Would Munichs Agreement Be A Success For Hitler History Essay

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The aim of this investigation is to assess the degree to which the Munich agreement could be viewed as a success for Hitler. The investigation focuses on examining how successful Hitler achieved his aims, and the extent to which the Munich Agreement promoted Hitler's ideology and popular opinion in Germany. The written accounts of historians are used to evaluate the role of the Munich Agreement to Hitler. The two sources: "The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler" by Robert Payne and "Hitler: The Study in Tyranny" written by Alan Bullock, are evaluated in the essay for their origins, purposes, values and limitations.

The investigation does not examine the results of Munich Agreement on Czechoslovakia or the participant countries and does not assess the later stages of the policy of the Third Reich towards Czechoslovakia.

B.     Summary of Evidence

The problem of Czechoslovakia

      Czechoslovakia had come into existence in 1918 at the treaty of Versailles as a successor of Austro-Hungary. It was nearly as multinational as the Empire had been.[1] Out of population of some 15 million, nearly a third was neither Czech nor Slovak.[2] Three and a half million Germans, close to a million Hungarians and nearly half a million Poles were incorporated into the new state.[3] To make matters worse, these minorities dwelled in territories which bordered their ethnic homelands, which rendered the claim that they should rejoin their mother countries on the principle of self-determination.[4] On such grounds, in May 1938, Hitler began to prepare for an attack on the Sudetenland, the territory with the majority of the German-speaking inhabitants in Czechoslovakia. [5] On May 21, Czechoslovakia also partially mobilized as a response to German actions.[6] Both Britain and France warned Hitler against the attacking of Czechoslovakia.[7] Hitler felt humiliated by such course of events and issued a secret directive on May, 30, stating that it was his ultimate aim to smash Czechoslovakia in the near future.[8]

 The attitude of Britain and France

Throughout the summer of 1938 Britain and France became aware that Hitler was planning on striking at the Sudetenland and, maybe, even Czechoslovakia.[9] Both of the countries had to find an agreement on how to deal with possible threat for Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain twice flew to Germany to negotiate with Hitler on this question. His one attempt was to prevent war and after the discussion with Hitler he saw that only voluntary cessation of Sudetenland by the Czechs could prevent the serious military conflict.[10]

      France, on the other hand, had an alliance with Czechoslovakia, meaning that in case of attack she would be obliged to aid Czechoslovakia. However, French Prime Minister Daladier had no wish to be drawn into war.[11] The position of France, thus, was to follow Britain in her actions. Consequently, both of the countries put very strong pressure on the Czechs to reach an agreement with Germans, meaning that Czechoslovakia should give in to Hitler's demands.[12]

Hitler's aims and demands

      As Hitler insisted himself, the annexation of Czechoslovakia was the second necessary step (after the Anschluss) in the development of his program for securing Germany's future.[13]  Czechoslovakia was of strategically important position for Germany as it was a window for further expansion to the east. Hitler also wanted to pursue his policy of acquiring lebensraum and reuniting all Germans in one country. Seeing that Britain and France were willing to comply with his demands, Hitler raised his demands since he wanted both a local war and annexation of territories in Czechoslovakia.[14] He demanded that the area of his interest should be evacuated by Czechs and handed over to Germans by 1st of October, 1938 instead of period of few months.[15] Such demands seemed impossible to be forced upon Czechs and Britain refused to negotiate such conditions. The probability of war seemed tremendous at that time.

The Munich Conference

At the last moment, however, Chamberlain offered to hold and international conference to give Hitler what he wanted and avoid war.[16] Hitler agreed to a four-power conference of Germany, Italy, represented by Mussolini, Britain and France to be held in Munich on 29-30 September. Czechs were excluded from any negotiations. The conference reached agreement on this basis: evacuation of the territories would begin on 1st and would be completed by the 10th October, the areas occupied were to be predominantly German ones as determined by an international commission, France and Britain would guarantee the new frontiers and Germany with Italy would do so after Poland and Hungary also had their claims on Czechoslovakia met.[17] The conditions of the agreement were to be presented to Czechoslovakia by France and Britain. After hearing the terms, the leader of Czechoslovakia, Eduard Beneš resigned his presidency.[18] On the 1st of October, German troops entered the Sudetenland.

