Reference Material: A Historic Decision (Part 1) -- Appeasement and Tacit Consent
(Note: most of the quotes in this article are translated and therefore paraphrased)
(Clearwisdom.net) At dawn on September 1, 1939, Hitler launched more than 1,500 planes and a total of 56 divisions to invade Poland. On September 3, Britain and France declared war against Germany, and the Second World War thus began on a full scale. This war, the most calamitous in human history, lasted six years and caused more than 90 million casualties around the world, in addition to 4,000 billion US dollars in economic losses. Although the war ended with the complete destruction of the Axis powers, the pain and suffering it brought to mankind and the scars deep in people's hearts can never be healed completely. Looking back at this part of history, we cannot help but ask, was this war indeed inevitable? Why did the democratic countries simply sit there and watch Germany, Italy and Japan develop and gain power, until they suffered a near-fatal blow?
In 1951, as one of the decision-makers of the allied nations during WWII, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill published 6 volumes of a book entitled, The Second World War, which took him six years to complete. At the beginning of one of these books he wrote, and here I will paraphrase, "The tragedy of the Second World War could have easily been avoided; the weakness of the kind intensified the venom of the evil."
Everyone knows that the Second World War was a war against Fascism. Britain, France and the USSR were all victims in this war. When we look at the Munich Agreement signed in September 1938 by Britain, France, Germany and Italy, the Nazi-Soviet Pact signed by the USSR and Germany one week before the war, as well as a series of consequent economic agreements; when we look at Poland and Hungary's reaction after Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, and USSR's looting of Poland, and their materialistic support to Germany at the beginning of war, we cannot but reach one conclusion: the acquiescence and indulgence of evil and the false hope that it would one day act on people's conscience and drop its butcher's knife is indeed too na?ve. Going along with the evil out of consideration for one's own interest is no different from inviting thieves and murders into your home. Countries that condone such action are likely to receive a deadly blow from the evil at any time.
On August 19, 1934, Hitler became Germany's head of state. One month later, he gave orders to build an air force and to expand both the army and the navy, which already clearly indicated his intended preparation for war. In March 1935, Germany adopted a generalized military service law and started to publicly reconstruct its army and stockpile supplies. At the same time, Germany's government claimed that its air force was equal to that of Britain's in strength and capacity. One year later, Hitler tore up the treaties and invaded the non-military zone on the Rhine River, along the border between Germany and France.
This was a daring, risky action. At that time, the actual strength of Hitler's armed forces was far less than that of France. Even without help from the British, France had enough military strength to drive Germany out of that area along Rhine River. At the same time she could have dealt a fatal blow to Hitler's naked ambitions, and possibly could have even ended Hitler's rule in Germany. However, both Britain and France chose to indulge the evil. Out of fear of war, they found an excuse, saying something like, "Hitler is only driving his army into his own backyard." This weak retreat greatly enhanced Hitler's power and his reputation among the most powerful people in Germany.
In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria and actively prepared for the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
- Acquiescence and Indulgence
Czechoslovakia was a multi-ethnicity country. There were three million Germans living in Czechoslovakia. Most of them lived in the Sudetenland, which bordered Germany on its northeast side. Hitler instigated the local Nazi followers to propose autonomy for the Sudetenland region, followed by the request to merge with Germany. Czechoslovakian President Eduard Benes firmly resisted this proposal, and 1.5 million Czechs armed themselves and waited behind the strongest line of defense in Europe. British Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Eduard Daladier, who should have stood up to uphold justice, chose the appeasement policy instead and tried to maintain a so-called "peace at all costs."
In September 1938, Britain, France, Germany and Italy signed the notorious Munich Agreement without the presence of a Czechoslovakian representative, which ceded Sudetenland and a southern part of Czechoslovakia that bordered Austria over to Germany. Hitler said that after the Sudetenland issue was resolved, he would have no further interest, no matter what happened in Czechoslovakia. He promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. The leaders of Britain and France believed him and naively thought that the wolf could suddenly swear off meat.
Several hours after the Munich Agreement was signed, Chamberlain met with Hitler in Hitler's mansion. Chamberlain took out a joint statement he had prepared beforehand and claimed, "The Munich Agreement and the Navy Agreement between Britain and Germany that were signed last night symbolize the hope of the peoples of the two nations that there will be no war between them." Hitler signed without objection. Upon returning to Britain, while getting off the plane, Chamberlain waved the joint statement signed by Hitler and read it out loud to the officials who had come to welcome him. He again waved that piece of paper from the window of his residence at No. 10 Downing Street and said, "This is the second time in our history that we brought back honor and peace to Downing Street. I believe this is peace in our era."
Chamberlain was blindly optimistic in trusting the evil. It was exactly this piece of empty paper, a signed agreement of appeasement that threw the whole world into the maelstrom of war. Just as Churchill had said about Chamberlain, "You were asked to choose between war and shame. You chose shame, yet you still had to face war."
As Czechoslovakia was headed toward disintegration, Poland and Hungary took advantage of her misfortune for their own gains. The Polish government gave Czechoslovakia a 20-hour ultimatum, asking that nation to give up some of her border areas. Hungary also made certain demands of Czechoslovakia.
The Munich Agreement was in fact the death sentence for Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia not only lost 1/5 of its territory and about 1/4 of its population, but the strong cohesiveness within Czechoslovakia no longer existed, either. All of its railways, highways, and the telephone and telecommunication-systems had disintegrated. In less than six months, Hitler occupied Prague without any resistance. At the same time, the Hungarian army, supported by Poland, also invaded eastern Czechoslovakian provinces at will.
The fall of Czechoslovakia not only deprived the Allied countries of their mountain fortifications as well as the Czechoslovakian army that could have tied up 30 divisions of the German army, but more importantly, the second largest munitions factory in Europe - the Skoda Munitions Factory, also fell into the hands of the enemy. During the period from August 1938 to September 1939, the output of this factory was almost equal to the total output of all munitions factories in Britain. The balance of military strength of the two sides thus took a drastic turn.
(To be continued)