Note: This article is sourced from Richard Tedor’s book, “Hitler’s Revolution”. Noble has edited & condensed Tedor’s chapter (European Diplomacy – Czechoslovakia) on Hitler annexing the Sudetenland. Tedor’s book has 270 pages of text, supplemented by over 1000 footnotes and a bibliography of over 200 authors, mostly German. This book is still available on Amazon. Secure a copy now before Jewry has it “canceled”. https://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-revolution-Richard-Tedor/dp/0988368226
A few months after the Anschluss, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, the ethnic German territory lining the periphery of western Czechoslovakia. The transfer of the region to German control provoked a serious war scare. The controversy traced its origin to the 1919 Versailles system.
During World War 1, Czechs served in the Austro-Hungarian army. Immigrants in London & Paris established the Czech Committee on November 14th, 1915. Two Czechs in exile, Tomas Masaryk & Eduard Benes, won the Entente’s endorsement for a future Czechoslovak state to be carved from portions of the Hapsburg realm. On October 18th, 1918, Czechs in Paris and in the USA claimed Czechoslovakian independence.
The new country had three components. Furthest east was Ruthenia, the population of which voluntarily joined Czechoslovakia. In the center was Slovakia, and many Slovaks wanted independence or at least considerable autonomy. The western part consisted of Bohemia & Moravia, where three million German Austrians dwelled with the Czechs. These Germans wished to remain with Austria.
Masaryk & Benes enjoyed prevailing influence in fashioning the postwar structure of Czechoslovakia. Masaryk persuaded (United States) President Wilson to alter his 14 points, which promised each nationality of Austria-Hungary the opportunity for autonomous development, to exclude Germans. Benes consciously underestimated the number of Sudeten Germans by nearly a million. He falsely claimed that they were not a unified minority, but lived in settlements integrated with Czechs.
Rich in raw materials & industry, the border territory offered Czechoslovakia a topographical defensive barrier against Germany. Benes based his deliberations more on economic & strategic advantages than on the natural rights of the German population.
Since the Paris peace conference continued until mid-1919, the German provinces were technically still part of Austria when the Austrian republic held its first democratic election that February 16. The Sudeten Germans prepared ballots to participate. The Czech army forcibly disrupted the arrangements. On March 4, thousands of Sudeten Germans organized peaceful demonstrations in their towns & villages to protest. Czech soldiers fired into the unarmed crowds, killing 54 Germans, 20 of them women.
The Allies finalized a compact with Czechoslovakia formally recognizing her statehood. Benes promised the Allies that his country would “give the Germans all rights they are entitled to… It will all in all be a very liberal regime.”
Denigrating the ethnic German population to “immigrant” status, the Czech government instituted a policy of “rapid de-Germanizing” in Bohemia and in the Sudetenland.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
Denigrating the ethnic German population to “immigrant” status, the Czech government instituted a policy of “rapid de-Germanizing” in Bohemia and in the Sudetenland.
Prague transferred military garrisons, railroad personnel, civil servants, prison populations and even hospital patients in large numbers to these ethnic German areas to manipulate the census figures. Czech officials tallied Czech transients as residents, even though “residency” seldom extended beyond two days.
Between 1923 and 1932, the state conducted 8,972 legal proceedings against dissident members of ethnic minorities. Defendants in sedition trials often included Sudeten Germans belonging to sports leagues, youth groups, singing societies, or backpacking clubs.
Prague established an immense “border zone” in which lived 85 percent of all Sudeten Germans, the entire Polish & Ruthenian populations, and 95 percent of the Hungarian colony. It came under permanent martial law. The army supervised the administration of factories, major construction projects, public works, the telephone service and forestry. Military authorities limited the civil liberties of citizens in the “border zone,” which comprised 56 percent of the entire country. This did not prevent Benes from lauding Czechoslovakia as a “lighthouse of democracy.”
