Hitler was voted German Chancellor in 1933 and right after the annexation of Austria set his sight upon Sudetenland – a mountain range following the Czech borders with Poland and Germany. For centuries, this part of the country had been inhabited by mostly Germans who spoke their own language, had their own traditions and felt harmed by the Czech independence. After all, it was voices from Sudetenland that made a settlement between Bohemia and Austrian Empire in the 19th century impossible.
In 1938, Hitler decided to openly support the demands of Germans living in Sudetenland and claimed its self-determination. Czechoslovakia’s fear of Hitler’s growing power was only supported by Konrad Henlein’s nationalist German Sudeten party.
A conference was held in Munich, attended by French, Italian, German and British politicians, most notably Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain. Czechs couldn’t take part in the discussion, neither could the Soviets who promised to help Czechoslovakia according to a treaty signed in 1935. The Allies, practicing their policy of appeasement, decided to obey Hitler’s demands, thinking they did the right thing. When Chamberlain returned to London, he announced that he had secured “peace in our time”.
Poland and Hungary, who demanded territories on the Slovakian borders, were also satisfied. Czechoslovakia lost 25% of its area, most of it being industrially very rich. The people felt abandoned by the Allies and President Beneš resigned. War began a year after the Munich betrayal. Seeing their mistake, British and French officially annulled the pact and joined forces with the Czech exile to help them defeat Nazis.