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michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 06 Oct 2003 15:23

David Thompson wrote:
Hitler termed the Sudetenland annexation "his last territorial demand in Europe" -- not the establishment of the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia took place in Mar 1939 --more than five months after Hitler's "last territorial demand" was satisfied by the annexation of the Sudetenland on 6 Oct 1938.

Your statement shows that you are not fully conversant with what actually happened to the components of the former Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and I would like to bring some of the pertinent facts to your attention.

First, as to Hitler's formula "my last territorial demand in Europe", if we interpret "territorial demand" as a demand for a component part of another State to be transferred to German sovereignty, then in fact his demand for the annexation of the Sudetenland was his last territorial demand.

After the annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938, Hitler did not demand that any of the remaining components of the former Czechoslovakia, now renamed Czecho-Slovakia, be transferred to German sovereignty. Rather, in March 1939, he demanded that the government of Czecho-Slovakia (the so-called Second Republic) allow the autonomous units Slovakia and Ruthenia to become fully independent, thereby definitively dissolving Czecho-Slovakia into three separate states, Czechia, Slovakia and Ruthenia. When elements of the Czech armed forces that were still loyal to Benes became rebellious and began to show signs of moving against Slovakia in order to prevent it becoming independent, Hitler called the Czecho-Slovak president, Emil Hacha, to Berlin and strong-armed him into requesting a German protectorate over Czechia.

However, Germany did not annex Czechia (or Bohemia-Moravia as the Germans called it. The government of Emil Hacha, which had been internationally recognised, remained in place, as did the administrative structure, the armed forces and the police. The only difference was that the Hacha Government now ruled only over Czechia, and no longer over Slovakia and Ruthenia. The Czech Government was now subject to a Reichprotektor, who basically told it what to do.

The function of the Reichprotektor might be compared to that of Macarthur in Japan after 1945. Although Japan had surrendered, it remained an independent state, with its own government and head of state (the emperor); however, Macarthur was the de facto ruler, as was the Reichprotektor in Bohemia-Moravia.

Since Bohemia-Moravia was not transferred to German sovereignty, and never was throughout the war, it was not subject to a "territorial demand" by Hitler.

From October 1938 onward, Germany began to ask Poland to permit the transfer to German sovereignty of the Free State of Danzig. However, that was not a "territorial demand" in the sense defined above, since Hitler was not demanding the annexation of a piece of Polish territory. Danzig was an independent entity under the protection of the League of Nations, the population of which was almost totally of German ethnicity and had voted at free elections for reunification with Germany. The German request was that Poland, which had certain economic rights in the Free City, should agree to a change in its status, allowing the wish of the population for reunification with Germany to be fulfilled.

Accordingly, after the annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938, Hitler did not make any further territorial demands in the sense outlined above before the outbreak of the war.

Now to the course of events in Czechoslovakia in October 1938.

On 5 October, the egomaniacal popinjay Benes, who had been the chief obstacle to a solution, resigned the presidency and went into exile. Emil Hacha, former President of the Administrative Court, became president. Rudolf Beran became premier, Jan Cerny vice-premier and minister of the interior, and Frantisek Chvalkovsky minister of foreign affairs.

On 22 November, the constitution was changed. The First Republic, a unitary state known as Czechoslovakia, was abolished and replaced by the Second Republic, a tripartite state, consisting of the autonomous units Czechia, Slovakia and Ruthenia, and known as Czecho-Slovakia came into existence. Slovakia and Ruthenia were given their own assembies and cabinets; Rev. Josef Tiso, the leader of the Slovak nationalists, became premier of Slovakia.

This constitutional change actually fulfilled undertakings given by the Czech leaders at the time of the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1919. These were to give Ruthenia autonomy, and to have equal status for Slovakia with Czechia in a decentralised bi-national state to be called Czecho-Slovakia. However, the Czech leaders Masaryk and Benes had defaulted on their undertakings and established a unitary state dominated by Czech supremacists. Ever since that time both Slovaks and Ruthenians had been protesting and seeking greater autonomy. The new constitutionfulfilled their demands.

The government of the Second Republic was strongly oriented to the Right, and attempted to accommodate itself to Germany. The number of political parties was reduced to two, the ruling National Unity Party (comprising the former Agrarians, National Socialists, National Union, Catholics, and Small Traders) and the Labour Party (comprising the former Socialists and the left-wing section of the National Socialists). The Communist Party was banned, and no new parties could be formed without Government permission. The ruling National Unity Party pledged cooperation with Germany, and introduced anti-Semitic measures, enforced by a quasi-fascist militia.

Despite the constitutional changes, it is clear that Hitler wanted the total dissolution of Czecho-Slovakia, leaving three separate entities, all subservient to Germany. To that end, he encouraged the autonomous governments of Slovakia and Ruthenia to declare their full independence. However, there is no indication that he wanted to annex any further territory of the former Czechoslovakia; he would have been quite satified with satellite states pursuing the same policy of cooperation with Germany as had been adopted by the Hacha Government.

