Friday, 28 September 2018

The Munich crisis eightieth anniversary this weekend

This post first appeared on the Radix blog...

Here’s the main point: this weekend marks the eightieth anniversary of the Munich crisis, the moment when the UK prime minister Neville Chamberlain gave away a chunk of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany – with some slightly unwilling help from the French.

As it turns out, by flying to meet Hitler and Mussolini in Munich on 29 September, Chamberlain also unwittingly caused the cancellation of an army plot to kill Hitler – when the team was armed and in position and waiting for their order to storm the Chancellery.

I have three reasons for being interested in these events. First, my great-aunt, Shiela Grant Duff, was Observer correspondent in Prague until shortly before them. The Observer was an appeasement newspaper in those days, so she had resigned a few months before.

Second, my book Munich 1938 came out some months ago. It was intended to make the case that this was the great British mistake of the twentieth century, for a new generation that never knew the arguments.

Third and finally, because of the article I wrote for the Guardian today, where I compared Munich with the Salzburg summit, and – by implication – Chamberlain with Theresa May. It was one of those pieces where the arguments flew around in the comments ‘below the line’. It is worth reading that section alone for a cross-section of views – worrying perhaps that Chamberlain gets rather more sympathy than I believe he should.

There is one parallel between them: both approached their defining European summit with a bullish disregard for reality, which led in very different ways to a critical crossroads for Europe.

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1 comment:

Penelope Newsome said...

David, you should have mentioned my mother's ( Shiela Grant Duff's )book Europe and the Czechs which she wrote as Penguin Special and issued to all MPS ( in lieu of her royalties) in a desperate attempt to stop the Munich agreement and that she had been writing in other papers and above all in touch with Churchill to help her support the Czechs. She was devastated by the Agreement.

Since you mentioned her this was the most important aspect of her work.

I am really sorry that I did not make more effort to get republished her 1982 book about all this - The Parting of Ways . Perhaps still not too late. Have you any dealings with Penquin ?

I don't know how to publish tghis to you as none of the suggestions they put are current. If necessary I'll have to put the gmail address but I never use it.