Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Stalin and Beneš at the End of September 1938: New Evidence from the Prague Archives

  • Igor Lukes (a1)
Extract

At the height of World War II, General Wfadyslaw Sikorski visited Dr. Edvard Beneš at his London residence. The Polish prime minister warned the Czechoslovak president that if the Red Army were to occupy central Europe it would impose communist governments there. Beneš conceded that this was so but he added that there was nothing they could do about it. Sikorski continued pressing Beneš: "Why are you so friendly with the Soviets?" he demanded. He then invited the president to harmonize his foreign policy with that of the democracies. Beneš replied that he was unable to share Sikorski's confidence in the west for the simple reason that he had experienced the horror of Munich. "What partitions of Poland mean for the Poles, that is what Munich is for us," said Beneš forcefully.

Copyright
References
Hide All

I have profited from comments by Professors John Connelly (Harvard University), William Keylor (Boston University), Adam Ulam (Harvard University) and Piotr Wandycz (Yale University). My wife, Professor Alison Mclntyre, helped me more than I could acknowledge in one simple sentence. While working on this article, I have been a Fulbright Fellow (1992) and a John M. Olin Faculty Fellow in History (1991-92). I am very grateful to the two organizations for their support. Travel and research were made possible by a grant from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the US Information Agency. In Prague, I examined documents in the following archives: the Archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (ACC CPC); the State Central Archives (SCA); the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (AMFA); the Military Historical Archives: the Benes Archive (MHA-B), the Military Office of the President (MHA-MOP); the President's Office (PO); the Archives of the National Museum: Jaromir Smutny (ANM-S), Prokop Drtina (ANM-D), Vojtech Mastny (ANM- M), Zdenek Fierlinger (ANM-F). Quotations appear mostly in my translation from the Czech, Russian or German originals.

1. ACC CPC, f. 100, inventory number 24, file 175, archival unit 1566. The conversation took place on 20 May 1942; the meeting was openly tense and eventually Sikorski got up and stormed out of the room. Count Edward Raczynski came the next day to iron things out.

2. MHA-B, no date, box la. It is clear that Beneš understood the consequences of capitulating to Hitler. In a private conversation during the crisis of 1938, he complained that Great Britain, France and Germany (sic) wanted to get him, President Beneš, to surrender several thousand democrats, socialists and Jews to Hitler. It would be “a massacre… [and] barbarian anti-Semitic murder… . This he would never do,” Beneš concluded.

3. There are noble exceptions, of course. Bruegel, J. W., “Dr. Beneš on the Soviet Offer of Help’ in 1938,” East Central Europe 4, no. 1 (1977); Cohen, Barry Mendel, “Moscow at Munich,East European Quarterly 12, no. 3 (1978); Haslam, Jonathan, “The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovakian Crisis of 1938,” Journal of Contemporary History 14, no. 3 (1979); Hauner, Milan, “Září 1938 : Kapitulovat či bojovat?” [September 1938 : to fight or to surrender], Svědectví 49 (1975); Lukeš, František, “Poznámky k čs.-sovětským stykům v Září 1938” [notes on Čzechoslovak-Soviet relations in September 1938], Ceskoslovenský časopis historický 16, no. 5 (1968); “Beneš a SSSR,” Sěsity pro mladou literaturu 21 (1968); Pfaff, Ivan, “Jak tomu opravdu bylo se sovětskou pomoci v mnichovskekrizi?” [how it really was with Soviet assistance during the Munich crisis], Svědectví 56 (1978) and 57 (1979); Taborsky, Edward, “Beneš and the Soviets,” Foreign Affairs 27, no. 2 (1949); V. Wallace, William, “New Documents on the History of Munich : A Selection from the Soviet and Czechoslovak Archives,” International Affairs 35, no. 4 (1959); I have also dealt with this and related themes in Igor Lukes, “Did Stalin Desire War in 1938? A New Look at Soviet Behavior during the May and September Crises,” Diplomacy Statecraft 2, no. 1 (1991).

