June 23, 2014
In his article on the lessons learned from Sarajevo 1914 and Munich 1938 (January 7, FT), Gideon Rachman limits the “Munich analogy” to the appeasement policy in 1938 and the notorious Munich agreement when Czechoslovakia was sacrificed by the allied powers. In fact, appeasement and defeatism continued and contributed to Nazi-Germany’s victories in the beginning of WWII.
After Nazi-Germany attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. But until 10 May 1940 the allied powers avoided any military confrontation with Germany.
France, despite its well-equipped and modern army, didn’t try to invade Germany from the west while the German forces were occupied in the east. This has been called the phoney war (drôle de guerre) and those responsible for it was the incompetent French military command. Britain saved its troops for another intervention somewhere else.
Another consequence of Munich was the sacrifice of the Jewish population in Europe. Despite early reporting on the on-going mass killings of Jewish civilians, e.g. by the Polish diplomat Jan Karski, not much was done to stop the genocide and save the Jews. Any military action to bomb the extermination camps was seen as a distraction and was never carried out by the allied powers.