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The Thirties

October 8, 2012
By Ellayne Conyers , Marshall Independent

Part VII:

"Those who welcomed the Munich Agreement felt that it stood for the triumph of commonsense. Conciliation was better than war. Its opponents (and they were few in 1938) saw it as the surrender of France and Britain to fear.

In March 1938, German tanks entered Vienna and Hitler announced, in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, the union of Germany and Austria. France and Britain did nothing, though the union, known as the Anschluss, made Czechoslovakia vulnerable. The spotlight fell upon the Sudetenland. This was an area of Czechoslovakia containing three million German speaking inhabitants, a discontented minority whose leaders demanded union with Germany.

Hitler encouraged them, Dr. Benes, President of Czechoslovakia felt sure he could rely on the protection of France and Britain. Indeed, Daladier, the French premier, declared that France would fight if the Czecks were attacked. Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, refused to join him in issuing a warning to Hitler. He believed that the best way to keep peace was to give the Germans what they wanted.

All that summer, the Sudeten question was kept on the boil. In September, Chamberlain flew to Germany for urgent discussions with Hitler. As a result, Britain and France informed Benes he must hand over all areas with a German-speaking population of over 50 percent. Benes bravely refused, whereupon Hitler stepped up his demands; the French Army and The British Fleet began to mobilize and the Czechs stood ready to fight. It seemed as if Hitler's bluff had been called. But he sensed that Britain and France would not fight for Czechoslovakia. So he pushed on to the brink, uttering threats and abuse until war appeared certain. Once, again, Chamberlain intervened to call a Four Power meeting at Munich to settle the Sudeten problem. On 30 September, Hitler, Daladier, Mussolini and Chamberlain agreed on the areas which were to be handed over at once. The Czechs were not even consulted. Their country was betrayed. Munich strengthened the Nazi fanatics. Once again, Hitler had proved himself more knowing and daring than the generals. Germany - and Italy, too - were drawn along in his wake. Chamberlain was taken aback by the anger of the British people who at last realized they had been duped. Britain and France announced they would resist aggression in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Moreover, Britain would stand by France in support of Poland with whom Hitler was already picking a quarrel."

"Could the war which began on 1 September 1939, have been averted? Was its outbreak due to Polish obstinacy, to British blundering or to Hitler's unappeasable aggression? After Munich, there was just one grievance left over from Versailles. The Polish Corridor separated East Prussia from Germany. Danzig, with a German population, was a Free City whose inhabitants were clamouring to be taken into the Fatherland. Hitler was determined to settle the Polish question, which meant of course that Danzig must be handed over, along with a right of way through the Corridor. The Poles were informed of this in March 1939 and Colonel Beck, their Foreign Minister, replied with a blank 'No.' Nor did he consult the Western Powers, knowing that they sympathized with Germany over Danzig and would urge concession.

Chamberlain's reaction was astounding. On 31 March, he gave Poland a guarantee of support against aggression, ignoring the fact that it would be impossible to render any assistance, unless Britain was on friendly terms with Russia. Nevertheless, he must have thought that the guarantee, backed by France, would bring Hitler to his senses. In fact, Hitler told his generals to prepare to attack Poland in September and, for the moment, he repeated his demands for settlement over Danzig. Britain's next move was a belated approach to Russia for an 'understanding' rather than a firm alliance. Discussion was dragging on half-heartedly when a bombshell exploded. With horrified disbelief, the world learnt that Germany and Russia had signed a non-aggression pact!The Nazi and Communist dictators had come together. Britain at once concluded an Anglo-Polish treaty, but it was certain that Poland must give way over Danzig. France and Britain certainly wanted her to do so, but Beck still refused. On Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the attack. Two days later, to honor the treaty she had made, Britain declared war on Germany and France followed suit."

And so ended the '30s, a prelude to the 1940s which eventually pulled the United States, first into war with Japan after Japan's attack on Peal Harbor, and later to join Britain in its war against the Nazis.

SOURCE: "The '30s," by R.J. Unstead



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