OUTBREAK OF WAR
Essex, on the Partition of Czechoslovakia,
14 March 1939*
Mr. Winston Churchill, speaking at Waltham Abbey, Essex, last night, said that present events in Czecho-Slovakia were a justification of the speech he made on the Munich settlement six months ago.
“The Czecho-Slovak Republic is being broken up before our eyes,” he said: “their gold is being stolen by the Nazis: the Nazi system is to block out every form of internal freedom; the Czech army is to be reduced to negligible proportions or incorporative in the Nazi power. They are about to lose all symbols of an independent democratic State; can anybody deny that?”
Mr. Churchill said that he pointed out last September that a disaster of the first magnitude had happened to France and England.
Why do you suppose we are making all these preparations? he went on: Why do you suppose the French military service has been lengthened? Why do you suppose we have promised to send 19 divisions to the Continent? Because in the destruction of Czecho-Slovakia the entire balance of Europe was challenged.
The great and growing German Army is now free to turn in any direction: we do not know in what direction it will turn. The whole structure of international cooperation in order to protect the small country from lawless offence— all that was broken down and cast away. I pointed out in that speech that Munich sealed the ruin of Czecho-Slovakia. You remember the tales we were told, how they were to have a much better life if they were freed from the burdens of the unwilling Sudeten Germans in their midst. Besides that, they were to have a German guarantee of their reduced frontier, and there was to be a British and French guarantee of their frontier. I expressed the view that those guarantees were hardly worth the paper they were written on or the breath that uttered them, and I am of the same opinion still.
Continuing, Mr. Churchill said: —We see now exactly the same methods as were used in September—disturbances on the frontier and in parts of Slovakia which, I have no doubt, are at the instigation of the German Nazi Party. The German Press had been set to work to vilify the Czechs and to accuse them of violent aggression against the Germans in their midst.
The next thing is to order them to reduce their army, to take into their Government whatever Ministers the Germans choose.
*The Times, 15 March 1939.