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Munich Betrayal: 75th anniversary

Because Andreas Karch wrote an exciting article about the applications of holography yesterday, I find it appropriate to mention a story in which Germans didn't play quite the same positive role. ;-)

In the Anglo-Saxon world, you probably know the events through this September 30th, 1938 speech by Neville Chamberlain, "the peace for our time" (the name of the video above is wrong: "peace in our time" comes from Anglican prayers). Once he returned from Munich, this clueless conservative boasted that he befriended Herr Hitlər which would bring the eternal peace to everyone. His equally clueless audience applauded.

Note that the peace was "guaranteed" by having solved the "Czechoslovakian problem", a phrase that ethical leaders are unlikely to use for their allies. Czechoslovakia and its assertive, self-confident, U.S.-style democracy quickly found out it had no friends. Because I have used the acronym "U.S." in the previous sentence, you could have thought that Czechoslovakia could have been thinking at least about the U.S. support. Not at all. When Franklin Roosevelt heard Chamberlain's words above, he sent him a telegram with two words: Good man. ;-)

The Munich Pact – or the Munich Betrayal as we frequently call it in Czech (because we were betrayed by Britain and especially France) or the Munich Dictate (because no Czechoslovak representative was invited to the negotiations about our fate) – strengthened the Third Reich to the extent that the Second World War became inevitable. Germany's reasons to be afraid of attacks against other countries shrank by a huge factor.

The betrayal of Czechoslovakia by its Western allies, Britain and France, also increased the political capital that Stalin and his USSR enjoyed in Czechoslovakia which made those 40 years of communism that came soon after the war mostly inevitable, too.

What has led to the events? I've studied lots of sources and it's pretty fascinating to see that up to a moment in 1938 or 1939, Europe was enjoying its mostly happy life based on the 19th-century-style nation states that sometimes participate in minor wars. These days, when we talk about wars, we tend to imagine "world wars" that polarize all nations in the world (fascists vs the rest, communism vs capitalism etc.) and in which almost everyone may play a role on one side or another.

However, the pre-1938 world was much more colorful and diverse. Even in the late 1930s, countries had to think about their relationships with many neighbors and other countries and none of these relationships followed the same template. How did the foreign political reasoning work in Czechoslovakia? Let's have a look at the map of Europe from 1920:

Czechoslovakia was born in 1918, after the First World War, as the mostly West Slavic portion of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. For several previous centuries, Czechs and Slovaks lived a tolerable life within the monarchy. We hadn't had a Czech (or Slovak, ever) emperor for several centuries and the name of the country ignored us but the political representatives more or less had the expected rights in Vienna and no one prevented the Czech lands from becoming the most industrialized region of the monarchy.

The new country was created mostly by Prof Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, a politician and scholar who had an American wife and who convinced Western leaders, especially Woodrow Wilson, that it was a great idea to establish the new country whose system would be something in between the French and U.S. democracy. The Czechoslovak nation had a majority in it and it was framed as a single nation, despite the very different histories in the recent 1,000 years. Germans represented over 1/4 of the population and they enjoyed at least a "comparable status" within Czechoslovakia as Czechoslovakia enjoyed within the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy.

Look at the neighbors of the country. The Soviet Union was considered a hostile country as key politicians repeatedly criticized the totalitarian manners in the USSR and Lenin's being a typical small Russian "muzhik" (little man). Ironically enough, Germany was considered OK until 1933 – only when Hitler came to power, people started to at least think about the possibility that Germany could become a foe. Of course, Germany's status as a threat was completely obvious by 1938, along with the status of Austria that was incorporated into Germany in early 1938 (the Anschluss).

Romania was viewed as a problem-free ally but it was heavily underdeveloped and sort of irrelevant in the key power games of Central Europe. (Romania ceased to be a neighbor of Czechoslovakia after the war when Ruthenia, a small Eastern piece of Czechoslovakia on the map above, was transferred to Ukraine within the USSR.)

