After Munich: Czechoslovakia left to her fate
In recent weeks, I’ve tried to capture something of the tense atmosphere of the time leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 30 1938, when the British and French Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Daladier allowed Hitler to carve up Czechoslovakia and march unopposed into the Sudetenland. The agreement left the country as a fragment of its former self; not only Germany, but also Hungary and Poland, claimed large chunks of Czechoslovakia’s borderlands. Here is how Radio Prague reported on the final border agreement, reached some weeks after Munich was signed. The scale of the loss is huge.
“Czechoslovakia, diminished in size by her frontier territory ceded to Germany, Hungary and Poland has now her definite boundaries. She has lost almost five million inhabitants and ten million remain to her. She has lost about thirty percent of her territory and has an area today of approximately a hundred thousand square kilometers.”
Among Czechs the mood could not have been more different. Overnight the nation’s spirit had been broken. Czechoslovakia was left a vassal of Germany. On Radio Prague, the British journalist, Jonathan Griffin, captured the atmosphere.
“Prague is a sad place now, but not a dangerous place, not even an uncomfortable one. Food here is plentiful and good as usual, prices are so far pretty normal, there is not so far a shortage of coal, and the electric light has not been cut off. What I have found in wandering about and talking to all sorts of people is this. Everyone is determined to try to rebuild some sort of a tolerable Czechoslovakia, even though the change to frontiers has dealt frightful blows to trade, and many people expect as much as a million unemployed during the winter.
Czechoslovakia had been well and truly left to her own fate, and the shadow of that trauma, 70 years ago this year, has never fully lifted.