The German philosopher Hegel once remarked that great historical patterns seem to appear in human history twice, in a repeating configuration. Karl Marx added that, though great historical patterns may appear twice, they appear first as tragedy, and the second time as farce (www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire). Marx’s take on human history was tinged with great cynicism, and he was not speaking from a perspective of biblical hope, forgiveness or redemption.
Yet historians love re-occurring patterns, especially those which may give birth to dissertations or even to scholarly dreams. Biblical history speaks of repeated forty-year cycles in the Book of Judges, and Jerusalem’s Temple was destroyed twice – on exactly the same day (the Ninth of Av) – though approximately 656 years lay between the two events.
Recently, the historical event known as the Munich Agreement of 1938 has been referenced by world leaders. In October 2001 former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon created a diplomatic firestorm by referring to Munich, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted in September 2013 that America is being faced with “a Munich moment.” Historical patterns surrounding Munich seem to be casting a shadow on current Middle Eastern events.
Let’s refresh our memory with a quick look at Munich’s original 1938 context, and then Sharon’s and Kerry’s allusions to Munich.
“Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich”
Hitler’s vision of world conquest began with a push to create a Greater Germany (Großdeutsches Reich). This began with the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria on March 12, 1938, one day after the successful Nazi coup d’état in Vienna. Rogers and Hammerstein built their box-office hit The Sound of Music around these events.
Hitler’s next step involved the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. His preference was straight military conquest, and he gave orders that a military invasion should begin by October 1, 1938. This caused his top generals much trepidation. They believed that an armed assault on Czechoslovakia would lead to immediate hostilities with Britain, France and possibly the Soviet Union. The generals felt that Germany was not ready for such a conflict. At that time the German Wehrmacht had only 31 active divisions and 7 reserve divisions, while France had over 100 divisions and the Czechs had 45. On August 4 Nazi Chief of General Staff General Ludwig Beck presented a super-secret strategic analysis to Germany’s top military brass, urging a cancellation of Hitler’s plan.
When no definitive action was taken, Beck resigned and soon began to conspire against Hitler with General Franz Halder (Chief of the Supreme High Command of the General Staff OKH), Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Chief of German Intelligence Abwehr), Graf von Helldorf (Chief of Police, Berlin), and Ulrich von Hassell (former Ambassador to the Kingdom of Italy). Their plot foresaw the arrest and likely liquidation of Hitler were he to issue concrete invasion orders.
The generals’ plan counted on British and French willingness both to confront Hitler and to defend Czechoslovakia. The conspirators sent secret agents to British PM Chamberlain letting him in on their plans and encouraging England and France to maintain an openly aggressive stance toward Hitler. Incredibly, Chamberlain believed that negotiations with Hitler could avoid a World War. His impression was that Hitler could turn out to be a man of peace. “In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word.”
At meetings with Hitler on September 15th (Berchtesgaden, Bavaria), 22nd (Rheinhotel Dreesen, Bad Godesberg) and 29th (the brand new Nazi building Führerbau, Munich), Chamberlain was manipulated and bullied into finally abandoning England’s Czechoslovak ally to the tender mercies of the Nazi juggernaut. The representatives of Czechoslovakia were not allowed to take part in any negotiations due to Hitler’s refusal to allow their participation. Up to that point the Czechs had refused to bow to any form of diplomatic surgery, preferring to trust in their small though well-trained army and in their political alliances with France and the Soviet Union.
The Munich Agreement was signed at 01:30 on September 30, 1938 by Hitler, British PM Sir Neville Chamberlain, Italian Fascist PM Benito Mussolini and French PM Édouard Daladier. This Quartet’s meeting was known as the Four-Power Conference. It sanctioned the immediate Nazi invasion and annexation of Czech Sudetenland. A few hours after having signed away Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain took a light nap, arose and asked Hitler to sign a peace treaty between the United Kingdom and Germany. Hitler happily agreed. The German High Command’s plot to stop Hitler was shelved, and Europe tumbled slowly into the abyss.
Within two months of the Munich Agreement, Hitler had moved on to another essential aspect of his “millennial vision” – the Holocaust, Nazism’s attempt to destroy the Jewish people worldwide. It began on November 9, 1938 as Reichskristallnacht. The Night of Broken Glass. The Nazi Reich instigated pogrom attacks on Jewish businesses, synagogues and Jewish community institutions throughout Germany and Austria (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristallnacht). Over 90 Jewish people were murdered, 30,000 Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps (of which over 2,000 died), over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed and over 1,000 synagogues burned. A collective fine of one billion Reichsmarks was imposed on the Jewish communities of those countries. This was the opening bell of a satanic strategy aimed at annihilating Jacob’s seed from Planet Earth.
But Hitler no longer had any fear that the West would oppose his genocidal plans. His comments about Chamberlain and Daladier were telling on this point: “I did not think it possible that Czechoslovakia would be virtually served up to me on a plate by her friends.” Even more telling was Hitler’s conclusion, “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich” (“Unsere Gegner sind kleine Würmchen. Ich sah sie in München” – www.ns-archiv.de/krieg/1939/22-08-1939.php). In March 1939 Hitler invaded and conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Peace above all things
Back in England, Chamberlain stood in front of Number 10 Downing Street, London on September 30, 1938 and proclaimed:
“We, the German Fuhrer 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 … as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again … We are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe. My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is ‘peace for our time.’ And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”
Immediately after the signing of the Munich Agreement, many voices praised Chamberlain. The British newspaper The Observer declared on October 2, 1938:
Suggestions to honour Mr. Chamberlain in some tangible form for his great services to peace continue to be made in many parts of Europe. The French nation is now concentrating on how it can repay ‘the first artisan of peace.’ Numerous proposals for renaming streets, starting funds and erecting statues are contained in the French press, and Le Figaro states that the British prime minister should be immediately invited to Paris so that all can acclaim him. One paper suggests starting a fund so that monuments and statues might be erected to the ‘saviour of modern Europe’ in every capital in the world. Strasbourg has overnight renamed streets: the Avenue de la Paix is now the Avenue Neville Chamberlain.
The assertion that Mr. Chamberlain should receive the Nobel peace prize, says the Stockholm Tidningen [newspaper], is warmly supported in all quarters in Sweden and Norway, and England. Mahmond Pasha, the prime minister of Egypt, has telegraphed Mr. Chamberlain the thanks of the Egyptian government and people for averting war. The telegram concludes: “Your name will go down in history as a statesman who saved civilisation from destruction.”
On Monday October 3, 1938 PM Chamberlain addressed the House of Commons in London and declared,
“I say in the name of this House and of the people of this country that Czechoslovakia has earned our admiration and respect for her restraint, for her dignity, for her magnificent discipline in face of such a trial as few nations have ever been called upon to meet…It is my hope and my belief, that under the new system of guarantees, the new Czechoslovakia will find a greater security than she has ever enjoyed in the past.”
“In our relations with other countries everything depends upon there being sincerity and good will on both sides. I believe that there is sincerity and good will on both sides of this declaration. That is why to me its significance goes far beyond its actual words … No doubt I shall have plenty of critics who will say that I am guilty of facile optimism, and that I should disbelieve every word that is uttered by rulers of other great States in Europe … We have only laid the foundations of peace.”
On October 5, 1938 MP Winston Churchill spoke boldly in the House of Commons against the Munich Agreement, calling it “a total, unmitigated defeat.”
“I will, therefore, begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing. I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which I must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat … We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves to that…The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted… I do not grudge our loyal, brave people … the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that … we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: ‘Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting.’ And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
The majority of British public opinion at the time wanted to appease Hitler. They were prepared to abandon a democratic Czechoslovakia as the price for avoiding international conflict and destruction.
- The mainstream believed that protecting an ally was not worth risking a wider conflict. This is the essence of the Munich dynamic.
To paraphrase Caiaphas in John 11:50, “it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”
Trusting your enemies
One of the main differences between those who supported the Munich Agreement and those who opposed it had to do with trust. Was Hitler a man of peace, a man whose word could be trusted? Was he bent on conquering Europe and establishing a totalitarian dictatorship there? Or was Hitler only interested in self-determination for his own people and in righting historic wrongs? Would he be satisfied with the fruits of diplomacy, and then would he agree to disarm and agree to peaceful cooperation? Were his calls for destruction of the Jewish people merely politicking and meant only for ‘internal consumption’?
Only when the blitzkrieg against Poland began on September 1, 1939, did the unpalatable truth become unavoidably clear. Churchill and his comrades – those once ridiculed as warmongers – were belatedly seen as prophets who had tried to mobilize a generation of soporific cowards.
“Israel will not be Czechoslovakia”
On Friday October 5, 2001 Israeli PM Ariel Sharon gave an evening press conference where he said:
“We can rely only on ourselves…Today Israel suffered another murderous Palestinian terrorist attack which took a heavy toll. All of our efforts to reach a cease-fire have been torpedoed by the Palestinians. Fire did not cease, not even for one day. We are currently in the midst of a complex and difficult diplomatic campaign. I turn to the Western democracies, first and foremost the leader of the free world, the United States. Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when the enlightened democracies of Europe decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for the sake of a temporary, convenient solution. Don’t try to appease the Arabs at our expense. We will not accept this. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terror.”
In a blunt response on October 6, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: “The President believes that these remarks are unacceptable. Israel could have no better or stronger friend that the United States and no better friend than President Bush.”
Nahum Barnea, commentator in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s country’s largest newspaper, added, “This was an unfortunate statement, historically mistaken, politically damaging, factually incorrect, and it deepens the sense of threat and strangulation that Israelis feel. It weakens us and insults our friends.”
Why Sharon’s strongly worded declaration? What were the events that shaped the immediate context of Sharon’s words?
Point one – Barely a month before Sharon’s statement, President George W. Bush decided to abandon traditional diplomatic positions vis-à-vis Israel due to Saudi Arabian pressure. His decision was to unilaterally push for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Bush’s declaration was fine-tuned and completed on September 10, 2001 in consultation with Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan. It was to be announced by Colin Powell at the UN General Assembly on September 19, 2001 (www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/02/10/saudi-leaders-anger-revealed-shaky-ties/a570bab2-c7c4-4111-b9bc-c03a3cab5ce2/). Due to the al Qa’eda attacks on 9/11 (where 15 of the 19 jihadi terrorists were Saudi nationals), Bush’s declaration was postponed (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1646921.stm). Eventually the President announced it himself at a Rose Garden address on June 24, 2002 (http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020624-3.html). Israel was feeling the ground moving underneath her feet, and saw that U.S. policy was beginning to attune itself more closely with that of Saudi Arabia – at Israel’s expense. “There is a moment when you discover things are being done behind your back,” said Sharon. “I decided, this far and no more.”
Point two which weighed heavily on Sharon was the post- 9/11 White House’s determination to block Israel from participating in a coalition of nations fighting terror – even though Israel had been and still is one of the main targets of jihadi Islamist attack. This decision (similar to the U.S. decision in Desert Storm 1990-91) was taken in order to make it more palatable for Arab and Islamic countries who hated Israel and sought its destruction, to willingly join in a half-hearted pursuit of Islamist terrorists. Some State Department officials were already stressing the difference between ‘a necessary fight against global terror’ (terror which causes Western casualties) and something else called ‘local terror’ (terror which only causes Israeli Jewish casualties). Israel was clearly seeing that the U.S. was edging away from standing with Israel in its own fight against terrorists – the same terrorists who were attacking the West!
Point three was a spate of Palestinian terror attacks that occurred that very week. On Tuesday October 2 two Palestinian terrorists attacked Elei Sinai, a Jewish farming community in the Gaza Strip, killing two and wounding fifteen. A sniper attacked in Hebron in front of Abraham’s Tomb, wounding two Israeli women, while an Israeli motorist was shot and killed while driving on the Ramot road near Jerusalem.
On Thursday October 4 the Palestinian Authority issued a condemnation of the terror attack at Elei Sinai. And yet, a few hours later a Palestinian terrorist dressed in an Israeli Army uniform and sporting a red paratrooper’s beret entered Afula’s Central Bus Station and fired his M-16 at civilians, killing three and wounding 13. Sharon pointed out, “After all that, Arafat is praised by the whole world for deigning to issue a condemnation. That is completely out of line.”
That same day there was also the unexplainable shooting down over Ukrainian airspace of a civilian aircraft with 78 passengers which had just departed from Tel Aviv (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/1359353/Ukraine-admits-it-shot-down-Russian-airliner.html).
Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer spoke with Sharon that Thursday and lavishly praised Syria President Bashar al-Assad as being truly committed to regional peace. “I spoke with Bashar Assad. He told me that Syria has always been against terror. You have no idea how touched I was, hearing such things from the Syrian president.” Fischer then moved on to his main point, blithely stating that Israel would have to speedily make concessions for peace. “You have to make concessions to the Palestinians. These concessions may be painful for your generation, but they will guarantee a better future for the next generations.”
Sharon saw the writing on the wall. America was brushing off Israel as an embarrassment. It was trying to curry Arab favor by giving Israel the cold shoulder. All this would involve a sea-change in diplomatic Middle East strategies. Terrorist groups were quick to take advantage of this new dynamic, and Israel was being ordered by the West to sit tight, allow its citizens to be murdered and continue without breaking step in the ‘march of death’ known internationally as “the peace process” or “making sacrifices for peace.” This was PM Sharon’s context when he referred to the Munich dynamic of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/06/27/benny-morriss-czechoslovakia-analogy).
- The majority of Western leaders in October 2001 sought appeasement with the Arab world and were prepared to turn a cold shoulder to Israel (their democratic ally) as the price for avoiding increasing Middle Eastern conflict. This was truly a modern-day expression of the Munich Agreement dynamic.
“Our Munich moment”
On Friday September 6, 2013 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in Paris, recalling Munich in his remarks about Western intervention in the Syrian crisis. Kerry compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. He reminded his listeners of the 1938 Munich Agreement, which had handed over part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. “This is really our Munich moment. This is our chance to join together and to pursue accountability over appeasement. The United States …cannot be silent spectators to this slaughter. This is not the time to allow a dictator unfettered use of some of the most heinous weapons on Earth” (www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/09/213938.htm).
Secretary of State Kerry was drawing a parallel between European hesitation in opposing Hitler in 1938, and Western hesitation in opposing Syrian use of chemical warfare in 2013. There are some similarities here, but also some glaring differences between these two situations. While Nazi leaders such as Adolf Eichmann’s SS assistant Alois Brunner once took shelter in Assad’s Syria, today the prime movers among the rebel Syrian factions today are al-Qa’eda affiliates who massacre Christians and Shi’ites. In the original Munich Agreement, it was clear that the Czechs were innocent victims and the Nazis were evil warmongers. In modern Syria, most of the main players are dressed in shades of black and gray. At this point the U.S. has chosen a diplomatic cooperation with Russia, hopefully believing that Assad will hand over his chemical weapons arsenal. Time will tell toward what sort of Munich moment this strategy will lead.
Munich at the United Nations
The recent address by Hassan Rouhani (President of the Islamic Republic of Iran) at the United Nations has raised the specter of Munich-style appeasement once again.
The representative of a radical jihadi Shi’ite Islamist dictatorship – which has publically declared (as did Hitler) its intention to annihilate the Jewish state – greeted the world body with smiles, talked about inaugurating direct flights between Teheran and JFK, and spoke of peaceful nuclear intentions. European leaders fell over each other with unconcealed enthusiasm, suggesting that the UN authorize continuing nuclear development in Iran “for peaceful purposes” while Western leaders insisted that they needed to “give peace a chance”; perhaps Rouhani was representing a newer, gentler Iran.
Bibi at the United Nations
Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu also addressed the UN General Assembly a few days after Rouhani. At the conclusion of his address he emphasized a point that would have made Czechoslovakia and Ariel Sharon proud: “Ladies and gentlemen, Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map. Against such a threat, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself. I want there to be no confusion on this point. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet, in standing alone, Israel will know that we will be defending many, many others” (www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.550012).
One day after PM Netanyahu warned the U.N. General Assembly on October 1 that Iran is only months away from having the capability to build nuclear weapons, the U.N. member states elected Iran on October 2 to serve as the rapporteur of the U.N. First Committee on Disarmament and Internal Security. This puts Iran in charge of officially reporting on all of the committee’s proceedings and actions. This committee is chaired by Libya, while Iran currently serves as chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, the largest bloc of nations at the U.N.
Iran’s website crows that “the UN General Assembly members … chose Iran to prove ineffectiveness of the row stirred up by the Zionist prime minister … The recent vote…is a clear indicative of the world community trust in Iran’s efforts in the course of disarmament and a practical response to the groundless allegations of the spurious Zionist regime” (ed. sic.; http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/118203-iran-appointed-as-r). Former Pentagon advisor Michael Rubin dryly noted, “I’m just surprised that the UN never got around to hiring Michael Jackson to work in its daycare center. This seems about as good an idea” (http://freebeacon.com/united-nations-picks-iran-to-serve-on-disarmament-committee).
An appeaser, in the words of Churchill, is one who feeds the crocodile while hoping it will eat him last. As this modern Haman is being given the benefit of the doubt at the United Nations General Assembly on the banks of the East River, we who pray for the restoration of the Jewish people realize that intercession is of the essence here.
- Pray that the secrets of men’s hearts will be revealed here, and that every weapon being formed to destroy the Jewish people will not prosper (1 Corinthians 14:24-25; Isaiah 54:17)
- Pray for the salvation of many in Iran and in Israel (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 11:26; Isaiah 62)
- Pray for God’s revelation to come to the leaders of Iran as it once did to other Middle Eastern leaders like Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2 and 4)
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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