This week 1938, Winston Churchill gave one of the most remarkable speeches of the twentieth century, his condemnation of the Munich Accords. In the agreement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to allow Adolf Hitler`s Germany to annex the Sudetenland, a German-dominated province of Czechoslovakia. Hitler had already revealed his hatred of the Jews and his imperial ambitions in Europe. But Chamberlain believed that the admission of Hitler`s claims could help prevent another catastrophic European war that ravaged the continent two decades earlier. (The FDR privately condemned Chamberlain`s weakness, but publicly assured Hitler that the United States had no intention of intervening.) “I don`t think any comment is a great expression. I keep regretting it. I received it from Sumner Welles [US Under-Secretary of State, 1937-42]. Churchill`s great disagreements with John Simon and Chamberlain necessitated war with Germany to defend Czechoslovakia. Churchill felt that Czechoslovakia had been sacrificed to maintain peace with Germany, and that they had “abandoned to themselves and said that they were not receiving help from the Western powers, [the Czechs] were able to make better terms than they would have obtained.” Churchill also used his speech to highlight the hypocrisy of forcing Czechoslovakia to abandon part of its sovereign territory without a referendum. He said, “No matter how you say it, this particular block of land, this mass of people who must be handed over, has never expressed a desire to enter Nazi rule.” This violated the principle of self-determination, which stipulated that “liberal and democratic” nations should be protected from being adopted by totalitarian governments, an idea that Churchill strongly supported. Churchill used this speech to discover Hitler`s expansionist tendencies immediately after Germany`s annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. He strongly criticized Neville Chamberlain and his government for approving Hitler`s annexation of the Sudetenland and said, “Instead of taking his victuals off the table, [Hitler] merely served them.” Churchill saw the Munich agreement as a show of weakness that disrupted the balance of continental power, and argued that the agreement would not prevent the outbreak of war or guarantee that Hitler would change his behaviour. We are invited to vote in favour of this proposal which has been put forward in the document and it is certainly a very undisputed proposal, as is the amendment that has been postponed by the opposition.
For my part, I am not in a position to agree with the measures taken and, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put his side so forcefully, I will try to approach the matter from a different angle, if I may. I have always believed that peacekeeping depends on the accumulation of deterrents against the aggressor, with a sincere effort to remedy the situation. Mr. Hitler`s victory was, like so many famous fights that determined the fate of the world, the closest.