New Players on the Stage
State Secretary, Foreign Office
Schuschnigg and the Austrian Question
The German Foreign Office had always advocated a program of unity between Austria and Germany. Indeed, Neurath once wrote that this was a goal that must be always kept in mind, but never discussed. Hitler shared both aspects of that policy. He was particularly loathed to raise the matter of Austria, because his friend the Duce had more or less turned Austria into an Italian Protectorate. Italy's growing dependence upon Germany, however, made it increasingly unlikely that Mussolini could permanently block the eventual unification of these two German countries. So Hitler refused to bring up the question, even during Mussolini's visit to Germany in September 1937. In fact, he declared that "the Austrian problem should by no means be brought to a head in the foreseeable future . . . One must simply ensure that in the event of the Austrian question being brought to a head by someone else it will be possible for Germany to intervene.'
The Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg unexpectedly began the process. For some months, he had been having trouble with the Austrian Nazis. In January 1938, the Viennese police exposed a plot by Tavs, the Nazi Gauleiter of Vienna, to stage a coup. Schuschnigg took his problem to Papen, who himself privately resenting Nazi Party influence in HIS field, suggested Schuschnigg raise the question directly with Hitler.
A few days later, Papen himself was removed as part of the great Conservative Purge. On his way back home, Papen stopped off at Berchtesgaden where he mentioned, in passing, his regret that now this meeting with Schuschnigg would not take place.
Hitler suddenly came alive with enthusiasm, grasping that this was the very opportunity to overcome his poor press in Germany following the firing of so many prominent officials. He would pull off a dandy foreign victory. He ordered Papen back to Vienna to arrange the meeting. Through a security leak in the Austrian Chancellor's office, Papen had learned that Schuschnigg was now prepared to meet all of the German demands, so Hitler knew there would be few risks!
12 February 1938 Kurt von Schuschnigg Postwar Account of the Berchtesgaden Meeting with Hitler
Schuschnigg: There is nothing we can do but live together, side by side, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice. And so I would ask you to enumerate your complaints. We will do everything to remove obstacles to a better understanding, as far as it is possible. After all, we do not want anything else but to live in peace and fulfill our historic mission in central Europe.
Hitler: That is what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. But I am telling you that I am going to solve the so-called Austrian problem one way or the other. Do you imagine that I don't know that you are fortifying your border against the Reich?
Schuschnigg That is not true...
Hitler: Listen, you don't really think that you can move a single stone in Austria without my hearing the most accurate details about it the very next day, do you? ... I have only to give an order, and in one single night all your ridiculous defense mechanisms are blown to bits. You don't seriously believe that you can stop me or even delay me for half and hour do you? Who knows? Perhaps you will wake up one morning in Vienna to find us there &emdash;just like a spring storm. and then you'll see something. I would very much like to save Austria from such a fate, because such an action would mean blood. After the army, my SA and the Austrian Legion (Austrian Nazis who had fled into Germany from Schuschnigg's persecution) would move in, nobody could stop their just revenge&emdash;not even I. Do you want to make Austria into another Spain? I would like to avoid all that&emdash;if possible.
Schuschnigg I shall investigate the matter and will have any defense work on the German border stopped. I am fully aware that you can invade Austria, but Herr Reichskanzler, whether we like it or not, that would mean bloodshed. We are not alone in this world, and such a step would probably mean war.
Hitler: It is easy enough to talk of war while we are sitting here in our comfortable easy chairs. But war means endless misery for millions. Do you want to take this responsibility upon yourself, Herr Schuschnigg? Don't think for one moment that anybody on earth is going to thwart my decisions. Italy? I see eye to eye with Mussolini. The closest ties of friendship bind me to Italy. And England? England will not move one finger for Austria. ... And France? Well, three years ago we marched on the Rhineland with a handful of battalions. That was the time I risked everything. If France had stopped us then, we would have had to retreat perhaps 60 kilometers or so. But even then, we would have stopped them. But now it is too late for France. The world must know that it is unbearable for a great power like Germany to have every little state on her borders believe that it can provoke her. I have watched it long enough without interfering because I hoped that in the end reason would triumph. But it is simply an impossible state of affairs when people are thrown into jail in Austria merely because they sing a song that you don't like or because they salute each other with "Heil Hitler." The persecution of National Socialists in Austria must have an end, or else I shall put an end to it...
Now I give you once more, and for the last time, the opportunity to come to terms, Herr Schuschnigg. Either we find a solution now, or else events will take their own course. And we shall see whether you will like those events...Think it over Herr Schuschnigg. Think it over well. I can only wait until this afternoon. If I tell you that, you will do well to take my words literally. I don't believe in bluffing. All my past is proof for that. I have achieved everything that I set out to do and have thus become perhaps the greatest German of all history. It is not my habit to talk much or to give warning of things to come, as does, for instance Mussolini. He does things differently.
And besides my name, there are other great German names; if I were to close my eyes in death today, the future of Germany would nonetheless be secure. We have a Hermann Göring, we have a Rudolf Hess, a Frick, an Epp and countless others. I offer you, Herr Schuschnigg, the unique opportunity to have your name added to these great German names. That would be an honorable deed, and all difficulties could be avoided. I know that one has to take into account certain peculiarities of the Austrians, but that could be easily taken care of.
Schuschnigg Herr Chancellor, you know my views on this question. They are my personal views as well as those which duty toward my country dictates. Now what exactly are your wishes?
Hitler: That we can discuss this afternoon...
After lunch, the new German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, presented the demands: an Austrian Pan-German and strong spokesman for Austrian National Socialists, Arthur Seyss-Inquart would be named Minister of the Interior with full control of the police; another Nazi would be named Minister of Economics; all Nazis in prison in Austria would be freed within 3 days; all Nazi officials who had been fired would be rehired; all Austrians would be free to profess National Socialism. Schuschnigg knew that the draft treaty meant the end of the independence of Austria. Several hours later, he was again summoned to Hitler.
Hitler: Herr Schuschnigg, I have decided to make one last attempt. Here is the draft of the document. There is nothing to be discussed about it. I will not change one single iota. You will either sign it as it stands or else our meeting has been useless. In that case I shall decide during the night what will be done next.
Schuschnigg: I have been informed of the contents of the document and can do nothing under the circumstances but take cognizance of it. I am also willing to sign it, but I want to make it quite clear that my signature alone can be of no value whatsoever to you... Consequently I can in no way guarantee that the time limits stipulated in the document&emdash;as for instance the three days for amnesty&emdash;will be observed.
Hitler: You have to guarantee that!
Schuschnigg: I could not possibly, Herr Chancellor.
At this answer, Hitler seemed to lose his self-control. He ran to the doors, opened them and shouted "Keitel!" Then turning back to me, he said. "I shall have you called later."
In his memoirs, General Keitel relates that he had no idea why he had been summoned to Berchtesgaden in the first place for there were absolutely no plans for any military action against Austria. He spent the morning simply minding his own business, until Hitler suddenly screamed for him to come into his study. Arriving there, he found Hitler quite composed and smoothing down his ruffled hair. "I don't want anything," he told his new advisor on military affairs. "Just sit there." After a few minutes of chit-chat, the Chancellor indicated that the conversation was over. But the drastic effect worked. Schuschnigg and his staff were convinced that they were about to be arrested!
About half an hour later, I was again called to Hitler. He said: I have decided to change my mind&emdash;for the first time in my entire life. But I warn you&emdash;this is your very last chance. I have decided to give you three more days before the agreement goes into effect.
Startled by the altered atmosphere, Schuschnigg agreed and signed the Berchtesgaden Agreement.
Hitler: Well, now that we have come to an agreement, the Austrian problem is solved. Believe me, Herr Bundeskanzler, it is for the best. Now we can abide by this agreement for the next five years. That is a long time and in five years the world will look different anyway.
12 February 1938 Berchtesgaden Agreement
1. The Austrian Government shall from time to time enter into a diplomatic exchange of views on questions of foreign policy of common concern to both countries. Austria shall on request give moral, diplomatic, and press support to the desires and action of the German Reich, to the extent that circumstances permit. The Reich government assumes the same obligation toward the Austrian Government.
2. Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg declares that he is willing to take State Counselor Dr. Seyss-Inquart into his Government and entrust him with Security.
3. The Federal Chancellor states that the Austrian National Socialists shall in principle have opportunity for legal activity within the framework of the Fatherland Front and all other Austrian organizations. This activity shall take place on an equal footing with all other groups and in accordance with the constitution. Dr. Seyss-Inquart has the right and the duty to see to it that the activity of the National Socialists can develop along the lines indicated above, and to take appropriate measures for this purpose.
4. The Austrian Government shall immediately proclaim a general amnesty for all persons in Austria punished by the courts or the police because of their National Socialist activities. Such persons whose further stay in Austria appears detrimental to relations between the two countries shall, after an examination of each individual case and by agreement between the two Governments, be made to transfer their residence to the Reich.
5. Disciplinary measures in the fields of pensions, annuities, and public welfare, especially the withholding or reduction of benefits, and in education as well, because of National Socialist activities, shall be revoked and restitution promised. ...
8. Military relations between the German and Austrian armed forces shall be assured by the following measures:
a. replacement of General Jansa by General Böhme
b. systematic exchange of officers (up to 100)
c. regular conferences between the General Staffs
d. systematic cultivation of comradely and professional military relations.
9. All discrimination against National Socialists, especially that affecting enrollment in and completion of military service, shall be stopped. All past discriminatory actions shall be cancelled.
Apparently Hitler was content with the Berchtesgaden Agreement for it did indeed switch attention away from the serious domestic crisis brought about by the personnel changes. And it would gradually but inevitably bring Austria into the closest ties with Germany. He gave quite explicit instructions along these lines to his new representative for Austria, Wilhelm Keppler.
26 February 1938 Keppler Memorandum of Meeting with Hitler
The Führer stated that in the Austrian problem he had to indicate a different course for the Party, as the Austrian question could never be solved by a revolution. There remained only two possibilities: force or evolutionary means. He wanted the evolutionary course to be taken, whether or not the possibility of success could today be foreseen. The Protocol signed by Schuschnigg was so far-reaching that. if completely carried out, the Austrian problem would be automatically solved. He did not now desire a solution by violent means, if it could be at all avoided, since the danger for us in the field of foreign policy became less each year and our military power greater.
Another cause for Hitler's optimism was the very accommodating attitude now being taken by Great Britain. The British Ambassador in Berlin asked for a personal interview, stressing that it was to be a most private conversation, and he would not give any "information to the French, much less the Belgians, Portuguese or Italians." He made a broad proposal.
4 March 1938 Memorandum of a Meeting between Hitler and the British Ambassador
The offer did not mean a commercial transaction, but an attempt to establish the basis for a genuine and cordial friendship with Germany beginning with an improvement of the atmosphere and ending with the creation of a new spirit of friendly understanding.... [Henderson] stressed the importance of German collaboration in the pacification of Europe, to which he had already referred in previous conversations with Herr von Neurath and Herr von Ribbentrop. This pacification could be furthered by limitation of armaments and by appeasement in Czechoslovakia and Austria.....[And Henderson then briefly sketched out the idea of some territorial adjustments in Africa.]
Henderson later wrote that he found Hitler in a bad temper and not impressed by the British offer. Obviously, he was not ready to restrain himself in South-Eastern Europe just for the sake of gaining a few minor overseas pieces of territory. Hitler's response was clear.
He personally was known as one of the warmest friends of England, but he had been ill-rewarded for this friendship. Perhaps nobody had been oftener and more grievously offended by England than he. It was, therefore, understandable that he had now withdrawn into a certain isolation, which still seemed to him more respectable than to make advances toward someone who did not want him and persistently snubbed him....
