In 1939, British politician Winston Churchill uttered these words: "Between shame and war, we have chosen shame, and we will get war."
To what was Churchill referring?
Churchill was an ardent critic of the appeasement policy of his prime minister predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. In the spring of 1939, Churchill was probably complaining about the refusal by Britain and France to fight for Czechoslovak independence. (Czechoslovakia has since split into two independent countries - the Czech Republic and Slovakia) In 1938, Germany, under Hitler, had annexed Austria and then demanded the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia that bordered Germany and Austria. At the Munich Conference in September 1938 Britain, under Chamberlain, and France gave Sudetenland to Hitler in exchange for a promise that Hitler would make no more territorial demands. Six months later, in the spring of 1939, Hitler demanded the rest of Czechoslovakia, and Chamberlain gave in without a fight. The USSR, also wary of German aggression, had been willing to fight for Czechoslovakian independence but had not been invited to Munich. When Britain and France were unwilling to fight in the spring of '39, Stalin soured on the western democracies. By August 1939, Hitler and Stalin concluded a non-aggression pact which opened the door for Hitler to attack Poland. Churchill got the war he had predicted. The shame he was referring to was the refusal to enforce the Munich agreement - that the rest of Czechoslovakia would remain independent.