CHRONICLE OF THE MUNICH AGREEMENT (1938)

 

February 20

A. Hitler makes a speech before the Reichstag, where he announced that unable to remain indifferent to the fate of 10 million Germans living in two neighboring states,[1]the German government would do whatever is necessary to unite the German people.

 

March 12

German troops cross the Austrian border overnight. The Anschluss begins.

 

March 14

Hitler decrees reuniting Austria with the German Reich. Following the Anschluss, Germany expands its territory by 17% and its population by 10% (6.7 million people). Czechoslovakia finds itself surrounded by the Reich and its satellite states.

 

March 15

V. Potyomkin, Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, has a conversation with Zdeněk Fierlinger, Czechoslovakia’s ambassador in Moscow, where he confirms that should Czechoslovakia be attacked by Germany, the USSR would be ready to fulfill its obligations under the mutual assistance pact of 1935. Similar statements are also made by People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs M. Litvinov in a conversation with the British ambassador in Moscow, and by the Soviet ambassador plenipotentiary in Paris in an address to the French government.

 

March 16

The USSR urges Great Britain, France, and the USA to join together in a single line of defense for shielding the Czechoslovak Republic from possible military aggression.

 

March 28

Hitler welcomes Konrad Henlein, leader of the Sudeten German Party and self-proclaimed “protector” of the German Diaspora in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, to Berlin, and instructs him to start confronting Prague with intentionally impossible demands.

 

A.Hitler and K.Henlein, 1938 г.

 

April 24

The Sudeten German party holds a meeting in the Czech city of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad). Henlein calls for granting full autonomy to Sudeten Germans.

 

April 26

M. Kalinin, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, promises that the USSR will be able to come to Czechoslovakia’s assistance if asked to do so by Prague.

 

May 7

During a meeting in Prague between the Czechoslovak Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamil Krofta and the ambassadors of Great Britain and France, the ambassadors give Krofta “friendly advice” on behalf of their governments: to accept Henlein’s demands from Sudetenland’s autonomy. They also warn him that, should Prague’s “stubbornness” result in an armed conflict, London and Paris will refuse to assist Czechoslovakia.

 

May 12

M. Litvinov meets the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georges Bonnet, and offers to hold bilateral talks on the technical aspects of providing Czechoslovakia with military assistance (based on the mutual assistance pacts signed by Moscow and Paris with Prague) in the event of a German invasion. M. Litvinov also offers to make an effort to persuade Poland and Romania to allow the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army to pass through their territory on their way to assist Czechoslovakia. Georges Bonnet does not go beyond a promise to consider Moscow’s initiative.

 

May 14

M. Litvinov sends a telegram from Geneva to the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, saying “The Poles and Romanians say that they will never let the Red Army pass.”

 

May 19

Henlein declares further negotiations with the Czechoslovak government to be impossible. Sudeten German activists have clashes with the Czech police in several cities across Czechoslovakia.

Tensions between Berlin and Prague on the Sudetenland issue are on the rise, with Germany drawing its troops to the Czech border. Ulrich von Ribbentrop warns V. Mastny, Czechoslovak ambassador in Berlin, that the German army is ready to invade the Czechoslovak Republic immediately, allegedly to “protect” the German diaspora.

 

May 20

Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš calls 180,000 reserve officers to active military duty. The May Crisis begins.

 

The address to people by Czechoslovak President E.Beneš, May 24, 1938

 

May 26

Henlein resumes negotiations with the Czechoslovak government. The May Crisis ends.

 

May 30

Hitler approves the plan for war with Czechoslovakia (Fall Grün [Case Green]) and orders its execute in practice no later than October 1, 1938.

 

June 13

A conversation record between S. Aleksandrovsky, the USSR’s ambassador plenipotentiary to Czechoslovakia, and K. Krofta: “...France is putting Czechoslovakia under increased pressure, in that it demands that Czechoslovakia dramatically speed up the negotiations with Henlein for the purpose of making an immediate and far-reaching concessions to the Sudeten Germans, albeit ostensibly still within the limits of the Czechoslovak constitution... Poland is making almost no attempts to deny that it may join an assault on Czechoslovakia, provided such an assault results in ceding a part of the Czechoslovak territory to Poland.”

