Some Notes on Hitler, Hacha and the Czechs

Originally Published, 14th June 2019


Hacha himself never mentioned any intimidation. Goring had made a passing remark about the bombing of prague which has been interpreted in many different ways. Even being attributed to Hitler because Hitler himself co-opted it at a dinner conversation in 1942.

Hacha himself puts the quote like this

[I have a difficult task. I would be extremely sorry if I had to destroy this beautiful city. But I would have to do it for the English and the French to know that my Luftwaffe is always 100% ready. They still do not want to believe it and I would like to convince them.]

– H. Goring [1]

You could interpret this as a threat, but you could also interpret it as genuine sincerity and sorrow if he had to bomb prague at some point. And sincerity seems to be the surest sense. After all, Goring was recalled as he was on holiday in Switzerland by Hitler, and Goring was against the idea of incorporating Czechia in this more semi-aggressive way, because as he saw it Czechia was bound to come under German protection at some point anyway. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the Nuremberg trial which backs up both of my claims.

DR. STAHMER: On the 15 March 1939 a conversation took place between Hitler and President Hacha. Were you present during that conversation? And what was your part in it?

Goering: That was the beginning of the establishment of the Protectorate in Czechoslovakia. After Munich — that is, after the Munich Agreement and the solution of the Sudeten German problem — a military decision had been reached by the Fuehrer and some of his collaborators to the effect that, if there should be new difficulties after the Munich agreement, or arising from the occupation of the zones, certain measures of precaution would have to be taken by the military authorities, for, after the occupation of the zones, the troops which had been in readiness for “Case Green” (Schmundt File) had been demobilized. But a development might easily take place which at any moment could become extremely dangerous for Germany. One needs only to remember what an interpretation was given at that time by the Russian press and the Russian radio to the Munich agreement and to the occupation of the Sudetenland. One could hardly use stronger language. There had been a liaison between Prague and Moscow for a long time. Prague, disappointed by the Munich agreement, could now strengthen its ties with Moscow. Signs of that were seen particularly in the Czech officers’ corps and we were informed. And in the event of this proving dangerous to Germany, instructions had been issued to the various military offices to take preventive measures, as was their duty. But that order has nothing to do with any intention of occupying the rest of Czechoslovakia after a short time.

I myself went to the Riviera at the end of January for my first long vacation and during that time I dropped all business affairs. At the beginning of March, much to my surprise, a courier came from the Fuehrer with a letter in which the Fuehrer informed me that developments in Czechoslovakia were such that he could not let things go on as they were with impunity. They were becoming an increasing menace to Germany, and he was determined to solve the question now by eliminating Czechoslovakia as a source of danger right in the center of Germany, and he therefore was thinking of an occupation.

During that time I had met many Englishmen in San Remo. I had realized that they had made the best of Munich and even found it satisfactory, but that any other incidents, or demands on Czechoslovakia would cause considerable excitement.

I sent a letter back by courier. Maybe it is among the many tons of documents in the possession of the Prosecution. I could also understand if they do not submit it, for it would be a document of an extenuating character as far as I am concerned. In this letter I communicated these views to the Fuehrer and wrote to him somewhat as follows: That if this were to take place now, it would be a very serious loss of prestige for the British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, and I hardly believed that he would survive it. Then probably Mr. Churchill would come in, and the Fuehrer knew Churchill’s attitude toward Germany. Secondly, it would not be understood, since just a short time previously we had settled these things to general satisfaction. Thirdly, I thought I could calm him by telling him the following: I believed that what he wanted to eliminate at the moment in the way of danger, by the occupation of Czechoslovakia, could be achieved in a somewhat lengthier manner, at the same time avoiding anything which might excite Czechoslovakia as well as other countries. I was convinced that since the Sudetenland had been separated and Austria was a part of Germany an economic penetration of Czechoslovakia would be only a matter of time. That is to say, I hoped by strong economic ties to reach a communications, customs, and currency union, which would serve the economic interests of both countries. If this took place, then a sovereign Czechoslovakia would be politically so closely bound to Germany and German interests that I did not believe that any danger could arise again. However, if Slovakia expressed her desire for independence very definitely we should not have to counteract that in any way. On the contrary, we could support it, as then economic co-operation would naturally become even much closer than otherwise; for, if Slovakia were to secede, both countries would have to look to Germany in economic matters, and in such matters both countries could be made interested in Germany and could be most closely bound to Germany.

This letter — I have just given the gist of it — the courier took back. Then I heard nothing for some days.

THE PRESEDENT: Would that be a convenient time for us to break off?

[A recess was taken.]

DR. STAHMER: Will you continue, please?

