Reference to the Munich agreement of 1938, when the British and the French agreed to let Hitler have a section of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland in exchange for promising to go no further than that, is a cliché of modern politics, uttered most often in this country at least by politicians of the far right who always presume that they would have seen things clearly while sitting on the other side of the conference table from the Nazi leader. It is not at all clear why they should think this would have been so. In any case, The Nation saw things perfectly clearly, denouncing the pact as not only unforgivably stupid but also very, very evil.

Forget for a moment the fate of the Czechs; consider instead the fate of Europe. The Peace of Munich carries far greater effects than the enslavement of one small nation….

Think of Czechoslovakia not as a flesh-and-blood nation but as a well-guarded line of fortified mountains…. On the strength of the Czech state and its military establishment, the whole structure of French post-war alliances was built. Its collapse means, in cold fact, the end of French security. As the Reich’s power has increased under Hitler, the power of France has declined. Its Eastern allies have been alienated, its own policy has become dependent on British strength and British direction. Having been ruthless toward Germany when it should have been generous, it grew timid when it should have been strong. And now at last, when it most needs friends, when the threat of a rearmed Reich looms as a monstrous reality instead of a post-war fantasy, France joins Britain in turning over its eastern defenses to the dictator at Munich.…

The human results of the Franco-British sell-out include and transcend the economic and military ones. Its intimate, immediate effect has been to shock into bitter resentment and cynicism a people that has represented everything decent in European democracy. This dangerous anger will mount as the Czechs ponder the fact that they were betrayed precisely because they stubbornly and against reason trusted the honesty of their protectors. It will mount as hundreds of thousands of refugees…flow in from the border districts to escape the terror that engulfed the anti-Nazis in Austria. The peace terms somehow omitted safeguards for these people—though Chamberlain had mentioned them so sympathetically only a few days before he abandoned them.

September 29, 1938

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