C.     Evaluation of Sources 344

"Hitler: the Study in Tyranny" written by Alan Bullock is an in-depth biography of Adolf Hitler. The book is divided into three parts that cover the early years of his life, and rise to power. The second focuses on consolidation of Hitler's power in domestic and foreign scenes (this part is used in this investigation). The main purpose of this book is to analyze the actions of Hitler throughout his career and motivation for them as well as the outcome of his policies, to tell the story of Hitler in terms of his time and Nazi era. The book's value lies in the fact that the book covers the whole life of Hitler, consistently relating all the facts and drawing coherent conclusions. It was also written quite shortly after the Second World War with memories still quite fresh. On the other hand, the limitations can also be related to the fact that the book was published after short period of time from the war and there was still the flow of information and new evidence. Also, the memories of the horrors of war may have resulted in sometimes too emotional evaluation of Hitler as a politician led only by the lust of power.

"The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler" by Robert Payne, as well as the previous source, is considered to be one of the best written accounts on Hitler's life. The main purpose of this book is mostly to get the reader acquainted with the character of one of the most infamous men in history. The value of the book is that it is one of those works which present the characteristic of Hitler, the portrait of him as a person. It is also well-written, promoting the facts, events and dates into new heights. However, this work has several limitations. The author is sometimes considered to be a secondary historian and there are some serious errors revealed by other historians in his work. Some sources that were relied on when writing this account on Hitler also seem to be of dubious origins.

 D.    Analysis 676

The Munich Agreement and its outcome to Hitler seem to be quite debatable question. In terms of gains and in relation to domestic and international policies it could be held as contributing largely to the rise of Hitler's power. However, as witnesses claim, Hitler himself saw little success in the Munich Agreement for he considered this triumph as too dearly bought.[19]

Hitler had hated the Czechs since his days in Vienna, as Czechoslovakia, created by the peace settlement, was a symbol of Versailles and its principles.[20] It was a strong supporter of the League of Nations, ally of France and Soviet Union and with the strong leadership of Eduard Beneš it was genuinely democratic even though surrounded by the fascist Italy, Nazis Germany and USSR. At the same time, Czechoslovakia possessed a strong military power with large army and excellent equipment. Finally, the acquirement of Czechoslovakia would be of great strategic value for Germany: in the centre of Europe, just hour flight from Berlin it was a perfect land to deal with serious blows in case of war.[21] Consequently, the Munich Agreement was a triumph for Hitler as without application of force he managed to procure an extensive area of land, acquire new industries and dramatically improve Germany's strategic position. What is more, president Beneš, for whom Hitler had little respect, was forced into exile.[22]

More importantly, the Munich Agreement meant the approval of great powers to Hitler's policies. In Munich everything went the way it was intended to by Hitler. Chamberlain as well as Daladier were prepared to sacrifice Czechoslovakia; Mussolini would act as Hitler wanted him to act. All Hitler had to do was to tolerate arguments of his enemies for few hours and then permit to sign an instrument of surrender.[23]

Finally, with the Munich Agreement, the prestige of Hitler had grown in Germany where relief that war was avoided and delight with gains began to arise. With a single blow, Hitler had established a new basis of trust and confidence in his person, who once more kept his nerve through the entire crisis and attained yet another triumph without bloodshed. The Munich Agreement became a symbol for Germans that Hitler as a statesman would do what is best for Germany and that he could be relied upon.[24]

Strangely enough, many of the accounts on Munich Agreement emphasise the fact that Hitler seemed to be far from triumphant. In fact, the true intentions of Hitler were to destroy Czechoslovakia and he intended to go to war as could be seen from the military directive Operation Green.  However, there was lack of enthusiasm for war among general public, people were not ready for the "first-class tasks" that Hitler meant to embark upon.[25] After seeing how Chamberlain was joyfully greeted by the crowds in contrast with morose attitudes in Germany earlier Hitler even claimed that "fellow Chamberlain has spoiled my entry into Prague."[26] As a result, Hitler saw himself as forced to sign an agreement which meant that he would have to sustain for quite a long time from his real intentions.