Although during the first years of Hitler’s chancellorship, few among the German public were concerned with Czechoslovakia, for Hitler himself, the fate of the Sudetenland symbolized the tragedy of Germans under foreign rule.
The Sudeten people waged a dogged (tenacious), solitary struggle to maintain their German identity. Hitler made it his personal mission to recover the Sudetenland.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
The Sudeten people waged a dogged (tenacious), solitary struggle to maintain their German identity. Hitler made it his personal mission to recover the Sudetenland.
He introduced the topic during the Reichstag speech on February 20th, 1938. “As long as Germany was herself weak & defenseless, she had to simply accept the continuous persecution of German people along our borders… The interests of the German Reich also include the protection of those fellow Germans who are unable on their own, on our very frontier, to insure their right to basic human, political and ideological freedoms.”
Another circumstance turned Hitler’s attention to Czechoslovakia. Geographically, the country resembled a spear point penetrating deeply into Reich’s territory. This constituted a potential national security threat no responsible leader could ignore.
In January 1924, Paris & Prague concluded a “friendship pact” containing a military clause. This envisioned mutual general staff talks to prepare a joint defensive strategy in case of attack by a common enemy. The signatories followed with a formal military treaty in October 1925.
Only months before becoming president, Benes, as foreign minister, had concluded a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The pact provided for significant Czech-Russian cooperation.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
Benes replaced the 85-year old Masaryk as president of the republic in December 1935. Only months before becoming president, Benes, as foreign minister, had concluded a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The pact provided for significant Czech-Russian cooperation.
By the beginning of 1936, the Czechs had completed 32 air fields sited near the German frontier as bases for the rapidly expanding Red Air Force. They established depots to stockpile aviation fuel, aerial bombs and other war materiel.
The Red Army stationed troops in Bohemia & Moravia to undergo parachute training for a possible airborne assault against Germany. It transferred officers to the Czechoslovakian War Ministry in Prague and to local command centers. On February 12th, 1937, the London Daily Mail reported that immediately after ratification of the Prague-Moscow pact, Russian flight officers inspected Czech air bases & fuel dumps for their air force.
Prague was a converging point for Communist immigrants who had fled Germany in 1933, and Austria after the Anschluss. Sir Orme Sargent, of the British Foreign Office, called Czechoslovakia a “distribution center” for Stalin’s Comintern propaganda against Germany.
With France, Czechoslovakia and the USSR connected by military alliances since 1936, the Fuhrer felt boxed in.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
With France, Czechoslovakia and the USSR connected by military alliances since 1936, the Fuhrer felt boxed in. When he re-garrisoned the Rhineland on March 7 of that year, Benes offered France the support of the Czechoslovakian army for a joint invasion of Germany. During the months to follow, it swelled to a force of 1,453,000 men.
The Austrian Anschluss encouraged the Sudeten German Party, the SdP. Under the leadership of its founder, Konrad Henlein, it had already won 44 seats in the Czechoslovakian chamber of deputies and 23 in the senate, in the May 1935 elections. At an SdP assembly in Carlsbad on April 25th, 1938, Heinlein demanded autonomy for the ethnic German region. With 90 percent of Sudeten voters behind him, he had sufficient influence to compel the Czechs to enter negotiations with his party.
Henlein & Karl Frank had met with Hitler on March 28, but were unable to persuade the Fuhrer to pressure the Czechs. Joachim von Ribbentrop told the two guests that it was not Germany’s task “to offer individual suggestions as to what demands should be made of the Czechoslovakian government.” Berlin instructed the German embassy in Prague to limit support of the SdP to private talks with Czechoslovakian statesmen, “if the occasion presents itself.” The allegation of post-war historians that at the meeting, Hitler ordered Henlein to impose impossible terms in order to provoke the Czechs, is without substance.
