Why Did Neville Chamberlain Sign the Munich Pact?

Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact in September 1938 to appease Adolf Hitler, prevent war with Germany and maintain peace in Europe. Although Chamberlain returned to England proclaiming he had achieved "peace in our time," Germany soon reneged on the agreement, and on Sept. 3, 1939, Chamberlain formally announced that England was at war with Germany.

After occupying Austria in March 1938, Hitler began to demand German annexation of the Sudetenland, which had a large German population but was then part of Czechoslovakia. As the German army prepared to invade, Britain and France sought for a peaceful solution to the problem. When Chamberlain met with Hitler, the German leader demanded the region. Chamberlain negotiated with the French and Czech governments, and they agreed to cede the German-speaking parts of the Sudetenland to Germany. Hitler refused the offer and insisted on occupying all of the Sudetenland. Another conference followed, attended by the leaders of England, France, Germany and Italy but not Czechoslovakia. They agreed on a plan for the German annexation of the entire Sudetenland, ostensibly drawn up by Italy but actually written by the German government. All four leaders signed the pact just after 1:00 a.m. on Sept. 30.

Germans marched into the Sudetenland the next day. Hitler was surprised that the allies of Czechoslovakia had given up the territory so easily. As a result, he moved into the rest of Czechoslovakia and took it over in March 1939, without opposition from other western nations. England did not protest and declare war until Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.