Hungary was considered the most likely enemy in a possible war as recently as in the middle 1930s. Hungary tended to try all sorts of pathological social arrangements you may think of – there was even a Soviet Republic of Hungary sometimes around 1920. Its inclinations to fascism were clear and all these problems were amplified by the large Hungarian minority living in Slovakia.

I haven't mentioned another neighbor, Poland. Superficial observers from a distance could think that the status of both Slavic countries was very similar and they were bound to be friends etc. But this wasn't the case. You know that Poland is one of the most religious countries in Europe while the Czechs are the most atheist nation in the world. This is just a tip of an iceberg of differences. The Poles were viewed as too feudal, agricultural, backward-oriented by the "modern" – often somewhat socialist but non-Marxist – pro-industrialist, anti-feudal politicians in Czechoslovakia. Poland was definitely not viewed as a friend at any moment before the war. The moderately hostile relationships got worse during the Seven-Day War in 1919 that focused on a relatively small territory of Cieszyn Silesia. In the late 1930s, the disappearance of French-Polish ties was however bad news for Czechoslovakia, too.

If you were listening, Czechoslovakia could have counted one friend, Romania, and that country was pretty irrelevant. Of course, that would be a dangerous situation and that's not quite how the safety of the country was outlined in the long run. The primary allies were, according to several pacts, Britain and especially France. In some sense, France was the only "direct European friend" of Czechoslovakia among the powers and Britain was supposed to be on the same side due to some powerful treaties between France and Britain. I would say that France has mostly betrayed us due to the pressure from Britain.

The equilibrium was pretty complicated but it was mostly balanced, too. All of it began to collapse in the late 1930s. I hope that every reader realizes that the collapse of the status quo was Hitler's primary goal in the late 1930s and all other issues that were discussed were just fabricated and abused by the bizarre leader to achieve his main goal.

The borderland regions of Czechoslovakia – usually the mountains near the borders and sometimes even mountains that are not quite near the borders – were mostly settled by ethnic Germans while the ethnic Czechs tended to live in the low altitudes. Not sure whether I can give you a universal scientific explanation of this correlation but that's how it worked. In the Sudetenland near the borders, ethnic Germans were a majority representing about 2/3 of the population.

Their co-existence with the Czechs was mostly OK – although not super-cordial – through the 1920s but it became annoying once Hitler came to power. NSDAP's subsidiary, Konrad Henlein's Party, was getting something like 90 percent in the Czechoslovak elections in the 1930s. It became a consensus among the Germans that they wanted to merge "their" territory with the Third Reich.

Needless to say, the German minority had the best ethnic rights among all German minorities in European countries – and probably among any minorities of any kind. They could do anything, they had their representatives, their number of German-language schools and newspapers per capita exceeded the numbers in all other countries with German minorities by orders of magnitude. I could give you lots of detailed numbers that clarify these statements.

But when someone wants to demagogically abuse the existence and defend "additional rights" of any minorities, he will always find a way to present this demagogy. Lord Walter Runciman of Doxford turned out to be the key asshole in this whole enterprise. He was sent as a messenger to calm down the tension with the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. Sometimes around September 20th, 1938, this "ally" of ours would write the following to the British government:

Czech officials and Czech police, speaking little or no German, were appointed in large numbers to purely German districts; Czech agricultural colonists were encouraged to settle on land confiscated under the Land Reform in the middle of German populations; for the children of these Czech invaders Czech schools were built on a large scale; there is a very general belief that Czech firms were favoured as against German firms in the allocation of State contracts and that the State provided work and relief for Czechs more readily than for Germans. I believe these complaints to be in the main justified. Even as late as the time of my Mission, I could find no readiness on the part of the Czechoslovak Government to remedy them on anything like an adequate scale ... the feeling among the Sudeten Germans until about three or four years ago was one of hopelessness. But the rise of Nazi Germany gave them new hope. I regard their turning for help towards their kinsmen and their eventual desire to join the Reich as a natural development in the circumstances.
These were just so hostile and disgusting lies. First of all, there were no "purely German districts". Some Czechs lived pretty much in every town. Second of all, it's completely normal that on the territory of Czechoslovakia, ethnic Czechs would be allowed to be employed as cops or postmasters anywhere. Incidentally, when the Sudetenland was stolen by Hitler, about 250,000 ethnic Czechs were de facto expelled because they lost their jobs. They were mostly state employees who were "no longer needed". Those things happened before any war erupted. Just try to compare this injustice caused by the Munich Pact to the "would-be injustice" that Czech cops "dared" to be employed in the ethnically mixed regions.

