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Neville Chamberlain- unfairly condemned?

JoeB131

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We all got this lesson in history class. Neville Chamberlain went to Munich, and cravenly sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. In hindsight, since war inevitably came anyway, it seems that his actions were cowardly.

However, I offer a different view. Chamberlain played the hand he was dealt, and made the only calls he could.

First, it was impossible for the United Kingdom and France to do much of anything to help Prague in case of a war. After the union of Austria and Germany, the western half of the country was surrounded on three sides. France had invested most of its infrastructure into fixed defenses like the ones that got it through World War I, and not tanks and planes. Hungary and Italy's alliances with Germany made it impossible to help Czechoslovakia from the South.

Second, Czechoslovakia itself was a polite fiction. The country was made up of 6 million Czechs, 3 million Germans in the Sudetenland, who really wanted to be part of Germany, and 1.5 million Slovaks who would have preferred independence. There were also large amounts of Hungarians who wanted to be part of Hungary again.

Finally, the united Kingdom wasn't ready for a war. Not yet. They were in the midst of a rearmorment program and the political classes hadn't accepted another war might be needed.

So really, all Neville could do at Munich was keep the peace... because war was an impossible situation.
 

Sallow

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Good points.

Add in after WWI the world was loathe to fight another big war.
 

JakeStarkey

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We all got this lesson in history class. Neville Chamberlain went to Munich, and cravenly sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. In hindsight, since war inevitably came anyway, it seems that his actions were cowardly.

However, I offer a different view. Chamberlain played the hand he was dealt, and made the only calls he could.

First, it was impossible for the United Kingdom and France to do much of anything to help Prague in case of a war. After the union of Austria and Germany, the western half of the country was surrounded on three sides. France had invested most of its infrastructure into fixed defenses like the ones that got it through World War I, and not tanks and planes. Hungary and Italy's alliances with Germany made it impossible to help Czechoslovakia from the South.

Second, Czechoslovakia itself was a polite fiction. The country was made up of 6 million Czechs, 3 million Germans in the Sudetenland, who really wanted to be part of Germany, and 1.5 million Slovaks who would have preferred independence. There were also large amounts of Hungarians who wanted to be part of Hungary again.

Finally, the united Kingdom wasn't ready for a war. Not yet. They were in the midst of a rearmorment program and the political classes hadn't accepted another war might be needed.

So really, all Neville could do at Munich was keep the peace... because war was an impossible situation.

Nope, not at all. The French could have launched a spoling attack into the Reich, the Czechs would have seriously damaged the Germans as they went down, the British would send what it had to the Continent, and the Poles would have overrun East Prussia.

Neville made the wrong call, and so have you.
 

Ringel05

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Yup, unfortunately for his reputation the crystal balls of the time weren't any better than they are now.
 

Ringel05

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We all got this lesson in history class. Neville Chamberlain went to Munich, and cravenly sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. In hindsight, since war inevitably came anyway, it seems that his actions were cowardly.

However, I offer a different view. Chamberlain played the hand he was dealt, and made the only calls he could.

First, it was impossible for the United Kingdom and France to do much of anything to help Prague in case of a war. After the union of Austria and Germany, the western half of the country was surrounded on three sides. France had invested most of its infrastructure into fixed defenses like the ones that got it through World War I, and not tanks and planes. Hungary and Italy's alliances with Germany made it impossible to help Czechoslovakia from the South.

Second, Czechoslovakia itself was a polite fiction. The country was made up of 6 million Czechs, 3 million Germans in the Sudetenland, who really wanted to be part of Germany, and 1.5 million Slovaks who would have preferred independence. There were also large amounts of Hungarians who wanted to be part of Hungary again.

Finally, the united Kingdom wasn't ready for a war. Not yet. They were in the midst of a rearmorment program and the political classes hadn't accepted another war might be needed.

So really, all Neville could do at Munich was keep the peace... because war was an impossible situation.

Nope, not at all. The French could have launched a spoling attack into the Reich, the Czechs would have seriously damaged the Germans as they went down, the British would send what it had to the Continent, and the Poles would have overrun East Prussia.

Neville made the wrong call, and so have you.

He made the wrong call but specifically with the pressure from home he really had no choice and like I said above his crystal ball was defective.
 
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JoeB131

JoeB131

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Nope, not at all. The French could have launched a spoling attack into the Reich, the Czechs would have seriously damaged the Germans as they went down, the British would send what it had to the Continent, and the Poles would have overrun East Prussia.

Neville made the wrong call, and so have you.

This would be the same Polish Army that would attack German tanks with horses and got wrapped up in six weeks a year later.

Were they super competent in 1938 and then turned sort of dumb in 1939?

