The Allies’ sacrifice of Czechoslovakia, followed by a weak response to Kristallnacht, helped convince Hitler there would be no real effort to stop him.
Seventy-five years ago this month, Adolf Hitler provoked his first major international diplomatic crisis.
It would ultimately help pave the way for World War II and the Holocaust.
Hitler sought a pretext to invade Czechoslovakia.
Throughout 1938, the German government-controlled news media published a flood of wildly exaggerated accounts of the Czech authorities supposedly persecuting ethnic Germans who were living in the western border region known as the Sudetenland. (Because of the redrawing of the region’s borders after World War I, there were more than three million ethnic Germans residing in Czechoslovakia, constituting about one-fourth of the population.) At the same time, pro-Nazi Sudeten Germans staged violent demonstrations, claiming they were victims of “discrimination” and demanding “self-determination.”
Matters reached a boiling point in early September, as the Nazis financed a wave of mob violence by Sudeten Germans, including attacks on local Jews. Hitler then began threatening to intervene to “restore order.”