Third of all, the Land Reform didn't occur in the 1930s (so that one should present it as a relevant argument for the description of the contemporary Czech-German relationships) but in 1919, as an anti-feudal internal rearrangement within Czechoslovakia soon after the First World War that Germany and Austria lost. It was a huge reform affecting 1/3 of the soil but it's misleading to present it ethnically. It was mostly Germans who lost the soil because most aristocrats were Germans and most aspects of the feudal arrangement were simply outlawed by Czechoslovakia that decided to abandon all official aspects of the kingdom as we once knew it.

Some of the language by this "lord" is almost identical to the language of the reverse racists and feminists. Vague, ill-defined speculations about someone's being "favored". Any well-defined test would show that nothing illegitimate of the sort was taking place but if one formulates such accusations vaguely enough, he doesn't feel any pressure to justify the statements, does he? Sentences like "the rise of Nazi Germany gave them a new hope" hopefully doesn't need any comments whatsoever.

With a message like that, which was probably taken seriously by the British establishment, it can't be surprising that Britain began to treat us as enemies - and as trash. Their cordial friendship to Herr Hitler didn't last too long, did it?

I should also say that the Czechoslovak politicians were much faster and more realistic when it came to the realization of the actual German threats. Around May 1938, it was already clear to them what algorithm Hitler was probably thinking about and what were his plans in the medium term. Already back in May, Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš realized that Britain was likely not to act as an ally and because of the territorial demands, he declared partial mobilization on May 20th. That's what France and Britain should have done at the same moment, too. But of course, they were living in a fantasyland so nothing like that was even thinkable.

Between January 1938 and September 1938, the defense spending in Czechoslovakia became really intense. The whole border, especially the border with Germany, was covered by a dense chain of state-of-the-art fortification systems models 36 and 37 (with various letters). Significant improvements were done to infantry, cannons, artillery, bombers – just many of the fighter planes we had were "outdated", to say the least, relatively to the German ones, but other models were faster and better in other respects. Historians still debate for how long a time such a system could have resisted a German attack. People would talk about weeks etc. Any Blitzkrieg or excessively fast attack would be a trouble for the system, and so on. On the other hand, the extra hope was that if Hitler invaded, some allies of Czechoslovakia could have appeared, after all.

With the hindsight, it seems obvious to me that Czechoslovakia should have worked on some powerful alliances with the USSR since the mid 1930s – and yes, it's an anti-communist like myself who is saying these things. Such an alliance wouldn't imply the spread of communist ideas in Czechoslovakia; the alliance would be rather natural because of ethnic reasons. Too bad, people only realized that the situation was desperate enough for a similarly "new thinking" sometime in the middle of the war and it was sort of too late.

Another mobilization in Czechoslovakia took place on Friday, September 23rd, 1938, at 10:30 pm – one week before the signing of the Munich Treaty. Men up to 40 years of age (and sometimes even older ones) registered with their local military offices, despite the late time in the evening. Around the same time, martial law was declared at places with the highest concentration of terrorist acts by the ethnic Germans. All of it was useless, of course. These signs of despair didn't mean anything to the subpar politicians in Western Europe who got happily brainwashed by the totally undemanding propaganda by an insane leader of Germany who was a skillful enough demagogue at the same moment (but given the naivite of the Western European leaders, he didn't have to be too good).

