Read this article to learn about the Munich pact between the Two World Wars!
The worst act of appeasement and shameful betrayal took place when Czechoslovakia’s Western allies handed her over to Germany. Czechoslovakia had emerged as an independent state after the First World War.
She was one of the few states in Europe which had maintained her democratic political system while most other parts of eastern, southern and central Europe had fallen victims to authoritarian rule. She was also then the most industrialised country in Eastern Europe.
A part of Czechoslovakia, called Sudetenland, had a large German population. It was also the centre of some of Czechoslovakia’s most important industries. After the annexation of Austria, the next target of Hitler’s aggressive designs was Czechoslovakia.
The initial German demand was the handing over of Sudetenland to her. France had been allied to Czechoslovakia since the 1920s. The rejection by Czechoslovakia of Germany’s demand to cede Sudetenland was supported by the Soviet Union, which had signed a treaty with that country in 1935.
The Soviet Union offered to immediately come to the aid of Czechoslovakia if she decided to resist German aggression. However, on 29 and 30 September 1938, a meeting was held in Munich, which was attended by Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and the Prime Minister of France, Daladier.
Neither Czechoslovakia, the fate of which was being decided, nor the Soviet Union, which had a treaty with Czechoslovakia, was invited to the meeting. At this meeting it was decided to hand over Czechoslovakia to Germany. Czechoslovakia was made to surrender Sudetenland to Germany by Britain and France. She surrendered without opting for Soviet help.
Sudetenland was occupied by German troops and parts of the Czech territory were also handed over to Hungary and Poland. In March 1939 Germany marched her troops into the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia and occupied them. Around the same time, Lithuania was forced to surrender the town of Memel on the borders of East Prussia to Germany.
Jawaharlal Nehru was in Europe at the time and went to Czechoslovakia and “watched at close quarters the difficult and intricate game of how to betray your friend”. In an article, entitled ‘On the Brink’, which he wrote a week before the Munich Pact was signed, he said that Nazi aggression could have been stopped “if England and France and Russia had stood together”. But Britain and France preferred Hitler.