The British government monitored the escalating controversy. The chiefs of staff from the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Policy came up with a report for the committee explaining that the British & French armies were too weak to go to war against Germany, Italy and Japan in an expanding conflict over Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain & Lord Halifax considered the military assessment “an extremely melancholy document.” Halifax summarized on April 27, “Neither we nor France were equipped for a war with Germany.”
France’s new Prime Minister, Eduard Daladier, visited London on April 28 to personally persuade Chamberlain to publicly guarantee English protection for Czechoslovakia. His British colleague retorted that Benes has never treated the German minority in the territories he annexed in a liberal manner as promised. Chamberlain declared that the people of England would never begin a war to prevent the nationalities of central Europe from expressing their will in a plebiscite (direct vote).
Chamberlain declared that the people of England would never begin a war to prevent the (Sudetenland German) nationalities of central Europe from expressing their will in a plebiscite (direct vote).” -Hitler’s Revolution book
That month, Hitler ordered General Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the Armed Forces Supreme Command (OKW), to prepare a study on the possible invasion of Czechoslovakia. He told Keitel that he did not at present intend to invade.
The guidelines, that Hitler furnished the OKW, emphasized that he would reject any scenario proposing a “strategic surprise attack out of the clear sky without grounds, or possibility of justification.” The Fuhrer described “an untenable situation for us should the major confrontation in the East with Bolshevism ever come… Czechoslovakia would then be the springboard for the Red Army and a landing place for its air force.”
On May 20, Benes called up over 150,000 military reservists to active duty, claiming that the measure was necessary because of a secret mobilization of the German armed forces. The French military envoy in Berlin cabled his government, saying that he saw no evidence of larger troop movements. Ambassador Neville Henderson sent two British army officers on his Berlin embassy staff on an extensive reconnaissance through the German border provinces of Saxony & Silesia. He wrote later, “They could discover no sign of unusual, or significant, Germany military activity, nor indeed could any of the military attaches of other foreign missions in Berlin, who were similarly engaged in scouring the country.”
Hitler, more or less, ignored Benes’ provocation (secret mobilization) and took no action, military or otherwise.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
Hitler, more or less, ignored Benes’ provocation and took no action, military or otherwise. The Jewish-controlled media in Paris, Prague, London and New York accepted Benes’ spurious allegations about German troop deployments. They published stories about how the Fuhrer had massed his divisions to bluff the Czechs into submitting to his demands. When Benes defiantly countered with his own partial mobilization, Hitler supposedly “backed down” and recalled his formations, a profound humiliation for a dictator who was “incapable of acting on his own threats.” His declarations regarding the Sudetenland were “nothing but hot air.”
The May crisis impressed Hitler with how hostile the western democracies & Czechoslovakia were toward Germany. Even the USSR had publicly reaffirmed its military obligation to the Czechs. He concluded that a peaceful settlement of the Sudeten issue was unlikely.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
The May crisis impressed Hitler with how hostile the western democracies & Czechoslovakia were toward Germany. Even the USSR had publicly reaffirmed its military obligation to the Czechs. He concluded that a peaceful settlement of the Sudeten issue was unlikely.
Hitler still possessed a diplomatic trump; democracy’s own arguments about human rights.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
Hitler still possessed a diplomatic trump; democracy’s own arguments about human rights. He publicly stated, “What the Germans insist on is the right to self-determination that every other nation also possesses… I demand that the oppression of the three-and-a-half million Germans in Czechoslovakia stop, and that in its place the free right to self-determination step in.” This was the Achilles heel (weakness) of the Fuhrer’s adversaries.
A plebiscite (direct vote) for Sudetenland independence also had pitfalls. Prague opposed the idea because the precedent would encourage the Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians to demand one as well. Since these minorities suffered under-representation in government, and from oppression, the result would likely dissolve Czechoslovakia.
