The German Chancellor Hitler to President Roosevelt
Berlin, September 27 , 1938
Received September 26—9:14 PM
Your Excellency President
In your telegram received by me on September 26th, Your Excellency addressed to me an appeal in the name of the American people, in the interest of the maintenance of peace not to break off the negotiations regarding the dispute which has arisen in Europe and to strive for a peaceful, honorable and constructive settlement of this question. Be assured that I can fully appreciate the lofty intent on which your remarks are based, and that I share in every respect your opinion regarding the unforeseeable consequences of a European war. Precisely for this reason, however, I can and must refuse all responsibility of the German people and their leaders, if the further development, contrary to all my efforts up to the present should actually lead to the outbreak of hostilities. In order to arrive at a fair judgment regarding the Sudeten-German problem under discussion, it is indispensable to consider the incidents, in which, in the last analysis the origin of this problem and its dangers has its cause. In 1918, the German people laid down their arms, in the firm confidence that by the conclusion of peace with their enemies at that time the principles and ideals would be realized which had been solemnly announced by President Wilson and had been just as solemnly accepted as binding by all the belligerent powers.
Never in history has the confidence of a people been more shamefully betrayed, than it was then. The peace conditions imposed on the conquered nations in the Paris suburbs treaties have fulfilled nothing of the promises given. Rather have they created a political regime in Europe which made of the conquered nations world pariahs without rights and which must be recognized in advance by every discerning person as untenable. One of the points, in which the character of the dictates of 1919 was the most openly revealed was the founding of the Czechoslovakian State, and the establishment of its boundaries without any consideration of history and nationality. The Sudeten land was also included therein, although this area had always been German, and although its inhabitants, after the destruction of the Hapsburg monarchy, had unanimously declared their desire for annexation to the German Reich. Thus the right of self-determination, which had been proclaimed by President Wilson as the most important basis of national life, was simply denied to the Sudeten Germans. But that was not enough. In the treaties of 1919, certain obligations, with regard to the German people, which, according to the text were far reaching, were imposed on the Czechoslovakian state. These obligations also were disregarded from the first. The League of Nations has completely failed to guarantee the fulfillment of these obligations in connection with the task assigned to it. Since then the Sudeten land has been engaged in the severest struggle for the maintenance of its Germanism. It was a natural and inevitable development that after the recovery of strength by the German Reich and after the reunion of Austria with it, the urge of the German Sudetens for maintenance of their culture and for closer union with Germany increased. Despite the loyal attitude of the Sudeten German party and its leaders, the difference with the Czechs became ever stronger. From day to day it became ever clearer that the Government in Prague was not disposed really to consider seriously the most elementary rights of the Sudeten Germans. Rather did it attempt with ever more violent methods the Czechization of the Sudeten land.
It was inevitable that this procedure would lead to ever greater and more serious tensions. The German Government at first did not intervene in any way in this development of things, and maintained its calm restraint, even when the Czechoslovakian Government, in May of this year, proceeded to a mobilization of its army, under the purely fictitious pretext of German troop concentrations. The renunciation of military counter measures at that time in Germany, however, only served to strengthen the uncompromising attitude of the Government in Prague. This has been clearly shown by the course of the negotiations of the Sudeten German party with the Government, regarding a peaceful adjustment. These negotiations produced the conclusive proof that the Czechoslovakian Government was far from thoroughly grasping the problem of the Sudeten Germans and bringing about an equitable solution. Consequently conditions in the Czechoslovakian State, as is generally known, have in the last few weeks become utterly intolerable. Political persecution and economic oppression have plunged the Sudeten Germans into extreme misery.
To characterize these circumstances it is enough to refer to the following. There are at present 214,000 Sudeten German refugees who had to leave their house and home in their ancestral country and flee across the German border, as they saw therein the last and only possibility to escape from the revolting Czechoslovakian regime of violence and bloodiest terror. Countless dead, thousands of injured, ten thousands of persons arrested and imprisoned, desolated villages arc the accusing witnesses before world opinion of an outbreak of hostilities carried out for a long time by the Prague Government which you in your telegram rightly fear. Entirely aside from the German economic life in the Sudeten German territory for 20 years systematically destroyed by the Czech Government, which already shows all the signs of ruin, which you anticipated as the result of an outbreak of war these are the facts which compelled me in my Nuernberg speech of September 13th to state before the whole world that the deprivation of rights of the 3 1/2 millions of Germans in Czechoslovakia must be stopped and that these people if they of themselves cannot find justice and help, must receive both from the German Reich. However, to make a last attempt to reach the goal in a peaceful way, I made concrete proposals for the solution of the problem in a memorandum delivered on September 23rd to the British Premier, which, in the meantime has been made public. Since the Czechoslovakian Government had previously declared itself already to be in agreement with the British and French Governments that the Sudeten German settlement area would be separated from the
Czechoslovakian State and joined to the German Reich, the proposals of the German memorandum contemplate nothing else than to bring about a prompt and equitable fulfillment of that Czechoslovakian promise. It is my conviction that you, Mr. President, when you realize the whole development of the Sudeten German problem from its inception to the present day, will recognize that the German Government has truly not been lacking either in patience or a sincere desire for a peaceful understanding. It is not Germany who is to blame for the fact that there is any Sudeten German problem at all, and that the present unjustifiable circumstances have arisen from it. The terrible fate of the people affected by the problem no longer admits of a further postponement of its solution. The possibilities of arriving at a just settlement by agreement, are therefore exhausted with the proposals of the German memorandum. It does not rest with the German Government, but with the Czechoslovakian Government alone, to decide whether it wants peace or war.
SOURCE: The United States and World War II: Military and Diplomatic Documents, pp. 7-10.