Prior to the “May Crisis”, Hitler appeared to be in no hurry to bring the crisis over Czechoslovakia to a conclusion. An earlier draft memorandum on “Operation Green” (the code name for the invasion of Czechoslovakia), dated 20 May 1938, indicated no immediate timetable for the operation. The events of 19-22 May 1938, however, caused Hitler to change his mind. He believed that Germany had suffered a loss of face in climbing down – or appearing to climb down – when confronted with the apparent resolution of Britain and France. An amendment to the plan was issued within a week. An accompanying covering letter from General Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces, clearly sets a target date.
Berlin, 30 May, 1938
TOP SECRET, MILITARY
Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht
O.K.W. No. 42/38 Top Secret, Military. LI
ONLY TO BE HANDLED BY AN OFFICER
WRITTEN BY AN OFFICER
By order of the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, part 2, section II of the directive on the combined preparations for war of the Wehrmacht of June 24, 1937 (Supreme Headquarters No. 55/37, Top Secret, Mil. LIa). (War on Two Fronts with Main Effort in the Southeast, Strategic Concentration “Green”) is to be replaced by the attached version. Its execution must be assured by October 1, 1938, at the latest.
Alterations to other parts of the directive are to be expected during the next few weeks.
Chief of the Supreme Headquarters
of the Wehrmacht
C.-in-C. Air Force
O.K.W. Section L
Copy of 4th version
TOP SECRET, MILITARY
Appendix to: Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht O.K.W.
No.я42/38,Top Secret, Military, LIa, dated May 30, 1938.
ONLY TO BE HANDLED BY AN OFFICER
WRITTEN BY AN OFFICER
II. War on Two Fronts with Main Effort in Southeast
(Strategic Concentration “Green”)
1) Political Assumptions.
It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future. It is the business of the political leadership to await or bring about the suitable moment from a political and military point of view.
An unavoidable development of events within Czecho-slovakia, or other political events in Europe providing a suddenly favourable opportunity which may never recur, may cause me to take early action.
The proper choice and determined exploitation of a favourable moment is the surest guarantee of success. To this end preparations are to be made immediately.
2) Political Possibilities for Commencing the Operation.
The following are necessary prerequisites for the intended attack:
a) A convenient apparent excuse and, with it,
b) Adequate political justification,
c) Action not expected by the enemy which will find him in the least possible state of readiness.
Most favourable from a military as well as a political point of view would be lightning action as a result of an incident which would subject Germany to unbearable provocation, and which, in the eyes of at least a part of world opinion, affords the moral justification for military measures.
Moreover, any period of diplomatic tension prior to war must be terminated by sudden action on our part, unexpected in both timing and extent, before the enemy is so far advanced in his state of military preparedness that he cannot be overtaken.
3) Conclusions for the Preparation of Operation “Green”
a) For the military operations it is essential to make the fullest use of the surprise element as the most important factor contributing to victory, by means of appropriate preparatory measures, already in peacetime, and an unexpected swiftness of action.
Thus is it essential to create a situation within the first two or there days which demonstrate to enemy states which wish to intervene the hopelessness of the Czech military position, and also provides an incentive to those states which have territorial claims upon Czechoslovakia to join in immediately against her. In this case the intervention of Hungary and Poland against Czechoslovakia can be expected, particularly if France, as a result of Italy’s unequivocal attitude on our side, fears, or at least hesitates, to unleash an European war by intervening against Germany. In all probability attempts by Russia to give Czechoslovakia military support, particularly with her air force, are to be expected.
If concrete successes are not achieved in the first few days by land operations, a European crisis will certainly arise. Realisation of this ought to give commanders of all ranks an incentive to resolute and bold action.
b) Propaganda warfare must on the one hand intimidate the Czechs by means of threats and wear down their power of resistance; and on the other hand it must give the national racial groups indications as to how to support our military operations and influence the neutrals in our favour. Further instructions and determination of the appropriate moment are reserved to me.
4) Tasks of the Wehrmacht.
Wehrmacht preparations are to be carried out on the following principles:
a) The whole weight of all forces must be employed against Czechoslovakia.
b) In the West, a minimum strength is to be provided as cover for our rear, as may become necessary; the other frontiers in the East against Poland and Lithuania are only to be held defensively; the southern frontier to remain under observation.
c) The army formations capable of rapid employment must force the frontier fortifications with speed and energy, and must break very boldly into Czechoslovakia in the certainty that the bulk of the mobile army will be brought up with all possible speed.