The French statesman, Daladier, proposed a compromise. Czechoslovakia would cede the Sudetenland to Germany without conducting a plebiscite. In this way, the Czech state would remain reasonably intact. Its importance to France, as Daladier explained to Chamberlain, was that “in any military operation there are wonderful possibilities for attacking Germany from Czechoslovak territory.”
French Aviation Minister, Pierre Cot, echoed this attitude. He believed that France & England needed Czechoslovakia, “because from this state the German economy and the German industry are most easily to be destroyed with bombs… Joint attacks of the French & Czech air forces can very quickly destroy all German production facilities.”
In August, Chamberlain proposed travelling to Germany to meet with Hitler to settle the Sudeten question together. He elicited a promise from his host that Germany would take no military action during the negotiations. On September 21, Benes unconditionally acquiesced to the Sudetenland plebiscite proposal.
During September, Chamberlain visited Germany three times. The first meeting with Hitler took place in Berchtesgaden on September 15. The session was cordial & constructive. Chamberlain approved Hitler’s proposals for the Sudeten areas to be annexed.
In Berlin, the German monitoring station in the Reich’s Ministry of Aviation eavesdropped on a telephone conversation between Benes and French Colonial Minister, Georges Mandel. Undermining Daladier, Mandel told Benes, “Paris & London have no right to dictate your attitude to you. If your territory is violated, you should not wait a second to issue orders to your army to defend the homeland… If you fire the first shot in self defense, the cannons of France, Great Britain and also Soviet Russia will begin firing on their own.”
The Germans also intercepted communications between Prague and its London & Paris embassies. The Benes government had instructed them to stall for time until the “war parties” in England and in France topple Chamberlain & Daladier.
On September 22, Hitler conferred (Munich Accord) with Chamberlain at the Hotel Dresen in Bad Godesberg. Reports of mounting unrest in the Sudetenland clouded the atmosphere. Henlein had formed an ethnic German militia, numbering nearly 40,000 men, which skirmished with Czech soldiers & police. The Czech government correspondingly implemented more repressive measures. In 14 days, 120,000 Sudeten Germans crossed into the Reich to escape the violence. Henlein appealed to Hitler to send in the German army, “to put an end to any more murders resulting from Czech fanaticism.”
Hitler demanded the right to militarily occupy the territory to be annexed in four days. He cited mounting turmoil there as justification. Chamberlain was taken aback and bitter haggling followed. The tension pervaded the next night’s conference, until an orderly interrupted with news that Benes had just declared general mobilization. Another 1.2 million Czech reservists were returning to active duty. Hitler thereupon reassured his English guest that he would keep his promise to withhold any military response, “despite this unheard-of provocation.” This relaxed the atmosphere, and the discussion assumed a friendlier tone.
At Munich, on September 28, Chamberlain, Hitler, Daladier, and Mussolini finalized details of the annexation of the Sudetenland which Prague had agreed to on the 21st.
The incorporation of the Sudetenland into Germany began on October 1st, 1938. Hitler reaped an accolade in the London Times on October 2 for his concessions, and for reducing military measures to “solely a symbolic partial-occupation.”
Benes resigned. Once gone, Germany attempted to improve relations with Prague. There remained 378,000 ethnic Germans in portions of Bohemia-Moravia not annexed by the Reich. Hitler ordered on October 3 that this minority, while nurturing its cultural heritage, was to relinquish political activity toward autonomy, or returning its lands to German sovereignty. He met with the new Czech foreign minister, Frantisek Chvalkovsky, on the 14th. Hitler urged him to help “normalize relations in a friendly way.”
In November, the legal department of the German Foreign Office submitted a draft for a Czech-German friendship treaty. Though Hitler postponed the matter until January 1939, the initiative indicates his interest in working with Prague. His first gesture to the new regime was a generous policy toward Czech residents of the annexed Sudetenland.
The ethnic German minority residing in Prague-controlled sections of Bohemia-Moravia experienced the resentment of the Czechs after their defeat at Munich. Thousands of Germans lost their jobs. Many were unnecessarily watched by the police. The government denied them and their families unemployment benefits. Czech health insurance companies refused claims for the German university clinic in Prague.
