The Sudetenland 1938

Map showing the Czech partition.Map showing the Czech partition

Hitler turned his attention to Czechoslovakia after his Anschluss triumph. He wanted to dismember this democratic country by whatever means necessary. Czechoslovakia was a member of the League of Nations and allied to France and the Soviet Union. There were however large minorities within Czechoslovakia. This included 3 million Germans in the area known as the Sudetenland.

Key events

Early in 1938, the German leader in the Sudetenland Konrad Henlein complains that Sudeten Germans are being mistreated by Czechs.

30 May 1938 – Hitler orders plans to destroy Czechoslovakia by 1 October.

12 September 1938 – Hitler makes a speech attacking Czechoslovakia.

15 September 1938 – Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, flies to see Hitler at the Berghof and agrees that Czechoslovakia should give all areas with 50 per cent German Sudetens to Germany. The British and French persuade the Czechs to agree.

22 September 1938 – Chamberlain is successful in persuading Edvard Beneš, President of Czechoslovakia, to accept Germany’s demands. Chamberlain meets Hitler at Bad Godesberg confident that the crisis was over. Hitler however had changed his mind and wanted the Sudetenland by 1 October. The talks break down and there is real fear now of a war in Europe. Chamberlain persuades Mussolini, the Italian dictator, to arrange a conference at Munich to discuss the issue of the Sudetenland.

29-30 September 1938 – Britain, France, Germany and Italy met in Munich. Crucially Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were not present. The four countries agreed to the German occupation of the Sudetenland between 1 and 10 October. German troops occupy the Sudetenland. Britain and France were following a policy of appeasement. Neville Chamberlain returned to Britain claiming he had established peace in our time. However following the agreement both Britain and France speeded up their own rearmament plans. Chamberlain's claim turned out to be a false hope as within a year of the agreement World War Two had started.

The final destruction of Czechoslovakia - 1939

The Munich agreement dealt only with the Germans in the Sudetenland. It said nothing of the nearly 2 million Germans living in Bohemia and Moravia. Hitler now moved to bring them under German control.

Using the same tactics as in other events, he claimed that Germans were being treated unfairly. He claimed that the Czech government had lost control and that the German army should be sent in to restore order.

Hitler invited President Hacha to Berlin on 14 March 1939 and kept him waiting until 01:15 while Hitler finished watching a film. Hitler demanded that Hacha agreed to split Czechoslovakia within a few hours. At 04:00, President Hacha caved in to Hitler’s demands and German troops marched into Prague on 15 March 1939. This was conquest pure and simple.

Germany expanded and gained valuable resources as Czechoslovakia was rich in coal and possessed the huge Skoda armaments factory.