15 September 1938, Neville Chamberlain met Hitler at his summer retreat on the Austrian border, Berchtesgaden. With German invasion of Czechoslovakia looking imminent and a future European war a very real possibility, Chamberlain agreed in principle that Hitler could claim the Sudetenland without reprisal from Britain. On his return to Britain, Chamberlain managed to persuade his Cabinet and the French (who were allies of the Czechoslovakians) to accept the deal.
22 September 1938, Chamberlain met Hitler again at Godesberg. With the reluctant agreement of the Czechoslovakian government, Chamberlain offered Hitler control of the Sudetenland. Hitler demanded that the Czechoslovakian army leave the Sudetenland by 1 October. This was a demand designed to provoke the Czechs and provide an excuse for invasion of the whole country.
29 and 30 of September 1938, representatives of France, Britain, Italy and Germany met at Munich to discuss the Sudetenland problem. Neither the Czechs, nor their allies Russia, were consulted. Hitler traded the promise of peace in Europe for the Sudetenland. The Czechs had to either accept or face the might of the German army alone. They accepted.
Germany entered the Sudetenland on 1 October. Hitler now had control of the Czech fortifications and this would make his next act of aggression much easier.
Hitler and Chamberlain signed a piece of paper promising never to go to war with each other.
Czechoslovakia was further divided when, encouraged by Hitler, Hungary took control of the region of Ruthenia and Poland claimed Teschen.
Czech military effectiveness had been fatally weakened. Britain and France had lost the help of a strong ally for the sake of a few months to rearm their forces.
Russia was offended at being left out and more suspicious of Britain and France.
The British public celebrated their relief that war had been, for the present, avoided. However, there was growing concern that Hitler was not, as Chamberlain believed, just another politician who was open to negotiation. Instead, increasing numbers of people believed that he would continue to behave aggressively and that war would come, sooner or later. Even Chamberlain began to build up British forces against that possibility.
Supporters of the appeasement policy believed that it had bought Britain valuable time to rearm for war. Previously, we had been too weak militarily to help Austria and Czechoslovakia.
Churchill thought we had shamefully betrayed Czechoslovakia and lost a potential ally in the fight against Nazi Germany. Tellingly, in 1940 every third tank used in the invasion of France was built at the Skoda ironworks in Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain's attempts to keep the peace through appeasement
Learn more about Sudetenland and why the appeasement was abandoned:
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