If the Hacha Government had been prepared to accept the declarations of independence of Slovakia and Ruthenia, it is likely that there would have been no German occupation of Bohemia-Moravia, and no imposition of a protectorate. Germany recognised the full independence of Slovakia on 14 March 1939. However, as stated, Czech supremacist elements in the army attempted to prevent Slovak independence by force, which upset Hitler's calculations, leading him to coerce Hacha to accept a German protectorate. At the same time, Hitler permitted Hungary to occupy and annex Ruthenia.

As stated, the Hacha Government remained in place as the ruler of Czechia, even after the establishment of the Protectorate. The Second Republic and the Hacha Government had been internationally recognised, and that international recognition remained in force after 15 March 1939, even though Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union refused to recognise the legality of the German protectorate over Czechia or the independence of Slovakia.

It was not until 21 July 1940 that Britain withdrew recognition of the Second Republic, and took the position that the First Republic was still in existence, with a provisional government under Benes, thereby annulling the Munich Agreement. By contrast, the Soviet Union recognised the German protectorate over Bohemia-Moravia and the independence of Slovakia on 1 January 1940.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 07 Oct 2003 16:40

Michael -- Thanks for the helpful and detailed chronological essay. I was familiar with the events, but your work will make it much easier for interested readers to follow the discussion. Your chronology clearly establishes the distinction which Scott's argument glossed over -- that the annexation of the Sudetenland and the establishment of the Reich protectorate were two separate events, arising out of two different situations.

While your point about the difference between annexation and hegemony is well-taken, I don't think I overlooked anything in pointing out Scott's error. The statement to which you took exception used the phrase "territorial demand" within the larger context of territorial control, without regard to its form -- whether the control was gained by outright annexation or the establishment of a "protectorate." I believe that's the way most folks in the west viewed the issue as well.

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Scott Smith
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Post by Scott Smith » 07 Oct 2003 18:38

I don't see how I made any errors. Hitler wanted two things at Munich: 1) The incorporation of the Sudetenland into the German Reich, and 2) somehow ending the encirclement forged at Versailles.

The encirclement was at least two-pronged. German territory was balkanized after WWI and given to others to make them stronger and thus make the balance-of-power favorable to the Allied camp because these new satrapies would need collective Allied protection.

Czecho-Slovakian borders were made where they were to give this new state a favorable defensive geography (which included elaborate fortifications built later) and in spite of the Sudetenland being peopled with Germans and not Czechs. These Germans had been under Hapsburg rule not Hohenzollern, so this was a "territorial demand" of Hitler/Germany, as was Austria. Versailles prohibited the Austrians, Sudeten Germans, Danzigers, etc. from self-determination that meant becoming Germans nationally. This left them as hostile minorities in their ancestral lands and the Weimar regime was unable to protect them save for clandestine Freikorps, the antecedents of the Nazis.

The Allied propaganda of WWI was the "self-determination of peoples" which was used to balkanize the old empires into smaller, ofter hostile groups. This lofty principle did not always apply to Germans, however, since the idea of winning the war was to contain Germany, of course, including economically.

Hitler merely used the Allied doctrine of the self-determination of peoples against them when he asked for the Sudetenland, whose people wished to be German, in political fact, and had certainly had their fill of Czech rule. Hitler expected that the Allies would balk and then he would press for goal #2, using military force if necessary.

But Chamblerlain gave him what he asked for (and only that). This left the situation of hegemony, unsettled with the Allies intending to preserve their balance-of-power and having a better negotiating position in the future than Hitler on account of the arms race. To do this Chamblerlain had to personally eat the words "appeasement" politically while the arms race was pushed furiously. But Hitler knew he had been cheated by the agreement and would eventually lose the arms race. The Luftwaffe, the 1930s equivalent of the atomic bomb, could not remain a myth forever and Bomber Command would "always get through."

Danzig already was Deutsch. It was no a "territorial demand" and had been already part of the Kaiserreich, but its self-determination had not yet been realized on account of Poland's claims. The problem was, after imposing German rule on non-Germans with the Protectorate in March, 1939, Hitler could not realistically argue to have Danzig returned to Germany on the basis of the self-determination of people's, the plank of Allied anti-imperialist propaganda, because it made him a hypocrite, and the Allies were thus able to adopt that fantastic mantle of the protectors of Poland. Diplomatic leverage is gained not merely with saber rattling but also by coyness and by political games played-out in the newspapers. Of course, the Allies were not hypocrites since they only used the slogan when it worked for them--their imperialism being uncontestably the holy order of the natural universe. And they could always just blame it on idiotic Wilsonian rhetoric. Those Americans!


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