The disgraceful Munich Agreement of September 1938

obrazek
30.9.2016 10:32
After the Munich Agreement the Wehrmacht marched into Prague in early spring 1939. Betrayed and abandoned by its allies, the democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia ceased to exist.

In a move timed to humiliate their neighboring nation to the utmost, hours before the feast day of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, and a few days ahead of  the three year anniversary of the disgraceful Munich Agreement of 30 September 1938, Hitler’s “man with the iron heart” , one of the main architects of the Holocaust, was appointed Deputy Reich Protector of what remained of the once democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia. Shortly after his appointment, the infamous war criminal, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei, as well as chief of the Reich Main Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich, fed up with Czech anti-German resistance and sabotage, made it clear that the “soft approach” to the “Czech vermin“ was over. Instead, a final solution to the Czech question would be gradually implemented, Heydrich confirmed to his aides in a speech at Czernin Palace in Prague on the 2nd of October 1941.

The operation by British-trained Czechoslovak parachutists in which the Butcher of Prague Heydrich was mortally wounded on May 27, 1942, brought brutal reprisals and yet another wave of terror. The occupation was bad everywhere, but in some places it seemed worse.

The massacre of the small village of Lidice began on June 10, 1942 a few hours after midnight. 173 men of Lidice were shot on that fateful day in the garden of Horak farm. The children were taken from their mothers and, except for those selected for re-education in German families, and babies under one year of age, were poisoned by exhaust gas in specially adapted vehicles in the Nazi extermination camp at Chełmno upon Nerr in Poland. The women were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Having rid Lidice of its inhabitants, the Nazis began to destroy the village itself, first setting the houses on fire and then razing them to the ground with plastic explosives. In 1943 all that remained was the site where Lidice used to be, an empty space. Out of 503 inhabitants, 340 innocent Lidice citizens were murdered by the Nazis. Out of the 105 Lidice children, 82 died in Chełmno, six died in the German Lebensborn orphanages. 143 Lidice women returned home after the war ended, and after a two-year search 17 children were returned home and restored to their mothers.

The Republic of Czechoslovakia failed to protect its citizens since it had ceased to exist. It is estimated that 272 thousand Czechoslovak Jews died due to racial persecution, representing three quarters of all Czechoslovak victims of WW-2. Nobody has calculated what the terrible tragedy implied in terms of the number of the “desperately empty places on the school benches”, not to mention human suffering that hardly anyone can imagine let alone measure.

The disgraceful Munich Agreement of 30 September 1938 is a matter of the dire past now. It remains a mere distant reminder for us that nations, big ones in particular, can sometimes pursue their own interest ruthlessly. Treaties can easily become mere scraps of paper. Relying on these may turn out to be foolish. Nevertheless it is vital to have allies, not only allies whom we need but also good allies who need us. At the same time, we, the smaller nations, must be extremely grateful for every helping hand and tossed coin when danger threatening our very existence emerges. Nevertheless, the most effective help will always be found at our own hands. It is primarily up to us to take up arms to defend against aggression if necessary. Perhaps it is also true that small nations with similar historical experiences can help one another more effectively as they can better understand each others' concerns and needs.

Another lesson learned, confirmed by old Jewish wisdom, is that a good neighbor is always better than a good friend. A good friend always has good advice at hand but a good neighbor is at hand when needed. A good neighbor is harmless and we can easily reciprocate. It is therefore our human duty to be good neighbors as far as it depends on us. However, the world, its people and their generations are changing and not always in the right direction. Therefore without strenuous efforts for our own sovereignty, without our ability to strive constantly, we would most likely vanish sooner or later. When it comes to ensuring our very existence and sovereignty, “do we have enough ability, enough reason and acumen and will,   determination and endurance enough?” The future knows the answer.

 

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