Concerning Central Europe, it should be noted that Germany would not tolerate any interference by third powers in the settlement of her relations with kindred countries or with countries having large German elements in their population. just as Germany would never think of interfering in the settlement of relations between England and Ireland. It was a question of preventing the continuance or the renewal of an injustice to millions of Germans. In this attempt at a settlement Germany would have to declare most seriously that she was not willing to be influenced in any way by other parties in this settlement....
[As to the colonial question], the Führer replied that Germany was of course primarily interested in the question of the disposition of her former colonies. Instead of establishing a new and complicated system, why not solve the colonial question in the simplest and most natural way, namely by returning the former German colonies? He. the Führer, must openly admit. however, that he did not consider the colonial problem ripe for settlement as yet, since Paris and London had declared themselves much too firmly opposed to their return. Therefore, neither did he wish to press the issue. One could wait quietly for four, six, eight or ten years. Perhaps by that time a change of mind would have taken place in Paris and London. and they would understand that the best solution was to return to Germany her rightful property acquired by purchase and Treaty....
To Hitler this British offer confirmed the effectiveness of his new policy of intimidating Britain into remaining neutral, and was all the more prepared to take advantage of any situation which presented himself.
This way of thinking is clearly evident in the approach adopted by the new Foreign Minister. The following document is from a diary kept by Ernst von Weizsäcker, whom Ribbentrop appointed as his # 2 man in the foreign office&emdash;in charge of all the day-to-day operations of the office. The diary was found only a few years ago and is a most important source of information concerning how policy was made in the Third Reich. Weizsäcker was a devout anti-Nazi
5 March 1938 Ernst von Weizsäcker Diary Entry
Ribbentrop asked me if I wanted to be his State Secretary. He said there were certain conditions: complete relationship of trust must continue to exist, even in moments of slumps; free discussions, but complete adherence to decisions once they have been made; inauguration of a certain new roughness in foreign policy; gradual reorganization of the foreign service in which "can-do" becomes the characteristic factor; basic acceptance of the Führer's policies&emdash;the "Grand Program" which cannot be accomplished without the sword; therefore it will require three to four years preparation. Concentration upon the Anti-Comintern Triangle (Japan-Italy-Germany). Where exactly the fighting will be and for what remains open to later discussions. If at all possible, Austria is to be liquidated before 1938 is out.
But Hitler was still not in free, despite the Berchtesgaden triumph. On March 7, General Beck, chief of the General Staff, wrote a lengthy memorandum challenging the new reorganization of the armed forces. It was accepted by General Brauchitsch and forwarded to Hitler. Clearly the Army generals were not infatuated with Hitler's ability to lead the country and the armed forces, and they were prepared to challenge him.
This new threat was now complicated by Hitler's growing embarrassment over the Fritsch affair. General von Fritsch had demanded a court martial in order to clear his name. Hermann Göring, the president of the court, soon discovered that Fritsch's defense lawyers had uncovered the GESTAPO-Heydrich plot and were about to expose the whole sordid affair, including Göring's own complicity.
Hitler was saved from this new crisis&emdash;and the unrest in the army&emdash;by Kurt von Schuschnigg.
Arriving back in Vienna, Schuschnigg became ashamed of what he had done. Austria was now little better than a German satellite; the three Nazis he appointed to his cabinet had immediately departed for Germany in order to get instructions, and English newspapers criticized him for his lack of courage. Unfortunately his request for assistance from Italy, France, and England revealed little hope. He decided, therefore, on a risky ploy, which might force Hitler to play an even heavier hand, and thus produce foreign support.
On 9 March 1938, Schuschnigg announced a plebiscite to be held in four days and using the voting lists of 1930 (for there had been no elections in Austria since then). The Austrians were to be asked to vote on the following question: "For a free and German, independent and social, for a Christian and united Austria. For peace and work and the equality of all who acknowledge their faith in our people and Fatherland."
After the Berchtesgaden Agreement, Hitler had told his Air Force attache that Austria would now come closer to the Reich on her own accord, perhaps later in 1938, unless Schuschnigg committed some "Dummheit"&emdash;stupid act&emdash;that would bring it about earlier. The scheduling of the plebiscite was exactly the Dummheit Hitler needed. For the whole world realized that it was a fraud&emdash;as was obvious from the details:a. The Austrian constitution demanded a month's scheduling. Schuschnigg sought to block all campaigning and set it for four days later.
b. The constitution set voting age at 21. Schuschnigg changed it to 24, since the Nazis were a party of the youth.
c. Since no new voter lists would be compiled, in effect no new voter under 28 was eligible to participate in the plebiscite.
d. The plebiscite was not to be conducted by the State, but by the Fatherland Front officials, the only party permitted in Austria.
e. Each voter would have to sign his name and address on the ballot.
f. Only "Yes" ballots were to be printed. If someone crossed out the "Yes" and marked "No", it was still to be counted as a "Yes."
Hitler succinctly summarized his reaction a month later: "When Herr Schuschnigg breached the Berchtesgaden Agreement on March 9, at that moment I felt that the call of Providence had come." But he was uncertain as to how to answer the call. Hastily, officials tried to improvise a solution. Messengers were sent to Vienna to bring the Nazis out onto the streets in demonstrations against the plebiscite, and Hitler abruptly summoned General Keitel and dictated an order for the invasion of Austria.]
11 March 1938 1:00 p.m. Adolf Hitler Directive
1. If other measures prove unsuccessful, I intend to invade Austria with armed forces to establish constitutional conditions and to prevent further outrages against the pro-German population.
2. The whole operation will be directed by myself. According to my instructions: The Army High Command will direct the land operations with the 8th Army in the formation and strength suggested to me, and with the attachments of the Air Force, the SS, and police...
3. Operational duties:
a. Army: The invasion of Austria must be carried out in the manner explained to me. The Army's first target is the occupation of upper Austria, Salzburg, Lower Austria, the Tyrol, the speedy occupation of Vienna and the securing of the Austro-Czech frontier.
b. Air Force: The Air Force must demonstrate and drop propaganda material, occupy Austrian air fields for the use of further possible reinforcements, assist the army upon demand as necessary, and apart from that, hold bomber units in readiness for special tasks.
4. The forces of the Army and Air Force detailed for this operation must be ready for invasion and/or ready for action on the 12 March 1938 at the latest from 1200 hours. I reserve the right to give permission for crossing and flying over the frontier and to decide the actual moment for invasion.
5. The behavior of the troops must give the impression that we do not want to wage war against our Austrian brothers. It is in our interest that the whole operation shall be carried out without any violence, but rather in the form of a peaceful entry welcomed by the population. Therefore any provocation is to be avoided. If, however, resistance is offered, it must be broken ruthlessly by force of arms. Austrian units who come over to us, immediately come under German command.
6. On the remaining German frontiers, no security measures are to be taken for the time being.
This order dumbfounded the General Staff. It had absolutely no plans on file for the invasion of Austria and knew it could not come up with any within twenty-four hours! Beck went to see Hitler in panic: "I cannot take any responsibility for an invasion of Austria," he reported. To which Hitler replied: You don't have to. If you stall over this, I'll have the invasion carried out by my SS. They will march in with bands playing. Is that what the army wants?" Quaking with anger, Beck left. It was the first and last time that the Head of the General Staff ever conferred with Hitler, and it had lasted less than five minutes.
Thwarted by the army's lack of preparation&emdash;and knowing that his threat to use the SS was pure bluff&emdash;Hitler seemed paralyzed. General Göring, hastily returning from the Fritsch Court Martial with news of the coming disaster there and the trouble it would cause, now decided to force the issue upon his reluctant Führer
11 March 1938 Wire-tap Records Hermann Göring Telephone Conversations
A. Göring and Seyss-Inquart, 2:45 p.m.
Göring: Do you have any news?
Seyss-Inquart: The Chancellor has cancelled the plebiscite for Sunday...extensive precautionary measures are being ordered, among others, curfew at 8 pm.
Göring: Replied that in his opinion the measures taken by Chancellor Schuschnigg were not satisfactory in any respect. At this moment he could not commit himself officially.... In calling off the election, G&emdash;. could see a postponement only, not a change in the situation which had been brought about by the behavior of Chancellor S. in breaking the Berchtesgaden Agreement.
B. Göring and Seyss-Inquart, 3:05 p.m.
Göring: Berlin did not agree whatsoever with the decision made by Chancellor S., since he did not enjoy any more the confidence of our government because he had broken the Berchtesgaden Agreement, and therefore further confidence in his future actions did not exist. Consequently, the National Ministers, Seyss-Inquart and the others, are being requested to immediately hand in their resignations to the Chancellor, and also to ask the Chancellor to resign. G. added that if after a period of one hour no report had come through, the assumption would be made that Seyss- Inquart would no longer be in a position to telephone. That would mean that the gentlemen had handed in their resignations. Seyss-Inquart was then told to send the telegram to the Führer (asking for German assistance to restore order in Vienna). It was expected as a matter of course that Austrian Federal President would immediately commission Seyss-Inquart to form a new cabinet upon Schuschnigg's resignation.
C. Seyss-Inquart and Göring, 3:55 p.m.
Seyss-Inquart: Schuschnigg was on his way to Federal President Miklas in order to hand in his resignation, as well as that of the whole cabinet.
Göring: With this, is the commission to form a new cabinet by Seyss-Inquart secure?
Seyss-Inquart: He would let G. know not later than 5:30 pm.
Göring: Replied emphatically that this, besides the resignation of Chancellor S. was an absolutely firm demand.
D. Göring and German Embassy Vienna, 5:00 p.m.
Embassy: I have to report the following. Seyss- Inquart has talked to the Austrian Chancellor until 4:30 pm., but he is not in a position to dissolve the cabinet by 5:30 because it is technically impossible.
Göring: By 7:30 pm. the cabinet must be formed and several measures must have been taken... I want to know what is going on? Did Seyss-Inquart tell you that he is now the Chancellor.
Göring: Has that just been transmitted to you?
Göring: Good, go on. What time can he form the new cabinet?
Embassy: Possibly by 9:18.
Göring: The cabinet must be formed by 7:30 pm.
Embassy: By 7:30 pm.... The SA and the SS have already been organized as auxiliary police.
Göring: The demand of legalizing the party must also be made .. with all its formations, SA, SS, Hitler Youth.
Embassy: Yes, Field Marshal, only one thing. The formations (i.e. German armed forces) which are now outside the country will not come in at this time.
Göring: They will only come during the next few days.
Embassy: Yes. He thinks after the plebiscite has been accomplished.
Göring: No, no, no. What plebiscite?
Embassy: Yes. he believes that the program then established will be carried out by Hitler.
Göring: One moment... The plebiscite scheduled for tomorrow has to be cancelled.
Embassy: That's already been taken care of. That's now out of the question.
Göring: Good. The Cabinet must be entirely National Socialist.
Embassy: Understood, that also has been settled. By 7:30 pm., then, that must be...
Göring: (interrupting) That must be reported by 7:30 pm. Keppler will bring you the names to be included ... Regarding the plebiscite, he will confer with you about the the kind of plebiscite that is to be.
Embassy: Well then, we have time in that matter.
Göring: Yes, there is time. Seyss-Inquart is of the opinion that the relationship of Germany and Austria must be put on a new basis?
Embassy: What did he mean by that? He means that the independence of Austria should be maintained but that everything else should be ruled on a National Socialist basis.
Göring: That will be a natural result. Tell him the (German) units must come down in the next few days. That's in the interest of Seyss-Inquart, namely that he receive first-class units which are absolutely at his disposal.
Embassy: About that he will talk with you himself.
Göring: All right, he can do that.
Embassy: So that he knows who is coming down, but we have a few days for that.
Göring: Yes, and by 7:30 pm. he also must talk with the Führer and as to the cabinet, Keppler will bring you the names.... The foreign political situation will be handled exclusively by Germany in this matter. Furthermore, Seyss-Inquart and the Führer will talk about this matter. That will take quite some time anyway until (the German units) can be dispatched. Anyway they won't come today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
E. Göring and Seyss-Inquart, 5:26 p.m.
Seyss-Inquart: The situation is like this: the Federal President Miklas has accepted the resignation, but ... he'd like ... to entrust a man like Ender with the Chancellorship.