Goering: I was then called to Berlin on very short notice. I arrived in Berlin in the morning and President Hacha arrived in the evening of the same day. I presented orally to the Fuehrer the views which I had already expressed in my letter. The Fuehrer pointed out to me certain evidence in his possession to the effect that the situation in Czechoslovakia had developed more seriously. This state had, for one thing, disintegrated because of the detachment of Slovakia, but that was not the decisive question. He showed me documents from the Intelligence Service which indicated that Russian aviation commissions were present at the airfields of Czechoslovakia, or certain of them, undertaking training, and that such things were not in keeping with the Munich agreement. He said that he feared that Czechoslovakia, especially if Slovakia were detached, would be used as a Russian air base against Germany.

He said he was determined to eliminate this danger. President Hacha had requested an interview, so he told me at the time, and would arrive in the evening; and he wished that I too should be present at the Reich Chancellery.

President Hacha arrived and talked first with the Reich Foreign Minister. At night he came to see the Fuehrer; we greeted him coldly. First he conversed with the Fuehrer alone; then we were called in. Then I talked to him in the presence of his ambassador and urged him to meet as quickly as possible the Fuehrer’s demand that troops be kept back when the Germans marched in, in order that there might be no bloodshed. I told him that nothing could be done about it; the Fuehrer had made his decision and considered it necessary, and there would be only unnecessary bloodshed as resistance for any length of time was quite impossible. And in that connection I made the statement that I should be sorry if I had to bomb beautiful Prague. The intention of bombing Prague did not exist, nor had any order been given to that effect, for even in the case of resistance that would not have been necessary — resistance could always be broken more easily without such bombing. But a point like that might, I thought, serve as an argument and accelerate the whole matter. I succeeded then in getting a telephone connection between him and his Government in Prague, he gave the order, and the occupation and the march into Prague took place the next day.

[2]

You must understand the situation at the time. In Europe Czechoslovakia was a 20 year old state considered artificial that came about through Benes lying about minorities in his proposed orbit and subsequently oppressing them. There’s also no reason to think Hitler’s fears of Communist interference in Czechoslovakia wasn’t valid[3]

The Czechs initiated the conflict with Slovakia by dismissing them from the cabinet and declaring martial law, the Slovaks came to Hitler and after so did the Czechs. Hitler was given his opportunity and unfortunately this is considered to be one of Hitler’s fatal blunders. Hitler biographer John Toland explains.

It also revealed that Hitler had made his first serious miscalculation. Czechoslovakia was his by threat of force but in time it would inevitably have fallen peaceably into his orbit; and by breaking an international agreement, freely entered into by his own government, he had completely reversed official and public opinion in both France and England. No longer would Chamberlain and his followers take Hitler at his word. He had broken the rules of the game—and not for a good enough cause. How, then, had the Führer come to make such an obvious blunder? First, he had not expected his move to provoke such a violent reaction. Hadn’t the West accepted the same excuses for restoring law and order in Austria? Hadn’t they been satisfied with just as specious arguments at Munich? He had been convinced he must seize the territory Germany needed to guarantee the future of the Teutonic race while he still had his physical vigor and Germany’s military strength was still superior to that of its enemies. When he marched into Czechoslovakia he was not certain where he would strike next or against whom, only that he must have Bohemia and Moravia before launching (or threatening to launch) any further military action. And so in Hitler’s eyes he had committed no blunder, only sustained a public relations setback. What concerned him was the next step.

– Adolf Hitler, John Toland, pp. 520

As for the Czechs. How did they feel? What did Hitler do to Czechoslovakia? Well. Nothing. They were a protectorate and were to remain as one.

According to Mallet, these were Hitler’s peace terms:

“1-The British Empire retains all its Colonies and delegations

2- The fundamentals of Germany’s continental sphere of interest must be recognized

3- All questions concerning the Mediterranean and its French, Belgian and Dutch colonies are open to discussion

4- Poland. A Polish state must exist

5- The Czechos state (formerly part of Czechoslovakia before Slovakia separated) will remain independent but under German protection”

Weissauer didn’t go into details, but Ekeberg understood that implied that all European states occupied by Germany would see their sovereignty restored. Germany’s occupation was only due to the present military situation.

Reference: The Hitler Hess Deception by Martin Allen

How did Hacha himself feel? Well. He was fine and even sympathetic to Hitler.

Hacha hardly needed inducement. He signed as required; and harboured so little resentment that he served as a faithful German subordinate until the end of the war.

