Munich 1939 – And the Life Lesson to Be Learnt from It

Written by Kristýna Hřivnáčová |


The signatories of the Munich Agreement. Front, left to right: Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, Ciano | Courtesy of Bundesarchiv


Most people know what the Munich Agreement is – a piece of the appeasement policy signed on September 29, 1938 by the leaders of the most powerful European states at that time: Chamberlain for the UK, Daladier for France, Mussolini for Italy and Hitler for Germany.

Assigning about 20% of the total landmass of what was then Czechoslovakia to the Nazi Germany, the Munich Conference took place while Edvard Beneš, the Czechoslovak president, waited outside the room. Eight decades later, most Czechs feel a lingering betrayal and, as far as I am concerned, shame.

It’s still a widespread phenomenon among Czechs to disagree with president Beneš’s decision to allow the German army’s takeover of the Sudetenland – in all honesty, it’s a whole controversy. Although some say that the Czechoslovak army wouldn’t have stood a chance, others believe that if the Czechoslovaks resisted, by-agreement obliged France and the USSR would’ve come to help which might have kept the country intact. As it was, no conflict occurred, and Germany pushed the Czechoslovaks out of the borderlands.

And that is where the shame aspect comes in.

Historically, we Czechs have lost countless battles. Some tiny and local, others great with widespread consequences. Nobody is proud to have lost, yet no one is ashamed of not putting up a fight – because a lost fight is easier to accept than not having fought at all.

Life is all about decisions. We decide what to have for breakfast, who not to invite to our birthday party, which person to vote for, and at one point – for some, it’s weeks ago, for some, it’s years – we decided to go to university. Whether you have just started and feel like you’ve made a mistake, or you’re wading through the third year, wondering why in God’s name you even bother when you won’t get a job anyway, see if you can stick around for a little longer.

I am not trying to convince you to stay if it makes you genuinely unhappy – I’m just encouraging you to give it your best shot so that several decades down the line, you don’t have to question whether you’ve made the right decision after all.