The Munich Settlement of September 1938 has a much divided response with historians today. On the one hand it could be said that it was disastrous as it not only gave Hitler further sign of British weakness, it also importantly strengthened the German army as agreed with in Source 7, which is true as in 1938-9 German war production was at a higher level than Britain. This source also argues that Britain, with its allies (assuming they would agree to fight) could have resisted Germany as their army was spread out thinly.
However Sources 8 and 9 give reason for the Munch Settlement being a success, as British forces were not ready to fight, allies may not have contributed and the French plan was to stay behind the Maginot Line. In this essay I will assess these sources and evaluate that the Munich Settlement of September 1938 was in fact a success, rather than a disaster for Britain. Source 7, an account from Churchill, highlights that the Munich Settlement was a disaster for Britain at the time.
He states that due to Hitler’s proceeding of taking over Czechoslovakia he effectively robbed the allies of the Czech army of ‘twenty one regular divisions’, ‘fifteen or sixteen second-line divisions were already mobilised’ and their ‘mountain fortress line, which in the time of Munich required the deployment of thirty Germany divisions. ’ This implies the sheer amount that was taken from Czech and later used to reinforce the German army – a third of Germany’s modern tanks used in the invasion of France in 1940 came from Czechoslovakia.
Along with this, the Skoda Works ‘the second most important arsenal in central Europe’ was now occupied by Germany, the production of which between ‘August 1938 and September 1939 was nearly equal to the output of British arms factories in this period. ’ Source 7 may be seen as reliable as it was published two years after the war had ended. This shows that Churchill was not writing in order to convince the public or Chamberlain to support rearming. He is simply stating his opinion of a situation that when published was currently irrelevant to foreign policy.
Source 8 contrasts greatly with Churchill’s view here, from Author A J P Taylor, he states that British statesmen were ‘indifferent to the fate of far-off peoples’. However in Churchill’s opinion the fact that Munich allowed for Germany to strengthen their army to the extent they did, certainly affected Britain and her allies, ‘we certainly suffered a loss through the fall of Czechoslovakia equivalent to some thirty-five divisions. ’ This disagreement can be supported by the fact that Churchill described Munich as a shameful betrayal to avoid war.
However it is true to say that although they may not have been ‘indifferent’ the majority of public reaction favoured appeasement and it was approved in the House of Commons 366 votes to 144. Furthermore, in Source 7, Churchill indicates that only five of the thirteen German divisions were composed of front line troops, and the rest were ‘left in the West at the time of the Munich arrangement. ’ This shows his thoughts that Britain made a vital mistake and should have resisted as the German army was stretched thin.
This is true as had a European war broken out in 1938, Germany would have had to fight on two fronts. Churchill’s opinion may be supported if Britain, France, Czechoslovakia and the USSR had all resisted as the Luftwaffe was not ready for an attack, the French were still the best army in Europe and Czech forces weren’t negligible. Source 9 disagrees with Source 7 as ‘unlike Churchill in 1938 Chamberlain had knowledge of what passed for the French war-plan. ’ A plan of which decided the French would ‘wait behind the Maginot Line untill British had expanded their Army’, a plan which would have relieved the Czechs.
This may be untrue as this strategy could have done little to help the Czechs and they assumed the German’s could be defeated in 10 days. It was also not wise to rely on the USSR seeing as Romania and Poland refused to let them cross their territory, moreover the Red Army was weakened by Stalin’s purges. The British public were also divided on the case, the majority favouring appeasement. Source 9 is ambiguous as it goes on to states that ‘The Chiefs were adamant that there nothing that either France of Britain could do to prevent Germany from overrunning Bohemia and deflecting a decisive defeat on Czechoslovakia.
This is disagreed with in Source 8 which states Munich was ‘a triumph for those who had preached equal justice between peoples. ’ This indicates the Author believes Britain didn’t get involved in Czechoslovakia because they condemned the right for the Sudeten German’s to self-determination rather than the British army simply not being ready. It may be argued that due to the Munich Settlement Hitler interpreted Britain and France as weak, agreed with by the USSR which made way for the Nazi-Soviet pact.
Any opposition of Hitler at this point in German was now stopped and his position in Germany was henceforth strengthened. However it is important to remember that British foreign policy at this time was not passive appeasement as the settlement allowed Hitler to sign the Anglo-German Declaration, agreeing to settle future questions arising between Britain and Germany peacefully. Moreover the settlement allowed for British rearmament – Halifax called for completion of the radar chain and increased spending on the RAF, however there was no increased expenditure on the Army’s field force.
Although Chamberlain emphasised that foreign policy was still appeasement and that that rearmament had been instated simply as insurance. Overall the Munich Settlement was not an easy choice for Chamberlain as the results of appeasement or resistance both could have ended with disastrous consequences. It is important to address that the settlement was humiliating and betraying to the Czech’s who lost a great amount after the German invasion as shown in Source 7. The settlement also allowed for the German army and crucially, Hitler’s position in Germany to be strengthened.
However had Chamberlain immediately resisted Hitler’s intention to invade Czech, the British Armed Forces would have been far from prepared, and despite German forces being weaker before the Munich Settlement as Churchill states in Source 7, the likelihood of Britain defeating Germany was still not secure due to the French staying behind the Maginot Line, USSR being unreliable and South Africa and Australia’s reluctance to go to war. So altogether the Munich Settlement may be seen as a triumph as it vitally bought time for Britain to start rearming which if they had not done could have resulted in Britain losing WW2.