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New International, July 1948


Philip Coben

Russia’s Secret Documents on Munich


From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 5, July 1948, pp. 154, 160.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In March or April of this year the Russian government published its promised revenge for the State Department’s collection of documents on the Nazi-Stalin Pact. As announced, it deals with the period of the Munich Pact, Documents and Materials Relating to the Eve of the Second World War, Volume I, November 1937–1938, (Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga, Moscow, 50 cents), from the archives of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs captured when the Russians entered Berlin. Consisting of forty-four documents, it is in the Russian language.

Eleven of these documents are now available in English in a supplement to the New Times (No. 16, April 14). Our remarks are based on this selection, which presumably provide the most important of the documents.

As expected, it is not an “answer” to the State Department’s expose of the Nazi-Stalin deal; it does not even deal with that period. Instead it documents the utter cynicism and brutality with which the British and French statesmen sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. One is merely supposed to conclude that Stalin’s alliance with Hitler to carve up Poland and Eastern Europe was no worse than Chamberlain’s and Daladier’s operations. (The role of the Roosevelt government in America is not touched upon in the eleven documents; after all, Roosevelt’s lieutenant and “heir,” Wallace, is at the moment running as Stalin’s candidate for president. Will a subsequent volume, to be published after Wallace’s usefulness is ended, remedy this omission?)

Four of the eleven documents are not from the secret archives, being thrown in to round out the picture (three public announcements of the Munich powers and a Czech statesman’s already published account of his experience in the Munichites’ anteroom); two are reports by Polish ambassadors to their home government; two are minutes of conversations with Hitler by Lord Halifax and Neville Henderson, full of diplomatic double-talk; and only three are internal documents of the German Foreign Office. It was the last-named type of paper which was most illuminating in the State Department collection; here it is used mainly to give a report on the conference itself.

There is no statement made by the Russians that the documents are printed complete and without omissions. It must be said that, unfortunately, no really new light is thrown on the Munich deal. Our memory is refreshed and some vivid details added; that which was known is now more fully documented out of the mouths of the British and French sellout leaders themselves.

Thus, in the negotiations leading up to Munich, November 19, 1937, Lord Halifax told Hitler (as summarized in the third person in the German minutes):

“The great services the Führer had rendered in the rebuilding of Germany were fully and completely recognized, and if British public opinion was sometimes taking a critical attitude toward certain German problems, the reason might be in part that people in England were not fully informed of the motives and circumstances which underlie certain German measures ... In spite of these difficulties he (Lord Halifax) and other members of the British government were fully aware that the Führer had not only achieved a great deal inside Germany herself, but that, by destroying Communism in his country, he had barred its road to Western Europe, and that Germany therefore could rightly be regarded as a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism ...

“Britons were realists, and were perhaps more than others convinced that the errors of the Versailles dictate must be rectified. Britain always exercised her influence in this realistic sense in the past. He pointed to Britain’s role with regard to the evacuation of the Rhineland ahead of the fixed time, the settlement of the reparations problem, ana the inoccupation of the Rhineland. They must try to speak the same language ...

“[Besides the question of amending the League of Nations in order to bring Germany back in] All other questions could be characterized as relating to changes in the European order, changes that sooner or later would probably take place. To these questions belonged Danzig, Austria and Czechoslovakia. England was only interested that any alterations should be effected by peaceful evolution, so as to avoid methods which might cause far-reaching disturbances, which were not desired either by the Führer or by other countries.

Besides all that, Hitler demanded African colonies. In the following March Neville Henderson formally offered the Congo Basin as the British appeasement proposal. The disposition of this votive offering is not indicated in the documents.

Another point around which these pre-Munich conversations turned was Hitler’s demand that the anti-Nazi British press be muzzled and his accusation that the British government was too much the “slave” of public opinion and “the parties.” Halifax protested “that the British government also acted independently of the parties. It was certainly not the slave of demagogic party maneuvers. In the English view no government which was worthy of the name was under the domination of the parties.”

It was this attitude of doglike placatory submission that reached its climax in September.

Next month we will briefly excerpt the more interesting passages relating to the Munich tragic farce itself.

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