The Nazis Didn’t Invade Austria and Czechoslovakia? (Updated)
Not according to Yaacov Lozowick, an Israeli historian:
Here’s my input, on a point no-one else seems to be noticing: There was no Nazi invasion of the Sudetenland, no invasion of Slovakia, hardly one of Austria and even less of Bohemia. Nazi Germany brutally invaded many countries, but those weren’t among them. Go check the history books and see if I know what I’m talking about. Glenn Greenwald surely doesn’t.
Lozowick is responding to a recent post by Glenn Greenwald in which Glenn used the Nazi invasion of the Sudetenland, which was overwhelmingly supported by its ethnic German residents, to make the point that, no matter how reprehensible and illegal a particular invasion, it always possible to find some group of people in the invaded country who supported it. Glenn was calling out Jeffrey Goldberg, whose most recent rationale for the invasion of Iraq (he’s had many, most notably that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda) was that the Kurds were in favor of it. That post led Joe Klein to claim that Glenn was arguing that “the liberation of the Kurds… can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland” and Goldberg to claim — even more hyperbolically — that Glenn was comparing “the Iraq war to the Nazi conquest of Europe.” Both claims were patently ridiculous and can only be explained as deliberate misrepresentations of Glenn’s post, given that Glenn specifically said that “it should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions.”
Lozowick equally distorts Glenn’s post, claiming that he “compared the Nazi invasion of Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia, with the American invasion of Iraq.” What I find particularly interesting, however, is Lozowick’s contention that — as quoted above — “[t]here was no Nazi invasion of the Sudetenland, no invasion of Slovakia, hardly one of Austria and even less of Bohemia.” I don’t know how the history books describe the Nazis’ actions toward Austria and Czechoslovakia; perhaps they avoid the term “invasion” because the invaded countries didn’t resist. I do know, however, that the Nuremberg Military Tribunals (1) held that those actions qualified as invasions; (2) held that the invasions of Austria and Czechoslovakia constituted crimes against peace; and (3) convicted two defendants of crimes against peace for participating in those invasions. Here is the relevant section of Chapter 8 of my book on the tribunals, citations omitted:
As noted in Chapter 5, unlike the London Charter, which criminalized only wars of aggression, Law No. 10 criminalized both wars of aggression and “invasions.” That difference proved critical in Ministries, because Tribunal IV convicted Keppler and Lammers for participating in attacks that it considered invasions, not aggressive wars: the attack on Austria (Keppler), and the attack on Czechoslovakia (Keppler and Lammers). Neither Keppler nor Lammers, therefore, could have been convicted of crimes against peace by the IMT.
Tribunal IV’s convictions of Keppler and Lammers were only possible, of course, because it concluded that Germany’s attacks on Austria and Czechoslovakia qualified as “invasions.” Law No. 10 did not specify what separated aggressive wars from invasions; it simply made clear that it considered them different kinds of attacks. And the IMT neither defined the term nor used it consistently, referring to the attacks on Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg as “invasions” although it considered them aggressive wars and referring to the attack on Czechoslovakia as a “seizure.”
The Ministries tribunal was not, however, writing on a completely blank slate. Tribunal V had provided a definition of “invasion” in High Command, albeit in dicta because it had dismissed the crimes against peace charges – as discussed below – on the ground that the defendants did not satisfy the leadership requirement. According to Tribunal V, the difference between an aggressive war and an invasion was that the latter did not involve armed resistance:
[A]n invasion of one state by another is the implementation of the national policy of the invading state by force even though the invaded state, due to fear or a sense of the futility of resistance in the face of superior force, adopts a policy of nonresistance and thus prevents the occurrence of any actual combat.
The majority in Ministries adopted High Command’s definition of invasion, noting – rightly – that there was no legal or political rationale for assuming “that an act of war, in the nature of an invasion, whereby conquest and plunder are achieved without resistance, is to be given more favorable consideration than a similar invasion which may have met with some military resistance.” The two judges thus had little problem determining that the attacks on Austria and Czechoslovakia qualified as invasions and were thus crimes against peace under Law No. 10. With regard to Austria, they emphasized that “armed bands of National Socialist SA and SS units” had taken control of the Austrian government even before German troops crossed the border. With regard to Czechoslovakia, they emphasized that Hitler had coerced Hacha into consenting to German occupation by threatening to destroy Prague by air and had “started his armed forces on the march into Bohemia and Moravia” even before Hacha had given that consent. With regard to both, they noted that “[t]he fact that the aggressor was here able to so overawe the invaded countries, does not detract in the slightest from the enormity of the aggression in reality perpetrated.”
Lozowick believes that Glenn is the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Two of the most important trials held after World War II beg to disagree.
UPDATE: I decided to accept Lozowick’s invitation and “check the history books.” A small sampling of books that refer to the “invasion” of Czechoslovakia: here, here, here, here, here. And a small sampling that refer to the “invasion” of Austria: here, here, here, here, here.