Lessons from the Sudetenland
By Dr. Chuck Missler - January 7, 2011
[The strategic dilemma in the Middle East is strikingly parallel to the tragic and painful lessons of Czechoslovakia. The following is presented in the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, in his book A Place Among The Nations, published in 1993. It still applies to the situation in Israel today.]
Their Strategic Barrier
Czechoslovakia was strategically placed in the heart of Europe, and its conquest was central to Hitler's plans for overrunning Europe. Though small, Czechoslovakia could field over 800,000 men (one of the strongest armies in Europe), and it had a highly efficient arms industry.
To complicate matters from Hitler's point of view, it possessed a formidable physical barrier to his designs in the shape of the Sudeten mountains, which bordered Germany and guarded the access to the Czech heartland and the capital city of Prague only miles away.
A system of fortifications and fortresses had been built in the mountains over many years, making passage by force a very costly proposition, perhaps even impossible. We now know from the Nuremberg trials and other sources that Hitler's generals were utterly opposed to an assault on the Czech fortifications.
Worse from Hitler's point of view, the Western powers had promised at Versailles to guarantee the Czech border against any aggressive attack. France, which in 1938 could field one hundred divisions (an army 50% larger than Germany's), had agreed in writing to come to the Czech's defense, and Britain and Russia were committed to joining in if France did so.
Propaganda vs. Reality
Since an outright military victory seemed impossible, Hitler embarked on an unprecedented campaign to politically force the Czechs to give up the land, and with it any hope of being able to defend their capital or their country.
The inhabitants of the Sudetenland, Hitler said, were predominantly German, and these three million Sudeten Germans deserved-what else?-the right of self-determination and a destiny separate from the other seven million inhabitants of Czechoslovakia; this despite the fact that the country was a democracy and that the Sudeten Germans enjoyed economic prosperity and full civil rights.
To buttress his claim, Hitler organized and funded the creation of a new Sudeten political leadership that would do his bidding, which was, in the words of Sudeten leader Konrad Henlein, to "demand so much that we can never be satisfied."
William Shirer, who was a reporter in Europe at the time, succinctly summarized it:
Thus the plight of the German minority in Czechoslovakia was merely a pretext ... for cooking up a stew in a land he coveted, undermining it, confusing and misleading its friends and concealing his real purpose ... to destroy the Czechoslovak state and grab its territories .... The leaders of France and Great Britain did not grasp this. All through the spring and summer, indeed almost to the end, Prime Minister Chamberlain and Premier Daladier apparently sincerely believed, along with most of the rest of the world, that all Hitler wanted was justice for his kinsfolk in Czechoslovakia.
In addition, Hitler backed the establishment of a Sudeten liberation movement called the Sudeten Free Corps, and he instigated a series of well-planned and violent uprisings that the Czechs were compelled to quell by force. Hitler's propaganda chief, Goebbels, orchestrated a fearful propaganda campaign of fabricated "Czech terror" and oppression of the Sudeten Germans.
The Czech refusal to allow the Sudeten territories to return to their "rightful" German owners, Hitler prattled, was proof that the Czechs were the intransigent obstacle to peace. For what choice would Germany have but to come to the assistance of its oppressed brethren living under intolerable Czech occupation?
Moreover, the Germans reversed causality, claiming that the Czechs were trying to precipitate a European crisis in order to prevent the breakup of their state, that the choice between war and peace in Europe was in Czech hands, and even that "this petty segment of Europe is harassing the human race."
But there was a simple way to simultaneously avoid war and achieve justice, Hitler said. The Western powers-meaning Britain and France-could force the Czechs to do what was necessary for the sake of peace: Czechoslovakia had to relinquish the "occupied territories."
[To Be Continued...]
Copyright © Koinonia House Inc., Reprinted with permission.
Dr. Chuck Missler is the founder of Koinonia House ministries, or K-House as it is affectionately called. K-House is dedicated to the development and distribution of materials for encouraging and facilitating serious study of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. K-House reaches tens of thousands through its monthly newsletter, radio shows, cassette tapes, and conferences. More than eight million study tapes have been distributed in the U.S. and in over 35 countries around the world.