The Munich Agreement


THE MUNICH AGREEMENT is an online collection of thirty-four pieces of newsreel material made by the Aktualita film company between 1937 and 1938. The collection focuses on political and social events that took place in Czechoslovakia shortly before and after Italy, France and Great Britain signed the Munich Agreement with Germany, effectively ordering Czechoslovakia to surrender its border regions – the Sudentenland – to Nazi Germany. It describes the immediate consequences of the Munich Dictate as well as the situation that led to it, characterised by intense preparations for a looming war conflict. The international context is outlined in seven newsreel segments that show the various responses of the international community in the aftermath of what happened in Czechoslovakia.

Thirty-one of the newsreel segments were intended for cinema distribution, and they are supplemented by three examples of daily rushes – raw, unedited footage – shot during two important public events: a national demonstration against the annexation of the Sudetenland held in Prague on 22 September 1938, and a public speech delivered by Prime Minister General Jan Syrový on that same day.

The pre-Munich mood is captured through newsreel segments from significant events and ordinary life in what was then Czechoslovakia. We see public appeals to volunteer and give blood and to contribute to the State Defence Jubilee Fund for the modernisation of the Czechoslovak army. We see children playing in gas masks in Prague and a montage to mark the first anniversary of the death of Tomáš Garrique Masaryk. Official events include a news report from the festivities held in Líšná u Zbiroha on 15 May 1938 in honour of the old Opatrný and Mudra farming families; footage featuring the arrival of the Czechoslovak Armed Forces at the border near the west Bohemian town of Cheb after 20 May 1938; a newsreel segment from Edvard Beneš’s visit to a glider airfield in Raná u Loun; footage capturing Edvard Beneš and Minister František Machník on 21 May 1938 during a visit to Tábor; an newsreel segment filmed during the opening of the Sixth Pilsen Jubilee Exhibition; and a news report from a demonstration for the unity of the Czechoslovak Republic held in Bratislava on 6 June.

Among the politicians addressing the nation’s future, we hear a recorded speech delivered by Rudolf Beran, a member of the National Assembly, on 9 December 1937; a speech by General Jan Syrový from 22 September 1938, in which he accepts his appointment to the office of Prime Minister and responds to the national demonstration for the unity of Czechoslovakia held in front of the Parliament building; a recorded speech by President Edvard Beneš from 10 September 1938, in which he appeals to Czech citizens to stay calm and hopeful for the future; and another presidential speech aimed at the German minority in Czechoslovakia and delivered in German.

The international political and social context of the time is illustrated through footage from a meeting between Czechoslovak politicians and Yvon Delbos, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, held in Prague on 15 December 1937; a news report about Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the editor-in-chief of the Vatican City State’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, and his visit to Czechoslovakia; footage from the audience Edvard Beneš granted to delegates of the American Slovak League on 30 May 1938; a newsreel segment from the 16th International Congress of PEN. Clubs held in Prague from 26 to 30 June 1938; a news report exploring the Runciman Mission to Czechoslovakia; a speech by the American journalist Eddy Sherwood regarding the brave stance adopted by the Czechoslovak nation; and a speech by MP Wenzel Jaksch on the possible coexistence of Czechs and Germans in Czechoslovakia.

The last section consists of footage showing the demobilisation of the Czechoslovak Armed Forces after 9 October 1938; images capturing the situation on the newly established border between Czechoslovakia and Germany after Czechoslovakia surrendered its border regions to Germany; footage from Košice, Slovakia, before it became a part of fascist Hungary based on the Vienna Arbitration; and a news report from Polička before it was annexed by Germany on 10 October 1938. Everyday life is glimpsed through images of the makeshift existence of Czech railway workers living in decommissioned railway carriages in the aftermath of the Sudetenland annexation, visits by the politicians Rudolf Beran and Vladislav Klumpar to a refugee camp for those who fled the Sudetenland; and a public collection for the refugees. As for politics, we witness the abdication of President Edvard Beneš on 5 October 1938, his last address to the nation, and the elections to the autonomous Slovak Land Assembly of the Second Czechoslovak Republic held in December 1938.

Recent Submissions

View more