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Old 12-19-2009, 05:41 PM
 
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there's actually a book written about what might have happened if Germany would have had to invade Czechoslovakia, it's called Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove. it provides an interesting idea of how world war two would have been affected by that.
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Old 12-19-2009, 09:32 PM
 
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The czechs had a variety of advantages that the poles did not. First, rather than trying to defend an essentially flat country with two few numbers, they would have been defending mountains that had been fortified, ideal to stop the blitzkrieg. Second, they were better armed particularly in terms of AFV. The German panzers in contrast, had serious problems it was later revealed with reliability in 1938 and of course did not have the huge number of czech tanks they gained.

Two other "advantages" are less certain. Many historians believe that the commander of the german armed forces (not then a non-entity or Hitler himself) was planning a coup if war began and had signficant support in the officer corps. Additionally, the Russians had offered military support, although this was declined.

The RAF would have a period to build up as it would have taken a signficant period of time to conquer Czechoslavkia.
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:33 AM
 
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In order to answer the question, at least in part, you do in fact have to look at the internal politics of the countries involved. To begin with, Czechoslovakia was an artificial creation of the Treaty of Versailles. Slapped together largely from remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the state, while outwardly viable, contained within it the seeds of it’s own destruction. Most people do not realize that the Czechs as a portion of the total population, were actually in the minority, yet they ruled the country. While pressure amongst the other ethnic groups to receive some degree of autonomy from Czech control subsided in the 1920’s, it began to surge in the mid to late 1930’s. This was particularly true in the Sudeten area of the country. In 1935, Konrad Heinlein, an ethnic German, formed the “Sudeten German Party”, a nationalist political organization that sought to represent German interests in the Czech parliament. By 1938, the party was openly calling for autonomy for all German majority areas. At the same time, the Slovaks and the ethnic Hungarians were also seeking much the same. So leading up to the Munich Conference, internal strife in Czechoslovakia was already destabilizing the country as a whole.

France, the country with which Czechoslovakia had a mutual defense pact, wasn’t in that great a shape politically either. Between 1932 and 1940, France went through no less than 16 different coalition governments, which significantly weakened it’s ability to aggressively counter the growing German threat. While they talked a good game, the French did not really have the national will or military strength to do much about Germany. This was partially due to moves made after the end of the First World War. It was widely believed by the French military establishment that the losses suffered by their country during that war should be avoided at all costs. With this in mind, they determined that taking a purely defensive posture would serve France best in a future conflict with Germany. French citizens could only be drafted into military service for a period of one year, so this precluded them from having a large standing army. This forced them to rely on rapid mobilization of reserve forces to deal with a potential German attack. That was why the Maginot Line was seen as the key to the defense of France in the late 1930’s. It was hoped that this fortification would stall any German advance long enough to give the French time to mobilize their armed forces. To show just how poorly positioned the French were to act as a counter to Germany in 1938, you need only look at the comments made by the Chief of the French General Staff, General Maurice Gamelin after Germany re-militarized the Rhineland in 1936. Gamelin stated: “The idea of sending a French expeditionary corps into the Rhineland, even in a more or less symbolic form, is unrealistic…our military system does not give us this possibility. Our active army is only the nucleus of the mobilized national army…None of our units are capable of being placed instantly on a complete war footing”. So while France sought allies in Eastern Europe as a means to check German territorial ambitions, everyone knew after the Rhineland incident that when it came to war, France would be of no help to anyone.

In Britain, there was widespread belief in the government, and even the general population, that the removal of territory from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles was unfair. To many, Germany attempting to reclaim territories like the Sudetenland was both understandable and not unreasonable. This is one of the key reasons why Neville Chamberlain pursued the policy of appeasement so aggressively. To his mind, and many others, the concessions being made to Germany were not really concessions at all. Instead, it was both a means of facilitating the return to Germany that which rightfully belonged to her, and a way to curtail any moves by Germany to regain this “lost” land through force of arms; something which likely would plunge the whole continent into war again. The reality in Britain was that, much like France, from a strictly military standpoint, Britain was not in a position to prevent Germany from taking aggressive action against it’s neighbors. Britain had an extensive empire that she could barely protect, and security treaty obligations to other nations that she would hard pressed to meet should war break out. The post World War One army was relatively small and the air force was not sufficiently developed to provide adequate protection against German air attacks. The only sizable force at Britain’s disposal was the Royal Navy, which of course was of no value in the instance of Czechoslovakia. The situation was such that the British Chiefs of Staff concluded that “No military pressure we can exact by sea, or land, or in the air can prevent Germany either from invading and overrunning Bohemia or inflicting a decisive defeat on the Czechoslovakian army. If politically it is deemed necessary to restore Czechoslovakia’s lost integrity, this aim will entail war with Germany, and her defeat may mean a prolonged struggle. In short, we can do nothing to prevent the dog getting the bone, and we have no means of making him give it up except by killing him by a slow process of attrition and starvation”.