I am still totally amazed when I think about the Western powers' reaction (just to be sure, Italy signed the pact, too, but I count it as a less important ally of Hitler only). When an allied (on the paper) country with a very similar arrangement of the government as your own sends these signals of despair, being sure that a war with a completely different kind of a power is looming, you're going to celebrate your friendship with the universal leader of the different power? It just makes no sense, at least not from the viewpoint of the "modern" and "polarized" understanding of the world in which alliances in wars must have some ideological uniformity. These guys with their fantasies about peace with Hitler were really, really stupid. Or evil. Not as evil as Adolf Hitler himself but probably evil.

It's hard to think about analogies. But imagine that hardcore Islamists overtake Pakistan and Pakistan demands portions of the U.K. with a high enough concentration of the Pakistani to be surrendered and given to Pakistan. Or Algerian places of France or whatever. At the airport, Barack Obama would enthusiastically praise his friendship with the new Islamist leader of Pakistan and boast that he has guaranteed peace for our time by surrendering a third of the U.K. to the Islamists who were surely discriminated against by the evil Britons – and that would have solved the "Britishian" problem, too. Great but what about the Islamist problem he helped to spread everywhere to the British islands? Barack Obama may be an unwise politician but I am confident he wouldn't do anything of the kind that Chamberlain did 75 years ago.

For about half a year, the rest of Czechoslovakia – we call it the "Second Republic" – was independent. In March 1939, still way before the actual war, the rest of the Czech lands was occupied by the German army while Slovakia was separated and became a pro-Hitler, mostly independent clerofascist state. At that moment, only mentally insane people could have doubted that there was no conceivable justification for Hitler's behavior and that this man would soon become an existential problem for Europe and perhaps the world. The hijacking of the rest of the Czechoslovak territory was also unsurprising because the Munich Pact didn't even contain guarantees that Hitler would respect at least the new borders of Czechoslovakia (!!!).

With these adjustments to the power balance in Europe, it was a no-brainer for Hitler to start to do things like the attack against Poland and the full-fledged war could have begun. It was destined to begin. The fact that Hitler used to have quite big plans in Europe wasn't a speculation. It was explicitly written in a book by himself. Because of a low-brow politically correct demagogy, the Western leaders couldn't see the tip of their nose which is why the world had to undergo a long and painful war, why the West had to thank God and Stalin, among others, that Hitler didn't become a world master. Stalin (but not God) was able to convert the capital to lots of power after the war.

This Czechoslovak and especially Czech experience with the Western allies undoubtedly contributed to the characteristic Czech skepticism towards political correctness, enthusiastic speeches about non-discrimination and peace, and the alliances with anyone else. Another part of the Czech national character is that the Czechs are surely tolerant, to say the least, towards things that might be called "minor and moderate sins". It's generally believed that people loudly fighting against "minor and moderate sins" are usually jerks when it comes to much more serious issues.

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reader Mephisto said...

It was a sad chapter in our history. Incidentaly, is the author of this book some relative of yours?
It is a book about the disappearance of the Czech Gold treasure. It also describes how after the WW2 we had to pay the British with gold for the liberation and for our soldiers fighting for Britain (pay for uniforms, pay for bombs dropped on Germany etc). I wouldn't consider the Brittish any kind of ally. It was a colonial superpower

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Mephisto, I am not aware of his being a relative. Incidentally, he's not just the author of a random book. He is a pretty famous investigative journalist from TV who did a program along with Radek John - do you know at least John?

Needless to say, I wouldn't share your left-wing criticisms of "colonialism". And when the Czechoslovak pilots began to serve in RAF, it was already completely clear again that Britain had regained the status of our ally.

reader TomVonk said...