 

July 22

The Czechoslovak government issues a statement saying that it is ready to grant autonomy to Sudetenland.

 

August 3

The English Lord Runciman arrives in Prague to moderate the autonomy talks between the Czechoslovak government and the Sudeten Germans. The so-called Runciman Mission begins.

 

August 22

When speaking to Friedrich von der Schulenburg, Germany’s ambassador in Moscow, M. Litvinov confirms that the Soviet Union, which promised aid to Czechoslovakia, “will keep its word and do everything in its power.”

 

People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs M. Litvinov in his office, 1938

 

August

General J. Fajfr, commander in chief of Czechoslovakia’s air forces, holds consultations in Moscow on the matter of establishing direct cooperation between the air forces of the two countries. Assisted by the Soviet Union, the Czechoslovak Republic develops a defense plan. The nations agree that the USSR will send Czechoslovakia 700 fighter aircraft, provided that Czechoslovakia prepares airports that can accommodate them, as well as provide cover with its own air defense artillery.

 

September 1

Henlein attends a meeting with the Reich government in the city of Berchtesgaden, Germany. He is ordered to reject all of Runciman’s compromise proposals and demand that the Czechoslovak government immediately surrender Sudetenland to Germany.

 

September 2

M. Litvinov sends the USSR ambassador plenipotentiary in Prague the following telegram, “...provided that France renders aid as well, we are determined to follow through with all our obligations under the pact with Czechoslovakia, through any channels available. Although Poland and Romania impose hurdles, they, and Romania especially, might change their behavior if the League of Nations issues a decree on aggression.”

M. Litvinov also writes a letter to the governments of Great Britain and France and suggests the following:

  1. a call for an urgent meeting between the USSR, France, and England, which would result in a declaration, published on behalf of all three nations, with a warning that they will aid Czechoslovakia in the event of German aggression against the latter;
  2. an urgent appeal to the League of Nations, citing Article 11 of its Charter and asking to officially recognize German aggression towards Czechoslovakia;
  3. a call for a meeting between the representatives of the Soviet, French, and Czechoslovak General Staff, for resolving the practical issues of counter-aggression military cooperation between the three nations.

 

September 7

An armed conflict between Sudeten Germans, the local police, and the military in Moravská Ostrava. Henlein cuts off contact with the Czechoslovak government once more.

 

September 13

Sudeten Germans start a rebellion in the Sudetes region.

President Beneš calls for martial law in Sudetenland and orders the troops to crack down on the separatists.

Henlein issues an ultimatum to the Czechoslovak government, demanding a lift of martial law, a retreat of Czechoslovak troops, and the transfer of law enforcement functions to the local authorities. He gives the Czechoslovak government six hours to meet his demands.

 

September 15

The Czechoslovak army stops an attempted coup staged by the Sudeten German party in the Sudetes Region. Henlein flees to Germany.

Neville Chamberlain meets with Hitler in Berchtesgaden. The British prime minister says that, overall, he agrees with Germany’s claims on the Czechoslovak regions bordering Germany, not going beyond a request that Germany postpone warfare and a suggestion that the issues could be discussed with the British ministers, Paris, and Lord Runciman.

 

British Prime Minister N.Chamberlain and the Reichskanzler A.Hitler before the negotiations in Berchtesgaden, September 15, 1938

 

September 16

Runciman makes a report on the state of affairs in Czechoslovakia to the British government, where he advocates for ceding Sudetenland to Germany without a plebiscite.

 

September 18

Chamberlain meets in London with the French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Georges Bonnet. They decide to make a joint appeal to the government of Czechoslovak Republic on the Sudeten issue.

 

September 19

The British and French ambassadors hand Beneš a joint diplomatic memo saying that, in order to avoid a pan-European war, Czechoslovakia must surrender its predominantly German-populated regions to Germany.

Beneš makes an official appeal to Moscow, asking: a) whether the USSR will follow the mutual aid agreement and render Czechoslovakia immediate and efficient aid, provided that France upholds its obligations to its allies as well; b) whether the USSR will aid Czechoslovakia as a member of the League of Nations.

 

September 20

The Soviet government uses its diplomatic channels to give Beneš an affirmative response.

