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Throughout the 30's Nazi Germany had been growing in military power, diplomatic influence and political attractiveness. The right wing philosophy of Hitler and his National Socialist party offered what seemed to many as a viable alternative to many in the capitalistic, democratic world and as a staunch enemy to the communist power entrenched in the USSR. The demand by Germany that it's natural population and boarders be restored started in 1936 with the reoccupation of the Rhineland. In March of 1936 Hitler concluded an agreement with Mussolini of Italy known as the Pact of steel which committed them to each other in pursuing their territorial ambitions and coming to each others aid in time of war. The Germans and Italians also supported the Fascists in Spain during their civil war. (1936-39) Many Canadians volunteered for the international and Spanish forces that fought against General Francisco Franco's fascists in the Mackenzie Papineau brigade. They were denied assistance by the democracies  and were defeated.

Hitler then turned his eyes south and executed the Anschluss of Austria, on 12 March 1938, into Greater Germany and then the demand that the German territory in Czechoslovakia know as the Sudetenland be handed over to Germany.

In 1937 Mackenzie King left for England to attend the Imperial Conference where he backed a declaration passed by the conference supporting the policy of appeasement. King next traveled to Germany to meet Hitler and judge for himself the intentions of the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, King was charmed by Hitler and left Germany believing that the Germans were not intent upon aggressive expression but only wanted to restore the country to the status which it rightly deserved and only bring those areas with German population back into the Reich. King congratulated Chamberlain after the Munich agreement was signed and Czechoslovakia's future sealed.

The heart of Canada is rejoicing tonight as the success which has crowned your unremitting efforts for peace. May I convey to you the warm congratulations of the Canadian people and with them an expression of their gratitude that is felt from one end of the Dominion to the other.

Mackenzie King September 1938

These moves were looked upon by many in England and France as justified. There was a fear that by confronting Germany it might lead to another war which would once again sacrifice the blood of generation on the alter of nationalistic ambition. There were however those, such as Churchill, who felt that unless Germany were stopped early on, they would increase their demands, rearm, and grow in power until the situation reached a point which would make a Second Great War unavoidable. The Czech crisis came to a head when Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, flew to Munich to meet with Hitler regarding a solution between the "Great powers".

Canada and the United States stood largely apart form these issues and the European transformation of the balance of power. The main issue for Canada was that if another conflict between Britain and it's Empire against Germany did occur, would Canada rush to the aid and support of Great Britain. By the act of Westminster in 1931, Canada had been formally given control of it's foreign policy by the British Parliament and would hence make it's own decisions about war, peace, international relations and alliances.

The meeting at Munich produced an agreement between Chamberlain and Hitler proclaimed that the Sudetenland would be handed over to Germany but that would be the 3rd Reich's last territorial demand. Chamberlain returned to England with the Munich Agreement in hand proclaiming the there would be peace in our time.


Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement

This process of appeasement of Hitler and the Nazis took on a very sinister meaning when after giving up the Sudetenland to Hitler, between October 1st and 10th of 1938, contrary to the agreement Hitler and Germany invaded the rest of the Czech homeland in March of 1939 and assisted Slovakia to become independent and a Nazi satellite. The powers in England and France finally realized that Hitler could not be stopped by negotiations and agreements. The became determined to form a larger alliance with countries such as Poland and the Soviet Union in order to force Germany to stop. The same logic and diplomacy that had helped Europe blunder into the First World War had set the stage for a Second more terrible conflict. The tension levels in Europe had struck a fever pitch and in Canada the rumours of the coming confrontation were becoming loader.