4. Zakharov, Matvei Vasil'evich, General'nyi shtab v predvoennyegody (Moscow : Voenizdat, 1989 ; Volkov, V.K. et al., 1939 god : uroki istorii (Moscow : Mysl', 1990); Rzheshevskii, Oleg Aleksandrovich, Europe 1939 : Was War Inevitable'? (Moscow : Progress Publishers, 1989 ; Stepanov, A. S., “Pered Miunkhenom,” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal 4–5 (1992); Prasolov, S. I., “Sovetskii soiuz i Chekhoslovakia v 1938 g.,” in V.K. Volkov, ed., Miunkhen : preddverie voiny (Moscow : Nauka, 1988 ; Volkogonov, D. A., “Drama reshenii 1939 goda,” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia 4 (1989), 327 . The most current collection of Soviet documents is God krizisa, 1938–1939 : dokumenty i materialy (Moscow : Politizdat, 1990).

5. Jukes, G., “The Red Army and the Munich crisis,” Journal of Contemporary History 26, no. 2 (1991): 195214 . The author accepts Zakharov's account of large-scale militarymeasures allegedly taken by the Red Army during the Czechoslovak crisis. It is possible that some measures were taken in the Kiev district in response to the tensions on the international scene in late summer 1938, yet this leaves room to doubt their extent J v and whether they were really meant as a prelude to a Soviet military intervention on Czechoslovakia's behalf. It has not even been established that they were related to the Munich crisis at all. The well informed German Embassy in Moscow consistently denied that the Soviets had taken military measures in support of the Beneš government : “no one in the Embassy thought the Russians would go to war over Czechoslovakia, or that they were in a position to wage an aggressive war of any sort.” This view was fully shared by the German attaché, General Ernst Kostring, perhaps the best expert on the Red Army at the time. A German diplomat drove in late July 1938 from Moscow to Odessa. He got much information on the stationing of Soviet troops, “but found no indications that they were preparing to move” (Hans von Herwarth, Against Two Evils [New York : Rawson, Wade, 1981], 123).

6. For instance, Tucker, Robert C., Stalin in Power (New York : Norton, 1990 ; Roberts, Geoffrey, The Unholy Alliance (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1989 ; Murray, Williamson, The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938–1939 (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1984 ; Haslam, Jonathan, The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Security in Europe, 1933–1939 (New York : St. Martin's Press, 1984); Hochman, Jiří , The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, 1934–1938 (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1984 ; Lukeš, Františ-ek, Podivný mir [a strange kind of peace] (Prague : Svoboda, 1968 .

7. Czechoslovakia's security was provided for, inter alia, by the Franco-Czechoslovak Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 16 October 1925 and the Czechoslovak-Soviet Treaty of 16 May 1935. The latter treaty contained the Protocol of Signature of which article II stipulated that the “undertakings to render mutual assistance will operate between [the two Parties] only in so far as the conditions laid down in the present Treaty may be fulfilled and in so far as assistance may be rendered by France to the Party victim of the aggression.” Therefore, for the Soviet Union to provide unilateral assistance to Czechoslovakia would have meant going beyond its legal obligations.

8. Dokumenty k historii mnichovského diktátu, 1937–1939 (Prague : Svoboda, 1979), 9.

9. ACC CPC, f. 100/45, vol. 2, archival unit 75.

10. ACC CPC, f. 57, signature 16. At the end of February 1938, Gottwald returned to Moscow where he remained until 11 May 1938. It seems that such a lengthy visit had not been anticipated because Gottwald's Soviet visa, no. 250580, had expired on 13 March before it was renewed on 3 May until 7 May. It was then again renewed until 12 May 1938. Rather than going back to Czechoslovakia directly, via Poland, Gottwald traveled through Finland, Sweden and France. He arrived in Prague only on 16 May 1938—missing much of the crucial May crisis.

11. Rudé Právo, 6 October 1938.

12. Ibid, 11 September 1945.

13. ACC CPC, f. 100/24, vol. 26, archival unit 729. This speech also appeared in Russian as “J.V. STALIN i chekhoslovatskii narod,” in Za prochnyi mir, za narodnuiu demokratiu 32, no. 59 (21 December 1949): 5. The arrangement of paragraphs is somewhat different but all the changes discussed below are reflected in this version.