 

September 21

A major military conflict occurs at the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia.

The ambassadors of Great Britain and France engage in a joint diplomatic protest in Prague. Speaking on behalf of their governments, they repeat their request to reject an alliance with Moscow and to think over Britain’s and France’s offer to surrender Sudetenland to Germany, calling it the only chance to avoid the Nazis’ direct aggression.

The Czechoslovak cabinet of ministers decides to surrender Sudetenland.

M. Litvinov represents the Soviet government at a meeting of the League of Nations in Geneva, where he insists on urgent negotiations between European nations and other stakeholders, aimed at developing collective measures and including the Czechoslovak issue in the League’s agenda.

 

September 22 and 23

Chamberlain meets with Hitler in Bad Godesberg, Germany.

The Reichskanzler issues the Godesberg Ultimatum, and demands not only surrendering Sudetenland but also ceding some of the Czechoslovak territory to Poland and Hungary, letting German troops into the Sudetes region no later than October 1, 1938, and subsequently holding plebiscites on the territorial status of Czechoslovak regions where Germans amount to over 50% of the population.

 

September 24

London passes the Godesberg Ultimatum through diplomatic channels to Prague.

 

September 25

The Czechoslovak government declines the Godesberg Ultimatum.

Hitler makes a speech at the Sportpalast, threatening to take Sudetenland by force if Czechoslovakia does not surrender it to Germany before October 1. The Reichskanzler promises not to make any other territorial demands in Europe if the Sudeten Germans’ issues are settled.

 

September 27

The US president F. Roosevelt asks Hitler to summon a conference involving all parties with a stake in the Czechoslovak conflict, also appealing to Stalin with a request to support the American initiative.

 

September 28

Stalin replies to Roosevelt that the USSR agrees to take part in the stakeholder conference on the Sudeten matter in order to “exercise practical effort to prevent aggression and maintain peace together”.

Meanwhile, Chamberlain asks B. Mussolini to persuade Hitler to postpone the German invasion in the Sudetes region and act as an intermediary while resolving the crisis in Czechoslovakia.

After a telephone conversation with the leader of the Italian fascists, Hitler invites him, Chamberlain, and Daladier to Munich to attend a conference on the Czechoslovak crisis.

The Polish ambassador in Prague, K. Pape, hands Beneš an ultimatum: Warsaw demands that Czechoslovakia immediately surrender the region of Cieszyn Silesia.

 

French Prime Minister E.Daladier and Italian Prime Minister B.Mussolini, September 29, 1938

 

September 29 and 30

Munich hosts a conference on managing the conflict between Germany and Czechoslovakia, attended by Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and France. The conference results in an agreement that requires Czechoslovakia to pass the Sudetenland region (together with all the buildings, fortifications, factories and industrial facilities, mineral deposits, transportation infrastructure, and other resources thereof) to Germany between October 1 and 10, 1938, as well as to meet Poland and Hungary’s territorial demands within the next 3 months. The cosignatories “guarantee” that they will protect the new borders of Czechoslovakia from unprovoked aggression.

The official representatives of Czechoslovakia, also present in Munich, sign a treaty that cedes Sudetenland to Germany.

British Prime Minister N.Chamberlain signs the Munich Agreement, September 30, 1938

 

September 30

Prague is faced by another ultimatum from Warsaw, now demanding that Poland receive an approval for the transfer of Cieszyn Silesia until noon of October 1, 1938. The transfer is to take place in several stages over the course of 10 days.

 

October 1

Wehrmacht soldiers occupy the Sudetes. This results in Czechoslovakia losing about 1/5 of its territory, a population of 5 million, and 33% of its industrial sites.

Prague accepts Warsaw’s September 30 ultimatum.

 

October 2

TASS, a major Russian news agency, reports that the Soviet government could not have possibly had anything to do with the Munich conference or its outcome.

 

October 4

TASS reports that “there have been no meetings, let alone agreements, between the governments of the USSR, France, and England on the fate of the Czechoslovak Republic and its concessions to the aggressor. Neither France nor England have consulted the USSR, instead informing it of their actions after the fact.”

 

[1] Austria and Czechoslovakia