Hitler confronted Chvalkovsky on January 21st, 1939, and warned that “no Great Power can tolerate a smaller neighboring country representing a perpetual threat in its flank.” He stressed once more the necessity of improving relations.
The Munich Accord, engineered by the western democracies to save Czechoslovakia, was ironically her death sentence. Its precedent for self-determination encouraged the country’s other captive minorities to follow the example of the Sudeten Germans.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
The Munich Accord, engineered by the western democracies to save Czechoslovakia, was ironically her death sentence. Its precedent for self-determination encouraged the country’s other captive minorities to follow the example of the Sudeten Germans. Most prominent among them were the Slovaks. The Czech army & militia had occupied their land in 1919. Tomas Masaryk failed to deliver on his promise of regional autonomy. Nor were Slovaks equally represented in public administration.
Hitler wished to remain neutral in the friction dividing Czechs & Slovaks. On November 19, the Reich’s Foreign Office directed its mission in Prague to watch events with reserve. The German press received instructions to maintain a non-partisan attitude in reporting on tensions in Slovakia. Hitler ordered, “For the time being, no political talks with the Slovaks are opportune.”
Prague lost its grip on the disaffected minorities. In October, the Slovaks & Ruthenians established regional parliaments; a right finally conceded by the central government as a step toward autonomy. Delegates used their influence & authority to steer the regions more toward independence.
The new Czech president, Dr. Emil Hacha, resorted to the usual hammer (forceful) methods. On March 6, he deployed troops in the Carpato-Ukraine, and he appointed General Lev Prchala, as their commander, minister of the interior and finance.
In Slovakia, Hacha dissolved the regional parliament. He placed the capital, Pressburg, under martial law and jailed 60 Slovakian politicians. Czech soldiers & police transferred to Pressburg. Hacha faced mounting chaos and the threat of open rebellion. He appealed to Dr. Joseph Tiso, whom the Slovaks had elected their prime minister, to help restore order.
On March 13, Tiso visited Berlin to ask Hitler how he would react to a Slovakian declaration of independence. The Fuhrer replied only that he has no interest in occupying Slovakia, since the land had never belonged to the German Reich.
Fearing that the Hungarian army would invade and annex Slovakia, (Slovak prime minister) Tiso asked for German protection. Hitler replied, ‘I acknowledge the receipt of your telegram and hereby assume the security of the Slovakian state.”’ -Hitler’s Revolution book
Tiso returned to Pressburg. He proclaimed national independence in parliament the next day. Fearing that the Hungarian army would invade and annex Slovakia, Tiso asked for German protection. Hitler replied, “I acknowledge the receipt of your telegram and hereby assume the security of the Slovakian state.” On this day, March 14, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as a republic.
Hacha requested an audience with Hitler. He & Chvalkovsky arrived in Berlin by train the night of the 14th. Since taking office, both men had worked to improve relations with Germany. The machinations of Benes’s remaining associates, the anti-German Jewish-controlled press, and a public attitude tainted by nearly 20 years of Czech chauvinism promoted by Benes had sabotaged their efforts. Prior to meeting Hitler, Hacha told Ribbentrop that he had come to “place the fate of the Czech state in the hands of the Fuhrer.”
During their subsequent conversation, Hitler told Hacha that he was sending the German army across the frontier the following day. He had ordered the OKW to prepare the operation three days earlier. The Fuhrer advised his guests to order the Czech army not to resist. “In this case your people still have good prospects for the future. I will guarantee them autonomy far beyond what they could ever have dreamed of in the time of Austria.” Hacha duly relayed instructions to his army chief, General Jan Syrovy, to stand down. The German troops, who entered Czech territory at 6:00 a.m. on March 15, had orders forbidding them to fire their weapons.
