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Hitler's "Peace in Our Time, 1938", is a History Lesson for Today

Updated on September 11, 2013
The fake peace signing of 1938
The fake peace signing of 1938
The areas in black were in dispute where Germans lived
The areas in black were in dispute where Germans lived

Hitler's war mongering slowly evolved once he ruled Germany. Germany needed to build up its military might from 1932-1937 before Hitler's plans were to kick in. Germany used small regional wars, like the Spanish Civil War then, to develop new aircraft, test its tanks and combat tactics by siding with Franco on the Nationalists side, which did win the war. As all this slowly developed in Europe, Germany's neighbors grew increasingly nervous about Hitler's demands and refusal to cooperate. They hid their military buildup using ruses and camouflage or saying it was for civilian use. About three million Germans lived in Czechoslovakia, which was created after Germany lost WW1.

At this time, France and Britain were terrified of Hitler's saber rattling over what Hitler thought was part of old Germany (which it was)- Czechoslovakia. Neither France nor England wanted to fight Germany's growing strength alone or together. Hitler was more emboldened, he drew up plans to conquer the Czech territory using his army. As things steadily became more dangerous for Europe, those countries trying to talk and appease simply emboldened a man like Hitler, who saw it as weakness. Thus, Hitler deployed 750,000 troops along the border region stating it was just training and army maneuvers. This was not true, Hitler had planned to invade the Czech area by force and 2-3 years later, planned to invade France and then England.

The political solution when into a tizzy and high gear. England, France and Italy, conferred with each other drafting up an agreement that hopefully would satisfy Hitler- in other words, appease him, so he would not attack. This whole affair went from simmer to boiling over the Summer of 1938. It was always in the headlines and talked about in governments and those on the street. The German press was full of stories alleging Czechoslovak atrocities against Sudeten Germans, with the intention of forcing the Western Powers into putting pressure on the Czechoslovak to make concessions. Inside the Czech area, the German's basically rallied for Hitler because they felt discriminated against and saw Hitler as their saviour. In September, Hitler denounced Czechoslovakia as being a fraudulent state that was in violation of international law.

Eventually, through direct talks with Hitler, Britain and France demanded that Czechoslovakia cede to Germany all those territories where the German population represented over fifty percent of the Sudetenland's total population. The Czech government would receive guarantees that Czechoslovakia would remain free. That proposal was rejected. Hitler demanded the total take over of the Czech territory and was prepared to go to war. The Czech military was also ready for war and even had the support of Russia. Yet, the Czech government would not unless England and France would also. They would do everything to appease Hitler to avoid war.

Thus, the agreement was signed in Munich, Germany, without the Czech government. Hitler secretly was not happy, he had tried to include Poland in this agreement as well. Poland would be his in 1939, when his army invaded and conquered it. In 1940, Hitler defeated France and took it over. Hitler tried to defeat England in 1940 also, but failed, but only because of the English Channel obstacle.

The moral of this story for today is appeasement does not work with certain types of political entities. Hitler was one. Stalin another. Today, North Korea, Iran, and Syria come to mind. Today, Obama's appeasement about the Syrian use of chemical weapons may not work. While the threat of US attacks is present, Obama has been seen as someone unwilling to do it at nearly all costs.Russia's Putin, is playing Obama on his weakness. Russia has decided to send Iran the S-300VX missiles, its more advanced systems. Iran likes to talk about nuclear issues yet buys time and does not concede, all while it gets a nuclear bomb. Syria's Assad agrees in principle to give up weapons he claimed he never had and has scattered them all over. As the political process focuses solely on its chemical weapons, Assad continues to attack the rebel forces with non-chemical weapons. The US is afraid to enforce a no-fly zone, or allow Turkey to take action near their borders.

Once again, the Brits run scared of using its military might with the US. France is about the only other NATO country willing to use force. While Obama and other others know all about the appeasement of Hitler in 1938, they seem to be following the same script, thinking that political discussion will work. The removal of Syria's chemical weapons would take over a year to do in peacetime. Obama knows this, yet, his mantra is time of the essence. Time is stalling for those using it to delay. Is Obama willing to wait another month or two for this process?

Probably. He has already waited two years in avoiding at all costs the Syrian affair. History is repeating. One day, Iran will have the nuclear bomb and use it or threaten to use it. Syria will never disclose where all of its chemical weapons are or who has them or sign a pact stating that Russia cannot resupply them.

The players are different in 2013, but the outcome will be the same mistake made in 1938.

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    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Trust is not the issue. If you're pointing a gun at someone, and they say "Whoa.. I'm going to put my gun down." You don't kneecap them anyway to make a point. You keep your weapon trained on them and if they don't comply, THEN you kneecap them (or wherever you feel would be most effective).

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      5 years ago

      What went on in 1938 regarding containing Hitler remains a valuable lesson for all time. There are certain kinds of leaders you simply cannot trust, Assad is one.

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Also, keep in mind that most of Germany's territorial ambitions before the war actually began were re-acquiring territory taken from the Austria-Hungarian empire, so the European powers of the day can be forgiven for thinking that Hitler had no ambitions beyond restoring the German empire. In fact, even the question of Danzig, which was ultimately the touchstone for WW2 was a former Austria-Hungarian city. By then, Poland had the backing of England and France and told Hitler to shove it.... and Hitler did..... right up Poland's ass.