– AJP Taylor, Origins of the Second World War, Chapter 9

Hitler himself in private described Hacha’s unusual obstinacy and sympathy as follows:

On the following day, in Prague, Hacha asked me what we had done to make such a different man of him. He was himself astonished to have suddenly shown such obstinacy. It was probably the result of the injection Morell had given him to build him up again. His renewed energy turned against us ! At present I receive from Hacha the warmest messages of sympathy. I don’t publish them, so as not to create the impression that we need the support of an underdog.

– Adolf Hitler, 13th January 1942, Hitler’s Table Talks, pp. 205

Hitler also viewed the Czechs in a very very positive light.

Hitler himself thought Himmler’s race mysticism was impractical, and while hostile to serbs and Russians in general, he felt differently about other groups of Slavs. He praised the Czechs as “industrious and intelligent workers’ and speculated that blue eyed Ukranians might be peasant descendants of German tribes who never migrated’. In fact, he came round to the view – common among German anthropologists – that there was, racially speaking, no such category as ‘Slavs’: it was a linguistic term, nothing more. That did not stop it continuing to be used. But it helps explain why the Fuhrer allowed Himmler and Forster each to define Germanness in his own way.

– Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower page 198

Also see Hitler’s full speech on April 28th 1939 for his praise of the Czechs.

As for the Czech state, what became of it? Here’s some quotes from books and periodicals.

Surprisingly, the ‘protectorate’ brought blessings for the Czechs as well. Their economy was stabilised and unemployment vanished. Their menfolk were not called upon to bear arms in Hitler’s coalition. Their armed forces were dissolved, and their officers were given state pensions on Hitler’s orders, to purchase their dependence and complicity. The industrious Czechs accepted rich contracts from the Reich and learned eventually to cherish the pax teutonica enforced by Reinhard Heydrich in 1941. It was the peace of the graveyard, but Heydrich won the affection of the Czech workers to such an extent – for instance, by introducing the first ever Bismarckian social security and pension schemes – that 30,000 Czechs thronged into Wenceslas Square in Prague to demonstrate against his murder in 1942The Czechs had not been required to sell their souls, and this was what Hitler had promised Hácha in Berlin. Hácha himself never felt any grievance.

– David Irving, Hitler’s War and The War Path Millenium Edition, Focal Point Publications 2002, pp. 163

Nevertheless, in Prague, Von Neurath Retained the Fuhrer’s ear while hewing a more moderate course. He was an old-fashioned conservative, not a Nazi, and Hitler was happy to allow him to do whatever kept the peace politically and the factories working. The Government managed to continue to fund the Czech Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Czech rations remained as high as if not higher than those in the Reich itself”

Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower Page 75

“This dire fate. however, faced the Poles in particular rather than the Slavs as a whole. Despite the Nazis’ rhetoric, in theory, and increasingly in practice, racial scientists and policy advisors distinguished between groups of Slavs. The Slovaks were allowed to govern themselves, and even in the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia the Germans ruled through a Czech bureaucracy and a figurehead Czech president – something denied to the Poles. The principles applied to the Bohemian-Moravian space could not be apllied to the Polish space owing to the unbridled Polish character, which was sharply revealed during the Polish campaign as an element which requires a different method of domination,’ explained a German journalist in Poland later on

– Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower Page 74-5

“The Germans were reduced to promoting their own bizarre brand of Czech nationalism. They founded a new youth organization and tried to foster what they called “Reich-loyal Czech Nationalism”. Schoolchildren marched along under the swastika sining Czech songs and spent their vacations on “Heydrich’s Summer Relaxation Camps’. By the summer of 1944, they were helping organize a week of Czech youth in Prague.”

– Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower Page 188-189

What does seem to be clear is that there was nothing in the behaviour of the Czech Government which lent itself to a change in Hitler’s policy. Indeed he was remarkably kind (for him) to the Czech Cabinet after the march into Prague, keeping its members in office for a time and then paying their pensions, which he would hardly have done if they had offended him.

– D.C. WATT, How War Came, pp. 145

When one examines the early writings of Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders, however, one finds few signs of intentions toward Slavs. Especially noticeable in Hitler’s writing is an absence of hostility toward Poles. If any Slavic people provoked Hitler’s ill will it was the Czechs, about whom he had formed opinions as a young man in Austria.9 Yet as will be shown, the Czechs survived the war in relative peace.

– John Connelly, Nazis and Slavs: From Racial Theory to Racist Practice, pp. 3

In the Czech lands there was no initial spark of defiance; German troops moved unopposed into border areas in the fall of 1938, and completed their occupation without a shot in March of the following year. Neither Czechs nor Germans had an incentive to upset the relative calm; the Germans valued the steady production of war materials from Czech industry, and the Czechs the significant spaces that remained for pursuit of economic and cultural interests. So powerful was the dynamic of mutual accommodation that even the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 could not upset it. After the Germans had obliterated two villages and executed hundreds of suspected and actual opposition members, both sides returned to a strained coexistence which lasted until shortly before Russian and American troops liberated the Czech lands in the spring of 1945.

