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

By Igor Lukes | Go to book overview

7
September 1938

The first operational study of a German military offensive against Czechoslovakia, code-named "Schulung," was prepared in May 1935. 1 On this foundation was built the original study's more advanced version, Operation Green. 2 This plan acquired realistic dimensions by late June 1937 and was redrawn in April 1938 to reflect the new situation brought about by the annexation of Austria. On 30 May 1938 the Führer signed yet another version of the plan: German armed forces had to smash Czechoslovakia "in the near future." They were specifically instructed to carry out "a thrust into the heart of Czechoslovakia . . . with the strongest possible" force. 3 An attached cover letter stipulated that the day of execution for Operation Green was 1 October 1938 "at the latest." 4 A number of meetings between Hitler and Germany's top military commanders followed, but not all were amiable. Many officers were unable to have faith in the Führer's military genius; some told him openly that Germany's western defenses could be held against a French attack for only three weeks. In that case, Hitler replied during a meeting on 10 August 1938, the whole Wehrmacht "would not be good for anything." There was open talk about defeatism and opposition among the generals. 5

The German public, just like many German officers, felt no enthusiasm for the next war. The British embassy in Berlin noted that the country was against war but "helpless in the grip of the Nazi system." At the height of the hysteria whipped up by the Nazis, the British found no animosity toward the Czechs among Germans, who were "like sheep being led to the slaughter." 6 Unpersuaded by the warnings from his generals, Hitler refused to discuss the deadline for Operation Green, and it remained unchanged.


Hitler at Nuremberg and a State of Emergency in the Sudetenland

Nuremberg, the city closely tied to the fate of the Holy Roman Empire, had become early on a place of pilgrimage for the Nazis. And it was there that the NSDAP, amid

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