Göring: But look here; this will change the whole situation. The Federal President or someone else has to be told that this is entirely different from what we were told. Globocnik said upon your order that you had been given the Chancellorship.
Seyss-Inquart: I myself? When did he say that?
Göring: Just a half hour ago. He said that you had the Chancellorship and that also the Party had been restored, SA, SS had already taken over police duties, etc.
Seyss-Inquart: No, that is not so! I suggested to the Federal President to entrust the chancellorship to me, but usually it takes 3 to 4 hours. As for the Party, we still do not have the possibility to restore it.
Göring: Well, that won't do! Under no circumstances! The matter is in progress now. Therefore, please inform the Federal President immediately that he has to turn the powers of the Federal Chancellor over to you and to accept the cabinet like it was arranged; you as Chancellor and the Army&emdash;
Seyss-Inquart: (Interrupting) Field Marshal, just now Muhlmann who was with the President has arrived. May he report to you?
Muhlmann: The situation is that the President still refuses persistently to give his consent. We three National Socialist Cabinet Ministers went to speak to him personally in order to make him under stand that in this hopeless situation only one thing can be done by him: namely to say yes. He would not even let us see him. So far it looks as if he were not willing to give in.
Göring: Give me Seyss-Inquart!
Göring: Now, remember the following: You go immediately, together with General Muff and tell the Federal President that if the conditions ... are not accepted immediately, our troops who are already stationed at and advancing to the frontier will march in tonight, ... and Austria will cease to exist! General Muff should go with you and demand to be admitted. ... tell (the President) there is no time now for jokes. Just because the false report was received a few moments ago, the invasion was delayed, but now the situation is that tonight the invasion will begin from all the corners of Austria. The invasion will be stopped and the troops will be held at the border only if we are informed by 7:30 pm. that Miklas has entrusted you with the Federal Chancellorship... the immediate restoration of the Party with all its organizations ... and then call out all the National Socialists all over the country. They should even now be in the streets. So remember, report must be given by 7:30 pm... If Miklas has not been able to understand the situation in 4 hours, we shall make him understand it now in 4 minutes.
F. Göring and Keppler, 7:28 p.m.
Keppler: Muff just came down, his action was unsuccessful.
Göring: But what does he have to say?
Keppler: Well, that the President would not agree to it.
Göring: Well then, Seyss-Inquart has to dismiss him: just go upstairs again and just tell him plainly that S-I shall call on the the National Socialist units and in 5 minutes the troops will march in by my order... You have to hurry, we have just 3 minutes left... (Göring waits on phone)
Keppler: Well, I just saw the President again, but he has not given his consent.
Göring: He refused? Well then, Seyss-Inquart should come to the telephone immediately...
Seyss-Inquart: Yes, Field Marshal?
Göring: Well, what is going on?
Seyss-Inquart: Yes, ah, the Federal President sticks to his old viewpoint ... and there is no decision made yet.
Göring: But do you think it possible that we shall come to a decision in the next few minutes?
Seyss-Inquart: Well, the conversation cannot take longer than 5 to 10 minutes. It will not take any longer, I guess.
Göring: Listen. I shall wait a few more minutes ... then you inform me via the direct line telephone in the Chancellery as usual, but it has to be done fast. I can hardly justify this delay as a matter of fact. I am not entitled to do so. If it cannot be done legally, then you will have to take over the power. All right?
Seyss-Inquart: But if he threatens?
Göring: Even then.
Seyss-Inquart: Well, I see. Then we shall be ready.
Göring: Call me on the direct line.
G. Göring and Seyss-Inquart, 7:57 p.m.
Seyss-Inquart: Dr. Schuschnigg will announce over the radio that the German Government has given an ultimatum.
Göring: I heard about that.
Seyss-Inquart: And the government here has abdicated... The military troops have been drawn back. They are waiting for German troops to march in.
Göring: Well, did you appoint new officers for the army?
Göring: Did you dismiss the old ones from their office?
Seyss-Inquart: No one was dismissed from office. The government itself has simply pulled back and decided to let matters take their course.
Göring: And you were not commissioned as Chancellor? That was refused?
Seyss-Inquart: Like before, it was refused. They expect that they are taking a chance with the invasion, and they expect that if the invasion actually takes place the executive power will be transferred to other people (i.e. they will not do it themselves)
Göring: Good. I shall give the order to march in and then you make sure that you get the power. Notify the leading people about the following which I shall tell you now. Everyone who offers resistance or organizes resistance, will immediately be subjected to our court martial, the court-martial of our invading troops. Is that clear?
Göring: Including leading personalities. It does not make any difference.
Seyss-Inquart: Yes, they have already given the order not to offer any resistance.
Göring: Yes, it does not matter... Now you are officially authorized.
Göring: Well, good luck. Heil Hitler.
H . Göring and General Muff, 8:26 p.m.
Göring: Listen, tell Seyss-Inquart the following. As we understand it, the Austrian government has abdicated, but he himself remained. So he should continue to stay in office and carry out necessary measures in the name of the government. The invasion is going to happen now, and we shall state that every one who puts up any resistance has to face the consequences. But the Austrian organizations may join us any time, rather they may seek the protection of the German armed forces. I should try to avoid chaos.
Muff: Seyss-Inquart will do so. He is already making a speech.
Göring: But he should take over the government now, and should carry things through quietly. The best would be if President Miklas resigned.
Muff: Yes, but he won't. It was very dramatic. I spoke to him almost 15 minutes. He declared that he will under no circumstance yield to force.
Göring: So&emdash;he will not give in to force.
Muff: He does not yield to force.
Göring: Well, what does that mean? He just wants to be kicked out?
Muff: Yes, he does not want to move by himself.
Göring: Well, with his 14 children, he cannot move as he would like. Well, tell Seyss-Inquart that he'll just have to take over.
The situation looked rather bleak, and Göring decided to speak with ex-Foreign Minister Neurath, whom he had called to the Chancellery. Since they had been caught off guard by these new developments, Ribbentrop, the new foreign minister, was in London for his farewell visit as the former German Ambassador.
After reviewing the situation, Neurath advised Göring that to assume that while the Austrian government had resigned, Seyss-Inquart had remained as Minister of the Interior, and that he should send a telegram asking for German intervention to maintain law and order in the country while the new government was being formed. Göring was overjoyed with the solution. "In such moments as these," Goebbels later told the Lord Mayor of Hamburg, "Neurath's advice was worth more than gold."
J. Göring and Keppler, 8:48 p.m.
Keppler: I want to inform you in brief about developments: Federal President Miklas has refused to do anything. But nevertheless the government has ceased to function ... except for Seyss-Inquart who is still in office as Minister of the Interior. He has just spoken over the radio.
Göring: I have read that. Continue.
Keppler: The old government has ordered the army not to put up any resistance. Therefore shooting is not allowed.
Göring: So. I don't give a damn anyway... Listen, the main thing is that Seyss- Inquart takes over all powers of the Government, that he keeps the radio station occupied.
Keppler: Well, we represent the government now.
Göring: Yes, that's it. You are the government. Listen carefully. The following telegram should be sent here by Seyss-Inquart at once. Take notes:
The provisional Austrian government, which after the dismissal of the Schuschnigg government, considers it its task to establish peace and order in Austria, sends to the German government an urgent request to support it in its task to help it to prevent bloodshed. For this purpose, it asks the German government to send German troops as soon as possible.
Keppler: Well, SA and SS are marching through the streets, but everything is quiet. All opposition has collapsed with the flight of the professionals.
Göring: Listen, you have to guard the borders so that they cannot disappear with their fortunes.
Göring: Seyss-Inquart has to form the government right now like he intended to do, and he should inform the people abroad about it.
Göring: That he is the only one who still has power in Austria.
Göring: Then our troops will cross the border, today.
Göring: Well, he should send the telegram as soon as possible.
Keppler: I will take it to Seyss-Inquart in the office of the Federal Chancellor.
Göring: Please do so. Show him the text of the telegram and do tell him that we are asking him&emdash;well he does not even have to send the telegram&emdash;all he needs to do is to say: "agreed."
Göring: Either call me at the Führer's or at my place. Well, good luck. Heil Hitler.
K. Dr. Dietrich (of Göring's office) and Keppler, 9:54 p.m.
Dietrich: I need the telegram urgently.
Keppler: Tell the General Field Marshal that Seyss-Inquart agrees.
Dietrich: This is marvelous. Thank you.
Keppler: Listen to the radio. The news will be given.
Keppler: On the Viennese station.
Dietrich: So Seyss-Inquart agrees?
Even to the last moment, however, Göring could not really assure Hitler that everything would come off peacefully. The next wire-tap was of Hitler's own conversation with Prince Philip of Hesse, son-in-law to the Italian King, whom Hitler had sent to Mussolini with a request that the Italians not intervene. The Führer's unconcealed joy is a certain sign of how apprehensive he had been.
11 March 1938 Wire-tap of Telephone call from Prince Philip of Hesse to Hitler, 10:25 p.m.
Hesse: I have just come back from the Palazzo Venezia. The Duce accepted the whole thing in a very friendly manner. He sends you his regards.
Hitler: Then please tell Mussolini I will never forget him for this.
Hitler: Never, never, never, whatever happens. As soon as the Austrian affair is settled, I shall be ready to go with him through thick and thin, no matter what happens.
Hesse: Yes, my Führer.
Hitler: Listen, I shall make any agreement&emdash;I am no longer in fear of the terrible position which would have existed militarily in case we had got into a conflict. You may tell him that I thank him ever so much&emdash;never, never shall I forget.
Hesse: Yes, my Führer.
Hitler: I will never forget, whatever may happen. If he should ever need any help or be in any danger, he can be convinced that I shall stick to him, whatever may happen, even if the whole world were against him.
Hesse: Yes, my Führer.
These documents were, of course, not known to the public or even to the high German diplomats. The new German Foreign Minister was in London when this crisis over Austria broke so suddenly and unexpectedly, and Göring had to inform him on the day after the invasion about what had happened. But now, the German version was worked out.
13 March 1938 Wire-tap Göring Telephone Conversation with Joachim von Ribbentrop
Göring: There is overwhelming joy in Austria. You can hear that over the radio.
Ribbentrop: Yes, it is fantastic, isn't it?
Göring: Yes, the march into the Rhineland (in 1936) is completely overshadowed. The Führer was deeply moved when he talked to me last night. You must remember it was the first time that he had seen his homeland again!
Now, I mainly want to talk about political things. Well, this story that we had given an ultimatum, that is just foolish gossip. From the very beginning, the National Socialists Ministers in the Austrian cabinet and the representatives of the people had presented the ultimatum. Later on, more and more prominent people of the Nationalist Movement participated, and as a natural result, the Austrian National Socialists Ministers asked us to back them up so that they would not be completely beaten up again and be subjected to terror and civil war. Then we told them we would not allow Schuschnigg to provoke a civil war, under no circumstances. Whether by Schuschnigg's direct order, or with his consent. The Communists and the Socialists had been armed already, and they were already making demonstrations, which have been photographed, with Heil Moscow and so on. Naturally, these facts showed the danger for the industrial suburbs of Vienna.
Then you had to consider the Schuschnigg made his fighting speeches, telling the people that the Fatherland Front would fight to the last man. So one could not know that they would capitulate just like that. Therefore Seyss-Inquart, who had already taken over the government, asked us to march in immediately. Before that, we had already marched up to the frontier, since we could not know whether there would be a civil war or not. These are the actual facts, which can be proved by documents...
