Crimea: Echoes of Pre-World War II Appeasement

Crimea: Echoes of Pre-World War II Appeasement

Many, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have compared what Russia is currently doing with Crimea to what Hitler’s Germany did with the Sudetenland in 1938. Although Clinton has backed off her comparison, the juxtaposition of the two is by no means strained.

In 1938 Adolf Hitler asked for the Sudetenland, then demanded it, and finally received it. 

As The New York Times reported, the Munich Agreement was signed on September 30, 1938, to cede the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany.

While Hitler did this, an uninterested Western world looked on. Apart from Neville Chamberlain’s claim that the Munich Agreement achieved “peace for our time,” the only other sound was that of Czechoslovakian Premier Syrovy saying, “We have been abandoned.”

Syrovy said this, according to military historian John Keegan, because “once surrendered” to Hitler, “the cession of the Sudetenland meant the cession also of [Czechoslovakia’s] frontier fortifications.”

Hitler’s arguments for the acquisition of Sudetenland revolved around “ethnic German” claims, and the fact that his demands were answered with appeasement rather than action showed just how determined Britain and France were “to avoid war at all costs.”

On March 4, Hillary Clinton compared Russia’s issuance of passports to Crimean Ukraine based on ethnic claims with Hitler’s use of ethnic claims to get closer and closer to, and finally to take, the Sudetenland.

Speaking at a private event, Hillary said, “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s. All the Germans that were… the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry that were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places… Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. ‘I must go and protect my people’ – and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

One should note: after the Munich Agreement was signed, I indicated the only sounds heard were the voices of Chamberlain praising the agreement and of Syrovy dreading Czechoslovakia’s isolation. But there was one more sound – and that was the sound of Hitler’s military machine gearing up to ignore the terms of the Munich Agreement and seize the whole of Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1939, then Poland in the fall.

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at