PRELUDE TO WAR
In 1933 Germany's military consisted of only seven infantry divisions and three cavalry divisions. By 1935 it began
to rapidly expand it's military war machine, in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. Within the next two years,
Germany had not only exceeded the limits established by the Treaty but surpassed the combined strength of the
military forces of Great Britain and France.
Britain and France were alert to the danger Hitler posed to Europe but were unwilling to mobilize their military
forces In a state of military unpreparedness. They instead adopted a policy of appeasement that proved to be
disastrous. Churchill struggled desperately to convince the House of Commons of the need for Britain to rearm
itself in the face of Nazi belligerence. The Chamberlain government refused, despite numerous appeals, citing a
weak British economy as the reason. Harold MacMillan, then a member of Parliament remarked, "Hitler was always
regarded by British politicians as if he were a brilliant but tempermental genius who could be soothed by kindness
or upset by hard words."
As Germany's military strength increased, so did Hitlers' demands. He claimed certain territories as part of the
German Vaterland whose population represented a majority of German ethnic groups, such as in Austria, the
Sudentenland, and western provinces of Poland. In March 1938, Hitler stunned the world when he annexed
Austria in the Anchluss, and invaded the Sudentenland.
Several months later, a meeting was convened in Munich among the major European powers, Prime Minister
Chamberlain, President Daladier, Mussolini, and Hitler all met to resolve the crisis of the Sudentenland. Needless
to say, the discussions were at an impasse, and inevitably led to the acceptance of Hitler's occupation of the
region. Hitler agreed to sign the Munich Agreement despite the additional clauses imposing a restriction - that
Hitler go no further.
A second agreement was made between Chamberlain and Hitler in which
Hitler agreed to resolve all future disputes with England through peaceful
means. It was with this paper in hand that Chamberlain returned to London.
He was met there by ecstatic crowds, and waving the paper to them, he
delivered a rousing speech, now infamous, on Peace in Our Time. One year
later, the Nazis marched right into Prague and occupied the remainder of
Czechoslovakia. (The nation had never been a German enclave. Its' citizens
were Slavs, not Germans.)