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Munich Pact

Munich Pact, 1938. In the summer of 1938, Chancellor Hitler of Germany began openly to support the demands of Germans living in the Sudetenland (see Sudetes) of Czechoslovakia for an improved status. In September, Hitler demanded self-determination for the Sudetenland. Disorders broke out in Czechoslovakia, and martial law was proclaimed. Meetings between Hitler and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain, first at Berchtesgaden and then at Bad Godesberg, failed to achieve a satisfactory agreement. War seemed unavoidable. After appeals by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Benito Mussolini, a conference met at Munich (Sept. 29). Great Britain was represented by Chamberlain and Halifax, France by Edouard Daladier and Georges Bonnet, Italy by Mussolini and Galeazzo Ciano, Germany by Hitler and Ribbentrop. Neither Czechoslovakia nor the Soviet Union, which had offered aid to the threatened country under the terms of a 1935 treaty, was invited to the conference. England and France quickly surrendered to Hitler's demands, and the Munich Pact was signed Sept. 30 (but dated Sept. 29). It permitted immediate occupation by Germany of the Sudetenland, but also provided for plebiscites, which were never carried out. France and Britain guaranteed the new Czechoslovak boundaries. When Chamberlain arrived in London, he announced that he had secured "peace in our time." Abandoned by its allies, Czechoslovakia gave in to the terms, and President Beneš, the target of Hitler's most venomous attacks, resigned. Poland and Hungary, for whose minorities promises had been made at Munich, were allowed to seize, respectively, the Teschen district and parts of Slovakia. The Munich Pact became a symbol of appeasement and shook the confidence of Eastern Europeans in the good faith of the Western democracies. World War II began about one year after its signing.

See J. W. Wheeler-Bennett, Munich: Prologue to Tragedy (1948, repr. 1966); studies by K. Eubank (1963), F. L. Loewenheim, ed. (1965), and D. E. Lee, ed. (1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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