Lord Halifax now began to take command of British policy toward Germany. Halifax informed Chamberlain that his speech of March 15, 1939, was unacceptable. President Roosevelt of the United States was also highly critical of Chamberlain’s speech. Two days later on March 17, 1939, Chamberlain expressed the first sign of a major shift in policy toward Germany.
Germany’s Decision to Occupy Prague
The Munich Agreement was meant to mark the beginning of a new epoch in European affairs. The Versailles Treaty was now officially dead and buried. The Versailles system directed against Germany had been successfully dismantled without a war. A new epoch, based on equality and mutual confidence among the four great European Powers, was supposed to take its place.
Public opinion in the Western democracies soon took a hard turn against Germany. On the night of November. 9-10, 1938, National Socialist storm troopers went on a rampage, looting Jewish shops, smashing windows, burning synagogues, and beating Jews. Hundreds were assaulted and dozens perished in what came to be known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. The United States soon called its German ambassador home. Much of the goodwill garnered by Germany from the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the Munich Agreement, which the democracies still believed had averted war, was washed away by Kristallnacht.
There is some debate on the Kristallnacht 9/11 event: "In 1938 there were approximately 1,400 synagogues in Germany, of which only about 180 were destroyed or damaged. Furthermore, Jews owned approximately 100,000 shops and department stores in Germany in 1938. Of this number, only about 7,500 had their windows broken... History writers tell us that during the Crystal Night all the Jews were frightened, meekly accepted whatever happened to them and watched the destruction of their property with no resistance. The contrary is true. While going through the files on this subject, I found many documents which report precisely just the opposite of what is claimed. The fact is that in many cases Jews and their German neighbors fought together against the attackers, pushing them down staircases. Street mobs were beaten up and chased away in more than one case. Police and Party officials were generally on the side of the Jews. Some Jewish community leaders went to police stations the next morning and asked the police to investigate the damage done to their synagogues. The resulting police reports are still available in the files today.... it seems entirely plausible that certain Jewish groups were involved. The [Jewish organization] LICA was almost certainly involved in the murder of vom Rath". Source: Ingrid Wecket, IHR Vol. 6, No. 2
War propaganda began to intensify in Great Britain. The British press in late November 1938 reported rumors that Germany was massing her troops in preparation for an invasion of Czechoslovakia. These false rumors originated from London. Anthony Eden was sent to the United States by British Foreign Secretary Halifax in December 1938 to spread rumors about sinister German plans. Roosevelt responded with a provocative and insulting warning to Germany in his message to Congress on January 4, 1939.
Halifax secretly circulated rumors both at home and abroad which presented the foreign policy of Hitler in the worst possible light. On January 24, 1939, Halifax sent a message to President Roosevelt in which he claimed to have received
“a large number of reports from various reliable sources which throw a most disquieting light on Hitler’s mood and intentions.”
Halifax claimed that Hitler had recently planned to establish an independent Ukraine, and that Hitler intended to destroy the Western nations in a surprise attack before he moved into the East. Halifax further claimed that not only British intelligence but “highly placed Germans who are anxious to prevent this crime” had furnished evidence of this evil conspiracy. These claims were all lies. Hitler did not have the remotest intention at the time of attacking the Ukraine or any Western country.
A crisis developed in Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement. The German, Polish, and Hungarian minorities had been successfully separated from Czech rule. However, the Slovaks and Ruthenians were also eager to escape from Czech rule, and they received encouragement from Poland and Hungary. For about four months after Munich, Hitler considered the possibility of protecting the remnants of the Czech state. Hitler gradually came to the conclusion that the Czech cause was lost in Slovakia, and that Czech cooperation with Germany could not be relied upon. Hitler eventually decided to transfer German support from the Czechs to the Slovaks.
Increasingly serious internal difficulties faced the Czech state, and in early 1939 the Czech problem with Slovakia deteriorated rapidly. The climax of the Slovak crisis occurred on March 9, 1939, when the Czech government dismissed the four principal Slovak ministers from the local government at Bratislava.
Josef Tiso, the Slovakian leader, arrived in Berlin on March 13, 1939, and met with Hitler in a hurried conference. Hitler admitted to Tiso that until recently he had been unaware of the strength of the independence movement in Slovakia. Hitler promised Tiso that he would support Slovakia if she continued to demonstrate her will to independence. The Slovakian government proceeded to vote a declaration of independence from Czechoslovakia on March 14, 1939. Ruthenia also quickly declared independence and became part of Hungary, dissolving what was left of the Czech state.
