The Minister in Czechoslovakia (Carr) to the Secretary of State

No. 307

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that I called today upon Dr. Chvalkovsky35 in order to announce my departure on a brief holiday and had a long conversation with him concerning the current problems of his Government.

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In discussing the Munich conference the Minister said that the fact that France and Great Britain did not support Czechoslovakia did not surprise him for he had long been convinced that they would not fight and neither would Russia. As for the latter, he had been certain it could not be counted upon for assistance and had often said so to Ambassador Phillips in Rome. In the first place Russia had no [Page 737] way of giving effective military aid because of lack of transportation facilities and a common frontier. The Czechoslovaks had been convinced that Russia would afford assistance with its air force and had come to believe that such aid would be effective in opposing Germany. I remarked that it had not been my observation that the Government was certain of effective aid from Russia, particularly toward the end of the summer. He said that was true of the Government, but that the rank and file of the people had supreme confidence in effective aid from Russia, whereas the fact was that Russia would not go outside her borders to help anyone. As for Great Britain and France, they could not be blamed in some ways for the course they took at Munich for the fact was that they could not fight and Germany knew it. They were not prepared. They were seriously to blame, however, for not frankly informing Czechoslovakia months before the Munich conference or even several weeks before it (for they must have known their fighting strength then) that they could not be depended upon to aid Czechoslovakia militarily if it should suffer an unprovoked attack. Had they done so it would have been possible for Czechoslovakia to have come to an agreement with Germany of a much more favorable character than that which finally resulted. In proof of this he said that Field Marshal Goering only recently remarked to a Czechoslovak representative when the latter was in Berlin as a member of a Czechoslovak Commission, “Why did your Government not take the (Sudeten) Germans into the Government last summer? Had they done so your boundaries would today have remained intact.” Not only did Great Britain and France fail to reveal their real position until the last moment when it was impossible for President Beneš to make a satisfactory arrangement with Hitler, but after the Munich Agreement had been signed they gave Czechoslovakia definitely to understand that if it refused to accept the agreement and chose to fight it would not only have to fight alone but that Great Britain and France would share with Germany and Italy the responsibility of maintaining the Munich Agreement which he regarded as equivalent to saying that they would in effect join those Governments in opposing Czechoslovakia. Consequently Czechoslovakia had to choose between fighting and thus committing suicide and losing her independence entirely or surrendering the Sudetenland and accepting the terms imposed upon her, in the hope of retaining her independence as a State for a further period.

Dr. Chvalkovsky mentioned in this relation that President Beneš could probably have averted the catastrophe by changing his policy to one friendly to Germany. In December, 1937, Count Ciano had told Dr. Chvalkovsky that it was of the utmost importance that Czechoslovakia readjust its relations with Germany and with the Sudeten [Page 738] Germans. Again after the Austrian Anschluss36 Ciano cautioned Chvalkovsky of the necessity for a change of policy and indicated that almost the last opportunity for such a change was at hand. These warnings were communicated to President Beneš but without result. On July 4, 1938, during the Sokol festival in Prague, Dr. Chvalkovsky discussed the subject fully with President Beneš who finally said that it was impossible for him to make the change of policy essential to meet the requirements of Hitler. (It is important to bear in mind in this relation the changed condition here and the fact that Dr. Chvalkovsky was a member of the Agrarian Party which always was opposed to Dr. Beneš and now makes up the backbone of the National Union Party which controls the present regime.)

According to the Minister the events which he cited had imposed upon the Government the necessity of bringing its policies sufficiently into conformity with the wishes of the German Reich to be satisfactory to it. He said that he had been drafted for service in his present position and that he had entered upon his task reluctantly and with no illusions as to the difficulties ahead. He would undoubtedly be compelled to do many things which he would find distasteful and which he would regret; but he was obliged to keep before him at all times the problem of how to preserve the independence of the State and his policies would be formulated solely with that end in view. He said that he is certain that at present, and he emphasized “at present”, he is confident that Hitler does not wish to absorb Czechoslovakia or destroy its limited independence; but he said that when he went to Berlin in the autumn Hitler had said to him that he was free to proceed in the development of his foreign policy but that if it did not conform to the requirements of the Reich he would hear from him (Hitler). So he said, “What am I to do? If I do not conform to what is wanted, not only I but perhaps my country must pay the penalty.”

I inquired whether he felt apprehensive of further trouble for this country in the event that Germany should move eastward on Poland or the Ukraine. He said not necessarily for the independence of the country. He did not think Germany would undertake to force this country to fight with it against Poland, for example; but it was quite likely that Germany would demand the privilege of sending her troops through Czechoslovakia against Poland. If Czechoslovakia should refuse permission Germany would force the issue and send them through just the same. Consequently the lesser evil would be to accord the permission. That on the other hand would give Poland an opportunity to say that Czechoslovakia was unneutral and Poland would likely attack this country which would be forced to defend itself. [Page 739] Consequently it would likely find itself in the war fighting on the side of Germany through force of circumstances.

He then went on to express considerable apprehension in regard to the future. He does not think that the agitation in Italy in regard to Tunis and Northern Africa is merely for the purpose of diverting attention from other designs which Hitler and Mussolini have in the East. He thinks that Mussolini must gain more territory and that the time is ripe for another achievement. Likewise he says Hitler must make a further move next year (1939) and this time it must be on a larger scale than Czechoslovakia. Where that move will be made is not clear. The Ukraine as already stated is not yet fully prepared. He was frank in saying, however, that Hitler will not give up his anti-Jewish campaign; and in that in his opinion lies a great danger for the future for it may prove to be the means of bringing Germany and Russia together. If the situation should so develop in Russia that an anti-Semitic policy could be adopted or even the semblance of one, Germany might speedily find a plausible reason for abandoning its anti-Communist slogan and join Russia on the anti-Jewish issue. One of the dangers that lies in the advancement of Germany into the Ukraine is the possibility of bringing the two Governments into cooperation. Their political philosophy is sufficiently close to make this possible. The Jewish issue might afford a plausible basis for shaping a common policy in which case not only all of Europe but Asia as well would be at their mercy.

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Respectfully yours,

Wilbur J. Carr
  1. F. Chvalkovsky, Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. See pp. 384 ff.