MUNICH. APPEASEMENT. Powerful symbols. Invoked to justify questionable military adventures. What actually happened at Munich?
'In Our Time:The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion'--based on government documents, correspondence, diaries, etc.--shatters the conventional judgment.
There is no doubt that when Hitler first violated a treaty by entering the Rhineland, a firm response would have defeated him. The French were prepared to take action but the British government wouldn't. The Tory government, anxious to eradicate communism, was willing to accommodate Hitler's aggressive appetite in eastern Europe hoping that this would lead to war with the Soviet Union.
Many books I previously read described Hitler as a genius who continually overrode the warnings of his generals. The generals were properly cautious, assuming they would meet opposition. But Hitler was aware that his anti-communism had the approval of the British establishment and that his adventures would be successful.
German opposition forces tried to convince the British, that if they and the French took a firm stance, the German military would overthrow Hitler. Chamberlain rejected their pleas.
Hitler's demands against Czechoslovakia threatened to cause a major war since France had a mutual assistance treaty with the Czechs. To defuse the crisis, Chamberlain traveled to Germany and held three meetings with Hitler. The last one, with France and Italy, produced the Munich Agreement--which sold out a reluctant but consenting Czechoslovakia.
During those meetings, Chamberlain felt he had forged a separate agreement with Hitler-which granted Hitler a "green light" for aggression in central and eastern Europe.
But public opinion in Britain was a major problem that Chamberlain defused by issuing gas masks and calling for the digging of trenches. Hitler was advised to ignore any harsh criticisms; they were made to appease the public.
Munich's lesson (the convention one) is a fraud. Chamberlain knew he was not bringing 'Peace in Our Time'. His performance was a charade to deceive an unsuspecting public. What is the real lesson. Beware of the duplicity of our leaders. Those magical PR icons--Munich, Appeasement, and the newer ones, Humanitarian Intervention, Ethnic Cleansing--should alert us that they are used to get public support for dubious activities.
For history buffs and particularly those interested in World War II, this book is an absolute MUST read.