Sudeten crisis

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In the period 1933 to 1936 the Nazi regime initiated a programme of rearmament, designed to give the Third Reich military strength and political bargaining power to be used against other nations. By the year 1936 Adolf Hitler had embarked upon a preliminary programme of expansion which lasted until March, 1939. This was intended to shorten Germany's frontiers, to increase industrial and food reserves, and to place Germany in a position, both industrially and strategically, from which Hitler could launch a more ambitious campaign of expansion.

At a conference on November 5, 1937, reported in the Hossbach Memorandum,[1] Hitler set forth the program Germany was to follow. "The question for Germany is where the greatest possible conquest can be made at the lowest cost." At the top of his agenda stood two countries, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

On 12 March 1938, Austria was occupied by the German Army, and on the following day it was annexed to the Reich. A month later Hitler and Gen. Wilhelm Keitel met to discuss plans for the envelopment and conquest of the Czechoslovak State. Hitler and Keitel discussed the pretext which Germany might develop to serve as an excuse for a sudden and overwhelming attack. They considered the provocation of a period of diplomatic squabbling which, growing more serious, would lead to an excuse for war. An alternative they found more preferable was to unleash a lightning attack as the result of an incident of their own creation. The operational planning against Czechoslovakia was designated "Fall Grun," Case Green.

On 30 May 1938, Hitler issued the military directive for Case Green, entitled, "Two-front war, with main effort in the South-east." The covering memorandum read "As from 1st October, 1938, at the latest." The directive reads,

"It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future. It is the job of the political leaders to await or bring about the politically and militarily suitable moment. An inevitable development of conditions inside Czechoslovakia or other political events in Europe, creating a surprisingly favourable opportunity and one which may never come again....

References

  1. Hossbach Memorandum, Minutes of a Conference in the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, November 5, 1937. Documents on Germany Foreign Policy 1918-1945, Series D Volume 1 From Neurath to Ribbentrop, (September 1937 - September 1938) Washington, United States Government Printing Office, 1949.