Czech President Emil Hácha on his own initiative asked to see Hitler in the hope of finding a solution for a hopeless crisis. President Hácha was correctly received at Berlin with the full military honors due a visiting chief of state. Hitler met Hácha’s train and presented flowers and chocolates to Hácha’s daughter, who accompanied her father. After World War II, Hácha’s daughter denied to Allied investigators that her father had been subjected to any unusual pressure during his visit to Berlin. This information is important because Hácha, who was bothered by heart trouble, had a mild heart attack during his visit with the German leaders. Hácha agreed to accept German medical assistance, and recovered quickly enough to negotiate the outline of an agreement with Germany and the Czech state. The details were arranged between the Czechs and the Germans at Prague on March 15th and 16th.
The occupation of Prague by German troops was legalized by the agreements signed with the Czech and Slovak leaders. The period of direct German military rule lasted a little over one month. The new regime formed by the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia on March 16, 1939, enjoyed considerable popularity among the Czechs. On July 31, 1939, Hitler agreed to permit the Czech government to have a military force of 7,000 soldiers, which included 280 officers.
President Hácha had voluntarily placed the fate of the Czech state in the hands of Germany. Hácha and his new cabinet resumed control of the government on April 27, 1939. Hácha would serve Hitler faithfully throughout the war. British historian Donald Cameron Watt writes,
“[Hitler] was remarkably kind…to the Czech Cabinet after the march into Prague, keeping its members in office for a time and paying their pensions.”
The motives behind Hitler’s actions in the Czech crisis of March 1939 remain in dispute. British historian A. J. P. Taylor evaluates Hitler’s motives:
All the world saw in this the culmination of a long-planned campaign. In fact, it was the unforeseen by-product of developments in Slovakia; and Hitler was acting against the Hungarians rather than against the Czechs. Nor was there anything sinister or premeditated in the protectorate over Bohemia. Hitler, the supposed revolutionary, was simply reverting in the most conservative way to the pattern of previous centuries. Bohemia had always been part of the Holy Roman Empire; it had been part of the German Confederation between 1815 and 1866; then it had been linked to German Austria until 1918. Independence, not subordination, was the novelty in Czech history. Of course Hitler’s protectorate brought tyranny to Bohemia—secret police, the S.S., the concentration camps; but no more than in Germany itself…Hitler’s domestic behavior, not his foreign policy, was the real crime which ultimately brought him—and Germany—to the ground. It did not seem so at the time. Hitler took the decisive step in his career when he occupied Prague. He did it without design; it brought him slight advantage. He acted only when events had already destroyed the settlement of Munich. But everyone outside Germany, and especially the other makers of that settlement, believed that he had deliberately destroyed it himself.
American historian David Hoggan wrote:
“Hitler’s decision to support the Slovaks and to occupy Prague had been based on the obvious disinterest of the British leaders in the Czech situation. There had been ample opportunities for them to encourage the Czechs in some way, but they had repeatedly refused to do so. The truth was that the British leaders did not care about the Czechs. They used Hitler’s policy as a pretext to become indignant about the Germans.”
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain originally explained in the House of Commons on March 15, 1939, that Germany had no obligation to consult Great Britain in dealing with the Czech-Slovak crisis. The British government had also never fulfilled its promise to guarantee the Czech state after the Munich Agreement. Chamberlain stated that the Slovak declaration of independence on March 14, 1939, put an end by internal disruption to the Czech state, and therefore the British guarantee to preserve the integrity of Czechoslovakia was no longer binding. Chamberlain concluded,
“Let us remember that the desire of all the peoples of the world still remains concentrated on the hopes of peace.”
Lord Halifax now began to take command of British policy toward Germany. Halifax informed Chamberlain that his speech of March 15, 1939, was unacceptable. President Roosevelt of the United States was also highly critical of Chamberlain’s speech. Two days later on March 17, 1939, Chamberlain expressed the first sign of a major shift in policy toward Germany. In a speech in his home city of Birmingham, Chamberlain charged Hitler with “a flagrant breach of personal faith.” Chamberlain presented himself as the victim of German duplicity, and stated that he would never be able to believe Hitler again. Chamberlain asked rhetorically if this was a step by Hitler to attempt to dominate the world by force.
