Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

SEPTEMBER 30th

On this day in history in 1938, was signed the Munich Agreement.

The Munich Agreement was an informal pact between Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, and Adolph Hitler of Germany, which guaranteed 'Peace in Our Time'. The deal was not respected and war followed within a year.

During the 1930ís, British government policy was almost exclusively preoccupied by the economic depression, which caused not only mass unemployment and widespread poverty, but curtailed the earning capacity of those who were able to obtain employment. The tedium of fixation with economic matters was relieved to some extent by the abdication crisis of 1936, after which government returned to normality. During this period, in the fine tradition of British governmental procedure, foreign policy was ignored.

Meanwhile, in Europe, events were unfolding rapidly. Germany was suffering the same depression as the rest of the world, but blamed their economic decline on the peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles, which they had been obliged to sign after defeat in the First World War. The treaty had taken away vast tracts of German territory, including areas vital to the German economy, including the Rhineland coalfields. German policy, under the dictatorship of Adoph Hitler, was to regain these territories and obtain others, by whatever means necessary. Germany occupied the Rhineland and marched into Austria, without any opposition from other European states. In 1938, Hitler demanded the territory of the Sudetenland, a strip of land in the west of Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, a zone inhabited by ethnic Germans but governed by the Czechs. Hitler threatened that if this region were not handed over to Germany, war would follow. As Britain and France had a mutual defence treaty with Czechoslovakia, it seemed that Britain could become involved in another pointless European war.

In an attempt to forestall war, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, offered to travel to Germany to negotiate personally with Hitler. He was invited to Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden to discuss the situation personally with the Fuhrer. On 22nd September 1938, Chamberlain flew to Germany and met Hitler at who demanded that the Sudetenland should be occupied by the German army, and the Czechs evacuated from the area. Chamberlain agreed to submit the proposal to the Czechs, who roundly rejected it, as did the British Cabinet and the French, who ordered mobilization in expectation of war. In a last-minute effort to avoid conflict, Chamberlain proposed that a four-power conference to settle the dispute. Hitler agreed, and on 30th September 1939, Chamberlain, Hitler, Daladier, the French Prime Minister, and the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini met in Munich. Without consulting the Czechs, the parties agreed to allow Germany to take the Sudetenland, upon condition that Germany would make no further territorial demands.

Before leaving Munich, Chamberlain and Hitler signed a paper declaring their mutual desire to resolve differences through consultation to assure peace. Chamberlain returned home to jubilant crowds, relieved that the threat of war had been averted. Upon landing at Heston Aerodrome, Chamberlain made a speech quoting the now hackneyed phrase 'peace with honour' and 'peace in our time'. Winston Churchill denounced the agreement loudly in the House of Commons. He correctly predicted that Czechoslovakia would 'soon be engulfed in the Nazi regime'. Chamberlain's policies were discredited in 1939, when Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, and then invaded Poland, precipitating the Second World War.

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©2006 Wardís Book of Days