The Czech Crisis of 1938
A former republic in central Europe; divided into Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
Czech Crisis
A crisis that started in 1938 when Germany threatened the independence of Czechoslovakia.
German Nazi dictator during World War II (1889-1945).
Leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.
British statesman who as Prime Minister pursued a policy of appeasement toward fascist Germany (1869-1940) .
Born June 18, 1884, in Carpentras; died Oct. 11,1970, in Paris. French politician and statesman.
Italian Fascist leader after World War I; created first fascist government based on aggressive foreign policy and new nationalist glories.

Czechoslovakia Fact File

Czechoslovakia was a powerful well defended state in central Europe, rich in resources and industry. It was a successful democracy created by the Treaty of St Germain. The Treaty of Saint-Germain, was signed on 10 September 1919 by the victorious Allies of World War I on the one hand and by the new Republic of Austria. Like the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, it contained the Covenant of the League of Nations and as a result was not ratified by the United States. The treaty declared that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was to be dissolved. The new Republic of Austria, consisting of most of the German-speaking Alpine part of the former Austrian Empire, but not the German-speaking Sudetenland, nor South Tyrol, recognized the independence of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs.

Its population is 14 million consisting different nationalities, each with its own language and culture. Including 7 million Czechs, 2 million Slavs, 3.5 million Sudeten Germans and many Magyars, Rumanians, and Poles. Ever since Czechoslovakia was created in 1919, there had been conflict between those nationalities. The most serious conflicts involved the Slovaks and the Germans, who disliked the fact that the Czechs controlled the country.

Czechoslovakia at that time was the world's 6th largest industrial employer and the world's 7th largest arms manufacturer.

A week after the occupation of Austria in 1938 a major crisis, known as the Czech Crisis began in central Europe, when Germany threatened the independence of Czechoslovakia. On this occasion the major powers of Europe came to the brink of war with Germany.

Slovakia's Position

Hitler turned his attention to Czechoslovakia

Adolf Hitler

Born: 20 April 1889 Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary.

Died: 30 April 1945(1945-04-30) (aged 56) Berlin, Germany.

Nationality: Austrian citizen until 7 April 1925. German citizen after 1932.

Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (1921–1945).

Signature: 183px-Hitler_Signature2.svg.png

Hitler had many reasons to dislike Czechoslovakia.
  • Many Slavs lived in Czechoslovakia and they had opposed the German rule in the old Austrian empire. They had deserted the Germans in WW1 to fight for the Russians.
  • Czechoslovakia was a successful democratic state created by the Treaty of St Germain hated as much as the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Czechoslovakia proved that different ethnic races could live successfully together. Hitler hated that idea.
  • Czechs supported the League of Nations very keenly.
  • Czechs were allied to France and Russia- Germany's sworn enemies.
  • The Czechs had beaten Germany in the semi finals of the World Cup. Hitler didn't like this.

Why does it have to be Czechoslovakia?

There are many reasons why Hitler decided to invade Czechoslovakia. Here are some reasons.

  • Czechoslovakia was the only really democratic state created by the hated Versailles settlement.
  • 3 million Germans lived in the West Sudetenland, including Oskar Schindler.
  • This area gave the new state a strong natural frontier in the form of mountains.
  • The airfields of the Sudetenland could be used as bases for the allied bomber raids if Czechoslovakia remained free.

Czechoslovakia's Defence Strengths

Czechoslovakia had strong natural frontier which is the encircling mountain chain. They had border fortified with many defensive structures. Their army was well organised and efficient. They had large armaments industry including the famous Skoda works. The Airfields in Czechoslovakia could be used by France and Russia.

Czechoslovakia's Defence Weaknesses

The Czechs were allied to France and Russia. France wasn't a reliable ally and Russia might be reluctant to take on Germany alone. Also, Russia couldn't get through Poland or Rumania to reach Czechoslovakia.

Sudeten Germans

Czechoslovakia proved that ethnically different people could live together, an idea that was anathema to the Nazis. However the Sudeten Germans had completely failed to fit into the new Czechoslovakia. Even before Hitler took power in Germany, Nazi ideas began to take root among them. The Nazi movement was led by a power-hungry PE teacher called Konrad Henlein.

Sudeten Women Welcoming Hitler

The Sudeten German Party

Konrad Henlein: A former PE teacher, he was the leader of the Sudeten German Party who supported Hitler

Born: May 6, 1898(1898-05-06) Maffersdorf, Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Died: May 10, 1945(1945-05-10) (aged 47) Pilsen, Bohemia, Germany.

