What was Chamberlain trying to do?
After the First World War, the map of Europe was re-drawn and several new countries were formed. As a result of this, three million Germans found themselves now living in part of Czechoslovakia. When Adolf Hitler came to power, he wanted to unite all Germans into one nation.
In September 1938 he turned his attention to the three million Germans living in part of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. Sudeten Germans began protests and provoked violence from the Czech police. Hitler claimed that 300 Sudeten Germans had been killed. This was not actually the case, but Hitler used it as an excuse to place German troops along the Czech border.
During this situation, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew to meet Hitler at his private mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden in an attempt to resolve the crisis. Three of the documents here are extracts from Chamberlain's own record of the meeting. The other two documents are useful evidence of the kind of advice Chamberlain was getting at home in Britain.
- What makes you think that?
- What do you think that Nevile Henderson means when he says that 'Benes will never go far enough till he is made to do so'?
- What did Nevile Henderson want the British press to do about Hitler?
- What do you think Henderson's opinion was of Hitler?
- How might Henderson's view affect what Chamberlain did when he met Hitler?
1. These sources are extracts from a letter written by Nevile Henderson, British Ambassador in Germany, 6th September 1938.
Do you think the German people were nervous about the outcome of the Sudetenland talks?
- Hitler said: "..."
- Chamberlain queried: "..."
- Hitler replied: "..."
- What threat does Hitler make here?
- How does Chamberlain respond?
- What does Chamberlain suggest to Hitler?
- Sudetenland was part of Czechoslovakia. No Czech representative was present at this meeting. Did Chamberlain have the right to make this offer?
2. These three sources are extracts from the minutes of the conversation between Chamberlain and Hitler at Berchtesgaden.Look at Source 2a. Write a summary of this part of the meeting by adding one sentence to each of these three starters:
Hitler was capable of being charming, of lying and of bullying. Find examples of all three of these aspects of his personality in all three sources
- What does General Ismay, writing in September 1938, assume will happen to Czechoslovakia? (Remember that at this time Czechoslovakia was still an independent country which included the Sudetenland.)
- What effect does he think the German conquest of Czechoslovakia will have on German military strength?
- Does he recommend that Britain should fight Germany now, or later?
- What are his reasons?
- How might General Ismay's views affect what Chamberlain did when he met Hitler later, at Munich on 29 September?
3. This is the conclusion of a note from General Ismay to the British Cabinet sent on 20th September 1938, marked 'Secret'. Ismay was Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence.
- What are the arguments for and against each of these statements about appeasement?
- Which one do you think is the most accurate and give reasons for your choice.
4. Use the sources above as well as any other knowledge you may have about the situation in the Sudetenland to answer the following:
'Chamberlain's appeasement policy made war more likely because Hitler thought he could get away with anything.'
'Chamberlain's appeasement policy bought a valuable year for Britain to get ready for the war which was bound to come.'
'Chamberlain believed that Hitler was a man of his word.'
'The decision to give the Sudetenland to Germany let down the Czech people.'