On September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew back to London from his meeting at Munich with the German chancellor Adolf Hitler and was greeted with a hero's welcome. As he paused on the aircraft steps, he held aloft the piece of paper, bearing both his and the Fuhrer's signatures, that contained the promise that Britain and Germany would never go to war with each other again. Later that evening, from his upstairs window at 10 Downing Street, he told the ecstatic and thankful crowd that he had returned bringing "Peace with honor---Peace for our time."
In this important reappraisal of the extraordinary events of 70 years ago, acclaimed historian David Faber traces the key incidents leading up to the meeting at Munich and its immediate aftermath. He describes Lord Halifax's ill-fated visit to Hitler; Chamberlain's secret negotiations with Mussolini, followed by the resignation of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden; and the Berlin scandal that rocked Hitler's regime. Faber takes us to Vienna for the Nazi Anschluss; to the Sudentenland, the mountainous border region of Czechoslovakia, where Hitler's puppets attempted to provide him with a pretext for war by inciting the minority German population to rebellion; and to Prague, where the Czechoslovak government desperately tried to head off the Fuhrer's warlike intentions. In Berlin, we witness Hitler inexorably preparing for war, even in the face of opposition from his own generals; and in London, we watch helplessly as Chamberlain seizes executive control from his own cabinet and makes one supreme effort after another to appease Hitler, culminating in his three remarkable flights to Germany.
Drawing on a wealth of original archival material, including diaries and notes taken by Hitler and Chamberlain's translator, Faber's sweeping reassessment of the events of 1938 resonates with an insider's feel for the political infighting he uncovers.
David Faber has an intimately familial connection with the diplomatic debacle that was the Neville Chamberlain/Adolf Hitler Munich Conference. A former member of the British Parliament, Faber is a grandson of Harold Macmillan, British Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963. In 1938 Macmillan was a staunch opponent of Prime Minister Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. With Munich, 1938 Faber has produced what author and professor of history Douglas Brinkley has called “the most thoughtful and well-researched study of the Munich Conference ever written”.
The Munich Conference is well-known, but chiefly in fragments and through simplifying summery accounts. Munich, 1938 carefully sticks to the book’s great strength Faber’s impressively detailed scholarship presenting a model for narrating a book of such profound compositional depth and historical importance. It helps to have a narrator, Arthur Morey, who, besides being an actor, is an author and has ghost written and edited books on politics, medicine, and literary criticism. He has also taught writing on the university level. Morey masters a fine balance of pacing and expression, advancing the narrative with a somewhat dampened voice that keeps each sequence of the continually developing dramatic events narratively in line with the historical drama as a whole. Morey’s modulations of phrasing and description have tempered undertones of the dramatic, while avoiding the expressly, emphatically dramatic. The telling of this detailed, finely researched history is a great authorial and narrative accomplishment. Munich, 1938 is a great audiobook, in the prestigious category of popular historical scholarship.
The Munich Conference marks the start of World War II and raises one of the greatest historical “what if” questions of all time. In Faber’s telling we see Hitler invoking the Wilsonian principle of “self-determination” in his demand for the area of Czechoslovakia that then had a majority German population, the Sudetenland. It so happened that Czechoslovakia had built formidable military defenses at the Sudetenland’s outer borders. Stripped of the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia was stripped of its defenses against the Wehrmacht. What if Chamberlain and the British had not surrendered the Sudetenland to Hitler but had rather, with France, moved defensive forces behind these fortifications? It was not to be. Chamberlain, with the incredible stupidity that has so tarred him with infamy, consistently believed Hitler’s claim that he would go no further. Thus it was that, at the cost of tens of millions dead, Neville Chamberlain altered forever the meaning of a word: appeasement. David Chasey
"With an encyclopedic grasp of the diplomatic issues at hand, David Faber has written the most thoughtful and well-researched study of the Munich Conference ever written.... Brilliant." (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior)
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Great insight into the events of 1938
Focused account of the diplomatic prelude to WWII