14. E.g. Matě jka, Jaroslav, Gottwald (Prague : Svoboda, 1971), 182 . In May 1938, “Gottwald who was again in Moscow returned to Czechoslovakia. He had spoken at length with Stalin about the Czechoslovak questions. He brought with him an assurance from Stalin to President Beneš that if Czechoslovakia assumed a tough stand she would be supported by the Soviets under all circumstances.” This account is at variance with facts derived from archival documents.

15. ACC CPC, f. 57, archival unit 568.

16. ACC CPC, f. 57, signature 16. Gottwald was in Moscow from 17 to 19 December.

17. The Book of Presidential Audiences for 1938 is deposited at the Office of the President of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, the Castle, Prague.

18. ACC CPC, f. 19/5. Gottwald was repeatedly criticized by the Comintern for his failure to accept the new line of the Vllth Congress. The young Gottwald was a man of some integrity and he found it sometimes difficult to dance to the changing tune of the Comintern. He took revolution seriously and was not happy with the tactical compromises which Moscow demanded in the thirties. Unless instructed otherwise, Gottwald tended to speak quite harshly of Beneš and the democratically elected Czechoslovak government. He concluded one speech by stating : “It'll work! We'll decapitate the bourgeoisie.” See Rudé Právo, 11 March 1931.

19. Dokumenty k historii mnichovského dikátu, 233.

20. In addition to Gottwald, the group received by Beneš included : Dr. Stránský (Czechoslovak National Socialist Party), Josef David (Czechoslovak National Socialist Party), Monsignor Stašek (People's Party), Josef Tykal (Czechoslovak National Socialist Party), deputy Richter (Czechoslovak National Socialist Party), Dr. Raší n (National Unity) and Dr. Klí ma (National Unity).

21. ACC CPC, f. 57, signature 329. The record was prepared by Josef David because Beneš was not taking notes on this occasion.

22. We will have to wait for the former Soviet archives in Moscow to become available to determine whether Gottwald met with Stalin and if so then who said what.

23. ANM-F, box 4. Zdenko Jindřich Eugen Maria Fierlinger was born in Olomouc in July 1891—his birth certificate, diplomatic passport and various other documents list his date of birth as 11, 12 and 15 July. Having served with the Masaryk Legions in Russia and France, Fierlinger joined the Czechoslovak foreign service shortly after it had been formed. He quickly rose to the rank of minister and served in several prestigious posts : the Hague, Bucharest, Washington, DC, Bern, the League of Nations, Vienna. In 1936–1937, Fierlinger was chief of the Political Section of the Foreign Ministry. In 1937, he replaced Bohdan Pavlů as the Czechoslovak minister in Moscow.

24. ANM-F, box 1. Technically, Beneš was Fierlinger's “witness.” Fierlinger's wife, Olga Therezie Favre, was a French citizen.

25. ACC CPC, f. 100/24, file 172, archival unit 1526. On 13 December 1943, Beneš told Gottwald and other high-ranking officials of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in Moscow that when it came to Fierlinger, he supported his career “with all his might” [všemožně ho forsí roval].

26. ACC CPC, f. 100/24, file 175, archival unit 1566. Sikorski stated that, in his view, Fierlinger “was completely owned by the Soviets.” The Czechoslovak General Sergěj Ingr, one of Beneš's chief military aides, complained in London that “Fierlinger acts primarily with an eye on Moscow and the Comintern. He pays more attention to their viewpoint than to the position of our government” (Prokop Maxa's record of 10 September 1942, ANM-F, box 5).

27. AMFA, Fierlinger to Krofta, 1037/38; dispatched on 2 October at 11:35 p.m., received in Prague on 3 October at 2:00 a.m.