One thing I want to add: it is claimed that we overpowered the Austrian people and took away their independence. We must admit that at least just one little part of Austria was put under pressure&emdash;but not by us&emdash;and that was the government which existed with such a small support basis. The Austrian people have only been liberated by us... It is absolutely wrong to think Germany had given an ultimatum. This is a lie by Schuschnigg, because the ultimatum was presented him by Seyss-Inquart, Glaise-Horstenau, and Jury (the National Socialist Minister in his cabinet). Furthermore, it is not true that we have presented an ultimatum to the Federal President, but it also was given by others. And as far as I know a military attache came along, asked by Seyss- Inquart, because of a technical question. He was supposed to answer whether in case Seyss-Inquart would ask for the support of the German troops, whether or not Germany would grant this request. Furthermore I want to state that Seyss-Inquart asked us expressly&emdash;by telephone and by telegram&emdash;to send troops, because he did not know about the situation in Vienna, and especially in the working class suburbs and so on; because arms had been distributed there. And then he could not know how the Fatherland Front might react since they always have had such big mouths...
The whole affair is rolling as it is supposed to roll and it has crystallized into a march of joy, if you want to call it that... The Austrian government has informed us that it will then hold a free and secret election, on the basis on democratic principles, so that every Austrian will be able to give his really free vote in a free and secret election...
After the election then we shall see the decision that the people make and we shall see what is going to happen. But about one thing you may not have any doubt at all... Should Austria decide for union&emdash;and of that we have no doubt at all&emdash;then no power on earth will be able to separate us...
The true nature of these developments is revealed in these last few sentences. As late as 13 March, Hitler still was thinking about keeping Austria independent, under his own presidency. The tumultuous welcome given him in Vienna persuaded him to change his mind. Ribbentrop and Göring were astounded by Hitler's decision, but as the Führer explained to an aide: "There is but one moment when the goddess of fortune passes by. And if you don't grasp her by the hem, you won't get a second chance." The plebiscite was then changed to one on the Anschluß (union) of Austria and Germany. It was held simultaneously in both countries and was a stunning success.In Austria 99.73% voted in favor.
In Germany 99.022% voted in favor.
The Sudeten Crisis
Immediately after the annexation of Austria, great enthusiasm broke out in the German-speaking sections of neighboring Czechoslovakia (the so-called Sudeten-Germans) who now demanded that they too benefit from the restoration of German power. Although the original impetus for this enthusiasm appears to have come from the Sudeten-Germans themselves, Hitler and the Nazi party were quick to capitalize on it.
Czechoslovakia had a powerful army, superior weapons from from the Skoda factories, formidable fortifications, and a geographic position which put its air-fields into close proximity to important German industrial centers, including Berlin. which would he vulnerable to air attack. This strategic factor was decisive. Hitler knew he could not embark upon any ambitious plans in either the west or in the east until Czechoslovakia had been neutralized. So he was not at all unhappy when the Sudeten-Germans expressed their enthusiasm to join their fellow-Austrians in "returning home to the Reich."
And from the start of this new crisis, Britain and France were aware that they could do very little to help Czechoslovakia.
15 March 1938 Minutes of the French Permanent Committee of National Defense
Foreign Minister Paul-Boncour: indicated the initial purpose of this meeting. In talks with Great Britain we have been trying for several days to obtain from the English a declaration on the subject of their attitude towards the Czechoslovak problem. In reply to our representations, the English... say: "You say that you will help Czechoslovakia, but in practical terms what will you do?" It was this question that he was putting to the competent military body...
Defense Minister Daladier pointed out that France could not initially give Czechoslovakia any direct help. The only aid she might give was indirect ... by mobilizing so as to keep German troops on our frontiers. The problem was to know whether, under these conditions, Germany would still have sufficient strength left to attempt an attack upon Czechoslovakia.
National Defense Staff Chief, General Gamelin, remarked that France could rein force this action... by attacking, but as these attacks would be against fortified German positions, they would involve us in lengthy operations.
Prime Minister Leon Blum declared that Russia would intervene on the side of the Czechs.
General Gamelin replied that he could not see what effective aid Russia could give initially... In any case, the effectiveness of Russian aid was conditioned by the attitude of Poland and Romania (whose lands Russia would have to cross to reach Czechoslovakia).
Air Force Chief, General Vuillemin, explained that from the point of view of air power, Russian intervention in aid of Czechoslovakia was very difficult. It would be necessary to cross Poland and Romania, which assumed that they had decided their attitude. Besides that, there were very few airfields in Czechoslovakia&emdash;40 in all&emdash;which the German Air Force would quickly render unusable.
Prime Minister Blum summed up the discussion thusly: 1) We can pin down German forces at the price of our mobilization... 2) but we cannot prevent an attack on Czechoslovakia.
20 March 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain Diary Entry
You have only to look at the map to see that nothing that France or we could do would possible save Czechoslovakia from being over-run by the Germans, if they wanted to do it. The Austrian frontier is practically open (i.e. the old frontier of the former Republic of Austria); the great Skoda munitions works are within easy bombing distance of the German aerodromes; the railways all pass through Sudeten-German territory; Russia is 100 miles away. Therefore we could not help Czechoslovakia&emdash;she would simply be a pretext for going to war with Germany. That we could not think of unless we had a reasonable prospect of being able to beat her to her knees in a reasonable time, and of that I see no sign. I have therefore abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia, or the French in connection with her obligations to that country.
Using the Anschluß of Austria, Konrad Henlein and Karl Hermann Frank, the two most famous.German politicians of Czechoslovakia, had succeeded in uniting most of the Sudeten-Germans of into a single party. In the March 1938 elections in that country, the Sudeten German Party&emdash;which was in fact the National Socialist Party of Czechoslovakia&emdash;won an overwhelming victory, gaining practically all the German votes.The victorious leaders now travelled to Berlin to celebrate with Hitler.
28 March 1938 Conversation between Henlein, Frank and Adolf Hitler
Besides the Führer, Minister Hess the Führer's deputy, and the Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop ... were present, and the conversation lasted for almost three hours. The Führer stated that he intended to settle the Sudeten German problem in the not-too-distant future. He could no longer tolerate Germans being oppressed or fired upon. He told Henlein that he knew how popular Henlein was and that he was the rightful leader of the Sudeten German element, and as a result of his popularity and attractiveness, he would triumph over circumstances. To Henlein's objection that he, Henlein, could only be a substitute, Hitler replied: "I will stand by you; from tomorrow you will be my Viceroy. I will not tolerate difficulties being made for you by any department whatsoever within the Reich."
The purport of the instructions which the Führer has given to Henlein is that demands should be made by the Sudeten German Party which are unacceptable to the Czech government. In spite of the favorable situation created by the events in Austria, Henlein does not intend to drive things to the limit, but merely to put forward the old demands for self-administration and reparations.... He wishes to reserve for later on a suggestion of the Führer's that he should demand their own German regiments with German officers, and military commands to be given in German. The Reich will not intervene of its own accord. Henlein himself would be responsible for events for the time being. However, there would have to be close cooperation. Henlein summarized his view to the Führer as follows: We must always demand so much that we can never be satisfied. The Führer approved this view....
Speaking at a convention of the Sudeten German Party a few weeks later, Henlein issued his demands.
24 April 1938 Konrad Henlein Karlsbad Demands
1. Restoration of complete equality of German National group with the Czech people;
2. Recognition of the Sudeten German national group as a legal entity for the safeguarding of the position of equality within the State;
3. Confirmation and recognition of the Sudeten German settlement area;
4. Building up of Sudeten German self-government in the Sudeten German settlement area in all branches of public life insofar as questions affecting the interests and affairs of the German national group are involved;
5. Introduction of legal provisions for the protection of those Sudeten German citizens living outside the defined settlement area of their national group;
6. Removal of wrong done to Sudeten German element since the year 1918 and compensation for damage suffered through this wrong;
7. Recognition and enforcement of the principle: German public servants in German area;
8. Complete freedom to profess adherence to the German element and German ideology.
A few days after this talk Neville Chamberlain and his foreign secretary Lord Halifax met with French Premier Daladier and foreign minister Bonnet, to discuss possible ways to respond. The frankness of this exchange shows the dilemma confronting the western powers.
28-29 April 1938 Record of Anglo-French talks in London
Lord Halifax presumed that on both sides there was a full appreciation of the urgent gravity of the question of Czechoslovakia.... According to information at the disposal of His Majesty's Government, the German minority were forming themselves more and more closely into a compact body under the leadership of Herr Henlein. They were clearly in a state of great exaltation, in so far as could be judged from recent manifestations of Sudeten opinion. Their general outlook was rapidly changing, and their demands were perpetually growing.... On the other side of the frontier, German opinion was also in a high state of exaltation, and the momentum generated by events in Austria might well, in certain circumstances, carry the German Government forward to further operations.... In our view, it might require only one serious incident in the Sudeten-German country to precipitate very grave events. His Majesty's Government had in mind, and fully understood the position of the French Government, bound as they were by very precise engagements towards Czechoslovakia.... His Majesty's Government therefore felt&emdash;and they had no doubt that the French Government would also feel&emdash;that every step that was possible must be taken to avoid an outbreak which, as things now stood, might carry with it a very considerable risk for both France and Great Britain.... Not only was the military situation of Czechoslovakia exceedingly weak; His Majesty's Government could not regard the position of France and Great Britain as very encouraging in the event of a German attack upon Czechoslovakia, in consequence of which France might feel it her duty to take the offensive against Germany, and as a further consequence of which Great Britain might find herself involved in the ensuing war.
For their part, His Majesty's Government were ready and, indeed, anxious to lend the fullest support in their power to whatever might make for European peace. They were not, however, able ... to assume fresh military commitments. The Prime Minister had given reasons for this in the House of Commons and there was also this additional reason: When recent events had occurred in Austria, His Majesty's Government had instructed their Chiefs of Staff to make a full examination, which he did not think necessary to examine in any detail, was to reveal what an extremely difficult military problem, if viewed from the purely military angle, the defense of Czechoslovakia presented, and the difficulty increased in proportion as Germany proceeded with the re-fortification of the Rhineland....
Recent events, such as the execution of many members of the Higher Command of the Army, and the general state of internal unrest in the Soviet Union made it extremely doubtful whether Russia could be counted upon to make any great contribution, if indeed she could make any contribution at all to the protection of Czechoslovakia.... The position of Poland was, in the view of His Majesty's Government, uncertain, and at best it would not be possible to count upon any help....
It therefore followed, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, if he might be allowed to state the problem quite crudely, that the result of their combined military and political examination of the issues at stake was that, if the German Government decided to take hostile steps against the Czechoslovak State, it would be impossible, in our present military situation, to prevent those steps from achieving immediate success.
Regarded purely as a military proposition, any re-establishment of the Czechoslovak State would have to wait the issue of a war in which we had been victorious. It might be necessary to wait a long time before such a conclusion had been reached, and ... even at the end of a victorious war, it was questionable whether it would in fact be possible to re-establish the Czechoslovak State on its present basis. Therefore it seemed to him absolutely essential and necessary for all of them to face this problem in a spirit of complete realism. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government regarded it as essential that both governments should agree that every effort should be made by Dr. Benes to reach a settlement of the German minority problem in Czechoslovakia in negotiations with representatives of that minority, and that both His Majesty's Government and the French Government should use their influence, preferably jointly, to further such a settlement....
