berchtesgaden, or in the days immediately thereafter, or even in the more doubtful period after Godesberg. Would a bolder choice of the sort of a world in which Englishmen have traditionally shown that they do positively like to live, rather than acquiescence in the idea that they must live in a different sort of world "whether they like it or not," have won the former and staved off the latter? The possibility is suggestive for Americans who see some such eventual choice before them too.
Certain general disadvantages in the Chamberlain method which Mr. Kennedy's phrase unconsciously indicated have become even plainer since he spoke. How will what was done to Czechoslovakia at Munich affect the sanctity of international contracts, not as moral instruments but as the incarnation of a rule of law? What sort of engagements will European states henceforth consider as possessing any particular value? What, further, becomes of the idea of sovereignty? The principle of self-determination, taken into account by the authors of the Treaty of Versailles along with historical, economic and strategic factors, often is in conflict with the concept of national sovereignty. What consequences will the recent application of the principle of self-determination have for nations like England and France, which can establish no possible ethnic claim to ownership over their far-flung possessions?
There has been no fighting -- at least over Czechoslovakia, though of course in Spain and China undeclared international war has been raging as bloodily as if it had been punctiliously announced. For the avoidance of bloodshed over Czechoslovakia the peoples of Europe give thanks, and Americans with them. Furthermore, so long as a war has not actually begun it always may in some manner be avoided altogether. But viewed from the western side of the Atlantic the situation today prevailing in Europe does not seem to be so much peace as an armistice. Even Mr. Chamberlain must feel like saying with the Psalmist, "I labor for peace, but when I speak unto them thereof they make them ready to battle."
[i] Speaking in the House as long ago as March 8, 1934, Prime Minister Baldwin said that if his hopes of an air convention failed, "then any Government of this country -- a National Government more than any, and this Government -- will see to it that in air strength and air power this country shall no longer be in a position inferior to any country within striking distance of our shores." Throughout the Baldwin régime and into Chamberlain's there were uniformly reassuring government replies to attacks by Winston Churchill and others who questioned the efficiency with which Baldwin's promise was being executed.
[ii] I am indebted to the indispensable "Bulletin of International News," founded in London in 1924 by J. W. Wheeler-Bennett; and, among the dispatches from many competent newspapermen in Prague, in particular to those from G. E. R. Gedye of the New York Times.
[iii] "The preservation of the League is the keystone of our policy because the first object of that policy is the establishment of settled peace and the League alone can give us peace by the collective action of its members. We have, therefore, made it clear that, while we shall take no action apart from others, we intend to fulfil our obligations under the Covenant in common with our fellow-members. Only in this way can we make it plain to would-be aggressors that it does not pay to attack another nation in violation of engagements solemnly undertaken." (Neville Chamberlain at Birmingham, November 2, 1935.)
[iv] Approved English translations (M. Müller & Sohn, Berlin).
[v] Interview with Otto D. Tolischus, New York Times, November 19, 1937.
[vi] For a description of the agreement on procedure reached between the Government and the "Activist" Parties on February 18, 1937, and of six bills presented in Parliament in May 1937 by the Sudeten German Party, see "The German Minority in Czechoslovakia," by R. W. Seton-Watson, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1938.
[vii] Based on reports in the New York Times and London Times, April 25, 1938.
[viii] As publication of the Sudeten Memorandum revealed on July 19.
[ix] The first intimation that Stoyadinovitch would approve such a development in Czechoslovak policy came during the Little Entente meeting in the spring of 1937, following the signature of the Italo-Jugoslav Treaty. Then on Easter Day, 1938, a leading article in the Belgrade newspaper Vreme, the director of which is Stoyadinovitch's brother, pointed out the wisdom of Jugoslavia's course vis-à-vis Italy and implied that Czechoslovakia would be wise to adopt a similar attitude toward Germany.
[x] New York Times, August 3, 1938.
[xi] Based on the official summary, published in the London Times, September 10, 1938.
[xii] Lord Runciman's report of September 21 to the Prime Minister, Document No. 1 in the British "White Paper" (Cmd. 5847), published September 28.
[xiii] Chamberlain speech of September 28.