For France, again, they didn't have the ability to launch a major offensive into Germany. When war broke out in 1939, they did launch "spoiler attacks" into Germany. And they never stretched more than 20 miles in, outside the fixed range of artiliery pieces on the Maginot Line.
 

Sallow

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Nope, not at all. The French could have launched a spoling attack into the Reich, the Czechs would have seriously damaged the Germans as they went down, the British would send what it had to the Continent, and the Poles would have overrun East Prussia.

Neville made the wrong call, and so have you.

This would be the same Polish Army that would attack German tanks with horses and got wrapped up in six weeks a year later.

Were they super competent in 1938 and then turned sort of dumb in 1939?

For France, again, they didn't have the ability to launch a major offensive into Germany. When war broke out in 1939, they did launch "spoiler attacks" into Germany. And they never stretched more than 20 miles in, outside the fixed range of artiliery pieces on the Maginot Line.

For some strange reason..everyone seems to forget WWI.
 

barry1960

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We all got this lesson in history class. Neville Chamberlain went to Munich, and cravenly sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. In hindsight, since war inevitably came anyway, it seems that his actions were cowardly.

However, I offer a different view. Chamberlain played the hand he was dealt, and made the only calls he could.

First, it was impossible for the United Kingdom and France to do much of anything to help Prague in case of a war. After the union of Austria and Germany, the western half of the country was surrounded on three sides. France had invested most of its infrastructure into fixed defenses like the ones that got it through World War I, and not tanks and planes. Hungary and Italy's alliances with Germany made it impossible to help Czechoslovakia from the South.

Second, Czechoslovakia itself was a polite fiction. The country was made up of 6 million Czechs, 3 million Germans in the Sudetenland, who really wanted to be part of Germany, and 1.5 million Slovaks who would have preferred independence. There were also large amounts of Hungarians who wanted to be part of Hungary again.

Finally, the united Kingdom wasn't ready for a war. Not yet. They were in the midst of a rearmorment program and the political classes hadn't accepted another war might be needed.

So really, all Neville could do at Munich was keep the peace... because war was an impossible situation.

I strongly disagree with this position. I will say that in his incompetence and inability to read Hitler and the political situation Chamberlain was not alone. The French premier Daladier also went along with the Munich agreement even the French, not the British had a treaty with the Czechs. Chamberlain received thunderous aplause in London following the Munich agreement. When Churchill warned on the disasterous consequences of this agreement, he was shouted down.

At the time of the Munich agreement the Czeches could field 35 well trained Divisions behind formidable fortifications in the Sudenland. It is doubtful the Germans could have breached those defensives, their generasl and Hitler said as much when they inspected them after they marched unopposed into the Sudenland.

In the West, the French had 100 divisions available against only five German divisions and seven reserve divisions. The Germans vaunted west wall was only a contruction site in October 1938. Even the timid General Gamelin would have marched in and overwhelmed the pitiful German defenses. That changed in the ensuing eleven months when the Gertman western fortifications were completed.

The Czechs had a treaty with France. The Soviet Union had a treaty with France and Germany that obilgated the Soviets to side with the Cechs should the french honor theitr treaty with the Czechs. Therefore the Soviet Union would also come in on the side of the French, British and Czechs in October 1938 had the Munich agreement not been signed. If no Munich, all these countries would have opped Hitler when he attasched the Czechs on 10/1/38.

In addition the German generals, led by former army commander in chief Beck planned to overthrow Hitler in a coup before he marched into Czechoslovakia. In on the plot was the general controlling the armies in Berlin. If these vacilliating German generals had acted the coup might have been successful. Munich spoiled their plot since they could not launch against a victorious Hitler since their motive was to prevent a disasterous war.

If Munich had not been signed Hitler might have been overthrown from within, or he most certainly been defeated in a matter of weeks by overwhelming forces. Such a defeat would have been the end of the Third Reich and would have avoided the bloodshed of a world war. Hitler was already starting to show the signs of meglamania that spelled his doom and was taken off the hook by Chamberlain's appeasement.

Munich worsened the position of France and Britain greatly. It also led Stalin towards Germany since France refused to include the Soviets in Munich and did not honor their treaty with the Czechs. After Hitler violated Munich Chamberlain overcompensated by giving a guarantee to Poland that resulted in war with Germany. Poland could not be helped in 1939 as the Czechs could in 1938. In the meantime Germany greatly improved their Panzer forces (30% of the tanks broke down within 30 miles on the unopposed trip into the Sudenland) and built the West Wall to deter the timid French.

Chamberlain goes down as a well meaning man and one of the worst diplomats of the 20th century and deservedly so.
 
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zzzz

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Appeasement is not the way to peace but the way to conflict or oppressive states.

