Thursday, November 3, 2011

Berlin, March 15, 1939.

Hácha (second from the left), Hitler, Goering and other officials [1]

Less than 6 months after the Munich Agreement was signed (30-09-1938), what remained of the former Czechoslovakia was in crisis, again.

Abandoned by their French and British allies, the Czech government was forced to give the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany, plus other territories ceded to Poland and Hungary; while Slovak nationalists, instigated by the Nazis, were pressing for the independence of Slovakia.

Emil Hácha [2]
Edvard Beneš, who presided over the Czech government during this earlier crisis, self exiled to London out of fears for his life, leaving the 66-year-old conservative Emil Hácha as president of Czechoslovakia (appointed in November 30, 1938).

In reply to his own request for a face-to-face meeting, president Hácha was summoned to Berlin by the German chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

Hácha and his Foreign Affairs Minister (one M. Chvalkovsky, according to reports by the French Embassy), arrived in Berlin on March 14, 1939.

Summoned to the Chancellery in that evening, the two Czech ministers were kept waiting until 01:15/01:30 am, when they were taken to the Fuehrer's study.

After hearing Hácha's pleads on his shrinking country's behalf, it is said Hitler went into a rage, finally giving Hácha a document prepared earlier, by means of which the Czech government requested Nazi protection.

If Hácha signed the document, the "entry of German troops would take place in a tolerable manner" and it would "permit Czechoslovakia a generous life of her own, autonomy and a degree of national freedom...", otherwise "...resistance would be broken by force of arms, using all means", starting with a massive aerial bombardment of Prague next morning. (See here)

As Hácha and Chvalkovsky were still reluctant to sign, Hitler left his visitors in the company of Hermann Goering (head of the Luftwaffe) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Foreign Affairs minister).

Under relentless pressure, Hácha, who had a weak heart, collapsed to the floor, apparently due to a heart attack. Hitler's personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morell, who was standing by for any eventuality, rushed in and assisted Hácha.

At 3:55 am, Wednesday the 15th, a badly shaken Hácha signed the document.

Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as an independent nation until the end of WW2.


DISCLAIMER:

Any similarity between this historical incident and the sudden change of mind of Greek prime minister George Papandreou on the matter of the referendum, after meeting last Tuesday 2nd with French president Nicolas Sarkosy and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Cannes, is surely mere coincidence (right?):

"Merkel, Sarkozy Read Riot Act to Greece". ABC. November 3, 2011.
"Greek PM Papandreou 'Ready to Drop' Bailout Referendum". BBC. November 3, 2011.

Photo Credits:
[1] Hitler and Hácha at the Chancellery. Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F051623-0206 / CC-BY-SA. Wikipedia
[2] Emil Hácha. Wikipedia.

Further Information:
Nazis Take Czechoslovakia. The History Place.
The French Yellow Book. No. 77. The Avalon Project. Yale Law School.

UPDATE:

05-11-2011: Paul Mason asks Nicolas Sarkozy: "It's evident that you and Mme Merkel (...) are trying to change the governments of Italy and Greece. How is that just? And once it's started, where does it stop?"

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