Halifax expressed his hostile views concerning Germany’s occupation of Prague to German Ambassador Herbert von Dirksen on March 15, 1939. Halifax claimed that Hitler had unmasked himself as a dishonest person, and that German policy implied a rejection of good relations with Great Britain. Halifax insisted that Germany was
“seeking to establish a position in which they could by force dominate Europe, and, if possible, the world.”
Halifax stated that he could understand Hitler’s taste for bloodless victories, but he promised the German diplomat that Hitler would be forced to shed blood the next time.
The reports which Ambassador Dirksen sent to Berlin during the next several days indicate that he was considerably shaken by the violent British reaction to the latest Czech crisis. The entire German Embassy staff was dismayed by the events of March 1939. Ambassador Dirksen recognized the importance of an Anglo-German understanding, and he became almost incoherent with grief when confronted with the collapse of his diplomatic efforts. The British had created the impression that the future of Bohemia was a matter of complete indifference to them. Then the British hypocritically turned around and declared that the events in Bohemia had convinced them that Hitler was seeking to conquer the world. No wonder the German diplomats in London were in despair.
Halifax next sought a broader basis than the Czech crisis to justify Britain’s belligerence toward Germany. Virgil Tilea, the Romanian Minister to Great Britain, was recruited by Halifax to make false charges against Germany. Tilea was carefully coached for his role by Sir Robert Vansittart, Great Britain’s vehemently anti-German Chief Diplomatic Advisor. On March 17, 1939, Tilea issued a carefully prepared public statement which charged that Germany was seeking to obtain control of the entire Romanian economy. Tilea further claimed that Germany had issued an ultimatum that terrified Romanian leaders. These false accusations were published by the major British newspapers. Millions of British newspaper readers were aghast at Hitler’s apparently unlimited appetite for conquest. Tilea’s false accusations produced anxiety and outspoken hostility toward Germany among the British public.
The British Minister to Romania, Reginald Hoare, contacted Halifax and proceeded to explain in detail the ridiculous nature of Tilea’s charges. Hoare stated that it was
“so utterly improbable that the Minister of Foreign Affairs would not have informed me that an immediate (italics his) threatening situation had developed here that I called on him as soon as your telegrams to Warsaw and Moscow had been deciphered. He told me that he was being inundated with inquiries regarding the report of a German ultimatum which had appeared in The Times and Daily Telegraph today. There was not a word of truth in it.”
Hoare naturally assumed that his detailed report would induce Halifax to disavow the false Tilea charges. Nothing of this sort occurred. Hoare was astonished when Halifax continued to express his faith in the authenticity of Tilea’s story after its falsehood had been exposed. The Tilea hoax was crucial to the development of Halifax’s policy of inciting hatred among the British public toward Germany. Halifax was not concerned with any adverse repercussions of the Tilea hoax in Romania.
Halifax had lied to the British public about German policy toward Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement, and he had lied to them about the alleged crisis in Romania. It was only by means of these palpable falsehoods that the British public had been stirred into a warlike mood. It was by these means that Halifax would be able to persuade the British public to accept a foreign policy that was both dangerous and devoid of logic.
 Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, p. 187.
 Buchanan, Patrick J., Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, New York: Crown Publishers, 2008, p. 241.
 Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, pp. 235, 241.
 Ibid., p. 240.
 Ibid., p. 227.
 Ibid., pp. 245-247.
 Buchanan, Patrick J., Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, New York: Crown Publishers, 2008, p. 246.
 Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, p. 248.
 Ibid., pp. 250-251.
 Tedor, Richard, Hitler’s Revolution, Chicago: 2013, pp. 117, 119.
 Watt, David Cameron, How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938-1939, New York: Pantheon, 1989, p. 145.
 Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, pp. 202-203.
 Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, p. 228.
 Ibid., p. 252.
 Smith, Gene, The Dark Summer: An Intimate History of the Events That Led to World War II, New York: Macmillan, 1987, p. 132.
 Buchanan, Patrick J., Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, New York: Crown Publishers, 2008, pp. 252-253.
 Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, pp. 252, 297.
 Ibid., p. 297.
 Ibid., pp. 299-301.
 Ibid., p. 301.
 Ibid., p. 341.