Hitler’s desire to unify all German-speakers inside Nazi Germany led to expansionist demands against Germany’s neighbors. The Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia, portions of which were known as the Sudetenland, were home to a large population of German speakers, including many Jews. The area had been controlled for hundreds of years by the Austrian Habsburgs, until Czechoslovakia became independent after World War I. Hitler demanded that the Sudetenland be incorporated into his larger German empire.
In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier and Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini met with Hitler in what has been called the Munich Conference. Hitler demanded that Czechoslovakia hand over the Sudentenland to Germany. Chamberlain and the other leaders accepted the deal, believing Hitler’s promise that it would be his last territorial demand. Lacking any allies willing to help in her defense, Czechoslovakia had no choice but to relinquish the Sudetenland to Germany. Chamberlain returned to England proclaiming that his policy of appeasement had secured “peace in our time.”