I have here, from Herr Hitler, a piece of paper.

Conflict is a constant. Here is a 20th century exhibit.

Munich Pact

At the end of the Munich Crisis in 1938, a last ditch effort to avoid the Second World War, after all the other concessions had been made in favor of Germany, Neville Chamberlain asked Adolf Hitler to sign a pledge not to go to war ever again. He signed it, likely with his fingers crossed behind his back. It is said the German Foreign Minister remonstrated Herr Hitler for signing this document, to which the German Chancellor replied, “Oh don’t take it so seriously. That piece of paper has no significance whatsoever”.

Prior to the time this photo was taken of Chamberlin the previous Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, had engineered an increase in military spending not withstanding a significant peace movement in the country. Unlike the electorate apparently, he could see the rise of Germany and the need to rearm. His efforts  included funding for the acquisition of a more advanced fighter for the Royal Air Force, as it was clear by 1935 the Germans were rearming the Luftwaffe at an alarming pace.

Some of the British products, like the Hurricane and Spitfire, were designed with the specific purpose and goal of defending the home islands.

One should not be a naysayer of Chamberlian. He did nothing to retard the rearmament policies of his predecessor, and his government broke ground on a new factory to produce the Spitfire in Birmingham shortly before Munich to supplement the lagging production at the Supermarine plant at Southampton.

Like anything new, production of the Spitfire saw numerous missteps. By the time of the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940, there were far too few of these superior aircraft to rise from the fields of Kent and Sussex to meet the Luftwaffe, less than 100, and the more familiar technology of the Hurricane was called to fill the gap.

Unfortunately Chamberlain is most remembered for appeasement, seeking peace in every conceivable manner, including waiving this paper around at the airport upon his return from Munich. On the other hand the RAF had only one squadron of Spitfires at the time of the crisis in 1938, about 12 airplanes, and were mostly still flying biplanes.  So Chamberlain  was not without prudence in seeking peace at that point, yet in the roll of the dice history often is, he was overshadowed by his successor.

Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10th, 1940, the day the Germans invaded the low countries. In July that year Chamberlain discovered he had cancer but continued to work as leader of the Conservative Party.

He died in November 1940.

3 thoughts on “I have here, from Herr Hitler, a piece of paper.

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