Edvard Beneš on Appeasement

Posted by John Rosenthal

In his memoir of the Sudetenland crisis and the Munich Agreement, Czech President Edvard Beneš writes the following on the subject of the German annexation of Austria or Anschluß

…Among persons without moral strength, this act provoked a feeling of relief: Hitler would have lots of trouble with Austria and so Europe could live in calm for a certain time — at least for the following six months. The European democracies and, above all, certain Western millieus were so moderate in 1938 that a reprieve of six months was enough for them to accept another German crime without a murmur. What a perfect example of the policy of "appeasement"!

I have translated here from the French version of the text: Edouard Beneš, Munich (Stock, 1969), pp. 24-25. 


Some pages further on (p. 37), Beneš cites a statement made by Neville Chamberlain before the House of Commons in March 1938, only days after the Anschluß. It illustrates his point and I reproduce it here from the original English:

So far as Czechoslovakia is concerned, it seems to His Majesty’s Government that now is the time when all the resources of diplomacy should be enlisted in the cause of peace. They have been glad to take note of and in no way under-rate the definite assurances given by the German Government as to their attitude…. In the meantime, there is no need to assume the use of force, or, indeed, to talk about it. Such talk is to be strongly deprecated. Not only can it do no good; it is bound to do harm.

(Neville Chamberlain, The House of Commons, March 24, 1938. Beneš says that the speech was published on March 24, but in fact read on March 17.)


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