On September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich, Germany after having agreed to the so-called Munich Pact the day before with Adolf Hitler. He arrived home a hero, as most of the nation believed that he had singlehandedly averted a European war with his deft diplomacy; in fact, Chamberlain got off the plane at Heathrow Airport waving a piece of paper containing the text of the pact and the crowd responded with massive cheering.

Later that day, standing before the Prime Minister's house at 10 Downing Street in London, Neville Chamberlain read the agreement and made a short remark in a speech that would go down in history. Here is what Chamberlain said on that day:

(reading from the paper) "We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.

We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.*

We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe."

(looking up at the assembled crowd) My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time**... Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

* At this point, Chamberlain was interrupted by a massive amount of cheering from onlookers, preventing him from continuing to speak for a period.
** This is often misquoted as "peace in our time;" although Chamberlain used the phrase at other times, he did not use the phrase in the immediate aftermath of the Munich Pact. In fact, the phrase is more correctly associated with Neville's half-brother Austen Chamberlain, who used the phrase often in the 1910s and 1920s

The Events Leading Up To The Speech

In 1934, Adolf Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany and with this power began a period of rearmament of Germany in the aftermath of World War I. Most of these actions were in violation of post-war treaties with Germany, so to avoid a renewal of conflict in Europe, nations tried various methods of negotiation with Hitler.

In 1937, Stanley Baldwin resigned as Prime Minister of Great Britain and was replaced by Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain quickly became known for adopting a policy of appeasement towards Germany, because he felt that Germany had been treated very unfairly in the aftermath of World War I.

In the spring of 1938, Hitler unified Germany and Austria, an action that was very expressly forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. Most of the other European powers acted with great dissatisfaction, and the people of Britain became very anxious about the threat of conflict with Germany for the second time in twenty years. Thus, Chamberlain was strongly urged by his own cabinet (largely by Winston Churchill) into participating in a four-way meeting between Britain, France, Italy, and Germany that took place in Munich, Germany in September, 1938.

Near the end of this meeting, on September 29, Chamberlain and Hitler held a private meeting with one another. It is often debated on what exactly happened during this meeting, but what is known is that Adolf Hitler grew quickly enraged and proceeded to shout and scream for better than an hour at Chamberlain about the oppression of Germany. Chamberlain, already a bit sympathetic to the logic and also looking to ensure the safety of the British people, offered an agreement to Hitler that pretty much gave Adolf Hitler carte blanche to do whatever he wished.

The pact basically stated that Britain and Germany would not declare war on each other and that the two nations wouldn't interfere with each other in a naval perspective as long as Germany didn't conquer any other nations. While this kept Britain out of an immediate war with Germany, it made it much easier for Germany to build a navy and continue their rearmament without interference, which would prove vital in their soon-to-come conquest of Europe.

The Aftermath

Well, World War II was the aftermath.

After being able to focus purely on the growth of a military for a year, Germany was ready to begin moving ahead with Hitler's vision of conquest in 1939. By September, Germany had invaded Prague and began an invasion of Poland on August 31, 1939, utterly destroying the Munich Pact. Chamberlain was forced to declare war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

By then, it was far too late. Chamberlain's health began to fail and the first maneuvers against Germany were utter failures, as the German army had been building up for this for a year. After the complete failure of a naval maneuver in Norway, Chamberlain was censured by Parliament and forced to resign on May 10, 1940, replaced by Winston Churchill.

Because of the time handed to him for rearmament, Hitler was able to conquer most of Europe, including Poland and France and a deep intrusion into Prussia by the end of 1940. World War II had begun in earnest.

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