In Germany, Hitler considered the elimination of Czechoslovakia to be paramount, as that country’s existence was a major stumbling block to the overall principle of “lebensraum”. Hitler had been openly talking to his generals about invading Czechoslovakia as early as December 1937. He ordered a plan be prepared, code named “Operation Green”, to accomplish just that. However, Hitler was well aware that such an invasion could not take place unless the international climate was more favorable to Germany and the country had reached a state of military preparedness that would guarantee it’s success. If that meant months or even years, then that’s when he would act. On October 1, 1938, Hitler stated that his one goal from that date forward was the destruction of Czechoslovakia, but that he would only move forward “if, as in the case of the occupation of the demilitarized zone (Rhineland) and the entry into Austria, I am firmly convinced that France will not march and therefore Britain will not intervene either”. When it became clear that there was no concerted effort being made by the British or French to stand in his way, he realized that by merely outwardly pressuring the Czechs, he would likely get what he wanted without going to war.

So this was the backdrop to the Munich Conference. It seems fairly clear that the whole event was little more than a ridiculous kabuki dance in which all the parties concerned blustered and postured, but everyone knew what the outcome would be from the start. Britain and France simply were not going to go to war with Germany over Czechoslovakia. And while both nations briefly flirted with the idea of enlisting the aid of the Soviet Union to counter German expansion into Czechoslovakia and further east, they were loathe to do so. Both countries believed that fascism was still preferable to communism. They also questioned Russia’s military effectiveness in the wake of Stalin’s recent purge of his army’s officer corps. Lastly, and most importantly, Russia had no common border with either Germany or Czechoslovakia, so her military was useless in that regard anyway.

As to why Czechoslovakia didn’t fight despite what took place at Munich, the answer is that at first she fully intended to do just that. In fact, conditions were very favorable to the Czechs from a military standpoint, at least on the surface. It seems though that the Czechs quickly concluded that without any hope of outside assistance (which Britain and France made quite clear to the Czechs they would not get), they might be able to delay the Germans, but they would not be able to outright defeat them. Consider too that the main fortifications that the Czechs would be relying on to stop the German advance were located primarily in the Sudetenland. One has to wonder what steps the German population in the area would have taken to impede the Czechs ability to wage war there. Also, it is likely that had Germany invaded, it wouldn’t have been just the Germans that they Czechs would have been fighting against. Poland was eager to have the territory of Teschen, which she had lost when Czechoslovakia had been created and contained a large ethnic Polish population, returned to her. The Hungarians sought to retrieve Carpathia Rus and much of Slovakia which were areas with heavy concentrations of ethnic Hungarians. It seems reasonable to believe that a German invasion of Czechoslovakia may well have triggered similar invasions by Poland and Hungary.

Regardless of how you look at it, Czechoslovakia was doomed no matter what. And the sad fact is that as long as a larger conflict was avoided, no one really cared.
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Old 12-20-2009, 11:02 AM
 
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Excellent post.
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Old 12-20-2009, 06:14 PM
 
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I thought TonyT's post was excellent. I would add a few points to it.

The public sense in England that the First World War had been idiotically run had generated a strong resistance to war. The devestating Great Depression reinforced this and made increased military expenditures very difficult to justify. Among the economic elite, many sympathised with Hitler who appeared to be the one leader who had solved the Great Depression (whether that was so is hotly debated by economists, but it appeared to be so to many at the time). People who were oppossed to Hitler like Churchill were viewed as militerist. It might be noted, however, that the Sudentenland had never belonged to Germany so the argument that giving it to Hitler was a reversal of the mistakes of Versailles, while made at the time, was in error. It was not until after the Germans broke their word at Munich that the population in England turned firmly against them. A British leader would have had a hard time militarily resisting German advances until then.

Czechoslavakia: The country suffered not only from the common misperception that German was more powerful than it was, but by fierce ethnic strife that was probably decisive in the collapse of the state. The sudenten problem was to a large extent a manufactured crisis, as Heinlein and other native Germans were essentially acting under orders from the German government. It turned out to be a terrible blunder for them. The war led to the near destruction of the German community in Czechoslavakia where they had lived nearly 800 years; Heinlein himself commited sucide.

The French problem was much more serve than is commonly realized. Their population had a historically low birth rate and the country had not recovered from the horrible losses of the First World War. An ongoing dispute between the right and left that went back to the French Revolution crippled politics and led to a near civil war in the thirties. Many on the right in France were sympathetic to Hitler; within two years they would actively collaberate with him in the Vichy government. The French military was seen as the world's most powerful, but suffered from the same war weariness and political division that troubled the country. Equally bad it was led by generals in their sixties and seventies who had no understanding of modern warfare. It was a sham.