[xiv] For the text of the Anglo-French plan see the "White Paper," Document No. 2.
[xv] The report was in Chamberlain's hands on September 21. It was published in the "White Paper" on September 28.
[xvi] It was not until October 31 that Lord Runciman was named Lord President of the Council.
[xvii] The text of the instructions sent Mr. Newton were presented to the House of Commons on October 5 by Mr. Butler, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in an effort to end discussion as to the nature of the démarche made in Prague early on September 21. Sir Samuel Hoare on October 2 had characterized a summary of what Mr. Newton and M. Lacroix had said, circulated by Professor Seton-Watson and corresponding closely to the summary printed above, as "in almost every respect a totally inaccurate description." This had not caused Professor Seton-Watson to retract his statement; on the contrary, he reaffirmed its accuracy, and has done so again subsequently in an article "Munich and After" in the November Fortnightly. Nor do the instructions read by Mr. Butler in the House give reason to question its reliability, for they direct Mr. Newton to point out that the Czech reply "in no way meets the critical situation" and to press the Czech Government "to consider urgently and seriously before producing a situation for which we could take no responsibility." That threat is specific. As noted above, the parallel French instructions to M. Lacroix have not been published, nor the reports of either Mr. Newton or M. Lacroix regarding the action they took.
[xviii] Cf. dispatch of John T. Whitaker from Prague, September 19, to Chicago Daily News.
[xix] "White Paper," Document No. 3.
[xx] "White Paper," Document No. 4.
[xxi] "White Paper," Document No. 5.
[xxii] This is the date given in the text published in the "White Paper." The actual meeting at Berchtesgaden was on September 15. Perhaps Chamberlain was referring to some unrevealed understanding of September 14 preliminary to his agreement to go to Berchtesgaden the next day.
[xxiii] The map inserted at the end of the present article shows in a solid red line the limits of the area which Hitler demanded must be ceded to Germany outright, and in a broken red line the limits of the additional plebiscite areas.
[xxiv] "White Paper," Document No. 6.
[xxv] "White Paper," Document No. 7.
[xxvi] Cf. "L'avis que les chefs militaires ont donné au gouvernement français," Europe Nouvelle, September 24.
[xxvii] "White Paper," Document No. 8.
[xxviii] Cf. The statement by Count Ciano in the Italian Chamber, November 30.
[xxix] "White Paper," Document No. 9.
[xxx] See Count Ciano's speech in the Chamber, November 30.
[xxxi] The text was printed September 27 in the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Manchester Guardian, etc., and in the American press. It appeared that afternoon in the Temps.
[xxxii] These quotations are taken from Europe Nouvelle of October 1 and 8.
[xxxiii] "Action" was the word used by Chamberlain on September 28. "General mobilization" was his expression on October 3. The latter does not sound very important in view of the masses of German troops already under arms. But general mobilization closes the frontiers and monopolizes rail and road transport for the army. The threat, whether of general mobilization or of "action" against Czechoslovakia, was what induced the British Embassy in Berlin on Tuesday to advise British newspapermen and other nationals to leave the country that night.
[xxxiv] "White Paper," Document No. 10.
[xxxv] "Mein Kampf," p. 699.
[xxxvi] Cf. Europe Nouvelle of October 1. The same magazine on October 8 pointed out that meanwhile news of the mobilization of the British Fleet had reached Berlin.
[xxxvii] Yet the Liberté on September 30, two days after Chamberlain's speech, is quoted in Europe Nouvelle as reporting the following dialogue between M. Marin and M. Daladier. Marin: "The news of the German mobilization?" Daladier: "False." Marin: "The Reuter dispatch of that night?" Daladier: "False." And Europe Nouvelle quotes Marcel Déat as still speaking in the République of October 1 of the "invented" press reports about the "ultimatum" of September 28. Obviously Europe Nouvelle, the editor of which is "Pertinax," has become an indispensable guide to the nuances of French opinion. Curiously, Mr. P. J. Philip's dispatch to the New York Times under date of October 3, the day before Daladier went before the Chamber, stated that during the pre-Munich negotiations "denial had to be made of a statement purporting to come from the British Foreign Office that Britain and Russia would, if France became involved in a war, immediately put their whole forces at her side." Mr. Philip said Daladier would have to make clear the next day -- "and Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet will be his witness" -- that "at no time during the negotiations did the British Government make any unconditional promise." Mr. Philip's dispatch the next day, though it devoted over two columns of comment to Daladier's speech, did not mention the Premier's statement, already quoted, confirming that there had in fact been an official British information to the press.
