General Fears of a New European Crisis
Fears of a European war, quieted momentarily by conclusion of the Munich accord, rose again in the closing weeks of 1938. Whatever confidence there had been in Prime Minister Chamberlain's assurance that the Munich settlement meant peace “for our time” gave way to a general feeling of pessimism toward the outlook for the immediate future. Oswald Pirow, Minister of Defense of the Union of South Africa, returning to London in the first week of December from a tour of European capitals that included conferences with Hitler, Mussolini, and other political leaders, reported that “Europe is drifting into war.” He predicted that “unless there is a complete change of outlook within a month or two, the international tension will reach the breaking point during spring of next year.”
Joseph P. Kennedy, United States ambassador to London, who conferred with President Roosevelt on December 16, was equally gloomy in a subsequent talk with reporters. “The situation is changing fast and not for the better,” he said, “The Munich accord has not slowed things down any.” Kennedy said he thought the possibility of war in Europe within a few months was very great. While there is at present a certain degree of tension resulting from Italian agitation for annexation of the French North African protectorate of Tunisia and of Corsica, Nice, Savoy, and the French Somaliland port of Djibouti, the real danger is believed to lie elsewhere. The fear is that Hitler may soon initiate some new move toward fulfillment of Nazi ambitions in Eastern Europe, and that a fresh crisis from that quarter may have a different issue from that of last September.
Hitler's Disavowal of Further Territorial Demands
Just before Chamberlain went to Munich, he told the House of Commons that in a final private conversation with Hitler at Godesberg the Fuehrer had repeated “with great earnestness what he had already said at Berchtesgaden-namely, that this [acquisition of the Sudetenland] was his last territorial ambition in Europe; that he had no wish to have in the Reich people of other races than German.” Hitler had already made a public statement to the same effect in his address at the Berlin Sportspalast on September 26. Referring to the problem of the Czechoslovak border regions populated predominantly by Germans, Hitler said: “This is the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe, but it is a demand on which I will not yield.”