This is one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. Chamberlain was convinced that he could prevent war by appeasing Hitler. After agreeing to sell out democratic Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference (September 1938), British Prime-minister Neville Chamberlain flew back to London's Heston Aerodrome (September 30). Here amidst cheering crowds he brandished a peace of paper signed by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler which he assured the British people that he had brought 'peace with honor' guaranteeing 'peace in our time'. As this photograph was taken, the Wehrmacht was pouring across the Czech border. Munich proved to be a great victory for Hitler, but when he violated the Munich Agreements and his assurances to Chamberlain by invading Czechoslovakia (March 1939), it meant that the British would never deal with him again, even after the fall of France and Britain faced a desperate decision.
Chamberlain was convinced that he could prevent war by appeasing Hitler. After agreeing to sell out democratic Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference (September 1938), British Prime-minister Neville Chamberlain flew back to London's Heston Aerodrome near Croydon (September 30). Here amidst cheering crowds he brandished a peace of paper signed by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler which he assured the British people that he had brought 'peace with honor' guaranteeing 'peace in our time'. As this photograph was taken, the Wehrmacht was pouring across the Czech border.
Chamberlain not only waved the paper that Hitler had signed to the crowd. It was not part of the negotiations. Rather Chamberlain wrote it himself and asked Hitler if he would sign it. Hitler who got what he wanted in the negotiations, readily agreed. It was a short document and Chamberlain triumphantly read it aloud after he stepped down from the plane.
"We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognising that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe.
We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe."
Hitler and Chamberlain signed it.
Chamberlain headed home from the airport t the official residence at 10 Downing Street. He later emerged from the residence. He stood outside and again read from the document and concluded, "My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time." He was referring to a previous primeminister, Benjamin Disraeli, returing from the Berlin Conference organized by Chancellor Bismarck (1878).
Chamberlain was celebrated as a peace maker. He was seen as the man who maintained the peace of Europe. Unlike World War I, there was no rush to war. The celebration of Chamberlain's achievement reached its peak when Chamberlain went to Buckingham Palace to brief the King. He was then shown to the crowds who had gathered at the Palace on the fanous balcony with the King and queen. Here a much larger crowd cheered their hero.
Munich was the ultimate test of Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. Primeminister Chamberlain wanted at all cost to avoid the horrors of World War and the dreadful killing on the Western Front. There was a widespread belief in Britain that World War I had been a terriblke mistake and another war must be avoided at all cost. Thus Chamberlain set out to gove Hitler what he demanded. An it seemed reasonable at first. After all the Rhineland waspart of Geramny, And a major country should be allowed a substantial military. Austria and the Czech Sudetenland was populated with ethnic Germans who wanted to be part of the Reich. No attempt was made to assess Hitler's goals. His book, Mein Kampf was not taken seriously, nor the cgaracter of the police state established in Germany. It was beyond Chamberlain's thinking that the leader of a great country would actually desire anoyher war.
Winston Churchill denounced the Munich Agreement. Churchill spoke in the Commons, "England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war." [Keane, p. 15] "We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat...you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months [Nore: It would be 6 months.], Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude... we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road... we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: 'Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting'. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."
Munich proved to be a great victory for Hitler, but when he violated the Munich Agreements and his assurances to Chamberlain by invading Czechoslovakia (March 1939), it meant that the British would never deal with him again. The peace that Chamberlain bought would last less than a year. Hitler himself would refer to the document as just a "scrap of paper" and proceeded to invade Poland (September 1939). And it would be Chamberlain that woukld have to announce to the British peope that they were at war with Germany (September 3, 1939). As a result, even after the fall of France and Britain faced a desperate decision, there would be no further dealing with Hitler.
Keane, Michael. Dictionary of Modern Strategy an Tactics (Naval Instityte Press, 20050.
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