If Neville had stood up along with the French during the invasion of Czechoslovakia things may have been different. The French army was fully capable of attacking and defeating the German army at this time. The British, although having a smaller army was fully motorized while the Germans were not. Hitler's rise to glory had not come to fruition and a war with France and Britain at this time may have been his undoing. Remember the German war machine was just starting to form at this time. It was not yet the Blitzkrieg army that invaded Poland and far from the Army that invaded Russia and France.
 

Dragon

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Appeasement is not the way to peace but the way to conflict or oppressive states.

Actually, that is almost never true. Almost always, appeasement -- also known as compromise or diplomacy -- is the way to peace.

The only reason that World War II is an exception where appeasement did not lead to peace is because Hitler was that rare leader who could not be appeased. Hitler was bent on war no matter what. In his case, there was no way to peace.

But where that's not the case, and usually it's not, appeasement is necessary and normal.
 
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While he had a difficult hand in 1938, and he did do a great deal to get England ready in the remaining year, has to be credited with painting himself into that corner in the first place.
 

SW2SILVER

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Starkey has a lot in common with Chamberlain. They both seem to minimize evil with no regard to common sense.
 

barry1960

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While he had a difficult hand in 1938, and he did do a great deal to get England ready in the remaining year, has to be credited with painting himself into that corner in the first place.

And what exactly did Neville Chamberlain do in the eleven months from Munich until the invasion of Poland? Guarantee the sanctity of Poland, thus assuring a war, without assurances from the Soviet Union? Snub Stalin? Well, England did re-arm along with everyone else in Europe.

He was actually duped by Hitler until Germany rolled into the rest of Czechoslovakia in march 1939.
 
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JoeB131

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I strongly disagree with this position. I will say that in his incompetence and inability to read Hitler and the political situation Chamberlain was not alone. The French premier Daladier also went along with the Munich agreement even the French, not the British had a treaty with the Czechs. Chamberlain received thunderous aplause in London following the Munich agreement. When Churchill warned on the disasterous consequences of this agreement, he was shouted down.

Exactly. The British people didn't want another war. They were still looking at the maimed people from the last one that actually weakened the Empire.

At the time of the Munich agreement the Czeches could field 35 well trained Divisions behind formidable fortifications in the Sudenland. It is doubtful the Germans could have breached those defensives, their generasl and Hitler said as much when they inspected them after they marched unopposed into the Sudenland.

But there was a big problem with those fortifications. They were build in GERMAN areas. The Sudetenland was ethnically German, and these Germans wanted nothing to do with the Czechs, whom they considered their inferiors. Under the old Hapsburg Regime, they were dominant, but now they were the minority, and they didn't like it much.

The problem with fixed defenses is that you don't need to overcome all of them, just find a few holes.

In the West, the French had 100 divisions available against only five German divisions and seven reserve divisions. The Germans vaunted west wall was only a contruction site in October 1938. Even the timid General Gamelin would have marched in and overwhelmed the pitiful German defenses. That changed in the ensuing eleven months when the Gertman western fortifications were completed.

I think you are thinking of the Seigfried Line, which was a little further along. More to the point, these 100 divisions were primarily infantry. They lacked armor and mobile support. Most of the artilery support was fixed in the Maginot line. The French military wasn't thinking in terms of mobile military power. They were still in Trench Warfare thinking, of men fighting for months over mere feet of land.

The Czechs had a treaty with France. The Soviet Union had a treaty with France and Germany that obilgated the Soviets to side with the Cechs should the french honor theitr treaty with the Czechs. Therefore the Soviet Union would also come in on the side of the French, British and Czechs in October 1938 had the Munich agreement not been signed. If no Munich, all these countries would have opped Hitler when he attasched the Czechs on 10/1/38.

And did you ever wonder why the Soviets weren't invited to Munich? This is another part of the calculus. You see, the world was actually more afraid of Stalin than Hitler in 1938, and rightfully so. They look at how the ruling classes were just slaughtered in Russia, how Moscow was funding every communist party in the world, and the last thing they wanted was them a lot further west. (Which is what ended up happening, anyway.)

Absolutely no one was saying "Oh, gee, Stalin will save us!" Not even the Czechs. They were willing to take their chances with Hitler.


In addition the German generals, led by former army commander in chief Beck planned to overthrow Hitler in a coup before he marched into Czechoslovakia. In on the plot was the general controlling the armies in Berlin. If these vacilliating German generals had acted the coup might have been successful. Munich spoiled their plot since they could not launch against a victorious Hitler since their motive was to prevent a disasterous war.

Beck and his little cabal spent years plotting against Hitler. And plotting. And plotting. And when they finally took their swing at bat in 1944, it failed comically, despite Tom Cruise's attempts to make it look otherwise. Besides that, Chamberlain had no way of really knowing how much resentment there was in the military against Hitler.