M. Daladier said that he wished to approach the problem of Czechoslovakia in the same spirit as the British Ministers, ignoring ideological considerations and with a lively sense of the realities of the situation.... He was of the opinion that Czechoslovakia had done more for the minorities than any other European State.... He agreed, however, that both Governments should make an effort to persuade Dr. Benes to go even further in his concessions to the German minority, but he could only agree on certain conditions. He was himself convinced that Herr Henlein was not, in fact, seeking any concessions, and that his real object was the destruction of the present Czechoslovak State. This, he thought, was clear from Herr Henlein's Karlsbad speech.... If the French Government were to agree to intervene yet again at Prague with a view to persuading the Czechoslovak Government to make further concessions to their German population, then he thought it was essential to say quite frankly that if such concessions were not accepted, then we should be prepared to support the Czechoslovak Government and prevent the dismemberment.... M. Daladier considered that it was not really at Prague that it was necessary to bring pressure to bear. He was convinced that the Czechoslovak Government would take whatever action we indicated to them. The danger, in his view, lay outside Czechoslovakia. The recent Sudeten Congress at Karlsbad and the agitation among Sudeten Germans illustrated only too clearly the dramatic situation of Europe... We were confronted by German policy readily translated into action, designed to tear up treaties and destroy the equilibrium of Europe.... One had only to consider recent events. First, there had been the occupation of the Rhineland. On that occasion France had taken no action.... Secondly, there had been the question of Austria. We had talked a great deal ... but nothing had been done. He realized that ... the Austrians were of the German race, and there had been a movement in favor of the Anschluß in Austria.... But the independence of Austria had been destroyed and all we had done was to offer our condolences. Today we were faced with the question of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow we might be faced with that of Romania.... He thought it was clear that if and when Germany had secured the oil and wheat resources of Romania, she would then turn against the Western Powers, and it would be our own blindness which would have provided Germany with the very supplies she required for the long war which she admitted she was not now in a position to wage....
He realized that the British Ministers had raised objections concerning the military situation. They had suggested that we were powerless to act effectively in support of Czechoslovakia, and that it would, therefore, be useless to make any general declaration... So far as France was concerned, however, she had her obligations which were contained in her treaty with Czechoslovakia, to whom she had promised her support.... France regarded this treaty as vital, and considered that it must be respected an executed.... If Great Britain and France were now to declare that they would bring pressure to bear on the Czechoslovak Government with the view to securing reasonable concessions for the German minority, at the same time declaring that they could not permit the destruction of the Czechoslovak State, then the peace of Europe might be saved.
Mr. Chamberlain said he had listened with great attention to M. Daladier's remarks.... He wished M. Daladier to understand quite clearly that he was not in any way attempting to justify the policy or activities of the Sudeten Germans, nor of Germany her self.... We were faced with a practical problem, that of trying to save something of Czechoslovakia, and in particular to save the existence of the Czechoslovak State....
If he had understood M. Daladier correctly, the latter was of the opinion that, if, at this juncture, we were to speak to the German Government with sufficient firmness, then there would be no war, for either Germany would not be able or would not care to brave the united forces of France, Great Britain and Czechoslovakia.... He considered that this was what the Americans in their card games called bluff. It amounted to advancing a certain declaration in the hope that that declaration would prevent the events we did not wish to occur. But it was not a certainty that such action would be successful.... And if a war arose after such a declaration, he himself could not see any possibility of saving Czechoslovakia, of avoiding the destruction of that country, or its being overrun by the aggressor. The Czech army was no doubt a good one ... but the Czechoslovakian fortifications had been turned as a result of the Anschluß. One had only to look at the map. Czechoslovakia was surrounded by German territory on three sides. Were we to say to Germany that we would not tolerate her continued progress and that the moment had come to call a halt; and that, if Germany were to take certain steps, we would then declare war. We would then be casting the die and deciding that, in our view, this was, from the military point of view, the opportune moment to declare war on Germany with the object of bringing about her defeat....
We must consider with the greatest care ... if we&emdash;and in this connection he was thinking of His Majesty's Government and the French Government, since we could not count on any outside support&emdash;were sufficiently powerful to make victory certain. Frankly, he did not think we were. At this moment he was certain public opinion in Great Britain would not allow His Majesty's Government to take such a risk, and it was no use for this Government ... to go beyond its public opinion, with the possible effect of bringing destruction to brave people. Great though his sympathy was for the view expressed by M. Daladier, his cool judgment told him that the moment had not come when it was safe to adopt such an attitude.... M. Daladier fully understood and, in fact, shared the sentiments expressed by Mr. Chamberlain in condemning war.... He had gone through the last war for four years as a combatant, and had served as an infantry man from the Somme to Alsace.... He had seen his best friends killed around him, and after such an experience one's only thought could be to do everything possible to avoid a repetition of such atrocities....
But he was in a position in which he had to meet obligations which were of a purely defensive character, and respect the terms of a treaty which menaced no one, and which only protected an independent people against unprovoked aggression. This was the situation as regards Czechoslovakia and the relations between France and Czechoslovakia.... It was his belief that, if no warning were given to the effect that justice and the public law of Europe must be respected and German policy continued to develop on its present lines, we should soon be faced with even greater dangers. He feared that time was not on our side, but rather against us, if we allowed Germany to achieve a new success every month ... countries which were now hesitating would feel compelled to submit to the hegemony of Germany and then, as we had been warned in Mein Kampf, Germany would turn to the west...
The results of the conference were composed in a compromise. Britain and France would tell Prague that to maintain peace it must reach an agreement with the Sudeten Germans at all costs. Simultaneously, Britain sent a note to Berlin, urging them to secure a peaceful settlement of the Sudeten question. This note concluded that if the German Government resorted to force, France would stand by its treaty obligations, and England could not guarantee that they would stay neutral. It was not a very forceful statement.
In the meantime, Hitler brooded over the military and political problems presented by Czechoslovakia. No documents survive of his discussions with political or diplomatic advisors, but there is a handwritten set of notes by Colonel Rudolf Schmundt, his military adjutant (who had replaced Hossbach). In this conversation with General Keitel, Hitler aired a number of ideas about the future.
21 April 1938 Colonel Schmundt Notes of a Conversation with Hitler
1. Idea of a strategic attack upon Czechoslovakia, out of the blue and without cause or possibility of justification, is rejected! Reason: hostile world opinion might then lead to serious situation. Such measures must be reserved for the elimination of the last enemy on the continent.
2. Action after a period of diplomatic discussions which gradually lead to a crisis and war.
3. Lightning-swift action based on an incident (for example the murder of the German minister to Prague during an anti-German demonstration).
1. Preparation is to be made for political contingencies #2 and #3. Contingency #2 is undesirable because in Operation GREEN security measures would already have been taken which could not be kept secret.
2. The loss of time through transport by rail of the bulk of the divisions&emdash;which is unavoidable and must be reduced to a minimum&emdash;must not be allowed to divert from a lightning-swift attack at the time of action.
3. Partial thrusts toward breaching the defense line at numerous points and in strategically advantageous directions should be scheduled from the start. These thrusts are to be prepared down to the smallest details (Knowledge of the routes, the objectives, compositions of the units according to tasks allotted to them, etc.). Simultaneous attacks by land and air forces. The air force is to support the individual columns (for instance, dive bombers, sealing off fortification works at the points of penetration; hindering the movements of reserves; destruction of signal communications and thus isolation of garrisons).
4. The first 4 days of military action are, politically speaking, decisive. In the absence of outstanding military success, a European crisis is certain to arise. Faits accomplis must convince foreign powers of the hopelessness of military intervention, and call allies into the picture (to share in the booty!), and thus demoralize GREEN. Hence, bridging the period between first penetration of enemy's lines and the entry into action of advancing troops, it is necessary to have a determined and ruthless advance by a motorized army (for instance through Pilsen and by-passing Prague)...
The man who would be in charge of the planning, General Ludwig Beck of the General Staff, however, was appalled by the prospects. A few days later he composed the first of a series of memoranda aimed at stopping German involvement in a war he knew could not be won.
5 May 1938 General Ludwig Beck "Observations on the Current Military-Political Situation"
III. 1. Germany's military situation is, taken as a whole, not to be compared with the weakness of the past years, but it is not as strong as in 1914, because all the powers which might possibly be arrayed against Germany have rearmed to a considerable degree&emdash;in some cases to the strongest possible degree. Besides this, Germany will have, for years into the future, Armed Forces which are not ready for use, and this is well known. The military-political situation of Germany does not provide the prerequisite conditions of space to enable the nation, lying as it does in the center of the continent, to withstand a major war on land, sea and in the air. Hopes based on the neutrality of some nations have already shown themselves to be erroneous in the World War. The very lack of space will make it impossible for Germany to endure a long war successfully.
Germany's defense economy is poor, poorer than in 1917-1918. For this reason also, Germany is not fit for a long war... However, any European war that might break out will be conceived and conducted by our opponents from the outset as a long war.
2. The hope to solve the Czechoslovakian problem by military means during this year without any intervention by Britain and France is groundless. The key to the question of war or peace lies with either Germany or Britain. Agreement over Czechoslovakia is possible because Britain wants nothing from this danger spot. The pre-requisite is that Germany agree to a solution which Britain can tolerate. She will never give us a free hand against Czechoslovakia. If we antagonize Britain over Czechoslovakia, other potential benefits which we might hope to get from a friendly Britain, or even a well-disposed Britain, will simply disappear. From a Britain which is hostile towards us we will receive no thing at all. Britain is preparing herself to place her sword into the balance should Germany force a solution to the Czechoslovak problem which is not suitable to Britain. It has always been her principle to align herself against the strongest Continental Power.
But even if the attitude of Britain towards Germany is better today than it was in 1914, it is still clear that however strong we may be, we are confronted by a coalition which is more powerful than we are. In this case, France and Russia are already on the side of Britain; America will soon attach herself to them, if only by supplying them with war material. Britain, with her enormous power, which continues even today, despite the criticisms of personalities who do not know Britain the world power from their own observations, will be able to compel the other small powers who are concerned to get along with her or cut us off economically during the course of a war at the latest.
Between 2 and 10 May 1938, Hitler visited Italy and had a triumphant tour. He also engaged in telling conversations with Mussolini about his future plans. Returning home, he revealed a new determination.
13 May 1938 Weizsäcker Diary Entry
Concerning our views over Czechoslovakia, Mussolini has announced he is disinterested in the whole thing. Whatever we plan there, he will retain his sword in the scabbard. Is that supposed to encourage us or warn us? The Führer takes it as encouragement. He is thinking of dealing with the Sudeten German problem before the year is out, as the present balance of power might otherwise shift against us. I felt obliged to point out that this evaluation of opposing strength is not only critical, but absolutely decisive. Whether or not we can handle this issue at all depends on the French ability to make hard decisions. For under no conditions should we even consider risking a European war over this issue. On 12 May we instruct Henlein that all decisions in this matter rests in our hands.
Although he had not as yet made any final decision, Hitler's ambitions were growing.
May 1938 Engel Diary Entry
The Führer doubtlessly has wider political intentions. His immediate goal seems to be a solution of the relationship with Czechoslovakia. The Sudeten-German question disturbs him greatly, and he no longer wishes to see these German-speaking people under foreign domination. And in this connections he once again lets fly with his well-aimed attacks upon the Army. Without a fully-prepared armed forces standing in the background, he cannot attain his political goals. This is what Fritsch prevented and for this reason Fritsch had to be mustered out... The Führer has nothing personally against [Beck], but he has no use for men who do not share his faith and Beck's days are numbered. Thus he desires that not only Beck, but also General Halder [Beck's chief assistant] be invited to the forthcoming conference on this subject.
In preparation for this conference, Hitler instructed General Keitel to draw up new directives, for the purposes of planning. The text shows that Hitler has not yet resolved upon a deliberate aggressive assault, or at least apparently not in a hurry to solve the Czech question.
20 May 1938 General Keitel to Adolf Hitler
TOP SECRET: TO BE HANDLED ONLY BY AN OFFICER
New strategic directives must be issued... the political principles and assumptions for which, my Führer, it was your intention yourself to determine. It is, however, necessary for the interim period to replace the situation created by the incorporation of Austria in the German Reich and the newly suspected plans of the Czech General Staff.
A draft of this kind is attached. It has not yet been discussed with the Commanders- in-Chief. I intend to do this, only when the fundamental ideas of the draft have been approved by you, my Führer, and I will resubmit it for your signature...
Draft for Operation GREEN (Interim)
1. POLITICAL ASSUMPTIONS: It is not my intention to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the immediate future without provocation, unless an unavoidable development of the political conditions within Czechoslovakia forces the issue, or political events in Europe create a particularly favorable opportunity which may perhaps never recur.