28. MHA-B, box 1. Unless indicated otherwise, this timetable is based primarily on the notes of Dr. Hubert Masaří k, which were composed on 30 September 1938, at Munich around 4 a.m. Another source for the timetable is in box 266. This contains a manuscript by Masaří k, “Hrstka dojmů z konference mnichovské” [a few impressions from the Munich conference], broadcast on Radio Bohemia-Moravia, 29 September 1943, and the text of Dr. Vojtěch Mastný, “Vzpomí nka na Mnichov” [a memory of Munich], broadcast on the same station on 26 September 1943. Further information on this is in Laffan, R.G.D., The Crisis over Czechoslovakia (New York : Oxford University Press, 1951 .

29. AMFA, Fierlinger to Krofta, 980/38, 28 September 1938. Many historians have joined in the debate regarding Soviet aerial assistance to Czechoslovakia. Some even argue that Stalin had in fact delivered planes to the Czechs; for instance, Marcia Toepfer states that 300 Soviet planes flew to Czechoslovakia during the crisis of 1938 (“An Historiographical Debate,” Diplomatic History 1, no. 4 [1977] : 357). Soviet historians do not go so far : Ivan Pop claims that Stalin had put 730 planes on alert during the Czechoslovak crisis of 1938. They never left the ground (P. Glotz and K.H. Pollak et al., eds., München 1938—Das Ende des alten Europas [Essen : Reimar Hobbing, 1990], 438–39). A Czech specialist points out that even if Stalin had wanted to supply Czechoslovakia with airplanes it would have been impossible. First, there were virtually no airports in Czechoslovakia which would have accommodated the modern Soviet Air Force because their runways had been designed for the obsolete Czech planes. Second, Soviet planes required a high-octane fuel whereas the Czechs flew on “Biboli,” a mixture of alcohol and gasoline. Third, the Soviet Air Force used a different kind of ammunition (7.62 mm) than the Czechs (7.92 mm). Fourth, the Soviets used different bombs and communication equipment. Consequently, any attempt to strengthen Czechoslovakia's air force would have required, in addition to providing airplanes, also massive predeployment of fuel, ammunition and ordnance (Dr. Lubor Václavů, the Military Historical Institute, Prague, personal communication, 6 October 1992). Finally, it is relevant that all reports of Soviet planes flying to Czechoslovakia came from Polish, Romanian, Hungarian or Italian sources. Yet, no one , not even Gottwald, ever claimed to have seen Soviet airplanes in Czechoslovakia.

30. Dr. Hubert Masaří k, a Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry official, served as Foreign Minister Kamil Krofta's chefde cabinet. He kept the job after Krofta was replaced by Frantiŝek Chvalkovský, formerly the Czechoslovak minister to Rome. Masaří k belonged to a group of Czechoslovak politicians and soldiers who—as late as on 3 October 1938—toyed with the idea of establishing in Prague a military government rather than accepting the Munich “solution. “

31. ANM-M. Dr. Mastný (b. 1874) was a leading Czechoslovak diplomat between the wars. His appointments as Czechoslovak minister included : London (1920–1925), Rome (1925–1932) and Berlin (1932–1939). At the height of the crisis of 1938, there were rumors in the Prague Castle that Minister Mastný had become too pro-German and Foreign Minister Krofta asked him in May 1938 to start thinking about retiring. See ANM-S, 12 May 1938. However, during the war, Minister Mastný behaved with dignity and courage as he refused to play any role in German propaganda schemes. He was briefly arrested after the war and quickly released. He died shortly afterwards.

32. This episode has been described elsewhere, for instance in Taylor's, Telford Munich : The Price of Peace (Garden City : Doubleday, 1979, 4654 .

33. General Jan Syrový (b. 1888) was one of the most prominent officers of the Czechoslovak Army between the wars. He had been in the Masaryk Legion in Russia and, consequently, his army career advanced rather effortlessly. He was an honest man but uninspiring as a military leader. He was known as a “political general.” In 1938, Syrový was inspector general of the army and became the Czechoslovak prime minister at the height of the crisis.

34. SCA. Rudolf Beran was secretary general of the Republican (Agrarian) Party and prime minister from November 1938 to March 1939; see below.

