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Chamberlein with Hitler in the leading graphic.

German Federal Archives

By Charles Apple

Eighty-five years ago Saturday — Sept. 30, 1938 — British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from meetings in which he agreed to Adolf Hitler's demands for German occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in return for a promise this would be Hitler's final bid for more territory.

Chamberlain called it “Peace with honour.” Everyone else called it appeasement.

The 1930s: Hitler Rearms Germany While Europe Dreads Another War

Feelings grew in Britain and France that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles — which had ended the World War in June 1919 — had been too harsh on Germany, requiring Germany to give up territory and to make reparations to allied nations.

When Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, his demands for a rearmed Germany and restoration of “German” territories sounded reasonable to some.

May 1933

Although the city-state of Danzig is a “free city” administered by the United Nations, parliamentary elections there leave Nazis the majority party.

Oct. 19

While the League of Nations discusses arms reduction, Hitler demands “military parity” and the right to rearm Germany. He withdraws Germany from the League.

Aug. 19, 1934

Seventeen days after the death of German President Paul von Hindenburg, Germans vote overwhelmingly to combine the posts of chancellor and president. This gives Hitler supreme power of Germany.


Austrian Nazis assassinate that country's Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, but government troops manage to maintain control.

Jan. 13, 1935

Saarland — which had been separated from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles — overwhelmingly votes to return to Germany.


Hitler violates the Treaty of Versailles by reinstating military conscription and announcing an increase in the size of the German army and navy and the creation of a German air force. England and France issue muted protests.

March 7, 1936

Two hours after proposing a 25-year peace pact with Britain, France, Belgium and Italy, Hitler announces to the Reichstag — the German parliament — his intention to reoccupy more

territory that had been stripped from the country after the war, along the Rhine River and known as the Rhineland. German troops enter the area and are met by rejoicing crowds.

July 11, 1936

An agreement between Germany and Austria recognizes “full sovereignty” for Austria but calls for the release of Nazi political prisoners and allows political opposition a say in Austrian government.

Oct. 23, 1936

Germany and Italy sign a secret treaty recognizing each other's territories. On Nov. 1, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini uses the word “Axis” to describe the two countries.

Nov. 5, 1937

Hitler reveals to his top military leaders a secret plan for the acquisition of “Lebensraum,” or “living space” for the German people at the expense of Poland, Russia and Ukraine. He orders production of munitions ramped up.

Feb. 12, 1938

After a plot by Nazi operatives to assassinate Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg is uncovered, Schuschnigg meets with Hitler. Hitler demands the release of political prisoners in return for a reaffirmation of Austria's sovereignty.

Schuschnigg reluctantly agrees. He schedules a referendum to be held March 13 asking Austrians whether or not they want to become part of Germany.

March 12, 1938

On the eve of the referendum, German troops — aided by Austrian Nazis — march into Vienna unopposed. Schuschnigg is arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Again, Britain and France offer only token protests.

September 1938: An Attempt To Avert Another War

  1. Jan. 1935

    The Saarland overwhelmingly votes in a referendum to return to Germany.

  2. March 1936

    German reoccupies the Rhineland.

  3. March 1938

    Germany annexes Austria.

Map and diagram of war movements
  1. Oct. 1938

    After signing the Munich Agreement, Germany annexes the Sudetenland.

  2. March 1939

    Germany annexes Sthe rest of Czechoslovakia.

  3. Oct. 1939

    Germany invades Poland.

Sept. 15

Fearing Hitler will use growing unrest along the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia as an excuse to invade, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flies to Germany for the first of a series of meetings with Hitler.

Sept. 21

The Soviet Union warns the League of Nations it will join with France to offer aid to Czechoslovakia.

Sept. 24

Hitler issues a statement demanding Czechoslovakia surrender the Sudetenland. If Czechoslovakia does not agree, he says, he'll take the Sudetenland by force. Hitler promises, in a speech two days later, that this is “the last territorial claim I have to make in Europe.”

Sept. 29

Chamberlain holds a third meeting with Hitler in Munich, with French Prime Minister Édouard Daladierand Italy's Mussolini also present. Representatives from neither the Soviet Union nor Czechoslovakia are present. Discussions go on well past midnight.

Sept. 30

At 2 a.m., a memo is drawn up in which Britain and France accept Hitler's demands. The Sudetenland is to be evacuated starting Oct. 1 and to be completed in 10 days. Hitler guarantees the integrity of Czechoslovakia. The document is delivered to Czechoslovakian leaders, but they are given no choice in the matter.

Oct. 1

German troops march into the Sudetenland.

Chamberlain returned to London after signing appeasement with Germany.
WikiMedia Commons

Crowds meet Chamberlain as he returns to London, cheering the man who says he has averted war in Europe. Chamberlain says the agreement has brought “peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time,” he says.

...But World War Comes Anyway

Oct 28, 1938

Hitler calls on Poland to turn over the port of Danzig and to allow road and rail links between Germany and East Prussia. The Poles refuse.

March 14, 1939

With Hitler's cooperation, Slovakia declares its independence from Czechoslovakia. The next day, German troops march into the country while Hungarian troops takes possessions of east Czechoslovakia.

March 16

Hitler travels to Prague and announces Bohemia and Moravia are now protectorates of Germany.

March 31

Chamberlain guarantees protection for Poland. So does France, although neither nation is in a military position to do so.

Aug. 23

Germany and the Soviet Union sign a nonaggression pact. A secret clause allows them to divide up Poland.

Sept. 1

Germany launches an attack on Poland with 53 divisions and 1,600 aircraft. That evening, Chamberlain issues a demand that German forces leave Poland.

Sept. 3

At 9 a.m. London time, Chamberlain issues a second ultimatum. At 11:15 a.m., Chamberlain makes a five-minute radio broadcast announcing, “This country is at war with Germany.”

Eight minutes after the broadcast, air raid sirens sound throughout London, but it's a false alarm.

Sources: “The Second World War” by Winston Churchill and the editors of Life, “World War II: The Definitive Visual History from Blitzkrieg to the Atom Bomb” by Dorling Kindersley, “World War II: Day by Day” by Antony Shaw, “The Rand McNally Encyclopedia of World War II” edited by John Keegan, U.K. National Archives, Imperial War Museums, the BBC, Library of Congress, Council on Foreign Relations, the New York Times, Time magazine, History Today,,,

This edition of Further Review was adapted for the web by Zak Curley.