2. POLITICAL POSSIBILITIES FOR COMMENCING THE OPERATION: A sudden attack without convenient outward excuse and without adequate justification cannot be considered in the present circumstances, in view of the possible consequences of such an action. Operations will preferably be launched either:
a. after a period of increasing diplomatic controversies and tension linked with military preparations, which will be exploited so as to shift the war guilt on the enemy. But even such a period of tension preceding the war will be terminated by sudden military action on our part with as much of the surprise element as possible, alike in regard to time and extent.
or b. by lightning-swift action as the result of a serious incident which will subject Germany to unendurable provocation and which, in the eyes of at least a part of world opinion, affords the moral justification for military measures.
Case "b" is more favorable, both from a military and political point of view.
3. CONCLUSIONS FOR THE PREPARATION OF OPERATION GREEN, based on the possible cases mentioned in 2a and 2b:
a. For the MILITARY OPERATIONS, it is essential to create in the first four days a strategic situations which demonstrates to enemy states which may wish to intervene the hopelessness of the Czech military position, and also provides an incentive to those states which have territorial claims upon Czechoslovakia to join in immediately against her. In this case, the intervention of Hungary and Poland against Czechoslovakia can be expected, particularly if France, as a result of Italy's unequivocal attitude on our side, fears, or at least hesitates to unleash a European war by intervening against Germany. In all probability, attempts by Russia to give Czechoslovakia military support are to be expected. If concrete successes are not achieved in the first few days by land operations, a European crisis will certainly arise.
b. PROPAGANDA WARFARE must on the one hand intimidate the Czechs by means of threats and wear down their power of resistance; on the other hand it must give the national minorities indications as to how to support our military operations and influence the neutrals in our favor.
c. ECONOMIC WARFARE has the task of employing all available economic resources to hasten the final collapse of the Czechs. The opening of the propaganda and economic campaign may precede military operations in point of time. I reserve to myself the determination of the appropriate zero date.
4. TASKS FOR THE ARMED FORCES:
a. ARMY: The basic principle of a first, surprise attack on Czechoslovakia must not be prejudiced by the time unavoidably needed for transporting the bulk of the the field army by rail, nor must the more rapid deployment of the air force be wasted. The first task for the army is to put into immediate action... as many assault columns as can be more rapidly employed in view of their proximity to the frontier or of their motorization. It must be the purposes of these thrusts to break into the Czech fortified lines at numerous points and in a strategically favorable direction, to penetrate them or to take them from the rear. For success, cooperation with the Sudeten German frontier population, with deserters from he Czechoslovak Army, with parachutists or air-borne troops, and with units of the sabotage service is of importance.
It will be the task of the bulk of the army by exploiting these first successes and the effect produced by the air force, to smash the Czechoslovak army and to occupy Bohemia and Moravia as quickly as possible. The rear cover provided for the West must be limited in quantity and quality in accordance with the present state of the fortifications...
b. AIR FORCE: While leaving a minimum force for a defensive role in the West, the main strength of the air force is to be employed for a surprise attack against Czechoslovakia. The frontier is to be crossed at the same time as it is crossed by units of the army. The most important task is the destruction of the Czech air force and its supply bases in the shortest space of time, to prevent its employment and, should the case arise, that of Russian and French supporting forces against the German army during its deployment and invasion, and against the German living area.
The paralyzing of mobilization, of the conduct of civil affairs, and of the direction of the armed forces, as well as delaying the deployment of the Czech army by attacks on its communication systems, and on centers of mobilization and government, will also be of vital importance ... As far as the course of operation at all permits, Czechoslovak industrial establishments are to be spared. Reprisal attacks upon the population are subject to my approval...
c. NAVY: The navy will take part in the operations of the army by the employment of the Danube flotilla... As regards the conduct of naval warfare, at first only such measures are to be taken as seem necessary for securing the North Sea and Baltic against a surprise intervention by other states into the conflict. These measures are to be limited to the absolute essentials. Their concealment must be assured. In this it is of decisive importance to avoid all action which might adversely affect the political attitude of the European great powers.
The Czech crisis abruptly entered a new stage with word on 21 May 1938 that Czech policemen, armed according to new regulations, had shot and killed two Sudeten-German farmers. Demonstrations broke out throughout the Sudeten area, and the Czech government proclaimed full mobilization of the army. They claimed that the Germans were infiltrating the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia, and moving troops toward the border. Both reports were false.
But the British and French governments believed the reports, and sent harsh denunciations to Berlin, warning Hitler that if he marched into Czechoslovakia, France would honor her alliance with Prague, and Great Britain "could not guarantee that they would not be forced by circumstances to become involved too."
Hitler was furious! He claimed that the Czech move was deliberately provocative, and the British and French warnings of 21 May a calculated humiliation. The foreign press interpreted the whole affair as a severe blow to Hitler's prestige. Official German reaction, however, was slow in coming because there was divided counsel.
22 May 1938 Weizsäcker Diary Entry
The Czech question has come to a head in the last few days. The Sudeten Germans believe the clock is now five minutes before 12. The Austrian example is contagious. And on the other hand, many Czechs, especially in the military, believe their country is caught in a chemical dissolution process, which can be stopped only by a policy of catastrophe. Either the Germans [in Czechoslovakia] must give way, or they will unleash a world war! Both alternatives mean a defeat for Germany.
For our part, we are bluffing. The military will not march, for they clearly see the results of a coalition-war against us. Even Göring does not want this. Hitler cloaks himself in obscurity. The instructions to Henlein, the so-called Führer of the Sudeten Germans, are confused. Ribbentrop alternates between a lust for attacking and a desire for an eight-year peace. I was extremely rude to him today when he said that we must provoke the Czechs. "I must decisively oppose you on that," I bristled as we stood today at the Tempelhof Airport. Then I changed to fatherly encouragement: "Whoever loves the German Reich and its Führer cannot advise war." Within a few minutes Ribbentrop changed his plan from calling for an immediate invasion to a purely political policy of disintegration from within. He complained bitterly about General von Brauchitsch, who had told him that he could not permit an invasion; the condition of the armed forces and the fortifications prohibited that.
The English ambassador told me that he could not relay one half of Ribbentrop's oral comments to London. They would alarm his government too much. The French ambassador complained to me that he could not talk with Ribbentrop. For he only listened to what he himself had to say.
Increasingly, Ribbentrop's personality and refusal to contradict anything that Hitler had to say became a major factor in the course of German foreign policy. An army general summarized the nearly unanimous opinion of informed circles about the virtues of the new foreign minister.
Nikolaus von Vormann Postwar Account of Carl Heinrich von Stulpnagel Statement
[Ribbentrop is] indescribably vain and so sure of himself that he never listens to advice. His idea of foreign policy is this: Hitler gives him a drum and tells him to bang it, so he bangs the drum loud and strong. After a while, Hitler takes the drum away and hands him a trumpet; and he blows that trumpet until he's told to stop and play a flute instead. Just why he's been banging and trumpeting and fluting, he never knows and never finds out.
British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson was even more blunt in his evaluation:
28 May 1938 Neville Henderson Dispatch
[Ribbentrop] seeks popularity by quick results and his one idea is to win his spurs and to be regarded as a great man. If Hitler jumps a foot he jumps a yard, and I am appalled at the possibility of the fate of Europe being influenced by such a German Minister for Foreign Affairs in a situation like today.
From rumors reaching him, General Beck also feared that under Ribbentrop's pressure the Führer would act precipitously in this crisis, but a curious paralysis seemed to have descended upon the General Staff.
22 May 1938 Engel Diary Entry
Once again I saw the Head of the General Staff [Beck] in order to persuade him to attend the forthcoming important Commanders' Conference with the Führer. [Beck] was as friendly as ever. To my suggestion that the Führer could best be convinced by him about the present state of the army and how important it was to tread very softly just now in many respects, [Beck] clapped me on the shoulder and said: "My dear Engel, there is no point talking the Führer. He thinks only in political terms, and is fully inaccessible to military objections. And then too, I am simply not equal to his demagogic style. Please say 'hello' for me, and tell him that I will send over General Halder, who can give answers to any questions that might be raised, for he will be accompanied by clear instructions." I left feeling rather depressed.
After brooding in the mountains for nearly a week, Hitler abruptly decided to confront his Commanders with a new decision. A large conference was scheduled for 28 May 1938. But even before it met, his naval adjutant Puttkamer informed his superiors that Hitler had ordered an acceleration of submarine construction and the addition of two new battleships to be finished by the spring of 1940. Clearly, Hitler saw in the events of 21 May proof that a war with Britain was inevitable. The following account of the meeting has been reconstructed from the best contemporary sources:
The Decision to Attack Czechoslovakia
28 May 1938 Hitler Speech to the Commanding Generals
There was nothing equivocal about Hitler's speech in the Winter Garden of the Chancellery on May 28. He stood in front of a map of Europe and showed them how he would execute his decision "to sweep Czechoslovakia from the map" with appropriate gestures. Then he spoke yet again of Germany's need to fight for Lebensraum in Europe as well as colonial areas. Ultimately the struggle for power would lead to a great war with Britain and France. Now, Hitler argued, the prerequisite for that war was an attack on Czechoslovakia, and the time was ripe for Germany to move. Britain and France would do nothing if she occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938.
He cited three reasons for his conclusion. First, neither enemy power would be ready for war for at least three years. Second, they were occupied with crises in Asia and the Mediterranean; and third, France was plagued by internal disorders. Germany was by comparison much stronger than either of the two. She was indeed stronger than she had been in 1914, and she was self-confident and well- respected. Therefore, if the Westwall proved to be a strong deterrent and if Germany could overrun Czechoslovakia very quickly, the Western Allies would simply accept the loss.
As soon as Hitler had finished, Göring stepped forward to grasp his hand and congratulate him on "the magnificent analysis." Then Hitler walked over to Keitel, Beck and Brauchitsch who had quietly collected in a corner of the Winter Garden, and declared: "So, first we will clear up the situation in the East, and then I will give you up to four years for preparations, and then we will deal with the West." The generals listened in silence.
The silence did not represent agreement, but rather shock and disbelief. Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler's immediate superior in World War I, and now the Führer's personal adjunct, recalled his response:
Fritz Wiedemann Postwar Affidavit
I was considerably shaken by these statements, and on leaving the Chancellery said to Herr von Neurath: "Well, what do you say to these revelations?" Neurath thought that the situation was not so serious as it appeared and that nothing would happen before the spring of 1939. "Much water will flow through the Spree [the river in Berlin] before then," he remarked, "and so we have plenty of time to make adjustments."
Major Engel, who was also present, recorded his disappointment over the absence of any response from the participants:
May 1938 Engel Diary Entry
I had not thought that [Beck] would come, but he did in fact show up. Unfortunately, like the Commander-in-Chief of the Army [Brauchitsch], Beck did not take any position on the talk, but appeared resigned. Only Göring spoke at all, and he said nothing to the point.
Beck, however, had jotted down notes and used these to write out a lengthy memorandum in rebuttal.
28 May 1938 Notes of General Beck
Germany needs space: (a) In Europe (b) in colonies.
It is up to our generation to solve the problem.
Opponents of Germany:
1. France: Every step will hurt France; she will always be our enemy. Is not stronger than 1914 but probably weaker.
2. England: was near to collapse in the Great War, the organization of the Empire has become other than envisaged; also opposed to an expansion of German power.
3. Czechoslovakia: in every coalition our enemy. Has 3 enemies: Poland. Hungary. Germans&emdash;Czechoslovakia has 7 million Czechs. Czechoslovakia always our most dangerous enemy in the event of war in the West. She stands in the way of certain success in the West.
The aim of a war in the West (France and England) is now an extension of coastal basis (Belgium, Holland).
Danger of Belgian and Czech neutrality....
