3 minutes 36 seconds
00:00:00 - 00:00:27
It isn't rare for a country to seize the land of another, and it's not rare for the great powers to be involved in this process in some form or another. What is rare is that the country having its land taken isn't at war or even invited to the discussions concerning it. This is what happened to Czechoslovakia in 1938 when the German government demanded the Sudetenland for its own. It was ceded to Germany after Britain, France and Italy held a conference with the Germans and agreed to the transfer. The Czechs were not invited, yet in the end still handed the land over.
00:00:27 - 00:00:46
Which raises the question, why did they go along with it? So, as of 1938, Europe was a pretty tense place. Countries like Germany, Italy and Hungary were fairly open about claiming the lands of their neighbours. Austria had just been unified with Germany and Britain and France were concerned that this irredentism was going to lead to another major war. Which neither of them wanted, because dying is terrible.
00:00:47 - 00:01:13
As such, when the German government demanded that these lands, the Sudetenland and its large German population be handed over, the Czechs didn't want to because this region was very mountainous and they'd spent a bunch of money building defences there to defend them from a German attack. They were also bolstered by France and the Soviet Union having previously pledged to defend them. Although, there was 1 major problem with these alliances. They weren't worth anything. France had promised to protect Czechoslovakia, but actually fulfilling that guarantee sounded difficult and war was scary, so they were lukewarm on the idea.
00:01:13 - 00:01:40
As for the USSR, they didn't share a border with Czechoslovakia, meaning they'd have to go through either Poland or Romania, neither of which were ever going to let that happen. As such, the government in Prague turned to Britain for help, and Britain's response was, well, Germany sort of has a point. The Czechs didn't want to back down, and thus it seemed that war was inevitable. Britain and France didn't want this, and so, it was time for a conference. With Italy's moderation, the Allies agreed to hand Germany everything that it asked for, so long as it agreed not to conquer Czechoslovakia soon afterwards.
00:01:40 - 00:02:05
For France, this gave them an out, since if the Czechs refused, they could say that they were provoking Germany in doing nothing to uphold peace. As such, the Czechs, who were pretty upset about all of this, were on their own. Thus, they had no choice but to yield the territory since they knew that they couldn't defeat Germany on their own. Something made much more difficult considering that whilst the Munich Conference was ongoing, the Polish had marched into the country and taken some land for itself. So with that, the Czechs handed over the Sudetenland, which meant that things were settled then, right?
00:02:05 - 00:02:21
Well, no. Sensing weakness, Hungary opted to settle some territorial grudges of its own. Its government wanted these lands and the Hungarians that lived there. Which of course meant that it was time for another conference. This time, Britain and France weren't invited and shockingly, yet again, it was decided that Czechoslovakia would lose territory.
00:02:21 - 00:02:42
So why didn't they resist this time? Well, they were now in an even weaker position than before. Their best defence against a German attack was now gone, their allies had completely abandoned them and the government's primary concern was to not die. It was hoped, though, that these embarrassing concessions would preserve peace and at least maintain Czechoslovakia's independence, but fun fact, no. In 1939, with German backing, Slovakia declared its independence.
00:02:43 - 00:03:21
Hungary was then given more territory and the Czech State was promptly occupied by German troops and turned into a protectorate. Again, they weren't able to resist because much of their defences, industry, and the majority of their population had just been taken away from them. As such, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and it wouldn't return until after World War II was over, and it was hoped in the new Czechoslovakian government that their allies would have learned from these mistakes and wouldn't sell them out again. Well, good luck with that. I hope you enjoyed this episode and thank you for watching with a special thanks to my patrons James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Korsho Wolf, Jordan Longley, Adam Stalter, Jerry Lambdin, Mark Osarsner, Wyan Hockey, Spencer Lightfoot, Words About Books Podcast, Gustav Swan, Captain Psydog, Rod D.
00:03:21 - 00:03:21
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