The Sudeten German Party was led by Konrad Henlein - a former P.E. teacher. The party was secretly financed by the German Nazi Party. They were against democracy. They thought that it was a weak system. They thought of themselves as the members of the great cultural community of Germans. Their main demand was for the Sudetenland to be transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany. The new party was a great success, winning more votes in a 1935 general election than any other party. Despite the Party's popularity, the Czech governmnet refused to give the Sudetenland to Germany. If it did so, the other nationality ( Slovaks, Poles, Magyars and Ruthenes) would demand independence that would lead to the break up of Czechoslovakia.

As you can see from the map, the Sudentenland contained valuable resources as well as the country's main border defences. Czechoslovakia simply couldn't afford to lose these.


Hitler's Intention

To cause so much trouble in the Sudetenland that Hitler would have to intervene to prevent a Civil War. Hitler persuade everyone that he was concerned about the Sudeten Germans and not the territory.

The May Crisis

Germany had been holding exercises close to the Czech border. The Czechs felt threatened and moved troops up to the border. This mobilization threatened world peace.

This was just what Hitler wanted as he could use it as an excuse to claim that Germany was being threatened and would have to act in self-defence.

However Hitler was stunned by the reaction of Britain, France and Russia.

  • Britain, France and Russia warned Hitler of the dangers of war if Czechoslovakia was attacked.
  • France and Russia reaffirmed their treaty obligations to Czechoslovakia.
  • Hitler had no other choice but to back down. He said he had no aggressive intent towards the Czechs. This was a major humiliation and made Hitler even more determined to attack in the near future.

Summary of the May Crisis

  • Hitler had probably not intended to invade at this time but now he was even more determined than before to invade Czechoslovakia.
  • Allies didn’t learn the right lesson – that standing up to Hitler had positive results but they blamed Benes( President of Czechoslovakia) for bringing about the crisis.

The Nuremberg Rally

Hitler addressed the German people in Nuremberg, telling them that the Sudeten Germans were being mistreated in Czechoslovakia. He made war seem inevitable because something had to be done at once to help the persecuted people.

The Effect of the Nuremberg Rally

  1. The Sudeten Germans could see the searchlights from the rally and hear the shouting and chanting.
  2. People started rioting in the Sudetenland.
  3. Martial Law was declared in the Sudetendland and Czech troops moved in.
  4. Many Sudeten Germans packed up and moved out overnight.
  5. War looked inevitable.

The French Panic

  • If the war with Czechoslovakia was inevitable then France, her ally would have to make a decision about what to do. Deladier flew to London for talks.

  • Chamberlain decided that he would act as a mediator.
  • “In view of the increasingly critical situation I propose to come over at once to see you with a view of trying to find a peaceful solution.” Chamberlain told Hitler.

Chamberlain Meets Hitler 1st Meeting Berchtesgaden 15th September 1938

Neville Chamberlain the British prime minister

Born (1869-03-18)18 March 1869 Edgbaston, Birmingham

Died 9 November 1940 (1940-11-09) (aged 71) Highfield Park, Heckfield, Hampshire

Nationality British

Political party Conservative

Religion Unitarian

A neatly written "Neville Chamberlain"
A neatly written "Neville Chamberlain"

  • Chamberlain made the first flight of his life to meet Hitler at Berchtesgarden on the 15th September.
  • He took no interpreter and he spoke no German and Hitler spoke no English.
  • Hitler demanded an instant solution to the Sudeten problem.
  • Chamberlain agreed to break up Czechoslovakia without consulting the Czechs.

Chamberlain Meets with the French and the Czech

  • Chamberlain had to persuade the Cabinet, the French and the Czechs to support the plans.
  • The French were persuaded.
  • The Czechs suffered intense bullying but eventually realised that without allies it would be impossible to stand alone against Germany.

Chamberlain returns to Germany 2nd Meeting Godesberg 22nd September 1938

  • Chamberlain said on the leaving airport. " European peace is what I am aiming at, and I hope this journey may open the way to get it."

The Meeting at Godesberg:

Hitler said to Chamberlian, " I am sorry but that is not enough." Remember Hitler's advice to Henlein. Hitler said that
the Sudeten Germans were being persecuted by the Czechs and he must send in the German army at once. He demanded the Sudetenland be handed over, with no compensation by 28th September at the latest. Poland and Hungary were concerned too.

Chamberlian's Reaction

  • Chamberlain was indeed shocked by Hitler’s reaction. He phoned Halifax and said “his interview with Hitler had been most unsatisfactory”
  • Chamberlain realised that Hitler was determined to pick a fight and that this would mean war.

