"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Munich Conference

The Munich Conference | Podcast | History Extra

"Munich bought us time and Chamberlain himself said just before he died said that if I am to be blamed for all the weaknesses of the country am I not to be applauded for some of its strengths? And in particular there were two strengths. One was air defense which enabled Britain to continue fighting that is a combination of Spitfires and Radar which were provided by Chamberlain and his government and the second thing was the sense of national unity which Churchill was able to so eloquently express had only been purchased really by the constant efforts for peace that Neville Chamberlain had made in the 1930s so that the British people I think really were united. They recognized that Nazi Germany was not an entity with which you could ever negotiate peace because you could never trust them...

In September nineteen thirty eight Chamberlain was probably the most popular Prime Minister we've ever had. He was greeted by thousands of people and the sense of national relief that there wouldn't be a war - less than twenty years remember after the end of the First World War - was very profound... even when he fell from office in nineteen forty he was still quite popular in the country and he remained leader of the Conservative Party and he remained in effect Churchill's deputy running the Home Front while Churchill ran the war...

That's the great irony when one looks back at Munich. That the person who came out of the Munich Agreement most angry was Adolf Hitler who believed that he had been prevented from having a war on the perfect issue at a time of his choosing and the man who frustrated him was Neville Chamberlain...

I think there's no doubt that we were capable of fighting a war in nineteen thirty eight and we really weren't ready until nineteen fourteen and even then it was quite a close thing... if we'd rearmed earlier paradoxically we would have had biplanes...

He announced to his generals at the beginning of the summer that it was his unalterable world to wipe Czechoslovakia from the map... When Chamberlain offered to fly to see him to try and sort it out I think Hitler was very flattered by this approach and agreed to see him. And Chamberlain went and saw him and said in effect what are your grievances, what is the problem? And Hitler spewed out all these objections to the way the German minority were being treated and it was monstrous and they must come back into Germany and so on and Chamberlain said well okay let me see what I can do and I think at that point or very soon afterwards Hitler realized he'd made a mistake because these were demands which could be satisfied...

Even those members of his entourage who favored war such as Goebbels, Goebbels said you can't fight a war over modalities. You can't fight a war over technical issues like that, it would look ridiculous. So with gritted teeth really Hitler was obliged to make this agreement and he resented it.

He tried to work up enthusiasm for a war against Czechoslovakia. He had a big military parade through Berlin and nobody turned out to watch it and that was a fiasco. And then when he arrived in Munich to his horror he found that Chamberlain was getting bigger cheers from the crowds in Munich than he was himself. And this is one of the reasons why he detested Chamberlain.

And years later he was still complaining that Munich had been a disaster and a couple of months before he died he said we should have gone to war in nineteen thirty eight. September nineteen thirty eight was the perfect time but he was cheated out of it and he didn't make the same mistake the next year when he was making threats over Poland. He was never specific, his demands could never be met, he was bent on war but oddly enough Czechoslovakia was almost his first great error as a political leader...

It wasn't that Hitler was bluffing and the cowardly British and French gave in and that gave him an appetite to try it again in nineteen thirty nine which is to some extent the myth that's been handed down to us...

[Hitler] knew that war was coming and he knew that probably the sooner he had the war the more chance he had of winning it. He knew that by the early 1940s that the French and the British and the Russians would be too strong...

The Good Friday agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process was in a sense a process of appeasement. There were violent men who committed grievous crimes, atrocities against civilians and of course by talking to them the British government could be charged with hypocrisy, sucking up to evil and criminals but does that, do any of us think that it wasn't a good idea to try this?"
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