If Munich had not been signed Hitler might have been overthrown from within, or he most certainly been defeated in a matter of weeks by overwhelming forces. Such a defeat would have been the end of the Third Reich and would have avoided the bloodshed of a world war. Hitler was already starting to show the signs of meglamania that spelled his doom and was taken off the hook by Chamberlain's appeasement.

Or Chamberlain might have been voted out. Because to your average Brit, looking at their Uncle Nigel without his legs and screaming nightmares from the last war, were not anxious to send their kids off for a new one over Czechoslovakia, remembering that the last war started because some Archduke got shot by a Serbian.


Munich worsened the position of France and Britain greatly. It also led Stalin towards Germany since France refused to include the Soviets in Munich and did not honor their treaty with the Czechs. After Hitler violated Munich Chamberlain overcompensated by giving a guarantee to Poland that resulted in war with Germany. Poland could not be helped in 1939 as the Czechs could in 1938. In the meantime Germany greatly improved their Panzer forces (30% of the tanks broke down within 30 miles on the unopposed trip into the Sudenland) and built the West Wall to deter the timid French.

The Poles were probably in a better position than the Czechs were. The thing was, after Munich, Czechoslovakia was still a weak country that half the population wanted nothing to do with. The Slovaks couldn't wait to get away from the Czechs. Neither could the Hungarians.


Chamberlain goes down as a well meaning man and one of the worst diplomats of the 20th century and deservedly so.

Again, he made the best decision he could in an impossible situation. Little did he realize he was arguing with the go-to argument in every losing internet batttle.
 
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JoeB131

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While he had a difficult hand in 1938, and he did do a great deal to get England ready in the remaining year, has to be credited with painting himself into that corner in the first place.

And what exactly did Neville Chamberlain do in the eleven months from Munich until the invasion of Poland? Guarantee the sanctity of Poland, thus assuring a war, without assurances from the Soviet Union? Snub Stalin? Well, England did re-arm along with everyone else in Europe.

He was actually duped by Hitler until Germany rolled into the rest of Czechoslovakia in march 1939.

actually, it was a little more complicated than that. Slovakia won its independence after Munich.

The Czech section became a "protectorate" with a puppet government. Hungary took back the Hungarian areas and even Poland got in on the action.

As far as "Snubbing" Stalin. Let's look at it from the 1938 perspective. All Hitler did up to 1938 was eliminate a few thousand political rivals and chase out the German Jews. Stalin had killed millions, intentionally starved the Ukraine into submission, killed the old Tsarists elites, then turned on the more moderate revolutionaries and killed them, too. He had established the "Third International", which funded communist parties in all of the western countries and many of their colonial holdings.

Who do you think Paris and London were more scared of?

And their best hope for a war over Czechoslovakia would have left Stalin in charge of the place, maybe Poland as well.
 

JakeStarkey

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Nope, not at all. The French could have launched a spoling attack into the Reich, the Czechs would have seriously damaged the Germans as they went down, the British would send what it had to the Continent, and the Poles would have overrun East Prussia.

Neville made the wrong call, and so have you.

This would be the same Polish Army that would attack German tanks with horses and got wrapped up in six weeks a year later.

Were they super competent in 1938 and then turned sort of dumb in 1939?

For France, again, they didn't have the ability to launch a major offensive into Germany. When war broke out in 1939, they did launch "spoiler attacks" into Germany. And they never stretched more than 20 miles in, outside the fixed range of artiliery pieces on the Maginot Line.

The Poles were more competitive in 1938 with the Germans than in 1939. So were the Czechs, the French, and British.

Your position is debunked.
 

JakeStarkey

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Starkey has a lot in common with Chamberlain. They both seem to minimize evil with no regard to common sense.

SW2silver demonstrates a lack of mental acuity and adult maturity in his comment.

He also can't read. I said Chamberlain was wrong, and the allies should have gone to war over Czechoslavkia.
 

Ringel05

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Starkey has a lot in common with Chamberlain. They both seem to minimize evil with no regard to common sense.

SW2silver demonstrates a lack of mental acuity and adult maturity in his comment.

He also can't read. I said Chamberlain was wrong, and the allies should have gone to war over Czechoslavkia.

Should have? Maybe. The Czechs could have just not agreed and called Hitler's bluff, ideally they had the army, the terrain and the fortifications to stop the German army. However, about a quarter of the Czech army were for the annexation, the British and French peoples were totally against another European war, the horrors of WWI were still fresh in their minds and no one was sure what Italy or the Soviets would do.
Again was Chamberlain ultimately wrong? Yes. Was he following the sentiment of the major powers at the time? Yes. Should he be villainized for what he did? No, again he had no properly working crystal ball.
 

JakeStarkey

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Sure he should be villianized, Ringel. That's what we do here. :lol:
 

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