No Lubos, not evil.
When you watch the Game of Thrones series (if you didn't you definitely should), you can ask whether Tywin Lannister was evil.
Well with a deep enough reflection you are forced to conclude that he was not.
However we who had not lived through these times can enjoy a deep albeit cynical satisfaction how the French (and by a hair the British) were punished for their short sightedness.
When the Wehrmacht exploded the French&British&Belgian&Dutch armies on the wee morning of the 10th of May 1940, the famous "Sichelschnitt" (fathered by the young and brilliant von Manstein) was spearheaded by 10 German Panzerdivisionen.
And guess what ?
Around 40% of the Panzers (what means actually 4 Divisions our of a total of 10 !) were the modern Pz35t and Pz38t (the t standing for Tschechoslowakei) which were produced in your home town Plzen ;)
So these tanks not only allowed to almost double the german armoured forces but most importantly they enhanced strongly their firepower because at that time the german Pz were mostly light tanks with a 20 mm gun while the 35t and 38t sported a high velocity 37 mm gun.
So finally when the (allegedly) strongest military force of this time, e.g France and Great Britain, was anihilated by the Blitzkrieg in mere 2 weeks it was mainly due to a combination of German military skills, German aircraft and Czech tanks. France capitulated and UK broke and ran loosing the totality of their equipment (artillery, tanks, trucks) in France.
So if Germany had invaded UK (strangely neither Hitler nor the OKW - Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - have seriously planned an invasion nor did they seem very interested by it) then it would have been Czech tanks that would have rolled through London as revenge for the Munich betrayal.
Last to the supposed reason of Munich - avoid a German attack on Czechoslovakia that would degenerate in a European war.
It is known today that Hitler was bluffing. Even if he would have liked to attack, he had the whole military against him. The power of Adolf in 1938 who was not yet quite der Führer was far from being consolidated so that he could afford to challenge the mighty OKW.
And the OKW flatly refused to consider to attack Czechoslovakia because the Wehrmacht was neither ready nor equipped for a fight against a mountain bunkerline where tanks and aircraft were almost irrelevant. They didn't doubt that they would ultimately win but the projected losses were not something they were ready to accept especially as they expected France and perhaps UK attacking in the West.
The only way out for Hitler to impress the OKW was to bring them a victory that they themselves considered impossible to achieve.
And thanks French and British incompetence it is exactly what he did.
It is beyond any doubt that the true irreversible beginning of WWII happened in Munich because after this result the OKW admitted Hitler's superiority and efficiency and there would be no more doubting his ideas in the future.
Lubos your idea about USSR would have been a disaster.
The Red Army in 38 after Stalin's purges in 37&38 (Stalin had a majority of skilled high officers executed for anti sovietic propaganda, spying and treason) would not have been able to count their 10 fingers let alone execute something as complicated as a movement of a few Divisions through several 100s of km.
Even in 1940, 2 years later, when Stalin attacked Finland in the Winter War (2 millions red against 200 000 white) the Red Army got their collective ass handed to them by the small Finland. Btw it was this disastrous performance that convinced quite rightly Hitler and the OKW that the Russians were no match for the Wehrmacht.
So even if one supposes that the Russians would have been able to move a few divisions in 38 what they were not, they would have been anihilated by the German much worse than the modern and extremely well equipped French&UK armies were.

reader maznak said...

Just to be sure, mužik ("muzhik") does not mean a little man. Quite the opposite, it means a strong, peasant type, almost macho kind of chap. The word is one of so called "false friends" in relation to Czech - sounding familar, meaning something different or opposite.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tom, thanks for this very interesting comment. I should watch Games of Thrones but let me admit that having read this paragraph,

I would probably tend to think that Tywin Lannister was evil, too! ;-)

LOL, we in Pilsen showed something to the French. ;-) This doesn't surprise me at all. Just conquering Skoda Pilsen itself was a pretty big deal in the power calculations.

Your analysis of the Hitler-vs-army relations sounds important for a proper understanding what was going on.

OK, I will think about your claim that the Soviet army was irrelevant in 1938. You may be right.

reader Luboš Motl said...

You mean something like Putin, right? ;-)

reader maznak said...

Let me put it this way: I lived in Russia for 4 years. The original meaning of muzhik is probably "small peasant", but not small in physical sense. My Russian friends were using the word in a sense of "tough chap, hardened by hardship and elements, able to withstand large amounts of vodka, with no-nonsense personality, etc." Macho is maybe going a bit too far, but you get the picture.

reader TomVonk said...