      Remember.. There's a reason why it's called WW2. It's was a sequel... NOT a new war. There is no way to understand WW2 without understanding WW1. The only reason WW1 stopped was because Germany was running out of people to toss into the meat grinder. It took only long enough for a new generation to be born and grow up before they started it up again.

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Well, what's the point of threatening someone who's already doing what you want them to? As long as Assad is complying, then Obama is right to back off. It's what the administration does when Assad starts delaying or trying to talk his way out of it that's important.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      5 years ago

      well, Obama has already backed off from his once position of, the threat of force as a condition for talks. Obama is just giving in too much to Putin. Sad.

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      The way you deal with that is setting a deadline and then KEEPING it, the way Bush Sr did with Hussein. You don't kill people just to make a point. You tell them exactly what you want them to do and when you want them to do it by.

      Obama should get Congress behind him first, then go tell Assad; Dude.. this is how it's going to be. Let me know when you've done what we ask so we can send the UN in to confirm. You have two weeks.

      At the end of the two weeks, you're either calling the UN to tell them to send in their people, or you're calling the Join Chiefs to green light an op. The Op should include taking out their chemical weapons and their capacity to retaliate directly on US assets. Nothing else.

      Threats are meaningless. They are just posturing so that the poly-ticks can look good. They are useless for actually getting things done.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      5 years ago

      A single cruise missile targeting an airfield to express the will of using force, to send a message, would probably work. The condition of Russia and Syria that the US cannot use the threat of force or force is a deal breaker for Obama. That is what, in part, got them to this point. Yes, Assad probably has killed at least half the the 100,000.

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Depends on what the US has to give up in the deal. If Assad will give up his chemical weapons and this can be verified by the UN (NOT russia) then that is the end of US interests. At least that is what Obama has said. If Assad gives up his chems and we go in anyway, that's pretty low. And if we don't wait to see if Assad will keep his word, then that's pretty low too. I just don't see how any of this is even remotely like Appeasement. We're in this mess because Obama said that chemical weapons were a "red line" Chemical weapons were used, so now we have to make good on our implied threat and make sure those weapons aren't used again. "Legally" we can't arrest Assad for using the weapons as Syria was never a signatory to Geneva. So after we deal with the chemical weapons, we're done.

      Now if you want to get involved in the Syrians killing each other, then that is a separate argument requiring separate justifications.

    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 

      5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      100,000 are the estimated casualties of the whole Syrian Civil War. Are you saying that all those deaths are the responsibility of Assad and his army?

      And what do you mean by "such innocent force"? a cruise missile would be "innocent force"?

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      5 years ago

      Well, Assad has killed 100,000 with his army. Putin is a thug within the russian political system. Neither can be trusted and use of such innocent force to state a point shows them the US can not be taken for granted as Obama has allowed so far.

    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 

      5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Let me get this straight. You are recommending for the US to disregard diplomacy, not to trust another country's pledge to surrender weapons, and strike them first as a "warning"... and yet Putin and Assad are thugs and butchers? Hmmm...

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      5 years ago

      Appeasement can take many forms to avoid getting involved. But a deal with a thug (Putin) and a butcher (Assad) is doomed.

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Didn't you know that a Hitler reference automatically makes you lose whatever debate you're in :)

      Seriously, this is nothing like Appeasement. Chamberlin was doing everything he could to avoid war, and that meant letting Hitler do pretty much anything he wanted to. Obama has asked Congress to give him authority to conduct military operations against Syria. I don't see the parallels.

      Personally, I don't think Obama should do anything right now. It's up to the Syrians. Assad has said he will give up his stash. We should at least see if he will do it. If Obama is right and Congress DOES give him authorization for intervention, then he still doesn't have to strike, and he can keep it in his back pocket in case the Syrians are bluffing. Lobbing a missile just to get Assad's attention is VERY dangerous, and unnecessary. If Assad doesn't know by now that we'll attack if he goads us into it, he's an idiot and lobbing a missile isn't going to change that, but I don't think Assad is an idiot. No one who runs a secular government amid dozens of different Islamic fundamentalist factions and is successful (or at least was until recently) is stupid.

      Obama has a very good opportunity to play the magnanimous world leader who still won't take any shit. If Congress authorizes intervention, Assad will know about it. THAT will be his warning, and should be the only warning he will get. He's said he will give up his chemical weapons. Let's see if he does it. No warning shots, no more threats. Just wait and be prepared to act accordingly.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      5 years ago

      Trust me, all of the players in the current situation know about the 1938 agreement that was just a ploy by Hitler. The solution is not to allow very much time elapse for the political process to evolve. Leave the threat of action hanging in the air. I am talking only two weeks for a real plan to materialize. I think even sending one cruise missile over would send a signal to Assad that the US is going to act if there is bluff. Obama should send a warning shot. I might add, the bluff also occurred with the North Vietnamese in 1973-4. The peace talks were frequently stopped because of stupid reasons- I recall, one was the shape of the table.

    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 

      5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      So, what's the alternative? Not to trust Syria's apparent willingness to surrender its chemical weapons? Strike first before they strike you? Ditch diplomacy in favor of war? How can the US expect trust if they can't give it back? I can't understand a world that would favor all these actions over their more peaceful alternatives.

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