In 1938, Hitler turned his attention to the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia.

The nation of Czechoslovakia had been created after World War One, bringing together:

  • two Slavic peoples, the Czechs and the Slovaks
  • three million German speakers from the Sudeten area on the border with Germany
  • smaller numbers of Hungarians, Ukrainians and Poles

Czechoslovakia was a member of the League of Nations and allied to France and the Soviet Union.

In the 20 years since its creation, Czechoslovakia had seen its democracy and economy flourish.

The main threat to the fledgling nation was from:

  • Hitler's plans for expansion
  • the Sudeten Germans who, used to being part of the German-speaking Austrian empire, were not happy at their inclusion in a Slav-controlled state

Hitler financed and supported the Sudeten German Party under Conrad Henlein. With Hitler's backing, the party became a force to be reckoned with in Czechoslovakia.

Hitler wanted to use the Sudeten Germans to create trouble in Czechoslovakia and, as he had in the Rhineland and Austria, use this as a pretence for invading and restoring order.

Not content with merely one piece of Czechoslovakia, Hitler planned to smash the country. The Czechs and Slovaks were of Slavic origin and, according to Hitler's racial proclamations that the German/Aryan people were superior to other races, they were considered Untermenschen (subhuman).

Map showing the Czech partition.Map showing the Czech partition