Dear Lubos
The number of men on both sides was comparable, at most a million of Soviets against half a million Finns. Greater casualties of the Soviets. But they still have won, haven't they?
When I count numbers in military engagements I use real OBs - Order of Battle. The general litterature and journalists is not more able to distinguish OB numbers from overall numbers as they are to distinguish CO2 from climate.
The ratio in commbat forces was near 1:10 (not factoring in qualitative enhancement through tanks and planes where Russia had a crushing superiority) and in losses 1:5 what gives an everage efficiency 50 times higher for Finland. Besides I am sure even if there is not enough evidence that the russian losses (mainly coming from russian sources) were far above what the russians admitted.
A strong hint supporting this idea were the first 3 months of german offensive on Russia which show that the German fighting efficiency was at least 2 orders of magnitude higher than Russian what is consistent with the numbers I estimate for the Winter War.
Whether the Russians won the Winter War is matter of definition of "win".
If you consider initial Russian demands then Russia lost.
If you consider the initial Finish land then Finland lost.
That's why everybody studying military history considers that it was a draw with a slight Finish advantage. The advantage is due to the fact that Fins asked Germany for help and Germany refused. Stalin who was ready to stop everything if Germany wiggled a finger saying "ty, ty, ty osklivej" knew that he had free hands. Yet he couldn't achieve a decisive victory.
Btw when Germany invaded Russia the Fins attacked too, have beaten the Russians on the whole front and stopped EXACTLY at the line where the Winter War began :)
This annoyed the Germans who would have liked to see the Fins march in Leningrad from the North but I guess that this was also a kind of revenge for not having helped Finland 6 months earlier.

reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, a part of the problem could be that your Russian friends are associating meanings with words according to very different values than e.g. Masaryk so what they consider positive could be viewed as negative.

I didn't really specify that I meant that the muzhiks were short when it came to height.

reader Luboš Motl said...

All of it sounds convincing, Tom. Russia bleeded etc. I still don't see how it implies that it would have been a bad idea if it got sucked into the war earlier than it did.

Some of the Czechoslovak technology would probably help and the unsophisticated but numerous Russian forces could have been exactly what Czechoslovakia would have needed to resist or beat Germany.

reader BMWA1 said...

I think if you put all your (Skoda works) CZ 38 tanks in Moravian gates and southern Moravia just north of Danube, you should be fine for several months against Germans in 1938 who are still in process of forming basic tank forces, maybe, if you get an ally by 1939 (Poland would be better, but I suppose if you REALLY needed it, Stalin would do), things could become stable.

reader Mephisto said...

I would consider an ally someone who treats you as an equal. We were never equal for the British. Among the right-wingers, Churchill is considered some kind of iconic almost mythical figure (a good natured uncle with a good sense of humor). His mentality was probably very close to that of Hitler - he was racist, xenophobic, nationalistic. Read some quotes of his about other nations
What do you think such a person would say about Eastern Europeans?

I do not know whom I will vote yet. During last elections I voted for VV, but was very dissapointed. I would vote for CSSD if Dienstbier was the leader (but Hasek and Sobotka got rid of him and I will not for them). I will with certainty vote for some new party that was not in parliament, maybe the Pirates or Balbínova poetická strana :-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Mephisto, I have never said we should have been treated as equals. I said we should have been treated as allies which is what the documents said.

Moreover, I disagree we were "Eastern Europeans" in any sense.

If you voted for VV, maybe you will vote for ANO, won't you? Agents of StB who got rich and is full of populist cliches for the undemanding voter pretending to himself that he is not socialist is something that a voter of VV could pick, too.

reader Eugene S said...

Nice write-up. Even earlier than 1938, high-ranking German military tried to stop Hitler.

One of them was General Hammerstein. See here for a review of an unusual kind of historical exploration of this man by German writer H. M. Enzensberger.

When you think about it the rise of Hitler to power was so improbable as to defy imagination. So many chances to stop him. So many missteps and mistakes by the people who tried.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Interesting thoughts, Eugene. Maybe you're right.