Advanced elements of the German army occupied the Morava-Ostrava industrial complex near the Polish frontier. Warsaw was about to exploit the momentary turmoil in Czechoslovakia to militarily seize the center and hold it for Poland. Local Czech residents understood the German initiative and offered no resistance. The Polish government was angry with Hitler for this rebuff of its territorial ambitions.
The Germans mollified (appeased) the initial hostility of the Czech people, largely thanks to the efforts of the NSV, Germany’s national social welfare organization who distributed RM 7,000,000 worth of food to the distressed population, and handed out RM 5,000,000 worth of clothing. The German military authorities also arranged for the prompt restocking of grocery & department stores.
The Germans entered a land with 148,000 unemployed. Demobilization of the Czech army substantially increased the number. The Reich’s Ministry of Labor established offices in the newly created Czech Protectorate to recruit out-of-work persons for German industry. During the first month of the occupation, 15,000 people took advantage of the opportunity and found jobs. Over the next few months, unemployment continued to decline, and in June, the Czech government negotiated trade agreements with Norway, Holland, and several other nations to boost commerce.
At no time during the 1939-1945 war did the Germans induct Czech nationals into their armed forces. Their country remained virtually unscathed throughout the devastating world conflict.
Hacha and his new cabinet resumed control of the government on April 27th, 1939. Czech remained the official language. Administrative responsibilities included the interior, education, agriculture, justice, transportation, culture, social services, and public works. Germany managed foreign policy & finance.
The Czech population experienced more autonomy, civil liberty and absence of discrimination under German hegemony than Tomas Masaryk & Benes had accorded the Sudeten German, Slovak, and Hungarian minorities during the earlier years of the republic.” -Hitler’s Revolution book
On June 7, Hitler declared general amnesty for all Czech political prisoners in the Sudetenland and in their own country. The Germans maintained a permanent force of 5,000 police officers throughout the Protectorate to combat sabotage & Communist subversion. The Czech population experienced more autonomy, civil liberty and absence of discrimination under German hegemony than Tomas Masaryk & Benes had accorded the Sudeten German, Slovak, and Hungarian minorities during the earlier years of the republic.
The Germans confiscated most Czech army artillery, and integrated it into their own armed forces. German troops briefly entered Slovakian territory to empty Czech military depots near the frontier. The vast quantity of war materiel substantiated Hitler’s protest that Czechoslovakia, in a coalition with other European powers, represented a threat to Germany.
The vast quantity of war materiel substantiated Hitler’s protest that Czechoslovakia, in a coalition with other European powers, represented a threat to Germany.” -Hitler’s Revolution
Quartermaster General, Eduard Wagner, wrote his wife on March 30 that the quantity of combat artillery discovered in this small country was “downright frightening.” The inventory included 1,582 aircraft, 2,175 field guns, 468 tanks, 501 anti-aircraft guns, 785 mortars, 43,856 machine guns, over a million rifles, three million artillery rounds, a considerable array of military specialty items such as bridge building equipment & searchlights, plus over a billion rifle rounds for the infantry. It consisted of up-to-date, well-designed weaponry. Modern production facilities such as the Skoda plant were expansive enough to simultaneously fill defense contracts for the USSR.
Ribbentrop sent Dr. Friedrich Berber to Prague with a special research staff to peruse documents in the Czech diplomatic archives dating from March 1938 to March 1939. The team examined records “related to the English & French approach to the Czech question.” Based on an abundance of documentary evidence, assessed both in Prague and a few months earlier in Vienna, Berber’s analysis concluded that London had systematically intervened “in the politics of these countries” in order to “maintain their independence and weaken Germany.” The records also revealed that the British “have acted in the same manner regarding Poland,” the report deduced. Hitler concluded from the findings that “England wants war.”
Based on an abundance of documentary evidence… Hitler concluded from the findings that ‘England wants war.”’ -Hitler’s Revolution book