Munich Conference: War Looms (September 1938)


Figure 1.--As Hitler was pressing Chamberlain, Briitain and Germany braced for War. The British Government and press was very frank about wht was happening. This included school children. Britain had alkready set up aystem for evcuating cities. The German people were told less about the possibility for war. Goebbels focus was in intensifying nationalist feelings against he Czechs with largely manufactured stories about Czech attrocities in the Sudetenland. (The same tactic would be used a year later against the Poles. Here london children are evacuating their schools. The press caption read, "Evacuation of London School Children: Many of the children attending St. Mary's School, Tavistock Square, E.C. were evacuated fom Lonson to a place of safety in event if air raids this morning. The photo shows children helping to pack their belongings on the motor-coachs which conveyed them to the country today." The potograph was dated September 23, 1938.

Adolf Hitler after seizing Austria (April 1938). Soon after, the Grman press began attacking Czechoslovalia and claiming that the Czechs were cimmiting teriblke attricities against ethnic Germans. This came to a peak at the The 10th Party Congress (September 5–12). It was named the "Rally of Greater Germany" (Reichsparteitag Großdeutschland). This was due to the Anshluss annexing of Austria to the Reich. At the NAZI Party Rally in Nuremberg made it very clear that Germany would seize the Czech Sudetenland. The Allies (Britain and Frabce) had understnings with Czechoslovakia. War seem inebitable. British military chiefs as war loomed advised Primeminister Chamberlain that over 1 million people would be killed by bombing raids in only 60 days. Military chiefs and civilian authorities were convinced that the Germans would use chemical wapons (poison gas) in aerial attacks. As a result they believed that mass graves would be needed because there simply would not be enough wood for standard timber coffins. World War I had traumatized theBritish people and political leaders. Conflict with Germany thratened and evenmore terrible slaughter. Thus no one can deny Chamberlain’s motives in desiring a negotiated peace. And most British people supported Chamberlain's efforts at the time. What we now know about Hitler was not known at the time, although much was known. Some like Winston Churchill warned that caving into Hitler was a terrible mistake. The British Government began making preparations for war. Schools had been drilling children with air raid precautions. Some schools avctually begun evcuations from London and other cities. Leaflets were distributed to parents. They were advised to pack Raincoat, Blanket, Wellingtons, Shoes, Gym shoes and togs, Shirt, Vest, Pants, Stockings, Hankies, Towel, Pyjamas, Hair Brush, Tooth Brush, Toothpaste, Money, 6 Postcards, Prayer Book, Diary, Autograph Book, Playing-cards, Mouth-organ, String, Torch (flash light). One of the boys involved remembers, " One can imagine the feelings of my parents as they contemplated sending me away whilst they remained in the danger-zone. ... On a memorable day, Tuesday September 27th 1938, I went with my father up to Devonshire Hill School to be fitted with gas-masks. There was a strong smell of new rubber, and there were trestle-tables piled with cardboard boxes, and folk taking names and giving us the correct sizes. The ordinary civilian gas-mask had a single window in front, and straps which went over the head. One breathed in through the metal filter in front, and when breathing out the valve shut and the air escaped under the edges of the rubber where it made a seal with one's cheek. Warnings were issued that the masks should not be tested by putting one's head inside a gas-oven, as they were not designed to deal with coal-gas, but some folk, unaware or forgetful of the warning, did so with fatal consequences." [Hill] Despite Hitler's added demands, Chamberlain decided that war could still be prevented and decided his Appeasement Policy could still work. He believed that ar could still be prevented. He persisted in attempts to appease Hitler. After landing at Heston Airport, he met with the Cabinent (September 24). Chamberlain up until this point was able to convince the Cabinent that appeasement could overt war. The Cabinent this time was not easily convinced. Members were shocked at Hitler's response and new demands. Duff Cooper, First Lord of the Admiralty, was particularly incensed. He wanted the Prime Minister to order an immediate mobilization. There was considerable support for this among other Cabinet members. Chamberlain succeeeded in putting off a decession until the French could be consulted. Dalafdier and Bonnet were schuled to fly to London the next day. Further meetings showed a deeply divided Cabinet.

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Created: 9:38 AM 8/21/2014
Last updated: 9:38 AM 8/21/2014