But maybe he just "forced" the mistakes upon all the people so the mistakes weren't an unlikely sequence of coincidences. He figured out how to cheaply buy or fool almost everyone.

reader cynholt said...

Putin may be is a poor, roughed up redneck, Lubos, but Barry is just a
clueless fool in a gofter's cap. When Putin found out that Sir Golfsalot
couldn't even get a majority of
his own party to support this latest war-of-choice, he basically taunted
and sank the poor guy into submission.

Putin knows how to play multi-level chess, while Barry is still trying to find his marbles.

reader Shannon said...

(I learned recently that Hitler picked a few young German women to taste his food (like kings in the past).

reader Mogumbo Gono said...


It may surprise you to learn that King Obama also uses food tasters.

Apparently Obama fears being poisoned, just like Hitler worried about it.

In the end, though, Hitler took the poison himself...

reader Shannon said...

I wonder who he uses to taste his food... ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Right, the more prosperous the mixed regions are, the more peaceful the co-existence is, like Switzerland, Belgium or even Sudetenland in the 1920s.

Still, there's no cordiality, even in Belgium. It's an artificial country, I would say - much more artificial than Czechoslovakia was.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks a lot, citizen! FDR is a Liberal God but Chamberlain was a conservative so maybe he should have been expected to know better! ;-)

reader Eugene S said...

Belgium is a failed state, propped up only by the massive influx of money into the Brussels eurocracy.

reader Vít Tuček said...

Too bad this article is in Czech, but I'll share it anyway since I know Luboš has quite a few Czech fans. :)

The title of the article translates as "The myth of Munich betrayal is a lie". Its author is a Czech dissident and journalist Jan Urban. His main point being that while it is true that we were betrayed by our allies, our government betrayed the nation even worse:

Since France didn't act when Germany broke the Treaty of Versailles in 1936, the Czech government had solid two years to prepare for anything that had to come later. It was only naivety and stupidity of our government which was masked by shrieking "Treachery!" in 1938. And then? The Czech could have blown up their big weapon factories. (Czech republic was fourth in the world in weapons production). They could have flown their aircraft to Poland or Romania. They could have fought for at least a few hours before capitulating. Losing their country without a single shot fired haunts them to this day. Instead, they collaborated.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Vít, I am afraid that Urban's article doesn't pass the basic tests of logic and facts.

First, logic. If he "just" proved that we were betrayed but our government had done worse mistakes, it would *not* imply the assertion from the title that "the myth about the betrayal by our allies is a lie".

Second, facts, the comments about the foreign relationships of the First Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s are mostly wrong. It had not a pro-Russian foreign policy. Quite on the contrary, I criticized our decisions for the converse - and was challenged by Tom Vanicek not because he would disagree that the USSR wasn't thought about as an ally but because he is convinced the USSR would be easily beaten.

Similar nonsense is his proposal that they should have built friendly relationships with Hungary. What would it help? Hungary was going to be a pro-Hitler fascist state, anyway.

While I agree that the betrayal had been predictable for 2 years or so, it's totally insane to blame Beneš - and add all these nasty personal attacks against him - because of that fact. Urban proposes to actually fight against the Germans when they entered. He believes that this would mean that Czechs and Slovaks would remain in control of their things in the new state. He must surely be joking.

Those times were hard for Czechoslovakia and Beneš was unlucky in 1938 much like in 1948 but thank God we weren't led by the likes of Urban.

reader TomVonk said...

