Archive for March 15th, 2008

My chess game is pretty lousy.  I’ve won a few games, mostly by scouting my opponents carefully and sitting opposite the weak, the infirmed, the visually impaired, infants, small tranquilized dogs, and tulips.  Chess takes strategy, forethought, good analysis, and sometimes a bit good of fortune.

Chess matches not played on chessboards require much the same.  Adolf Hitler’s moves against Czechoslovakia in 1938 & 1939 were calculated and fraught with peril.  But Hitler was, at that time, a chess wizard and totally on his game.

It began with Germany’s desire to bring the Czech-controlled Sudetenland under its control.  With a large minority German population, it was pretty easy to stir up protests in the area, promising military intervention.  But the Czechs would not be intimidated, mobilizing their armed forces against the German threat.  Hitler gambled that France and Britain would not support the Czechs, and he was right.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich and was given guarantees from Hitler that the Sudetenland was his final territorial interest.  Chamberlain told the Czechs that, unless they ceded the territory, they could no longer expect British support.  France went along as well and the Munich Agreement was signed, giving the Sudetenland to Germany.  On October 1, 1938, the German army moved in.  Check.

Within ten days, Hitler was already planning the takeover of the remainder of Czechoslovakia.  He began putting pressure on the Czech government, now led by newly-appointed President Dr. Emil Hacha.  At the same time, Germany began fueling strong separatist movements in the regions of Slovakia and Ruthenia.  The tipping point was quickly reached, and the Czech leadership faced German occupation if it put down the separatists, and a break-up of the country if it didn’t (which would also result in occupation).  Hacha chose the first option, removing both the Ruthenian government from power (March 6th) and the Slovakian government just three days later.

On March 15, 1939, German troops crossed the border, unopposed, into Bohemia and Moravia, which became part of Germany.  Slovakia became a German protectorate, and Ruthenia was given to Hungary.  Check and Mate.

Recommended Reading: Delivered From Evil: The Saga of World War II – One of the first books about World War II I purchased, and I spent an entire semester in college reading it.  It’s a terrific overview of the entire conflict, and you should buy a copy if you can get one.

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