Question 4: The Munich Agreement
In the 1920s and 1930s, Adolf Hitler began his rise to power. Intent on making Germany become a major national power, Hitler had to overcome the terms that limited Germany’s power in the Treaty of Versailles. Knowing that he could not overcome them through negotiation, Hitler deviously and subtly began to violate the terms of the Treaty of Versailles to restore Germany’s glory. One of the most effective ways Hitler achieved this was by utilizing the antiwar sentiments of the other nations of Europe; countries such as Great Britain and France were devastated by World War 1 and would try to avoid another war at any cost. In 1938, Hitler made an aggressive claim to the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. Leaders from Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain met in Munich to discuss Hitler’s radical claim, and the Munich Agreement was the result of this conference. As Churchill stated, the Munich Agreement was “a disaster of the first magnitude” (Source D); through the policy of appeasement, the nations of Europe helped Hitler succeed in his quest for dominance, further increasing German ambition and paving the road for World War 2.
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Fearful of starting another war, Great Britain and the other nations of Western Europe engaged in the policy of appeasement. Appeasement is when one nation pacifies another by giving in to the other one’s demands. Source A shows the passive nature of the British. Chamberlain was willing to let Germany exert its influence on weaker countries as long as war was prevented at the time. In 1937, Great Britain allowed Germany to militarize the Rhineland. Then, in March of 1938, Great Britain and France allowed Germany to unify with Austria. Finally, on September 28, 1938, Great Britain, Italy, and France allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland. This series of appeasement not only gave Hitler’s Germany more physical power, but it also proved to Hitler that he could expand his empire with little retaliation from the other nations of Europe. As shown in Source C, the French were willing to let Germany take over the Sudetenland. The French were happy that the German people were happy, and their only hopes were that peace would last.
Unfortunately, giving in to the German’s demands only lead to increased German ambition. As exemplified in Source E, appeasement would only last so long before Europe would be forced into war; Germany’s goals were becoming too radical, and there was only so much land Europe could grant Hitler. In the Sudetenland, Hitler believed that the Czechs and the Slovaks were inferior to the Germans and should not control this region. Therefore, Hitler threatened war if he did not get the land he wanted. Because France, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany got together and agreed upon Hitler’s requests, it proved to Hitler that the nations of Europe were weak and cowardly. By caving into Hitler's belligerent and racist demands, the leaders of France, Great Britain, and Italy essentially said that Hitler was right to make such claims. Also, the Munich Agreement proved that the other nations of Europe were focused on making Hitler happy, for Czechoslovakia, the country whose land was being taken and who would have opposed Hitler, was excluded from the conference.
The Munich Agreement paved the road for World War 2 because it showed Hitler that he could take over Europe. Even the terms of the Munich Conference show how much of an influence Hitler had on the other nations of Europe. Source B, an excerpt from the Munich Agreement, shows that the Czechoslovakian government had to evacuate the Sudetenland by October 10, 1938, which was not even two weeks after the agreement was made. Also, Germany could send troops into the Sudetenland on October 1, 1938, just two days after the agreement was made, and the Czechoslovakian government had to release all German political prisoners (Source B). Hitler not only got the land he wanted, but he got his requests with surprising speed that excluded any Czechoslovakian demands. Churchill, a British statesman at the time, realized how detrimental appeasement was to the future of Europe. He stated that appeasement was only making Germany stronger and “the maintenance of peace depends upon the accumulation of deterrents against the aggressor” (Source D). Churchill knew that war was inevitable with Hitler now that Hitler had gained so much new territory; he believed it was atrocious that Europe squandered the many opportunities it had at stopping Hitler, especially the Munich Agreement (Source D). The Munich Agreement was Europe’s last chance to stop Hitler’s expansion, but the nations of Europe were too entrenched in their fears of another world war to do anything.
The Munich Agreement was the final policy of appeasement that showed Hitler he could take over Europe. Now that Hitler had the Sudetenland, he had to continue on his quest for domination, and there was no turning back. The Munich Agreement was one of the major forms of appeasement that showed how much the nations of Europe feared war. By giving into Hitler’s demands, the nations of Europe were digging their own graves deeper and deeper. The Munich Agreement let Hitler succeed in his quest for dominance, resulting in a more powerful Germany that would start World War 2.