That “something” is the fact that in 1938 the German Army (the Heer, incorrectly known as the Wehrmacht) was ready to stage a coup to overthrow (and even kill) Hitler in the event of his ordering an attack on Czechoslovakia.
Yes that's what I already wrote a few days ago. The Wehrmacht was definitely opposed to the invasion of Czechoslovakia but for most not for some humanitary reasons but for the simple reason that they knew that the state of equipment and training of the army was not ready to realize the operation with success and few casualties at that particular time.
Otherwise just to be sure you seem to mix up the german military organisation.
The German Armed forces is translated die deutsche Wehrmacht. The OKW (leader Keitel) was Oberkommando der Wehrmacht reporting directly to Hitler.
The (ground) army is translated das Heer. The OKH (leader von Brauchitsch) was Oberkommando des Heeres. It didn't report directly to OKW but in practice the power over military operations was with OKW especially as OKH has no authority over Airforce (Luftwaffe) and Navy (Marine).
So the German armed forces are correctly known as the Wehrmacht and as the military insignia show, the W for Wehrmacht was among others used on the trucks and vehicles of the armies.
The OKH was a nazi invention and existed only since 1935 (if I remember well).
As for Halder, Under Brauchitsch orders at OKH it was he who designed and proposed to Hitler the invasion plan of Czechoslovakia. that is also the reason why it was he (and Brauchitsch) who appreciated best the difficulties of the operation.
Otherwise it is true that there seems to have been a plan due to Beck to arrest and probably kill Hitler in the case of an invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Considering Brauchitsch's and Halder's personality and Halder's diaries it is not sure that they (actually only Halder because Brauchitsch was genuinely scared of Hitler and would have never done, anything) would follow up through this.
However regardless whether the coup was serious or not, feasible or not, it is enough that many Wehrmacht officers (and not only the Heer) opposed the invasion for technical reasons even if they had no particular hostility towards Hitler himself and Hitler knew it.
That's why he was bluffing in Munich and Lubos' thesis that Munich was a betrayal enacted by France and UK as well as the true beginning of WWII is historically correct.

reader lucretius said...

Sorry, you have misunderstood me and you are also relying on unreliable and discredited information.

I really meant the Heers: only the land Army was involved in the coup plan against Hitler and only in the land Army and of course in the Abwehr was there was genuine resistance to Hitler. The Goering lead Luftwaffe and the Navy always remained completely loyal to Hitler. But it is also true that the chief plotters where in the OKW - so it is in some sense reasonable though not accurate to speak of the resistance in the Wehrmacht.

Also, Halder’s memoirs are unreliable. What is much more reliable are the

1. The diaries of Helmuth Groscurth, found in 1960s and published in 1970. He was at the time the chief of liaison group Ausland/Abwehr of OKW and a right hand man of Halder’s. When Halder decided to break all connections with the resistance (after the start of the war in 1939) he was got rid of, sent to the front and captured at Stalingrad. He died of typhus in Soviet captivity. He gave his diaries to his wife in 1940, they contain a precise description of the 1938 coup - exactly as I described it. I have the diaries, so I am not just quoting secondary sources.

Grosurth was one of the most remarkable of the German resistance members, but amazingly the only Wikipedia entries on him are in German, in Polish, and in Swedish. The Polish entry is by far the most complete:

2. The second most completely and a slightly less reliable source is the book of Hans B. Gisevius ( “To the Bitter End” published immediately after the war. Gisevius was very actively involved in the plot: he was an aide to Hans Oster ( ) and quotes in detail many conversations with Halder (of whom he had a very poor opinion) and with Brauchitsch (even poorer). The details in the book largely agree with Groscurth’s diaries and they were written entirely independently. By the way, I have this book too.

It was of course Halder and not Brauchitsch who prepared the plan of invasion of Czechoslovakia. This sort of thing was the job of the Chief of Staff and not of the Chief of the Army.

Everything I wrote can be confirmed in the two main sources on the German resistance:

1. Peter Hoffman - The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945 (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

This is a huge work, extremely well documented and the most authoritative source of information on the subject. Of course I have it and have read it thoroughly and many times.

2. Joachim Fest “Plotting Hitler’s Death” : The German Resistance to Hitler 1933-1945

Fest is one of my most favourite historians of all time. He wrote the first biography of Hitler and fascinating autobiography :Not Me: Memoirs of a German Childhood .

There is a quite fair biography of Fest on the Wikipedia:

Finally, I will say rather immodestly: I have devoted a great deal of time to subject of the German Military Resistance against Hitler and there are few people as knowledgeable about it as me among non-professionals and among the professionals I would only acknowledge Peter Hoffman as a greater authority (Fest died in 2006).