Leading article in The Times, 7 September 1938
During a sensitive stage in the negotiations between the Czechoslovak Government and the Sudeten German Party [SdP], held in Prague under the watchful eye of Lord Runciman, The Times newspaper in London, widely regarded abroad as the mouthpiece of the British Government, published a leading article advocating the transfer of the Sudetenland to Germany. Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of The Times, was known to be an ardent supporter of Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Germany, and his use of the expression "has found favour in some quarters" led to the assumption that he was expressing the views of the British Government. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the article was directly Government inspired. Dawson was merely anticipating Government policy.
Nuremberg and Aussig
The opening address by the Führer to his followers at Nuremberg contained nothing about the subject uppermost, probably, in their minds, and certainly uppermost in the minds of the listening outside world. No doubt he left Czecho-slovakia for treatment on a subsequent occasion, knowing, like a good showman, that what follows the piece de resistance may easily produce the effect of an anti-climax. Her Hitler devoted himself chiefly to the economic and financial revolution effected by National Socialism. He gave a kind of Child's Guide to an economy based not on gold but on productivity when he said that for every mark more which was issued in Germany one more mark's worth of goods must be produced; failing which the amount issued remained worthless paper, since it had no purchasing power owing to the lack of corresponding production. This felicitous explanation was by an admonition to democratic States to spend less time in criticizing the German system and more time in putting their own house in order; and the general effect of the speech was spoiled for its foreign audience by the repeated insinuation that every man's hand was against Germany, and that Germany had only one or two stout-hearted authoritarian friends to look to for understanding, and that all the world in arms would no longer prevail against her.
These, of course, are the traditional arguments of the turannos, who allows no opposition at home and has therefore perpetually to ward his country against imagined enemies without. Thus the Führer assured his hearers that the idea of a blockade of Germany "might now be buried as a completely ineffective weapon". But was anyone thinking of blockading Germany? Nevertheless the idea of collaborating with other nations, economically, at least, was not excluded, for Herr Hitler congratulated himself on the increase in German exports and imports, and said that the improvement in Germany's own economic condition made her the better able to contribute to an improvement of world economy. In this connexion, it may be added, it is probably best for all of us to recognize that the totalitarian system of economy is well established, and that we must prepare to improve our commercial intercourse without waiting for conditions which may never happen.
In the meantime the news comes from Prague that the Sudeten German Party, which is being fully represented at Nuremberg, intends to have a rally of its own at Aussig, in Bohemia, next month. The intention seems to show a bold confidence that by that time - October 15 and 16 are mentioned for the meeting - the Sudetens will have been conceded, or will have taken, the right claimed by Herr Henlein to profess openly the National-Socialist creed. The announcement, which comes of course from Sudeten quarters, is in full accord with the terms of the communiqué which was issued on Monday after the meeting at Eger at which Herr Henlein had given his followers an account of his interview with Herr Hitler at Berchtesgaden. The dispute between the Sudetens and the Czech Government could only be settled, the communiqué said, "by a comprehensive and rapid realization of the Carlsbad demands". It has all along been obvious that the Carlsbad demands contained much that the Czech Government could accord, and ought indeed to have accorded to the Sudetens long before they were formulated in rather forceful language by Herr Henlein. But the demand for the full exercise of National-Socialist methods in Czechoslovakia was one which it would plainly not be possible for the Prague Government to accept, for it would create an entirely heterodox State within the Parliamentary Republic and would transfer the personal allegiance of the Sudetens from the Head of the State in which they lived to the head of a neighbouring State. There were also demands for the reorientation of the foreign policy of the country which no Government could accept at the dictation of a minority. Herr Henlein demanded that Czechoslovakia should not remain the ally of France and of Russia and constitute itself "a bulwark against the so-called Drang nach Osten".
It is natural enough that the Sudeten Germans should be unwilling to assume the position of having to fight, if a war were to break out, on the same side as Russians and Frenchmen against their racial co-nationals; but a group which composes less than a quarter of the population can hardly expect to control the foreign policy of the other 78 per cent while also challenging, internally, their whole political outlook. The message which our Prague correspondent sends this morning shows that the Czechoslovak Government are now ready to go very far indeed in meeting all reasonable demands. There is no difficulty about allowing the Germans - and all other nationalities - full equality of status with the Czechs. The exact meaning of recognizing the Sudetens as "a legal body incorporate" has not been fully ascertained, but it appears to be a question of juridical interpretation. The recognition of the German areas within the State was one of the main purposes of the recent Prague plan which was rejected by Herr Henlein; and it appears likely that even more in this respect may now be granted, for, according to our Special Correspondent, "very far-reaching concessions" are now to be made towards "full self-government" for the German areas. The local administrations are to control the police as well as enjoying all the usual prerogatives of local councils. Legal protection will of course be provided for all Germans living outside the Sudeten area - provided, that is, by the Central Government. Herr Henlein's demand for the removal of injustices inflicted since 1918 and "reparations for damages caused thereby" must clearly be a matter of interpretation between the negotiating parties. The whole plan is one for the removal of grievances, and for the greater participation of Sudeten Germans (and other minorities) in the government of the country.
No Central Government would still deserve its title if it did not reserve in its own hands Defence, Foreign Policy and Finance. There does not appear to be any dispute about this principle in the minds of the Government or of Herr Henlein; and, if the Sudetens now ask for more than the Czech Government are apparently ready to give in their latest set of proposals, it can only be inferred that the Germans are going beyond the mere removal of disabilities and do not find themselves at ease within the Czechoslovak Republic. In that case it might be worth while for the Czechoslovak Government to consider whether they should exclude altogether the project, which has found favour in some quarters, of making Czechoslovakia a more homogeneous State by the secession of that fringe of alien populations who are contiguous to the nation with which they are united by race. In any case the wishes of the population concerned would seem to be a decisively important element in any solution that can hope to be regarded as permanent, and the advantages to Czechoslovakia of becoming a homogeneous State might conceivably outweigh the obvious disadvantages of losing the Sudeten German districts of the borderland.
[Source: The Times (London), 7 September 1938]
[Source: The Times (London), 7 September 1938]