It is possible to claim that Hitler when signing the Munich Agreement was not even sure if it was the right decision. For Hitler it went against his ideology even to negotiate this question, as this meant embarking on democratic settlement. His preference for violence was evident. All of his public utterances were related to wartime experiences[27] and the fact that Czechoslovakia was won over by negotiations instilled sense to Hitler that he was deprived of his glory.

Even more, Munich could be seen as an end to the Hitler's strategy of appealing to the democracies' sense of guilt about the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany.[28] Czechoslovakia was the last major questionable territorial solution of the Versailles peace makers that was left for Hitler to exploit; afterwards his only possibility to acquire what he needed would be force and there is a limit to what extent even those mostly terrified of the idea of war would succumb to provocations.

E.     Conclusion

To large extent the Munich Agreement could be claimed as a personal victory for Hitler. He was successful in combining the threat with diplomatic compromise which helped him to attain a considerable win. In fact "in the history of Europe there had not been for centuries such profound changes without war."[29] Most importantly, the fact that British Prime Minister came to negotiate with Hitler and the French and Italian heads of governments did so too constitutes Hitler's triumph. He could dictate his own terms to victors of the First World War in the city where he began his career.

However, the Munich Agreement was the last reserve that Hitler could use to appeal to Western democracies, as they were determined not to be bulldozed by Hitler ever again. For Hitler himself the Munich Agreement was not a success, but more a settlement which temporarily estranged him from his true purport. The entry into Prague still remained his main objective.  


F. Bibliography                                                                           

Bullock Alan, "Hitler: The Study in Tyranny". Harper & Row, New York, 1962.


Elliot B. J., "Hitler & Germany". Longman, London, 1980.


Farmer Alan, "An Introduction to Modern European History 1890-1990". Hodder & Stoughton,

London, 2005.


Fest C. Joachim, "Hitler". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2002.


Kershaw Ian, "The Hitler Myth. Image & Reality in the Third Reich". Oxford University Press,

Oxford, 2001.


Kissinger Henry, "Diplomacy". Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994.


Martel Gordon, "Modern Germany Reconsidered 1870-1945". Routledge, London, 1992.


Payne Robert, "The Life and Death of Hitler". Praeger, New York, 1973.


Richards Denis, "An Illustrated History of Modern Europe 1789-1974". Longman, London, 1980.


"The Avalon Project : Munich Pact 9/29/38." Avalon Project - Documents in Law, History and

Diplomacy. 06 Aug. 2010. <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/munich1.asp>.

[1] Henry Kissinger, "Diplomacy" (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994), p. 311.

[2] Ibid, p. 311.

[3] Ibid, p. 311.

[4] Ibid, p. 311.

[5] Robert Payne "The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler" (Praeger, New York), p. 314.

[6] Ibid, p. 314

[7] Alan Farmer "An Introduction to Modern European History 1890 - 1990" (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2005), p. 218.

[8] Payne, p. 314.

[9] Ibid, p. 314.

[10] Denis Richards "An Illustrated History of Modern Europe 1789-1974" (Longman, London, 1980). P. 318.

[11] Farmer, p. 218.

[12] Richards, p. 317.

[13] Alan Bullock "Hitler: The Study in Tyranny" (Harper & Row, New York, 1962), p. 439.

[14] Gordon Martel, "Modern Germany Reconsidered 1879-1945" (Routledge, London, 1992), p. 186

[15] Richards, p. 318.

[16] B. J. Elliot "Hitler & Germany" (Longman, London, 1966), p. 92.

[17] Available on: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/munich1.asp (accessed on 10/12/08).

[18] Elliot, p. 92.

[19] Joachim C. Fest, "Hitler". (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2002), p. 565.

[20] Bullock, p. 439.

[21] Ibid, p. 439.

[22] Ibid, p. 469.

[23] Payne, p. 325.

[24] Ian Kershaw, "The Hitler Myth. Image & Reality in the Third Reich". (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001), p. 136-137.

[25] Fest, p. 565.

[26] Bullock, p. 471.

[27] Kissinger, p. 315.

[28] Ibid, p. 315.

[29] Fest, p. 565.