Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Benes in the 1930s

By Igor Lukes | Go to book overview

6
Lord Runciman and Comrade Zhdanov: Western and Soviet Policies toward Czechoslovakia from June to Early September 1938

The partial mobilization of the Czechoslovak army in May turned, at least for a fleeting moment, into a near triumph for the Prague government. It seemed that Hitler had lost initiative. Rumors started to circulate in Berlin that the Führer was in one of his "black moods" and that he would try to regain momentum by occupying the Sudetenland before the opening of the Nazi party congress scheduled to take place at Nuremberg in September. 1 The leadership of the Czechoslovak army responded to this threat by requesting that the Prague government pass a law adding another twelve months to the existing two-year military service obligation. 2 Meanwhile, an additional forty thousand reservists were called up, and the Goebbels propaganda machine appeared to have stalled when confronted with units of the Czechoslovak army deployed along the fortified borders. 3 The tension between Prague and Berlin was such that a few cannon shots fired in error could have set in motion what many had come to fear: another war in Europe.

In the early summer of 1938, German diplomacy retreated and eased direct pressure on President Beneš, indicating that there was nothing new to discuss. It preferred to deal primarily with London and, to a lesser extent, Paris. The message Berlin sought to communicate to the British and French could be summed up in three propositions. First, the Sudeten Germans were entitled to raise the principle of self- determination just as Masaryk and Beneš had done during the Great War. 4 Second, despite Hitler's patience and willingness to aim at a political, rather than military, settlement of the crisis, the Beneš government had given no sign of its preparedness

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