Most European Leaders Favored Dealing With Germany Through
Apologists of appeasement accept argued that public opinion, whether on the British or the French side, was unprepared for war in 1938. This, equally recent studies have shown, is debatable. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain received 20,000 messages and telegrams thanking him for averting war at Munich. The febrile scenes of welcome to Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier on their return testify to the preparedness of many to salute a peace that sacrificed Czechoslovakia. Yet sheer relief at not having to fight or endure the dangers and hardships of war, particularly afterward information technology had appeared so close, must account for much of this enthusiasm.
When the statesmen returned, the full details of the Munich Understanding—with which they immune Germany to have the territory of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, in a failed effort to avert what would go World State of war 2—were not notwithstanding known, and information technology looked as though they had extracted actual concessions out of Hitler and at to the lowest degree saved face up. That public support for Chamberlain later on Munich owed as much to a relief reflex as to conviction in his policies is borne out past the comprehensive analysis by historian Daniel Hucker, whose conclusion is that “In many means the ‘turning point’ for public opinion was not the Prague coup [the German language invasion of March 1939], just the Munich Agreement itself.”
In 1938, stance polls were taking their first babe steps. A British poll taken in the Munich conference’s immediate aftermath had 57% satisfied with Chamberlain, 33% dissatisfied and x% undecided. When questioned well-nigh rearmament, however, or nigh future dealings with Nazi Deutschland, respondents were more bellicose, suggesting far more doubt about the justice or immovability of the peace: 72% favored increased defence spending. Nor was 57% perhaps such a large bulk once account is taken of the propaganda value of Chamberlain’southward shuttle diplomacy and its ostensibly triumphant decision. An absolutely less statistically robust survey by the so-called Mass-Observation system gave 40% as “indignantly anti-Chamberlain” and just 22% in support as of Sept. twenty.
A French opinion poll carried out in early on October 1938 had 57% in favor of Daladier’due south policy, 37% against and vi% undecided, very like to Uk’s post-Munich numbers. Simply, likewise, lxx% likewise replied that any further demands from Hitler must be resisted. The shadow of the Neat War meant that panic took over in September, in the firsthand run-upwards to Munich. During the crunch, however, French stance was only fluid.
In both countries, pro- and anti-appeasers straddled the left–right dissever. Every bit in Britain, an incomplete understanding of Czechoslovakia’s national and strategic issues jostled with sympathy for an ally that was also an underdog, dislike of Nazism and the urge to stave state of war off—though in Uk negative opinions of the Versailles settlement as well helped make appeasement wait more than respectable.
Some other cistron specific to Britain was that the Dominions, whose participation was regarded every bit essential in any future war, were highly reluctant to fight on behalf of Czechoslovakia. Southward Africa and Canada were great to avert any sort of European delivery. The New Zealand loftier commissioner in London was more than hawkish, but his Australian counterpart emerged as supportive of the
and of ceding the Sudetenland. When Chamberlain returned from Berchtesgaden, “adulation was heard from every corner of the commonwealth.” Yet domestically at least there was room for a more decisive leadership to mold an ambivalent opinion in favor of resistance to Hitler. The historian Yvon Lacaze writes of French republic: “A preference for slavery over war did non form the basis of public stance. […] To hold French pacifism as an insurmountable obstruction to a firm attitude is to indulge in political rhetoric; the want for peace, a normal aspiration of the masses, must not be confused with the defeatism of a few.” The same could accept been said of Britain.
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It is to this international opinion that the Czechoslovaks frantically tried to appeal. In the last days of June, the PEN Gild, a London-based writers’ association founded for the defence force of free oral communication and common understanding across cultures, had held its annual congress in Prague. At this conference, the French novelist Jules Romains, the order president, felt information technology necessary to denounce complaints that the PEN Club was engaging in politics, labeling these complaints “naïve” and “hypocritical.” At the time, this had given ascent to controversy, particularly with Romains’s predecessor as president, H. One thousand. Wells, who was a committed pacifist (it was Wells who had coined the phrase “the war to end war” in 1914).
This made it all the more noteworthy, and perhaps poignant, that Wells now joined, in September and as state of war actually threatened, the ranks of literary personalities to speak out publicly in favor of Czechoslovakia. Bertolt Brecht sent a telegram to the president of the republic with the single sentence: “Fight, and those who dither will join the fight with you.” The British writers, whose most prominent names included H. G. Wells, W. H. Auden, Eric Ambler and A. A. Milne, offered that “It is not just Czechoslovakia, merely republic, peace, and culture throughout the world that are being attacked. These are the very basis for civilization. That is why we writers feel justified in publishing this entreatment for the defense force of these values and their endangered representatives, and for the defence force of the Czechoslovak people.” Thomas Mann took to both pen and pulpit in defense of his surrogate homeland, proclaiming his pride at being a Czechoslovak citizen and praising the republic’due south achievements. He attacked a “Europe set for slavery,” writing that “the Czechoslovak people is ready to have up a fight for liberty that transcends its own fate.” The Nobel laureate addressed an enthusiastic public in New York’southward Madison Foursquare Garden on Sept. 26: “It is too tardily for the British government to salve the peace. They have lost too many opportunities. Now information technology is the peoples’ turn. Hitler must fall! That lonely tin preserve the peace!”
Between Chamberlain’south Berchtesgaden and Godesberg trips, both the leaders of the British Liberal Party, Sir Archibald Sinclair, and the Labour Political party, Clement Attlee, came out publicly against any further appeasement of Hitler. Churchill issued his own simultaneous alert. “The sectionalisation of Czechoslovakia under pressure from England and France amounts to the complete give up of the Western democracies to the Nazi threat of force,” he said. “It is not Czechoslovakia alone which is menaced, but also the liberty and the commonwealth of all nations.”
A week later, as the war scare was peaking, Chamberlain would speak on the radio and pronounce, equally office of a cursory harangue taking stock of the state of affairs, the lines that would become notorious: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that nosotros should exist digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-abroad country betwixt people of whom we know zilch.”
In fairness, Chamberlain too said that he understood the reasons why the Czechoslovak government had turned down Hitler’s terminal demands and spoke of the sympathy of the British people for “a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbour.” In Czechoslovakia, nevertheless, the contempt for these people of whom Chamberlain claimed to know and so little struck home, likewise as disbelief that the British premier would still non acknowledge what was at stake. Under the headline “A small nation?” the daily
attempted a reply:
The Bong of Treason: The 1938 Munich Agreement in Czechoslovakia, by P. E. Caquet, published by Other Printing.
Most European Leaders Favored Dealing With Germany Through