Czechoslovakian Independence

March 15, 1938

Report Outline
Concern for Independenceof Czechoslovakian
Origins of Republic of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia's Search for Security
Political Activities of German Minority
Special Focus

Concern for Independenceof Czechoslovakian

Germany's absorption of Austria in direct defiance of treaty clauses forbidding union of the two countries and in disregard of Hitler's own engagements to respect the independence of that nation has aroused serious concern as to the fate of Czechoslovakia. With Austria annexed to Germany, the western half of Czechoslovakia is now surrounded on three sides by German territory. Within that part of the country, along the borders of Germany and Austria, live more than 3,000,000 Germans constituting over 20 per cent of the total population of Czechoslovakia. In his address to the Reichstag on February 20 Hitler directed attention to the 10,000,000 Germans residing in states adjoining the Reich and declared that “protection of those German peoples who are not in a position to secure along cur frontiers their political and philosophical freedom by their own efforts” was an interest which the German Reich would “know how to guard,”

Only three weeks later the 7,000,000 Germans of Austria were incorporated directly into the Reich. It was inevitable there should be widespread fear that Hitler might entertain similar intentions with respect to the 3,000,000 Germans of Czechoslovakia. Such fear was not allayed by Field Marshal Goering's declaration on March 13 that “Germany will not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country,” for he immediately appended to that declaration the statement that “the German Reich considers itself in every respect the guardian and protector of all Germans including those outside the Reich's borders,” and that “whoever attacks Germans, and thus Germany, will face the ever-loaded German cannon.”

Position of Czechoslovakia in Face of Nazi Threat

At the same time, it was clear that Germany could not expect to absorb any part of Czechoslovakia as easily as it absorbed Austria. Immediately after Hitler's speech to the Reichstag last month, it was made plain in Prague that Czechoslovakia would offer resistance in kind to any military offensive by Germany. Later, in an address before the Chamber of Deputies on March 4, Premier Hodza said that action by Germany looking to protection of Germans in Czechoslovakia would be considered “interference in our domestic affairs,” and he declared that “we should render an ill service to the development of Central Europe and to our own relations with Germany if we did not proclaim with the greatest clearness that Czechoslovakia will never and in no circumstances tolerate interference in her domestic affairs.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Europe