After rejecting the idea of an immediate attack on Czechoslovakia. Hitler nevertheless put forward: Reasons for quick action:
(a) [Czech] fortifications are still improvised, moment of weakness will have been missed in 2-3 years.
(b) Lightning action (English rearmament will not come into effect before 1941/42. French rearmament will also still last many years) because of the international situation tension between England, France-Italy is very great. Italy's ambitions are not satisfied. Directed against Tunisia. (Warning against underestimation of Italians). France's situation has changed; Italy will exploit every French weakness. It is necessary to create absolute unambiguous relations.
Russia: will not take part, not geared up for a war of aggression. Poland and Romania: Fear of Russian aid, will not act against Germany. East Asia: Reason for England's caution. Lightning action is necessary.
Conclusions: Unambiguous attitude towards the powers that are with us. Italy: no interest in the Mediterranean, prepared for any military agreement with Italy; any support for Japan.
No thought that we can avoid the crisis. Favorable moment must be seized (Politicians are only partly in control of it).
Military preparations: (a) Strongest possible build up [in fortifications] in the West and their manning. (b) Lightning march into Czechoslovakia . . .
29 May 1938 Excerpts General Ludwig Beck "Remarks on the presentation by the Führer"
1. Germany is not in a stronger position than in 1914. The creation of greater internal unity has to be weighed against the greater unreadiness of the Armed Forces for combat. Furthermore, the danger of air attack on Germany's crowded space is far greater than it was in 1914-1918; the financial, food, and raw material situations are worse than in 1917-1918; and the people will be opposed to a war which they know has not been forced upon them.
2. The success of the Führer's foreign policy in the period 1933-1938 is no guarantee that similar decisions will be successful in the future. The opposition to Germany is growing in both military strength and unity...
3. The Führer's appraisals of the military strength of France and Britain are unintelligible to a soldier. Both opponents had also been underestimated in 1914. Germany, either alone or with the help of Italy, is not in a position to challenge France or Britain militarily.
4. The Czech Army can not merely be seen as an army of a small nation of seven million people, for it is allied with powerful nations.
5. The chief point must always be that Germany cannot become involved in a war with Czechoslovakia without having to fight all of Czechoslovakia's supporters at the same time. A campaign against Czechoslovakia might well be successful, but in the final analysis, Germany would lose the war.
6. When France and Britain enter the war, Czechoslovakia would be merely the occasion, and the war would be conducted on an entirely different level; it would become a European or a World War. It is a mistake to suppose that such a war would be determined by success and defeats in a few opening battles. Germany's opponents have time and space at their disposal and their resources of men and material are superior to those of Germany. If it came to a long major war, no other country would voluntarily join on Germany's side, either initially, or over the long term.
Although Beck immediately delivered his memorandum to the new Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General von Brauchitsch, the latter decided it would do little good to pass it on to Hitler. In withholding it, Brauchitsch insured that the opinions of the General Staff played no role at all in the process by which General Keitel followed Hitler's instructions
28 May 1938 Jodl War Diary
The intention of the Führer not to touch the Czech problem as yet is changed because of the Czech strategic troop concentrations of 21 May. which occurs without any German threat, and without the slightest cause for it.
Because of Germany's self-restraint, its consequences lead to a loss of prestige of the Führer, which he is no longer willing to take. Therefore the new order is issued for 'Green' on 30 May.
The introduction to this directive clearly reflected both the constant theme Hitler first developed at the Hossbach Meeting, as well as his altered specific attitude toward the Czech situation. A covering letter from General Keitel directed that the new plan must be ready for operation no later than 1 October 1938.
30 May 1938 Hitler Directive Operation GREEN
STRATEGIC CONCENTRATION GREEN
1. POLITICAL ASSUMPTIONS: It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future. It is the business of the political leadership to await or bring about the suitable moment from a political and military point of view. An unavoidable development of events within Czechoslovakia, or other political events in Europe providing a suddenly favorable opportunity which may never recur, may cause me to take early action. The proper choice and determined exploitation of a favorable moment is the surest guarantee of success. To this end, preparations are to be made immediately.
2. POLITICAL POSSIBILITIES FOR COMMENCING THE OPERATION: The following are necessary prerequisites for the intended attack:
a. a convenient apparent excuse and, with it
b. adequate political justification,
c. Action not expected by the enemy which will find him in the least possible state of readiness.
Most favorable from a military as well as a political point of view would be lightning action as the result of an incident which would subject Germany to unbearable provocation, and which, in the eyes of at least a part of world opinion, affords the moral justification for military measures. Moreover any period of diplomatic tension prior to war must be terminated by sudden action on our part, unexpected in both timing and extent, before the enemy is so far advanced in his state of military readiness that he cannot be overtaken.
3. CONCLUSIONS FOR THE PREPARATION OF OPERATION GREEN:
a. For the military operations it is essential to make the fullest use of the surprise element as the most important factor contributing to victory, by means of appropriate preparatory measures in peace time and an unexpected swiftness of action...
The rest of this directive follows the wording contained in General Keitel's original proposal, beginning with section 3. (See above p.256)
The new directive was bound to cause unrest among the higher officers.
30 May 1938 Diary Entry of General Alfred Jodl, National Defense Chief, Armed Forces High Command
The whole contrast becomes acute once more between the Führer's intention that we must do it this year and the opinion of the Army that we cannot do it yet, since most certainly the Western Powers will interfere and we are not yet equal to them.
Having failed to block the issuance of the directive, General Beck resolved to try to unite support among all the Generals. Instead of the traditional General Staff exercise, he scheduled for the early summer of 1938 an operation to test the outcome of any offensive attack on Czechoslovakia. The conclusions suggested that while the German Army could overrun its neighbor, the campaign would be costly, and during it the French army would be able to invade and penetrate far into Germany.
When Beck used these conclusions to address the General Staff officers assembled in Berlin at the conclusion of the exercise in June, however, he found that some officers disagreed with his warnings against unrealistic policies. "If it were up to Beck," one remarked, "we would still sit begging at the (disarmament) conference tables in Geneva" Younger officers, in particular, did not share his pessimistic view of German strength, especially in air arm.
But Hitler could not afford to permit this challenge to stand. To ease apprehensions that any involvement with Czechoslovakia would bring the intervention of France and Great Britain, Hitler issued the following general directive:
18 June 1938 Hitler Directive
GENERAL GUIDING PRINCIPLES
I am resolved, from 1 October 1938 onward, to make use of every favorable political opportunity (to settle the Czech question)... 1. There is no danger of a preventive war by foreign states against Germany. Germany is not committed herself to any military alliance which would automatically draw Germany into a warlike conflict between foreign powers.
The settlement of the Czech question by my own free decision stands as the immediate aim in the forefront of my political intentions. I am resolved, as from 1 October 1938 onward, to make full use of every favorable political opportunity for the realization of this aim. Friends, interested parties, and enemies could thereby be brought in and other powers remain indifferent, although they could not be included with absolute certainty in any one of these categories before-hand.
I shall, however, only decide to take action against Czechoslovakia if, as in the case of the occupation of the demilitarized Rhine land and the entry into Austria, I am firmly convinced that France will not march and therefore Britain will not intervene either...
Despite this assurance, growing numbers of officers expressed alarm over the new plans, for they did not trust Hitler to keep his promise. Gradually, opposition consolidated around two poles: in the foreign office, the State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker and his aide Erich Kordt; and in the army, the head of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck, and his liaison with Counter-Intelligence (Abwehr), Major Helmuth Groscurth.
20 June 1938 Ernst Weizsäcker and Erich Kordt to Joachim von Ribbentrop
1. In the path of further expansion and consolidation of the Third Reich stand France, our most certain opponent, and Britain, our most dangerous enemy. Neither France nor England will cross swords with us without the other. If war comes, we shall either have to deal with both or with neither of them. In case of war, we have to reckon as a matter of course that the United States of America and the Soviet Union will associate themselves with the de facto alliance against us of these two powers, France and Britain. Germany must brush aside the opposition of this Entente from her future path either by diplomacy or by war.
2. Only if the Entente attacks us should the Third Reich consider staking its existence on a war. Our essential war aims do not lie in their territory. As to the German aim in the East, such is only attainable politically if the Entente tolerates our course of action. If it interferes, then our policy fails. Our defensive sealing-off process in the West would have failed in its political preventive aim, and perhaps also partly in its military sense. Neither the sealing-off of the West nor the occupation of land in the East would decide the issue in this great war. The decision about our aims in the East would once again have to be fought for in the West and be confirmed by a peace dictated in Paris and in London.
And we have no military recipe for defeating France and Britain. Even taking into account Italian and Japanese help, we would only be able to inflict injuries upon the limbs of our most dangerous foe&emdash;England&emdash;and not strike her in the heart. The war would therefore end with our exhaustion and defeat. The common loser with us would be the whole of Europe, the victors chiefly the non-European continents and the anti-social powers.
3. The first care, therefore, for German policy must be to ensure that the Third Reich is not attacked by the Entente. This is a preventive task and one of defense only in regards to the Entente. It has a military, industrial, financial, social and diplomatic aspect. To diplomacy belongs the creation of a counter-Entente. German- Italian-Japanese friendship assists this preventive aim, without, however, being able to achieve it with certainty. The physical strength of the anti-Comintern group is too weak to intimidate the Entente completely. Therefore the task of German diplomacy is to recognize clearly the limits to which German policy can be pushed for the time being without causing the Entente to interfere.
4. The most important problem in German policy, that of Czechoslovakia, can easily lead to a conflict with the Entente, but must not be allowed to do so. Neither France nor Britain wish to pick a quarrel over Czechoslovakia. They would both perhaps even leave Czechoslovakia to herself if, without direct attacks from abroad and owing to internal disruptive tendencies brought about by her own fault, she were to suffer the fate she deserves. This process must, however, be a gradual one and must aim, by plebiscites and amputation of districts, at a collapse of the remaining area.
The Czech problem, on the other hand, is not yet ripe enough politically for an immediate attack, which the Entente would watch passively, even if such an attack were executed swiftly and as a surprise. Germany is not free to choose the moment when this fruit may be plucked without too great a risk. She is only in a position to organize the desired development.
For this purpose, we should slowly adopt the slogan, emanating at the moment from Britain, "self-determination for the Sudeten Germans," which we have hitherto intentionally not appropriated. The conviction prevailing internationally that these Germans have been denied the right of choosing to which country they wish to belong, advantageously prepared the ground, irrespective of whether or not the chemical process of disruption of the Czechoslovak political structure can in the long run be furthered by mechanical aid or not. The ultimate fate of the rump of Czechoslovakia, however, could not yet thereby be clearly outlined, yet it would be already sealed.
5. This course of action as regards Czechoslovakia is also to be recommended because of our relations with Poland. It is inevitable that, when Germany, having dealt with the problem of the Southeast frontier, proceeds to that of the frontiers on the East and Northeast, the Poles will prick up their ears. For once the Czech question has been settled, it is generally taken for granted that Poland is next on the list. However, the later this conjecture establishes itself as an integral element in international politics the better. From this point of view, therefore, it is important to conduct German policy until further notice by means of such hackneyed and well- tried maxims as "right of self-determination" and "the rights of the Volk community." Anything else could be imputed to us as pure imperialism and would bring the opposition of the Entente into play sooner and more energetically than our strength will bear.
16 July 1938 General Ludwig Beck to General Werner von Brauchitsch
On 3 June with thorough supporting explanations, I reported that the General Staff of the Army absolutely had to reject responsibility for the one-sided and insufficient military arguments presented in (the Directive for Operation GREEN) of 30 May 1938 (see above 263 ff). Today, I am obligated to enlarge upon my memorandum.
I. ... There is no doubt today that an attack on Czechoslovakia will automatically lead to a European or a World War. By any human measurement, the outcome of such a war would not only be the military defeat of Germany, but a general catastrophe for our country...
