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Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

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  • Retrospective WI. Cezch War of 1938

    Recently declassified records from the British archives hit the news & revived the 75+ year old contraversy over the Cezch War of 38. In this case it centers on the question of Chamberlains judgement and final decision to stand firm against the German demands for the Studentland region of the Cezchoslovakian republic. The documents purportedly show, or "prove" in some views that Chamberlain ignored evidence that Adolf Hitlers government was ready to negotiate the matter and forcing the Cezchs to accept the 'reasonable' idea of parting with the German populated border region was possible.

    As usual the 'Avoidable War' school points to the lesser evil of pressured separation of some questionable Cezch territory vs the bloody four month war (80,000) dead, and the decade of civil disorder and military dictatorship in Germany.

    To my mind the over focus on Chamberlain tends to ignore the role of the French: fearful of a German military revival; of the Poles: actually encouraging Germany to take Cezch land; & Italy in not remaining with France on keeping Germany in line. In general the entire thing was final proof of the failure of the Versailles system, which should have enabled the halting of German military revival years earlier.

    Unlike some folks I am nearly certain had a war to halt German revanchism not occured in 38 it would have occured within another few years. So WI Chamberlain had tried to negotiate away the crisis? It would require the French & Cezchs to agree to some portion of the German demands, which is a tough one. In this Chamberlain did have the support of his marshalls. Their views on the unreadiness of the Brit Army & RAF are well documented.

    So, any opinions of is the newly publsihed Brit papers change anything about the arguments over Chamberlains role i starting the Cezch War?

  • #2
    Any links to these recently declassified papers?

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    • #3
      Anyway, the obvious negotiating position over the Sudetenland is that they can unify with Germany - in time, i.e. not as and when Hitler demands them.

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      • #4
        There is a lot more to this subject than what happened in 1938. Most Czechs that I know felt like as though the West abandoned them in 1938.

        The German State that we know today didn't come into exisitance until 1871 when unification was achieved. German was the official language of the Czechs under Maria-Theresa.

        The national awakening in Central Europe was initiated by Napoleonic Wars, this is when the concept of a nation consisting of people united by a language and cultural traditions really began to take form. With German being so predominate in the Czech Lands......IMO it probably was easy for Chamberlain to not have too much of an issue with Hitler demanding the Sudetenland, from a distant perspective it probably seemed normal without talking to the Czechs that lived there.
        "I don't discuss sitting presidents," Mattis tells NPR in an interview. "I believe that you owe a period of quiet."

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Gooner View Post
          Any links to these recently declassified papers?


          Hope I was not too subtle with this one.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Gooner View Post
            Anyway, the obvious negotiating position over the Sudetenland is that they can unify with Germany - in time, i.e. not as and when Hitler demands them.
            Of course the question here is if the Cezch government would have agreed to any territorial loss. After all that was the defensible frontier, & had the fortifications built in it. They probably would have refused any sort of territorial giveaway forced on them.

            The French were a different matter. Gameln & Vuellimins admonishons that the French military was not ready paralled that of the British Marshals, & there is some evidence the French politicians would have not stood firm had Chamberlain some how wussied out & tried to negotiate. I know there are folks who claim the French never would have forced a territorial give away on the Cezchs, but they may very well have shown up at the negotiations just to see what developed.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post


              Hope I was not too subtle with this one.
              D'oh you even had me looking at the PROs website.

              Of course the question here is if the Cezch government would have agreed to any territorial loss. After all that was the defensible frontier, & had the fortifications built in it. They probably would have refused any sort of territorial giveaway forced on them.
              The timescale could have been five years with several millions Marks compensation as an opening gambit. The boundaries would have to be drawn with regard to the defence of Czecho-Slovakia and of course the time and money would have allowed C-S to rebuild their fortifcations.

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              • #8
                Hitler could agree to compensation, but it ran against his grain, and his accountants were telling him Germany were telling him Germanys cash flow sucked and the Austrian loot would run out in a couple more years.
                So if he agreed it would probabaly be yet another lie.

                Of course if this discussion were a legit dialoge over a actual Cezch War of 38 Hitler would be a unsavory footnote & we would certainly know a lot less about him. Were he overthrown in a Wehrmacht coup in late 38 or early 39 most of what we know would be strongly colored by the subsequent German governments.

