Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated since Saturday (above, Manchester Guardian, p. 9). Hitler has made new demands which are described by the Manchester Guardian's diplomatic correspondent (p. 9) as 'fantastic'. At Berchtesgaden, a week and a half ago, Hitler said he wanted only those districts where Sudetens were a majority of the population. This was the basis of the Anglo-French plan, to which Czechoslovakia eventually agreed. And now he wants:
The immediate cession of all the territories (with scarcely any considerable exception) where there are Sudeten Germans. There is no longer any question of only such districts where they make up more than 50 per cent. Districts where they are in conspicuous minorities or even where there are no Sudeten Germans at all are included.
These areas are to be handed over to Germany on 1 October, meaning that there would be no time for the Czechs to remove any factories or fortifications. This, the correspondent speculates, is part of the point of the rush. Germany will secure its rear and gain valuable natural resources, factories and military stores. And then Germany will turn west:
She would be able to present another ultimatum, demanding, perhaps, colonies, or the surrender of the Maginot Line, or a "plebiscite" in the Flemish regions of Belgium, and so on. She would be able to back this ultimatum with a vastly superior Air Force, a vastly augmented armament, and almost complete invulnerability. In other words, she would have achieved her maximum of offensive and defensive power in relation to France and Britain.
The Czechs have, of course, rejected this ultimatum. Which, it would seem, means war. Daladier and Bonnet have again flown to London to consult with their British colleagues. Yugoslavia and Romania have promised to support Czechoslovakia if Hungary attacks, under the terms of the Little Entente; but it appears that Poland is to get its territorial demands (Teschen) without a fight (Daily Mail, p. 11). Czechoslovakia has mobilised all men under 40; a million are expected to be under arms by tomorrow (Daily Mail, p. 12).
At home, the news is dominated by the mass distribution of gas masks and the digging of trenches in parks. As the Daily Mail reports (p. 11):
Yesterday will go down in history as A.R.P. Sunday. Until late last night hundreds of thousands were still flocking to schools, town halls and other public buildings all over London and the Home Counties to be fitted for gas masks.
With only eleventh-hour warning to the public and the hastiest of preparations by local authorities, more people were fitted yesterday than during the previous six months: by the end of this week the Home Office expects that practically the whole of Britain will have been provided for.
The public has responded quickly but calmly, which reflects 'not only the anxiety caused by the European situation but also the sanity and orderliness of the British people'.
The trenches -- in London they have been dug in Hyde Park, St. James's Park, and Green Park, among others -- are intended as emergency public shelter, for people who are caught away from home or work during air raids. They are quick and dirty. As a leader in the Manchester Guardian (p. 8) reflects:
The digging of trenches in the public parks of London, Manchester, and other large cities is perhaps the most vivid of all reminders that if war comes the front line will be at home. As a measure of protection against the blast and splinter of high explosive the plan has the merit that it can be resorted to wherever land available, and in this respect those cities which for reasons quite unconnected with defence have provided themselves with "lungs" in their midst have an advantage. Entrenchment, moreover, can be quickly extended if emergency is prolonged [...]
But everyone can join in the fun (if they have a backyard, that is, which many of the working class do not). The following (from Manchester Guardian, p. 10) is based on recommendations for a home slit trench: it's 4'6" wide at the top and 4'6" deep.
In Whitehall itself, the crowds have exhibited a 'passive curiosity', although there were some 'minor clashes' resulting in 17 arrests (Manchester Guardian, p. 8; The Times, p. 14). There don't seem to have been any spectacular outcomes from the two thousand protests planned for the weekend, though a number of speeches are quoted. Colonel Wedgwood, Liberal MP, said at Peterborough (The Times, p. 7):
that Mr. Chamberlain had surrendered to Hitler in vain. The only result had been that Hungary, Poland, and Italy and come into the open as satellite States under Hitler's wing, determined on their share of the spoils of victory.
Sir Walter Citrine, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress said that the self-determination of the Sudetens is no longer the issue, for 'This had merely been used as pretext to cover the aggressive intentions of Nazi Germany in Central Europe'. Nobody can be proud of the part Britain and France have played in this, but at least it appears that, at their second meeting, Chamberlain was not prepared to accede to Hitler's latest demands. Charles White, organiser of the National Council of Action (which National Council of Action, I'm not sure!), told a weekend school (on social reconstruction, not the crisis) in Manchester that he believed that Hitler's aim was world empire (Manchester Guardian, p.11):
Once the Hitler aim was achieved who could tell how many ages of darkness might pass before the yoke of Nazism was thrown off? It was not improbable that mankind would know ages of darkness comparable to those which followed the collapse of the Roman Empire.
For Leo Amery, a senior Tory backbencher, it's simple (letter, The Times, p. 13):
Are we to surrender to ruthless brutality a free people whose cause we have espoused but are now to throw to the wolves to save our own skins, or are we still able to stand up to a bully? It is not Czechoslovakia but our own soul that is at stake.
That's all pretty heavy stuff. To end on a note of absurdity, the Daily Mail describes (p. 10) General Gamelin, the commander of the French armed forces, as a 'New Napoleon'. This seems unfortunate on several levels, and not only in hindsight!
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