Munich Agreement

From Encyc

The Munich Agreement or Munich Pact was a treaty signed in September 1938 between Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. The treaty allowed Nazi Germany to invade and occupy the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, in return for Adolf Hitler's promise that it would be the last of his territorial claims in Europe. The Sudetenland was a mountainous region with an ethnic German majority, and prior to 1918 it had been part of Austria-Hungary. It contained most of the Czechoslovakian defensive fortifications and its loss meant that the rest of Czechoslovakia became indefensible against the German invaders.

Great Britain had previously pledged to support Czechoslovakia, and so the Munich Agreement represented an astounding diplomatic betrayal. Czechoslovakia had been ready to fight and stood a reasonable chance of being able to defend itself. Their well-trained military was prepared to use fortifications in the Sudetenland and might have won a war against Germany, or have been sufficient deterrent to prevent one from breaking out. When Neville Chamberlain famously returned to England waving his piece of paper around and proclaiming, "peace in our time" and "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing," the Czechs felt abandoned. It was only because of intense diplomatic pressure from their allies that they failed to fight the German invasion while they still had the means to resist effectively.

In Germany, the signing of the agreement strengthened Hitler against dissident elements within the army, who could not act so long as his reckless foreign policy continued to succeed.

In March 1939, Hitler broke the agreement and occupied Prague and the remainder of Czechoslovakia. Soon after, he attacked Poland, igniting World War II. Since then, the Munich Agreement has been noted as the most famous example of appeasement in history.

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