After 1933, the Sudeten-German party (SdP) pursued a policy of escalation. Party leader Konrad Henlein with his deputy Karl Hermann Frank had secretly formed a pact with the Nazi Party now ruling in Germany and would gradually increase his demands so that Hitler could reap the fruits of the conflict.
“ It has been frequently suggested that Henlein was a sinister schemer and his SdP nothing more than a subversive Nazi organization bent on the destruction of Czechoslovak independence. It is easy to understand how these notions arose, yet neither Henlein at the outset of his political career nor the SdP for many years of its development had anything to do with the National Socialist movement in Germany. Both were originally dedicated to a democratic settlement of the Sudeten German question, which was to be achieved by peaceful negotiations in the Czech parliament. All attempts to reach an acceptable settlement, however, failed, and the gradual escalation of the Czech-Sudeten confrontation resulted in forcing Henlein into the arms of Adolf Hitler, who promised to provide an international sounding board for the Sudeten case. […] Hitler of course, more than welcomed the opportunity of making the Sudeten case his own and did not hesitate to misuse the principle of self-determination as a weapon to further his own Lebensraum policy. ”
Immediately after the Anschluss of Austria into the Third Reich in March 1938, Hitler made himself the advocate of ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia, triggering the "Sudeten Crisis".
In August, UK Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, sent Lord Runciman to Czechoslovakia in order to see if he could obtain a settlement between the Czechoslovak government and the Germans in the Sudetenland. His mission failed because, on Hitler's command, Sudeten German Party refused all conciliating proposals. Runciman reported the following to the British government:
“ Czech officials and Czech police, speaking little or no German, were appointed in large numbers to purely German districts; Czech agricultural colonists were encouraged to settle on land confiscated under the Land Reform in the middle of German populations; for the children of these Czech invaders Czech schools were built on a large scale; there is a very general belief that Czech firms were favoured as against German firms in the allocation of State contracts and that the State provided work and relief for Czechs more readily than for Germans. I believe these complaints to be in the main justified. Even as late as the time of my Mission, I could find no readiness on the part of the Czechoslovak Government to remedy them on anything like an adequate scale ... the feeling among the Sudeten Germans until about three or four years ago was one of hopelessness. But the rise of Nazi Germany gave them new hope. I regard their turning for help towards their kinsmen and their eventual desire to join the Reich as a natural development in the circumstances. ”
Cropped image of what first appeared in the Nazi party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, ostensibly depicting a Sudeten German woman in Asch crying tears of joy when Hitler crossed the border in 1938. Allied propaganda later used the cropped image with other interpretations.The Nazis, together with their Sudeten German allies, demanded incorporation of the region into Nazi Germany to escape "oppression", in fact to destroy the Czechoslovak state. While the Czechoslovak government mobilized its troops, the Western powers urged it to comply with Germany believing that they could prevent or postpone a general war by appeasing Hitler.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden on 15 September and agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.
Chamberlain met Hitler in Godesberg on September 22 to confirm the agreements. Hitler however, aiming at using the crisis as a pretext for war, now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories, giving the Czechoslovakian army no time to adapt their defence measures to the new borders. To achieve a solution, Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich and on September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini's proposal (actually prepared by Hermann Göring) and signed the Munich Agreement accepting the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland. The Czechoslovak government, though not party to the talks, promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.
The Sudetenland was occupied by Germany between October 1 and October 10, 1938. This unification with the Third Reich was followed by the flight or expulsion of most of the region's Czech population to areas remaining within Czechoslovakia.
The remaining parts of Czechoslovakia were subsequently invaded and annexed by Germany in March 1939.