Revision Diary

Czechoslovakia, Poland and WWII


Czechoslovakia, March 1939; growing tensions, 1938-9

including role of USSR; Nazi-Soviet Pact; Poland and outbreak of war.



Make sure that you know about:

1.  The events of 1938-9, as Europe slid to war, with the significance of each step

2.  the Story of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in detail, and its results/importance.

3.  the Story of Hitler's attack on Poland.




The Slide to War, 1938-9

It is arguable that Chamberlain realised that war was coming even as he was negotiating the Munich Agreement (or immediately afterwards)

(Remember that - throughout the year - Britain was preparing for war

Dec 1938

‘National Register’ of who would do what if there was a war.

Jan 1939

Plans to strengthen navy and RAF


A quarter of a million free air raid shelters are given to Londoners.


Territorial Army doubled in numbers.


Civil Defence Act – plans to evacuate women and children from London to the countryside.


Parliament increases defence spending.


Military Training Act – conscription.

31 Aug

First children evacuated from London.

However - even if Chamberlain still thought Hitler could be trusted - events during 1938-39 pushed him and Britain into war:





Events in Britain ending appeasement

•   Winston Churchill

•   led campaign against appeasement

•   3 Oct 1938: Duff Cooper (head of navy), resigned over Munich.

•    showed growing hostility to appeasement in the government

•   27 Oct 1938: anti-appeasers do well in the Oxford by-election

•   showed growing hostility to appeasement amongst ordinary people

•   28 Feb 1939: MPs shouted ‘Heil Chamberlain’

•   showed growing hostility to appeasement in parliament

Events in Europe bringing war

•   8 Nov 1938: Kristallnacht

•   Shows the Nazis as evil racists

•   People wonder what life would be like in a Nazi Europe

•   28 Feb 1939: Fascists won the Spanish Civil War. 

•   Seems that fascism was triumphing everywhere

•   15 Mar 1939: Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia

•   Chamberlain promised to defend Poland.

•   The first time Hitler had attacked non-Germans.

•   Chamberlain called it a ‘shock to confidence’ (= showed Hitler lied at Munich).  

•   13 Apr 1939: Mussolini conquered Albania.

•   proved that fascists wanted to take over the world

•   23 Aug 1939: Nazi-Soviet Pact

•   freed Hitler to attack Poland

•   ended any hopes of alliance with Russia against Hitler - only answer now was war

•   1 Sep 1939: Hitler invaded Poland

•   3 Sep: Britain declared war.




Nazi-Soviet Pact



•    31 Mar 1939: Chamberlain promised to defend Poland.   Churchill said that the only way to do this was by an alliance with Stalin.   Chamberlain approached the Russian ambassador to open negotiations.   Stalin, who was also afraid of Hitler, agreed.

•    Chamberlain did not trust Communist Russia.   Negotiations went very slowly.  

•    Meanwhile, Stalin did not trust the British, who he believed would eventually appease Hitler and leave him in the lurch.   On June 15 the Soviets secretly sounded out the Nazis for an alliance.   While Stalin was negotiating with Britain, he was negotiating with Hitler behind Chamberlain's back.


•    Aug 1939: the British eventually sent a minor official called Reginald Ranfurly Plunckett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.   He travelled by slow boat.   He did not have authority to make any decisions, and had to refer every question back to London.  

•    3 Aug: Hitler agreed to pay the Soviet price for a pact with Russia.

•    19 Aug: a Nazi-Soviet trade treaty was signed.

•    23 Aug: the Nazi-Soviet Pact was concluded.   Hitler pounded on the wall with his fists and shouted, "I have the world in my pocket!"


•    The public text of the Nazi-Soviet Pact was merely a non-aggression pact.

•    A secret protocol agreed to attack and partition Poland between them – Russia was also to get Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.



Nazi-Soviet Pact - results/importance

  1. Freed up Hitler to invade Poland - he knew that Britain couldn't do anything to defend Poland (he invaded 9 days later).

  2. Ended Britain's hopes of an alliance with Russia to stop Hitler - people in Britain realised that nothing would stop Hitler now but war.

  3. Improved morale of British people for war - showed Hitler as an opportunist and a trickster, who could never be trusted.

  4. Anger at Russia was to become a cause of the Cold War.






•    The Polish corridor had been given to Poland by the ToV/ Danzig was a LoN 'free city'.

•    31 Mar 1939: Chamberlain had guaranteed Poland against German attack.   Hitler was not afraid of Britain, but he did fear war with Russia


•    Hitler demanded Danzig and right of way through the Polish corridor

•    The Germans in Danzig demanded union with Germany.

•    Hitler accused the Polish government of atrocities.   He threatened war if Poland did not give way.

•    23 Aug: the Nazi-Soviet Pact removed the fear of war with Russia.


•    1 Sep 1939: Hitler invaded Poland

•    3 Sep 1939: Chamberlain declared war on Germany.





Revision Focus

This is a Paper 1 topic, so concentrate on learning:

1.   WHAT happened

2.   EFFECTS/ Importance



e-book on 1938-39 in general, with a KEY page on Nazi-Soviet Pact



Online revision sheet  


Essays on:

    The events of 1938-9 and Why appeasement ended



Check your learning:

Do the Self-test on the Road to War


Can you pass the Smartass test?