Chamberlain Meets the Cabinet and the Czechs reply

Chamberlain told the Cabinet that the Godesberg proposals should be accepted, but the Cabinet refused to agree. Enough was enough and they would rather face war that submit to these terms.The Czechs made it clear that they would not accept any further concessions. They were ready to fight for their freedom.

Hitler's second thoughts

•German people didn’t appear enthusiastic about going to war- silent crowds in Berlin.
•British and French seemed to be backing up the Czechs.
•Hitler was keen to accept Mussolini’s offer of brokering a meeting of the four powers to see if agreement over Czechoslovakia could be reached.

Mussolini Steps In

Approach by the French, the four powers present.
  • Britian
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Not Czechoslovakia or Russia

3rd Meeting Munich 29th September 1938

At Munich, left to right: Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini

The Big Four

• Chamberlain Britain
• Deladier France
• Hitler Germany
• Mussolini Italy

The meeting was a nine hours of discussion. The Czech spokesman sat outside on the steps. The terms were that Czechoslovakia was given 12 hours to accept the Godesberg proposals and 10 days to implement them. The Czechs were told they had to agree to the terms. There was no appeal.

Hitler's Gain from Munich

  • More time to build up armaments

  • Gained armaments making factories - Skoda

  • Land -11,000 square miles

  • People – 30% of the pop of Czechoslovakia

  • Industry – 55% of its coal, 46% of electrical energy

  • Popularity at home

  • Humiliated Britain and France

  • Won this battle with no loss of life, at little expense

Britain's Gains from Munich

  • Time to build up armaments
  • Postponement of war

Britain's Losses from Munich

  • Loss of respect.
  • Loss of strong ally in Czechoslovakia.
  • Failure to seize the opportunity to defeat Hitler.
  • Russia was rebuffed and turned to Germany as an ally.

The Czech had to accept this Munich Agreement, because to reject it would mean fighting Germany alone. So Czech frontier guards left their posts on 1 October and German troops marched into the Sudetenland unopposed. Shortly after, Polish and Hungarian troops marched into Teschen and Slovakia, seizing 10000 km if territory. Czechoslovakia had started to break apart.

Summary Video ( Very Useful!!! ' _ ' )

Analysis Question

Why did Chamberlain use appeasement?

Great Britain and other powers appeased Germany to avoid World War II. The reasons of this are the economic; political, and militaristic situations, which Britain, France and America were suffering from. The British policy of appeasement was implemented because the national public opinion was that war should be avoided at all costs, people down played the importance of having a strong military as they had faith that the League of nations would prevent any war, the weakness of the British armed forces and the forgiving relationship between Hitler and Chamberlain. The objective of appeasement towards Germany was to secure the peace, stability and expansion of international trade and to relieve Germany from the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles allowing German recovery. Western powers also appeased Germany, as they feared communism and believed that Germany could help deal with the communist threat.

Chamberlain used appeasement, because he didn't want to go to war with Germany. Britain armed forces wanted to defend its huge empire, they can't afford to fight in more than one part of the world at the same time and expect to win. The British government therefore wanted to avoid any situation in which it might have to fight Japan in the Far East at the same time as fighting Germany in the West. The way in which the British chose to avoid such a situation was to use a policy of appeasement towards countries like Germany which might threaten their empire. Appeasement meant agreeing on the other countries' demand to avoid war. Although this might make Germany stronger, it was less of a threat to go to war with them.

I think appeasement was a very bad idea in this situation. Instead of suspecting Hitler of rearming his forces and planning to stop him before starting a war, Britain was shaking hands with Hitler and making treaties with him which was showing that Neville Chamberlain was afraid of Hitler. Even if Hitler did decide to invade Britain, we had a superior difference in armed forces, and France would have assisted us if needed. Appeasement was the cowardice way of not standing up to Hitler and the indecisive way of agreeing with him

There were many reasons why Chamberlain appeased Hitler, but here are the main ones:
  1. The British people wanted peace - they would not have supported a war in 1938.
  2. Many of Hitler's complaints appeared reasonable at the time - especially about the Treaty of Versailles.
  3. Chamberlain wanted a strong Germany to serve as a barrier against expansion by communist Russia.
  4. Many people admired Hitler. In 1938, the American magazine 'Time' declared him 'Man of the Year'.
  5. Chamberlain remembered the slaughter of the First World War; he thought another war would destroy civilization.


Unit Two- The Rise of Communism

Unit Three - Origin - Practices - Results