35. SCA. The Protocols of the 18th Czechoslovak government, 23 September-4 October 1938.

36. AMFA. Fierlinger to Krofta, Secret, 29 September 1938.

37. SCA. The Protocols of the 18th Czechoslovak government.

38. Milan Hodža, Rudolf Beran, Josef Černý, Republican (Agrarian) Party; Frantiŝekježek, National Unity; Antoní n Hampl, Rudolf Bechyně, Ivan Dérer, Social Democratic Party; Jan Šrámek, People's Party; Emil Franke, Czechoslovak National Socialist Party; Rudolf Mlčoch, Small Businessmen Party; František Hodač, National Democratic Party.

39. Dokumenty k historii mnichovského diktátu, 322–23.

40. The timing of this call is from Aleksandrovsky's memorandum of 1 October 1938 to the People's Commissariat in Moscow (ibid., 328); and from his recently published memorandum of 20 October 1938 which appeared in “Miunkhen : Sviditel'stvo ochevidtsa,” Mezhdunarodnaia zhizn1 11 (1988): 128–42.

41. “Miunkhen,” 142.

42. SCA. The Protocols of the 18th Czechoslovak government.

43. AMFA. The Safe, Secret, 138.589/1938.

44. SCA. The Protocols of the 18th Czechoslovak government.

45. Dokumenty, 328.

46. AMFA. The Safe, Secret, 138.589/1938.

47. The long-term failure of the Munich Agreement was best characterized by First Lord of the Admiralty Alfred Duff Cooper : “We have taken away the defences of Czechoslovakia in the same breath as we have guaranteed them, as though you were to deal a man a mortal blow and at the same time insure his life…” Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol. 339 (London : His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1938), 39.

48. Dokumenty, 328.

49. Ibid., 325.

50. AMFA. The Safe, Secret, 138.589/1938.

51. MHA-B, box 13, the “O” Service, odposlechová služba, i.e., the monitoring service.

52. ANM-S, box 38.

53. SCA. The Ministry of National Security, 109–4-227. Beran was born in Pracovice on 28 December 1887.

54. Mastný, Vojtěch, The Czechs under Nazi Rule : The Failure of National Resistance, 1939–1942 (New York : Columbia University Press, 1971), 21 .

55. For instance, K.H. Frank demanded that Beran supply him with information damaging to the exiled President Beneš's reputation. Although Beran had been the president's political opponent for years, he now bravely (Czech heads rolled easily in the Gestapo headquarters at the time) refused to become a pawn in any German propaganda scheme. He survived the war but was promptly arrested for the second time, now for alleged collaboration with Germany. Ironically, he again had to respond to written questions from his prison cell; they were submitted this time by Václav Kopecký. Beran's answer to Kopecký was virtually identical with his previous answer to Frank. This statement is in ACC CPC, f. 100/45, file 10, archival unit 183. Beran was sentenced to twenty years on 21 April 1947; he did not survive his second imprisonment.

56. SCA. The Ministry of National Security, 109–4-227. Beran interpreted Moscow's intentions toward Czechoslovakia with skepticism : he and his republican colleagues “developed the impression that the Soviets did not want to go to war, but that they would support Czechoslovakia in case it had broken out the way they had acted in Spain during the Civil War.” Beneš told Beran on the occasion, presumably on 29 September, that he was still negotiating with the Soviets.

57. General Husárek, deputy chief of staff of the Czechoslovak Army, served in the critical period 1935–1938 as director of the Fortification Project. In October 1938, he represented the post-Munich Czechoslovakia on the International Border Commission.

58. SCA. The Ministry of National Security, 109–4-227.

59. ANM-F, box 23, Fierlinger to Beneš and Krofta only, 586/secret/38, 29 June 1938. Husárek was received by Stalin and Molotov on 28 June 1938. The conversation lasted for three hours.

60. AMFA and SCA. There is much material on Aleksandrovsky in the Prague archives, for instance, AMFA, the Safe, II/2, and in SCA X/R/24/2. Aleksandrovsky was born in Kurysi (spelled elsewhere as “Kyrusi” and “Girushi “), Russia, in 1889. Czech sources allege that during World War I Aleksandrovsky, who had been educated at Mannheim, worked on behalf of German military intelligence and the leninist cause among Russian POWs held by Germany. As a Soviet diplomat in Germany he is said to have worked for the Soviet delegation led by Ioffe. He went on to serve in Prague (1923–1924), at the Commissariat in Moscow (1924–1925), in Kaunas and Helsinki (1925–1928), in Kharkov at the Ukrainian foreign service (1928–1931), in Germany (1931–1933) and in Prague (1933–1939).

