What was the Munich Agreement?

Introduction

The Munich Agreement (Czech: Mnichovská dohoda; Slovak: Mníchovská dohoda; German: Münchner Abkommen) or Munich Betrayal (Czech: Mnichovská zrada; Slovak: Mníchovská zrada) was an agreement concluded at Munich on 30 September 1938, by Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom, the French Third Republic, and the Kingdom of Italy.

It provided “cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory” of Czechoslovakia.

Most of Europe celebrated the agreement, because it prevented the war threatened by Adolf Hitler by allowing Nazi Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland, a region of western Czechoslovakia inhabited by more than 3 million people, mainly German speakers. Hitler announced it was his last territorial claim in Europe, and the choice seemed to be between war and appeasement.

Background

An emergency meeting of the main European powers – not including Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union, an ally to both France and Czechoslovakia – took place in Munich, Germany, on 29-30 September 1938. An agreement was quickly reached on Hitler’s terms.

It was signed by the top leaders of Germany, France, Britain and Italy. Militarily, the Sudetenland was of strategic importance to Czechoslovakia as most of its border defenses were situated there to protect against a German attack. The agreement between the four powers was signed on the backdrop of a low-intensity undeclared German-Czechoslovak war that had started on 17 September 1938.

Meanwhile, Poland moved its army units towards its common border with Czechoslovakia after 23 September 1938. Czechoslovakia yielded to French and British diplomatic pressure and agreed on 30 September to give up territory to Germany on Munich terms.

Fearing the possible loss of Zaolzie to Germany, Poland issued an ultimatum for Zaolzie, with a majority of ethnic Poles, which Germany had accepted in advance and Czechoslovakia accepted on 01 October.

Aftermath

The Munich Agreement was soon followed by the First Vienna Award on 02 November 1938, separating largely Hungarian inhabited territories in southern Slovakia and southern Subcarpathian Rus’ from Czechoslovakia while Poland also annexed territories from Czechoslovakia in the North.

In March 1939, the First Slovak Republic was proclaimed, and shortly by the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia Germany took full control of the remaining Czech parts.

As a result, Czechoslovakia had disappeared.

Today, the Munich Agreement is widely regarded as a failed act of appeasement, and the term has become “a byword for the futility of appeasing expansionist totalitarian states”.

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