Hitler's war program was not broadly popular with the German people as assumed at the time and was particularly unpopular with the general staff who saw it as suicidal. Hitler himself was not as certain as he is sometimes potrayed; for instance when he sent troops into the Rhineland in 1936 he gave orders to withdraw if attacked, and the czech situation was potentially disasterous for him. The fact that he got what he wanted against all odds convinced him that he could achieve whatever he wanted if he stayed the course and that the allied powers would never stand up to him. It also destroyed the opposition to him in Germany.

History has badly misunderstood Neville Chamberlain. Far from being a weak or indecisive leader he was remarkably force full; he had a clear set of objectives and pursued them firmly. Appeasement was not as later thought a policy of cowardnice, it was an active attempt to remove the causes of war by negoiating what were seen as legitimate German demands. In doing so Chamberlain badly misread Hitler, he assumed he was a tradtional politician seeking limited German expansion, instead of a psychopath with unlimited goals. But this misreading was common at the time. It was of course immoral to abandon the Czechs, but such immorality is not uncommon in foreign policy then or later.

The views of Hitler changed entirely when he broke the Munich agreement within a year and seized the rump Czech state. Chamberlain, at last understood the type of man he was dealing with and commited to war - an about face that Hitler who saw Chamberlain's behavior at Munich as was of cowardice failed to grasp. So the seeds for WWII were firmly set at Munich. Two other points need to be addressed. First the British and French had alienated two key allies in the Munich crisis which contributed signficantly to the disaster. Mussolini had opposed Hitler as late as 1936 but was infuriated by the Western reaction to Ethiopia and changed his views entirely. Russia, who's true intentions are subject to sharp debate had offered assistance to the allies. But in the middle of the purge few took them seriously and the Western states feared them nearly as much as Germany. Moreover, Poland and Roumania had refused transit rights for their military which made their arrival problematic.
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Old 12-21-2009, 01:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Angus Podgorny View Post
Excellent post.
Thank you very much.
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Old 12-21-2009, 03:16 AM
 
Location: Aloverton
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Originally Posted by noetsi View Post
History has badly misunderstood Neville Chamberlain. Far from being a weak or indecisive leader he was remarkably force full; he had a clear set of objectives and pursued them firmly. Appeasement was not as later thought a policy of cowardnice, it was an active attempt to remove the causes of war by negoiating what were seen as legitimate German demands.
I don't concur with this assessment. None of Germany's demands were legitimate. Germany was bound by the Treaty of Versailles, whether it repudiated it or not. The demilitarization of the Rhineland, the rearmament, the Anschluss, the Sudetenland, and so on: none were legitimate. What I see as the case was that Chamberlain chose to rationalize the illegitimate demands as legitimate, because to do otherwise would mean taking a firm stand, something he was unwilling to do. So if they were seen as legitimate, they were seen thus through a very Carrollesque lens, one that was prepared to sell out any people or group to keep from having to take a military stand. His objective was peace at any price, and he did pursue it, but in a very craven manner when it came to negotiating with Hitler. The sum total of his position through Munich was: "Whatever you want, you can have. We will talk ourselves into finding reasons why that's okay."

Appeasement was certainly a policy of cowardice. This cowardice led to all the rationalizations, excuses and sucking up that enabled Hitler to simply demand and take whatever he wanted. I realize why it happened; after the Great War, both Britain and France were unwilling to fight unless backed completely into a corner, and they had come to realize that they had imposed the kind of terms upon a defeated Germany that would humiliate but not really defang their adversary. But that's no excuse for the Allies simply ignoring all Hitler's breaches of said treaty, nor his repudiation of it. I am not aware that the Treaty of Versailles included a clause to the effect of: "In the event that any party to this agreement decides it's just too annoying to fulfill, said party may just tear it up."
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Old 12-21-2009, 08:47 AM
 
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It took me a bit to read everyone's postings on here this morning but there were some great ones as i feel like i'm back in history class for WWII and i really do appreciate everyone who participated
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Old 12-22-2009, 06:15 PM
 
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I don't concur with this assessment. None of Germany's demands were legitimate.
They were widely viewed as such by Western publics at the time. Which is what is pertinant to a politician. Chamberlain was anything but weak, indeed his fault if anything was being too stuborn and refusing to listen to others. He saw Germany's demands as reasonable, and that meeting them would avoid war and firmly supported such a policy.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:21 PM
 
Location: Aloverton
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Originally Posted by noetsi View Post
They were widely viewed as such by Western publics at the time. Which is what is pertinant to a politician. Chamberlain was anything but weak, indeed his fault if anything was being too stuborn and refusing to listen to others. He saw Germany's demands as reasonable, and that meeting them would avoid war and firmly supported such a policy.
That's because Western populations were as craven about it as their leaders. Wrong is wrong, no matter how many people try to call it right, and Germany's demands were wrong, in violation of a treaty, and so on. He chose to see them as reasonable because he lacked either the intellect (doubtful) or the moral courage (quite likely) to stand against them. In so doing, he midwifed the Second World War.
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