61. AMFA, the Safe, Fierlinger's Secret to Prague of 7 March 1938. Arosev perished together with his wife Gertruda Aroseva-Freundová, a Czech citizen whom he married in Prague in April 1932. Freundova had been an official with the Prague branch of KOSTUFRA, i.e., the communist student faction. AMFA, the Second Section, box 562a. Among other victims of the Stalinist purge were, for instance, the Soviet military attache Colonel Leo Schnittmann (also Shnitman), b. 1890 in Minsk. He had served as deputy military attaché in Germany (1926–1929), Finland (1929–1930) and again in Germany (1932–1935). He was recalled from Prague to Moscow in 1938 and he never returned (MHA-MOP, 1936, Secret, 174). The Soviet deputy military attache, Colonel Vladimir Vetvitskii (also Vietvicki), also perished (MHA-MOP, 1937, Secret, 348).

62. The following is based on the testimony of Aleksandrovsky's son in Historické studie 25, no. 12 (June 1989): 72; the journal was published in Prague. It was a samizdat publication.

63. “Miunkhen,” 128–42.

64. PO. Aleksandrovsky also met with Beneš on 3 September 1938 (the Book of Presidential Audiences, PO).

65. Drtina, Prokop, Československo můj osud [Czechoslovakia my fate] (Toronto : 68 Publishers, 1982), 1 : 144–47.

66. ACC CPC, f. 100/24. It was not uncharacteristic for Beneš soon to change his mind regarding the role played by F.D. Roosevelt in the Munich crisis. In his discussion with General Sikorski in London on 20 May 1942, Beneš attempted to explain why he felt less inclined than the Poles to trust the western democracies. He now presented Roosevelt's personal appeal to Hitler and Beneš to seek only peaceful solutions for the crisis as a stab in the back. It was “the last heavy blow” before he had to accept the diktat. After all, Roosevelt “even ordered for himself similar statements from twenty-one South American republics.” Beneš concluded that he was not prepared to lean on the democracies in the emerging rift between the east and the west : “We shall remain reserved and await the specific outcome of the war.“

67. There has been speculation among historians that already on 20 September 1938 Beneš had indicated to the British and French envoys in Prague his willingness to accept even a harsh solution of the Czechoslovak crisis as long as it appeared that it had been forced on him as an ultimatum. Minister Newton wrote to Viscount Halifax from Prague : “If I can deliver a kind of ultimatum to President Beneš, Wednesday, he and his Government will feel able to bow to force majeure” (Documents on British Foreign Policy, 3d series [London : His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1949], II : 425). I believe this was only Newton's speculation. Beneš truly despised Newton—in his private notes he called him “a thick-headed ignoramus “—and I doubt that he would have entrusted him with such a sensitive charade (MHA-B, box 6).

68. “Miunkhen,” 140.

69. AMFA, the Safe (1938–1939), 140.146/38, 3 October 1938, 12 : 32 hours, Prague to Moscow.

70. For such a view see, e.g. Drtina, Československo; Drtina offers a sympathetic, but not one-dimensional portrait of Beneš. He shows masterfully the contrast between the optimistic and self-confident Beneš prior to the Munich catastrophe and the broken, frightened man who by 1948 was unable—or unprepared—to stand by his loyal friends among Czechoslovak democrats.