                One of my main questions at this point is; had this brief war been fought, and the nazi government overthrown then would the French insist on a larger occupation of Germany than in 1919 & a new disarmament. Or would they think over the 1923-24 occupation and try to negotiate Germany back down to harmlessness. I think in this circumstance there would be serious arguments both ways within France & among its leaders. From their PoV this would have been the third time in 67 years Germany became a threat to France. so, smackdown the trouble maker, or reason with him? Which would it be in 1939

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                • #9
                  The Soviet Union was rearming at a break-neck pace so I think Britain and France might see it as in their interests to have reasonably armed Germany ...

                  There might be calls (again) for a diasarmament conference and this might have legs ..

                  Almost impossible to speculate where we'd be if Hitler had been a foot-not in history. The atomic bomb genie was going to appear out of the bottle sometime.

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                  • #10
                    Carl, as usual. nails it here

                    Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                    Hitler could agree to compensation, but it ran against his grain, and his accountants were telling him Germany were telling him Germanys cash flow sucked and the Austrian loot would run out in a couple more years.
                    So if he agreed it would probabaly be yet another lie.

                    Of course if this discussion were a legit dialoge over a actual Cezch War of 38 Hitler would be a unsavory footnote & we would certainly know a lot less about him. Were he overthrown in a Wehrmacht coup in late 38 or early 39 most of what we know would be strongly colored by the subsequent German governments.

                    One of my main questions at this point is; had this brief war been fought, and the nazi government overthrown then would the French insist on a larger occupation of Germany than in 1919 & a new disarmament. Or would they think over the 1923-24 occupation and try to negotiate Germany back down to harmlessness. I think in this circumstance there would be serious arguments both ways within France & among its leaders. From their PoV this would have been the third time in 67 years Germany became a threat to France. so, smackdown the trouble maker, or reason with him? Which would it be in 1939
                    The Reich scored over 45 tonnes of Gold Bullion from the central bank of Czechslovakia whenthe protectorate was finally established. Enough to keep the Swiss Credit Card open...
                    The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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                    • #11
                      France seems to have been seeing Poland & Rumania as the 'bulwark' in the east. They had a fairly strong military relationship with those nations until things started falling apart in the latter 1930s. Perhaps the Czech War would have caused each to focus back on the collective security question & pull together again. Of course if Poland overtly supports Germany in starting this Czech War then future cooperation with France will come slower.

                      The problem with those Germans is they never acted in Frances interest in the past century & there is not clear way to make them do so. Just not reliable as a shield for France against anything. From the French PoV it would be like trying to train a wild wolf as a guard dog.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by marktwain View Post
                        The Reich scored over 45 tonnes of Gold Bullion from the central bank of Czechslovakia whenthe protectorate was finally established. Enough to keep the Swiss Credit Card open...
                        True, that occured after Hitler discarded the Munich Agreement in March 1939 & invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia. Occupying the Sudentland in 1938 did not yet gain the key to the bank. Beyond that occupation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia makes a payment plan a bit irrelevant As does a bad outcome in this hypothetical 1938 war.

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                        • #13
                          I don't think there was any real negociated option avalible. Either the Allies drew a line in the sand, which at this point they were not ready either in a military or political sense, or they cut a deal.

                          IMO the (re) occupation of the Rhineland was the lost opportunity-the German High Command were dead set against it, and the move itself was a military bluff. Austria was done under a pretext of legality, and by '38 Hilter was firmly in command, and firm in his beliefs about France and Britian.

                          Any deal signed at this point would have had roughly the same shelf-life as the historical agreement, IMO.
                          Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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                          • #14
                            Any opinions on this question?

                            '.. had this brief war been fought, and the nazi government overthrown then would the French insist on a larger occupation of Germany than in 1919 & a new disarmament. Or would they think over the 1923-24 occupation and try to negotiate Germany back down to harmlessness. '

                            A second larger question is if the French would have had the energy post war to successfully restore the collective security group they had in the 1920s? Would this event pull the Poles, Belgians, Rumanians, ect... back together for at least a few years, if not longer?

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                            • #15
                              Its an interesting question.

                              I don't think the security group was salvagable. Belgium was much more withdrawn in '38, and so was Romania.

                              Of course, I doubt that even if France had the political will to go to war in '38, that it had the military capacity for an offensive war. As the Phony War demonstrated, the French High Command planned to 'fight the previous war'.
                              Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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