II. Rumors about a forthcoming war against Czechoslovakia are coursing through the people and their tone clearly indicate, in so far as I am able to judge, that the people generally do not want this war, that they look upon the coming war with the greatest apprehension because they know that it will not remain limited to Czechoslovakia, but also because they can find no purpose in such a war. Even among the army, here and there, similar thoughts are sprouting up, and at the very least they will be difficult to suppress... Both the people and the army feel instinctively that there is little likelihood of success in such an undertaking. Under these conditions, any question of a war between Germany and Czechoslovakia will rapidly become a crisis of confidence between the people and army on one hand and the highest authorities of the land on the other...
III. As was to be expected, our military preparations are already attracting growing foreign attention, and in Czechoslovakia there are clear signs of a growing preparation to improve defenses... Even apart from the danger that such a crisis could set off military attacks on the other side, and that in the process we are gradually losing the freedom to determine our own actions, it is absolutely certain that in the face of these reactions, any hope of achieving surprise appears to be utopian!
IV. Following the conclusion of our General Staff exercise this year, there is no need for me to go into the question of how an attack against Czechoslovakia will proceed and how long it would take to be success fully accomplished. I need only point out as clearly as possible, that the military and political preconditions which were assumed for the purpose of that examination were far more favorable than those which are facing us today.
V. In summary, I make the following points:
1. There is no possibility in the foresee able future to destroy Czechoslovakia by military action without immediately bringing in France and England... And I must once again stress as strongly as I can that while Czechoslovakia might well be the external occasion which would bring France and England into the war, the very minute that this war starts, it will no longer be a question of intervening in the interest of Czechoslovakia, but will be transformed into a war of life or death for Germany!
2. It is today even more uncertain than one and a half months ago what the possible conduct of Hungary ... and Poland will be... Both could be bought off by voluntary concessions from Czechoslovakia...
3. Even should she declare war on France, Italy will not be able to prevent that country from attacking us to aid Czechoslovakia.
4. Even if the present construction plans were complete (which they are not), there are not sufficient forces to cover us in the West, for in the conduct of even a "defensive action," a certain minimum amount of strength is required, and this is not available...
5. If Germany becomes involved in a multi-front war, the Danzig territory will excite Polish covetousness, and we might be forced to revise our plans to withdraw German forces from East Prussia.
6. Against the weight of military realities, the effectiveness of the announced "propaganda campaign" will not be sufficient.
VI. ... I have gradually come to feel that we must not permit the measures now in preparation&emdash;whose effectiveness we can already judge to be inadequate&emdash;to lead to a catastrophe or to an abrupt policy change which all could see was forced upon us by external factors. A policy that is no longer based upon freedom of action would carry with it serious dangers for the leadership of the State and of the Army.
From the reasons given above and in my earlier memoranda, I consider myself to be obliged&emdash;in full consciousness of the significance of such a step, but with reference to the responsibility which devolves on me according to my official obligations for the preparation and conduct of war&emdash;to express the urgent request that the Commander-in- Chief of the German Armed Forces [Hitler] be caused to put a stop to the preparations for war ordered by him and to defer plans for solving the Czech question by force, until the military situation has changed in its essentials. ...
Furthermore, it appears to me to be most urgent to consult the commanding generals, in person and to hear their opinions of the morale, spirit, and intrinsic soundness of the troops in the face of these expected developments, and to remain in contact with them. The seriousness of the situation necessitates close contact among the leaders of the Army if the mutual confidence which currently exists is to be preserved ... and to ensure that they present a united front in conferences with the Führer...
Subsequently, on 28 August 1938, after he had handed in his resignation, General Beck ordered that the following statement be attached to this memorandum of 16 July 1938:
In order to make our position clear to historians in the future and in order to protect the reputation of the high command, I, as Chief of the General Staff, would like to record the fact that I refused to countenance any adventuresome National Socialist wars.
But Beck was determined not to limit his protest to the written memorandum. He personally gave this report to General Brauchitsch, and simultaneously lectured his Commander-in-Chief on the dangers that were involved:
19 July 1938 General Beck Notes of his Conference with Brauchitsch
[Beck summarized what he had previously told Brauchitsch]. The Führer evidently considers a forcible solution to the Sudeten question and an invasion of Czechoslovakia to be inevitable. His opinion seem strengthened by contact with irresponsible and radical elements (from the Nazi Party and Ribbentrop, the new foreign minister)...
All upright and serious Germans in positions of high responsibility must feel themselves bound to make every conceivable effort ... to prevent a war against Czechoslovakia which would, of necessity, lead to a world war, which would spell Finis Germaniae [the end of Germany]. The leaders of the Armed Forces are especially suited and called to fulfill this responsibility, for the Armed Forces are the instrument of state power that carries out orders in war.
The future well-being of the nation is being risked. History will burden the leaders of the Armed Forces with blood-guilt if they do not make use of their expert knowledge and act according to the dictates of their consciences. There is a limit to soldierly obedience; it is reached when their knowledge, their consciences, and their sense of responsibility forbid soldiers to execute a command.
If their advice and their warnings go unheeded, then they have the right and the duty to resign from their posts. If they all act in unity, the execution of aggressive orders will be impossible. By this act, they can save their country from the worst&emdash;from ruin itself. It is a lack of greatness and a failure to recognize the task of a soldier if those in the highest position, in such times as these, construct their duties and tasks only within a limited framework of military orders which must be carried out, without also being aware of their highest responsibilities toward the nation as a whole. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
Should the military leaders succeed... in averting war by means of this protest, considerable domestic tension is to be expected. The radical elements (within the Nazi Party) will argue that the execution of the Führer's plans was hindered by the incompetence of the Armed Forces and its leaders. There will be renewed and bitter attacks upon us. We must be alert.
The Führer is reported to have remarked that he will fight the war against Czechoslovakia with the old generals, and the war against France and England with new leaders. Therefore, in connection with our protest (over the war), it is also necessary for the Armed Forces to come to a showdown with the SS...
If a demarche in the form of a protest with all its consequences is contemplated, and if the outbreak of war can thereby be avoided, it should be considered whether this step should be planned so that it also leads to a showdown with the SS and the Party hierarchy that would bring about a restoration of law and order.
Perhaps for the last time, the German people will be offered an opportunity to free themselves, as well as the Führer himself, from the nightmare of the GESTAPO and from the actions of the Party which are sapping the resources of the Reich and permitting Communism to gain a foothold...
Short, clear catchwords are in order: "For the Führer"; "Against War"; "Against the Bosses of the Party"; "Good relations with the Church"; "Freedom of Opinion"; "An End to the Secret Police methods"; "Justice", ... "No Palace-Building, but Public Housing"; "Prussian Purity and Simplicity."
Beck's appeal had many adherents in the officer's corps, and Brauchitsch agreed to summon the Commanding Generals for a discussion. General Beck wrote out a strong draft statement which he wanted Brauchitsch to read before the generals:
Undated Draft General Beck to General von Brauchitsch
As the Commander-in-Chief and the appointed representative of the Army, I feel bound ... to inform the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces [Hitler] of our observations and conclusions. I must request him seriously to consider the fact that, in spite of great efforts, our military capabilities are limited, the supplies and reserves of our nation inadequate, and ask him to proceed accordingly when making political decisions...
I am aware of the seriousness of this demand. I will make it clear ... that I enjoy the full support of the Army's Leadership which is gathered here today... The Führer plans to meet with us on 15 August for the artillery trials at Jutebog... The Army's leaders will be heard if they stand united... I must therefore ask you to stand behind me, come what may, and do whatever I deem best in the interest of the Fatherland.
But Brauchitsch did not deliver this ringing declaration. Instead, he opened the meeting on 4 August 1938 to general discussion and simply read Beck's memorandum of July 16 (see above p. 44), without identifying its source, or his own support of it. In the talks that followed, the bulk of the generals agreed with Beck's conclusions, but at least two of them questioned whether a war with Czechoslovakia would escalate into a world conflict, and some wondered whether it was the business of generals to get involved with politics.
Within an hour of the meeting, General Reichenau, the most "Nazified" of the Commanding Generals, informed Hitler about this "mutinous gathering."
Hitler decided to counterattack. He invited not the Commanding Generals, but their Chiefs of Staff to a banquet at Berchtesgaden;
10 August 1938 Jodl Diary Entry
The Army Chiefs and the Chiefs of the Air Force Groups, Lt. Col. Juschonnek and myself are ordered to Berchtesgaden. After dinner the Führer makes a speech lasting for almost three hours in which he develops his political thoughts. The subsequent attempts to draw the Führer's attention to the defects of our preparation, which are undertaken by a few generals of the army, are rather unfortunate. This applies especially to the remarks of General Wietersheim, in which to top it off he claims to quote from General Adams that the western fortifications can only be held for three weeks. The Führer becomes very indignant and flames up, bursting into the remark that in such a case the whole Army would not be good for any thing. "I assure you, General, the positions will not only be held for three weeks, but for three years." The cause of this despondent opinion, which unfortunately enough is held very widely within the Army General Staff, is based on various reasons. First of all, the General Staff is restrained by old memories; political considerations play a part as well, instead of obeying and executing its military mission. That is certainly done with traditional devotion, but the vigor of the soul is lacking because in the end they do not believe in the genius of the Führer... And since water flows downhill, this defeatism may not only possibly cause immense political damage, for the opposition between the General's opinion and that of the Führer is common talk, but may also constitute a danger for the morale of the troops. But I have no doubt that the Führer will be able to boost the morale of the people in an unexpected way when the right moment comes.
Jodl was not the only one upset by the unenthusiastic reaction of the generals. The following is from the diary of Captain Helmuth Groscurth, the key link between Admiral Canaris (head of the Abwehr&emdash;Counter-Intelligence) and the General Staff.
15 August 1938 Helmuth Groscurth Diary Entry
Visit from Admiral Canaris who, on August 15, had spoken with Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. The latter had abused the army and announced that all the reports of the General Staff were false! He had never even met the head of the General Staff, Beck, and had only casually seen the C-in-C, General Brauchitsch. One thinks back to the greatness of the relationship between Bismarck- Moltke!!! (i.e., the head of the civilian government and the head of the army which had united Germany in 1870). And this one claims "England and France will not intervene in the war!!!"
On 15 August, Hitler summoned all the senior generals to a demonstration at the Jutebog artillery range, and ended the day with a 90 minute speech which concluded with his assertion: "However the situation may develop, Czechoslovakia has got to be eliminated before anything else. ... I am convinced that Germany will win and that our National Socialist upbringing will see us through. I believe that by the time this year is out, we shall be looking back on a great victory."
It was not what the generals wanted to hear. In his diary, General Wilhelm von Leeb confessed: "Chips down. Führer convinced Britain and France won't intervene. Beck opposite opinion, gloomy mood."
No one, however, spoke openly to Hitler about their reservations. Brauchitsch, subsequently, decided to send Beck's memorandum to Hitler.
20 August 1938 Engel Diary Entry
What I had prophesied has now come true. I had warned about handing over Beck's memorandum, but the Commander-in-Chief insisted that it be given [to Hitler] through me, and this too is most unfortunate. The result has been the strongest attacks yet against the General Staff and against Beck: [they are accused of] sabotaging the Führer's politics; instead of rejoicing that they are now able to work in their primary area of concern, the general staff rejects the very idea of war. Shamelessly, the memorandum counts even the least English Bobby and French policeman in the table of foreign strength, while the German SA, SS, and Labor Front are simply passed by. (The Führer says he) knows well what the intentions behind this are. It is high time that the Head of the General Staff disappears. Up to now, the Führer has had real confidence only in General Halder [Beck's assistant], who in his views seems modern and who presents his opposing ideas in an open fashion... It is a scandal considering who now sits in the chair of Moltke. Moltke had always to be restrained by Bismarck, and now the situation is exactly reversed.
Unfortunately for their cause, the German Generals had misread French and British intentions.
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