71. The most notorious among such critics of Beneš was Colonel Emanuel Moravec (b. 1893). His appalling behavior during the war—Moravec became a prominent collaborator with the Third Reich—caused this complex personality to be seen by many in the simplest terms: he was a traitor and villain. Yet Moravec, a.k.a. Stanislav Yester, was also among the most talented “defense intellectuals” of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia. Shortly after “Munich,” Moravec started criticizing Beneš as an idealist with “a hare's heart.” The Czechoslovaks, he said, had been led by “apostles without courage.” A nation which was not willing to die in combat had no right to evoke its ideals, “much like a whore has no right to boast of her honor.” Responding to an early critic of his new pro-German political line, Moravec concluded: “A segment of our nation could have died in war [with Germany]. Now the whole nation will die of fright and fear. One does not negotiate with cowards. One gives them orders!” (Colonel Moravec to Dr. Ladislav Hobza, 6 October 1938, MHA-B, Munich, box 3). To show his distaste for Beneš's decision to accept the diktat and his own love of the military profession, Colonel Moravec requested in March 1939 a transfer to the army of El Salvador (AMFA, Second Section, box 495). The darkly logical view of “Munich” held by Emanuel Moravec can be found in his V úloze mouřenína: československá. tragedie r. 1938 [in the Moor's role: the Czechoslovak tragedy of 1938] (Prague: Orbis, 1939).

72. This theme is explored by Antonín Klimek in his “Edvard Beneš—postava v mlhách” [E.B.: the elusive man], Historic a vojenství 4 (1991): 143-44. The author quotes an interesting anecdote, a poem penned by young Beneš (he was only twenty-three) to his fiancée and future wife, Anna Vlčková. Instead of the predictable sweet nothings and declarations of love, Beneš's poem starts in medias res: “Life is a struggle and in the struggle many / die and fall.” See also Klimek's “Beneš a Štefánik,” Sborník k dějinám 19. a 20. století (Prague: Historický ústav ČSAV, 1991), 35-65.

73. MHA-B, Personalities, box 8, file General Štefánik.

74. VHA-VKPR, Secret, 1935–1939, personnel, 263/38. Wünsch was arrested, together with his wife, on 15 September 1938 for espionage on behalf of Hungary. But it soon turned out that the couple had also worked for Germany, via Vienna, since 1928. Wunsch was interrogated by Colonel František Moravec, Major Bartí k and Major Dí tě. He was sentenced to death on 22 September 1938 and hanged on 30 September at 6 a.m. Mrs. Wunsch received financial compensation from the Third Reich after 15 March 1939.

75. Note that Beneš behaved similarly during World War II. Although he was unwilling to lead the nation into the “slaughterhouse” of a Czechoslovak-German war in 1938, as he repeatedly put it, the president did not hesitate to order from his exile in London the operation ANTHROPOID, i.e., the assassination of General Reinhard Heydrich in Prague. As had been predicted by the resistance, German reprisals were drastic and resulted in a near annihilation of the underground. Many have since agonized about the value of ANTHROPOID. Yet Beneš had refused to remand the order to assassinate Heydrich and he subsequently never seemed to have second thoughts about the operation.

76. Drtina, Československo, 203.

77. SCA, Rudolf Beran, the Ministry of National Security, 109–4-227.

78. E.g. see Václav Kopecký's speech before the communist party officials in Prague on 24 September 1948 : “It has been shown perfectly clearly… that the capitulation of our Munichites [i.e., Beneš and his colleagues] was deliberate, that it was dictated by class interests, by the bourgeois fear of the forces of socialism… . it is linked with class fear and class hatred of the Soviet Union and socialism.” A copy of the speech is in ACC CPC, file 2, archival unit 75. See also Fierlinger, Zdeněk, Zrada československé buržoazie a jejich spojenců [the treason of Czechoslovak bourgeoisie and its allies] (Prague : Nakladatelství Mír, 1951 .

79. MHA-B, box 6, Minister Krno's notes of 20 September 1938 on his meetings with the ministers of Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy and the United States. They expressed the view that Czechoslovakia had to accept whatever had been prepared for it by the British and the French. Only the Belgian minister conceded that the whole affair was “painful. “

80. ANM-D, box 4. Beneš summed up his reasons for accepting the Munich diktat in 13 points.

81. Klimek, “Edvard Bene!—postava v mlhách,” 781.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 0037-6779
  • EISSN: 2325-7784
  • URL: /core/journals/slavic-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed