Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler shake hands, 24th September 1938

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British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler outside a hotel in Bad Godesberg. Paul Schmidt and Otto Dietrich stands behind Hitler. Taken on September 24th 1938.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain meeting and shaking hands with Führer of Germany, Adolf Hitler, outside Rheinhotel Dreesen in Bad Godesberg, Germany, on 24th September 1938, on the days leading to the signing of the Munich Agreement. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1976-063-32 // CC-BY-SA 3.0

This would be a handshake that many would be surprised by. The leader of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, is evidenced here shaking the hands of Adolf Hitler as Nazi Germany greet him before they commence negotiations that would become known as the Munich Agreement in 1938. This would be the eave of another massive war, just 2 decades after the Great War.

Following increased Nazi imperialism throughout Europe and particularly in the East, the UK wanted to appease Hitler and his movement. This meant when Hitler and his close ally and other fascist buddy, Mussolini (Prime Minister of Italy) presented the case of Czechoslovakian invasion and German movement into the Sudetenland, the French and UK government had to accept their terms in a faint attempt at appeasement to a tyrannical Hitler. France would be strongly against the succession of the Czech people in the Sudetenland, who they believed along with the majority of the Czechoslovakian citizens. The UK Prime Minister, Chamberlain, would be happy to allow Nazi Germany to take the Sudetenland who he felt had a strong case for acquiring. But regardless, both France and Britain were really just wanting to appease Hitler and the Nazis, and prevent a war from outbreaking. The resulting Munich Agreement in 1938 following over a week of negotiations is now known today as the last act of appeasement from the Allied Powers and is now known to be nothing more than a term for states who accept totalitarian expansionist states.

This picture shows an enthusiastic Chamberlain shaking the Fuhrer’s hand at the beginning of the Bad Godesburg meeting 1938. Hitler’s right-hand man and Nazi Press Secretary, Otto Dietrich, is pictured behind the two leaders along with Nazi translator Paul Otto Gustav Schmidt. This meeting would ultimately mark the start of a failed attempt to contain Hitler. Chamberlain’s attempt was met by Union Jacks and Swastika flags lining the streets leading to the hotel chosen as a destination for ease of Chamberlain following his previous trip which took a while. It almost seemed like Hitler was sugar-coating and luring Chamberlain into a false sense of security. The UK Prime Minister would reach an agreement alongside the French PM with Hitler over his annexation of the Sudetenland, which would mean the Allied Powers had to recommend to the Czechoslovakian regime that they back down and allow the annexation. This last desperate attempt by the Western powerhouses in Europe only led to a bully being granted his wishes and everyone else backing down to his demands.

That very bully would go on to increase his totalitarian imperialism further than he promised and the war would break out in 1939, only a year after this momentous agreement, following the Nazi invasion of Poland. Chamberlain wanted to appease Hitler to avoid any further confrontation, despite numerous high profile individuals in the UK government advising Chamberlain to take it to Hitler. It would be this very difference in opinion that led to Churchill replacing Chamberlain, as it was seen Churchill would be the best candidate to stand up to Hitler.

However, before Chamberlain’s departure, he would fly back from his German trip and land at Heston Airport. It would be here he made one of his, and the 20th Centuries, important and notable speeches. Following the negotiations for the Munich Agreement, Chamberlain recognized the Sudetenland Crisis and would call it the last beacon of hope for ‘peace in our time’. Little did he know, round the corner was the best part of 7 years of war and violence, far from the peace he had hoped for.

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