Vít Smetana - Czechoslovakia and the Western Powers on the Path to Munich: A Problem of Mutual (Mis)Understanding

The two major victorious powers of the Great War, France and Great Britain, still under the impression of their extraordinarily dearly paid victory and even more frightening scenarios of the future war, were forced in 1938 to respond to Hitler’s growing expansionist ambitions, which were also trickily concealed behind noble slogans on peoples’ right to self-determination. They pragmatically opted for pressure on Czechoslovakia, which in the second half of September meant support for large-scale territorial concessions in favour of Germany. However, when it seemed that they would not be sufficient for Hitler, on 26 September Great Britain proclaimed readiness to intervene militarily in the event of a German attack. On the contrary, Czechoslovakia had turned into a ductile object of the great powers’ game on 21 September, when its leadership decided not to defend the territorial integrity of the state. It happened un- der pressure, but following the previous announcements by top state representatives that the Czechoslovak Republic was ready for territorial concessions. Finally, Czechoslovakia saw such a solution, because after the fundamental principle of inviolability of state borders had been abandoned, everything else was only a question of quantity and a search for “compromise” for the British and French “appeasers”.