[xxxviii] Premier Daladier succeeded in avoiding summoning the French Parliament throughout the crisis; in fact it did not meet from June 17 to October 4. The last general debate on foreign affairs in the French Chamber had been February 25-28, before the Anschluss.
[xxxix] Contained in a second "White Paper" (Cmd. 5848), Document No. 1.
[xl] Second "White Paper," Document No. 2.
[xli] Cf. Anne O'Hare McCormick and Arthur Krock in the New York Times, October 31 and November 1, 1938.
[xlii] Second "White Paper," Document No. 4.
[xliii] The four zones indicated on the map were as follows: The first was in the south, up to the outskirts of Krumau; the second consisted of the northern salients of Rumburg and Friedland and extended far enough south to include Bodenbach and to come to the outskirts of Reichenberg; the third consisted of the western tip of Czechoslovakia as far as Kaaden, including such towns as Asch, Eger, Marienbad, Karlsbad and Joachims thal; and the fourth was an area in the north further east than Zone II, including the Friedeberg salient and the towns of Freiwaldau, Freudenthal and Jaegerndorf. (See map inserted at the end of this article.)
[xliv] I shall not pause to describe economic aspects of the situation created. For these see Miss Wiskemann's article in this same issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS entitled "Czechs and Germans After Munich." The east-and-west railway connecting Bohemia and Moravia has been cut. The railway along the Moravia connecting Prague and Bratislava has been cut by giving Germany the almost purely Czech town and junction of Lundenburg (Břeclav). To mitigate some of the resulting economic distress, Mr. Chamberlain announced on October 3 that a loan of £10,000,000 would at once be made available to the Czechoslovak Government.
[xlv] Poland's new frontiers with Czechoslovakia were settled after a Polish ultimatum to Prague. Germany and Italy fixed the Hungarian-Czechoslovak frontiers by an "arbitration award" at Vienna, November 2. In both cases certain purely strategic or economic considerations seem to have played a part. In the Teschen district, Poland acquired about 80,000 Poles, 120,000 Czechs and 30,000 Germans. But all this is another story.
[xlvi] Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax had stated on October 3 that this meant the vote was to be taken "by small administrative areas." They said nothing to suggest that this mention of the Saar had any other applicability or referred to any other portions of the Munich Agreement.
[xlvii] Cf. Miss Wiskemann's article "Czechs and Germans After Munich" in this issue.
[xlviii] Central European Observer, October 28.
[xlix] The real implications of Munich, especially the manner in which the International Commission would function (e.g. choice of the 1910 census) were of course not known to the British Parliament when on October 6 it voted confidence in Mr. Chamberlain 366 to 144. Only about 20 government supporters showed their disapproval by abstaining, but among them were important leaders, including Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill, Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, Brigadier-General E. L. Spears, former Colonial Secretary L. S. Amery, and Alfred Duff Cooper, who had resigned October 3 in protest against a policy of allowing one great Power "in disregard of treaty obligations, of the laws of nations and the decrees of morality to dominate by brutal force the Continent of Europe." In the House of Lords effective criticism of the policy which led to Munich was voiced by Lord Cecil, Lord Lytton and Lord Lloyd.
[l] See, for example, the three articles by "Augur," Ferdinand Kuhn, Jr., and Frederick T. Birchall in the New York Times, October 14 and 15.
[li] New York Times, July 28 and October 13, 1938.
[lii] Associated Press dispatch of December 1. The word "detestable" does not appear in the London Times report of the proceedings in the Lords, but the substance of the speech appears.
[liii] An official of the Home Office, Wilfrid G. Eady, was reported (New York Times, October 31) to have stated publicly, referring to air precautions, that "we are not prepared, we have hardly begun to prepare, we don't know how all the failures that occurred during the crisis can be avoided next time."