– John Connelly, Nazis and Slavs: From Racial Theory to Racist Practice, pp. 22

Conveniently forgotten is Hitler’s reasonableness and his limited demands.

In any case, my demands are not exorbitant. I’m only interested, when all is said, in territories where Germans have lived before.

– Adolf Hitler, September 17th 1941, Hitler’s Table Talk, pp. 35

Another interesting argument to posit is whether Hitler technically broke the Munich agreement. Of course the answer might seem obvious, but is it really? Or is there a sense of technical logic in Hitler’s thinking? In any case, I think it can hardly be said that Hitler intended to do something ‘evil’ as he certainly didn’t think he was invalidating the agreement, instead by meeting with Hacha and coming to an agreement of the Czech remnants he was conducting a deal outside of the previous one. A deal Britain and France had nothing to do with and should keep their noses out of [4].

Did Hitler Invalidate the Munich Agreement? Perhaps not.

Hitler is accused of breaking his word after the Sudetenland was returned to Germany. Hitler had promised Chamberlain that when this problem is solved, Germany has no further territorial claims in Europe. In his speech of September 26, 1938 he stated that he also told Chamberlain that as soon as the Czechs settle their differences with the rest of their minorities peacefully, that he is no longer interested in this Czechoslovakia. He concluded: “We do not even want any Czechs”[5]

I have little more to add. I am grateful to Mr. Chamberlain for his efforts. I have assured him that the German Volk desires nothing but peace. Yet, I have also told him that I cannot retreat behind the lines drawn by our patience. I have assured him further that, and this I repeat here before you, once this issue has been resolved, there will no longer be any further territorial problems for Germany in Europe!

I have assured him further that I will take no more interest in the Czechoslovakian state once that country has resolved its internal problems, that is once the Czechs have dealt with the other minorities there in a peaceful manner and not by means of oppression. And I will guarantee this for him! We do not want any Czechs at all.

– Adolf Hitler quoted in Domarus, The Complete Hitler, pp. 1192

The Czech government was not able to come to terms with their minorities, the Slovaks wanted out. We are told that Hitler encouraged them. This is not so. On March 13,1939, the British foreign office official Roberts submitted an ‘Assessment on the Slovakian crisis and the implications for the British government’ (I translated this from German text). He wrote about the unsatisfactory situation in Slovakia (The Czechs were terrorizing them) but stated that he has found no evidence that Germany was involved, quite to the contrary.[6]

On March 14, Slovakia declared its independence, Hitler had a meeting with Dr. Tiso, the Slovak President, prior to this (as mentioned, a long story). Following this – and by now it had become obvious that the Czechs would not be able to come to terms with their minorities, therefore Hitler did not break his word – President Hacha asked for a ‘personal meeting’ with Hitler, via his foreign minister Chvalkovský who had been in repeated contact with Joachim von Ribbentrop, German foreign minister[7].

The meeting took place on March 14. At the same time Chamberlin told Henderson to let the German government know that the British government would not interfere in matters other governments were directly involved in[8]. Henderson immediately visited the German foreign office (Wilhelmstraße) to tell them about the English government’s disinterest re. the negotiations between Hitler and Hacha[9].

Notes

[1] https://archive.is/5UsDF

[2] https://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/03-14-46.asp

[3] https://codoh.com/library/document/2010/?lang=en

[4] “The British and French were told to mind their own business. Czechoslovakia did not yet deserve a guarantee. Here internal developments and her foreign relations were too unsettled. The reply also hinted plainly that any interference by the Western Powers in central Europe would aggravate the situation. That area fell within the German sphere of influence”– 1939: The Making of the Second World War, Sidney Aster, pp. 27

[5] (Heinrich Härtle, Die Kriegsschuld der Sieger, p.275)

[6] (Annelies von Ribbentrop, Die Kriegsschuld des Widerstandes, p.243) Ribbentrop gives as a source: DBFP IV, No.230 (Documents on British Foreign Policy, London 1949, Vol.I, Series D).

[7] (Ibid, p.243, DdP 7, S.498 [Dokumente der deutschen Politik])

[8] (Ibid, DBFP IV, No.247)

[9] (Ibid, DBFP IV, No.232).

Also See

Hacha in Berlin, March 1939

Why did Germany annex all of Czechoslovakia?

How Lord Halifax Lied About Hitler’s Peaceful Solution To The Czech Crisis To Foment A World War Ordinary People Did Not Want

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