Munich Agreement signed

Thursday, 29 September, 1938

The Munich Agreement, signed by the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy on this day in 1938, ceded the German-speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Czechoslovakia, a creation of the Versailles Settlement at the end of the Great War, was not consulted or party to the agreement. Munich was the latest in a succession of international agreements which sought to appease German and Italian military and territorial ambitions, and was intended to avoid military confrontation with Germany. Britain and France informed their Czechoslovakian ally that they would not intervene if the cession was opposed and while Hitler announced that his territorial demands in Europe were now satisfied, within 6 months the German Army had occupied all of Czechoslovakia. Within a year Germany had invaded Poland.

The policy of appeasement clearly failed to achieve its intent. Appeasement and the appeasers, while reflecting the popular mood of the 1930s, were were presented by wartime journalists and politicians as merely buying a temporary peace at the expense of small nations, and in doing so actually encouraging Hitler to demand more. Churchill was among the most prominent critics of the appeasers and helped to cement the view of appeasement as having produced the catastrophe of an unnecessary war. The orthodoxy of this view stood unchallenged until the 1960s when academic historians such as A J P Taylor, Martin Gilbert and Paul Kennedy offered a more nuanced and sympathetic interpretation.

Below: Hitler with other signatories to the Munich Agreement. From left to right: the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano.