The Munich Analogy - An american diplomat remembers




George F. Kennan was director of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department from 1947 to 1949. In his book Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin (1960), he wrote about the Munich agreement:

"Throughout that summer of 1938, the Nazi buildup against Czechoslovakia proceeded apace; and in September there occurred the celebrated Munich crisis which rocked Europe to its foundations. With the details of this crisis—Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler at Bad Godesberg, his later dramatic flight to Munich, his concession that Hitler should have the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia, the Czech capitulation, the fall and flight of the Czech government, the occupation by the Germans of a large part of Bohemia and Moravia, and the reduction of what was left of the Czechoslovak Republic to the condition of a defenseless dependency of Germany—with all this, we are familiar. European history knows no more tragic day than that of Munich. I remember it well; for I was in Prague at the time, and I shall never forget the sight of the people weeping in the streets as the news of what had occurred came in over the loud-speakers.

"The Munich agreement was a tragically misconceived and desperate act of appeasement at the cost of the Czechoslovak state, performed by Chamberlain and the French premier, Daladier, in the vain hope that it would satisfy Hitler's stormy ambition, and thus secure for Europe a peaceful future. We know today that it was unnecessary—unnecessary because the Czech defenses were very strong, and had the Czechs decided to fight they could have put up considerable resistance; even more unnecessary because the German generals, conscious of Germany's relative weakness at that moment, were actually prepared to attempt the removal of Hitler then and there, had he persisted in driving things to the point of war. It was the fact that the Western powers and the Czechoslovak government did yield at the last moment, and that Hitler once again achieved a bloodless triumph, which deprived the generals of any excuse for such a move. One sees again, as so often in the record of history, that it sometimes pays to stand up manfully to one's problems, even when no certain victory is in sight."

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