Preparations for this are to be made and timed in such a way that the army formations most capable of rapid movement cross the frontier at the appointed time simultaneously with the penetration by the Luftwaffe, before the enemy can become aware of our mobilisation.
To this end a timetable is to be drawn up by the Army and Luftwaffe in conjunction with O.K.W. and submitted to me for approval.
5) Tasks for the services of the Wehrmacht.
The basic principle of surprise attack on Czechoslovakia must not be endangered by the time unavoidably needed for transporting the bulk of the field army by rail, nor must the more rapid deployment of the Luftwaffe fail to be exploited.
The first task for the Army is therefore to employ as many assault columns as possible simultaneously with the attack by the Luftwaffe.
These assault columns organised in conformity with their tasks, must be composed of troops which can be rapidly employed because of their proximity to the frontier, their motorisation, and their special measures of readiness.
It must be the purpose of these thrusts to break into the Czech fortified lines at numerous points and in a strategically favourable direction, in order to penetrate them or to take them from the rear. For success, cooperation with the Sudeten German frontier population, with deserters from the Czechoslovak Army, with parachutists or airborne troops, and with units of the sabotage service is of importance.
The bulk of the Army has the task of frustrating the Czech defence plan, preventing a withdrawal by the Czech Army into Slovakia, forcing it to battle and defeating it, and swiftly occupying Bohemia and Moravia. To this end a thrust into the heart of Czechoslovakia must be made with the strongest possible mechanised and armoured units, exploiting the first successes of the assault columns and the effects of the Luftwaffe action.
The rear cover provided for the West must be limited in quantity and quality in accordance with the existing state of the fortifications.
Whether the formations assigned for this purpose will be at once transferred to the western frontier, or held back for the time being, will be decided by my special order.
Preparations must, however, be made to enable security detachments to be brought up to the western frontier, even during the strategic concentration “Green”. Independently of this, a first security garrison must be improvised from the engineers and formations of the Labour Corps employed at the time on the construction of fortifications.
The remaining frontiers, as well as East Prussia, are only to be weakly guarded. According to the political situation, however, the transport of a part or the bulk of the active forces in East Prussia by sea to the Reich must be envisaged.
While leaving a minimum force for a defensive role in the West, the main strength of the Luftwaffe is to employed for a surprise attack against Czechoslovakia. The frontier is to be crossed by aircraft at the same time as it is crossed by the first units of the Army (see No. 5a). The most important task of the Luftwaffe is the destruction of the Czech Air Striking Force and its supply bases in the shortest possible time, to prevent its employment and, should the case arise, that of the Russian and French Air Forces, against the German Army during its deployment and invasion and against the German Lebensraum.
The paralysing of mobilisation, of the conduct of civil affairs and the direction of the armed forces, as well as delaying the deployment of the Czech Army by attacks on its communications system and on centres of mobilisation and government, will also be of vital importance for the initial success of the Army. Where in the frontier region stronger Czech Army formations or the depth of the defence system may render a speedy and successful break-through of the German land attack doubtful, the employment of adequate air formations must be ensured.
As far as the course of operations at all permits, Czechoslovak industrial establishments are to be spared.
Reprisal attacks upon the population are subject to my approval.
Main centres for anti-aircraft defence are to be organised in Berlin, the industrial region of Central Germany, and the Ruhr district, and are to be gradually prepared from now in an inconspicuous fashion.
The Navy will take part in the operation of the Army by the employment of the Danube flotilla. For this purpose the flotilla is placed under the command of the Commander in Chief of the Army.
As regards the conduct of naval warfare, at first only such measures are to be taken as seem necessary for securing the North See and the Baltic against a surprise intervention by other states in the conflict. These measures are to be limited to the absolute essentials. Their concealment must be ensured. In this it is of decisive importance to avoid all actions which might adversely affect the political attitude of the European Great Powers.
6) Economic warfare tasks.
In economic warfare it is essential that in the sphere of the armament industry a maximum deployment of forces should be made possible through increased supplies.
In the course of military operations it is important to help to increase the total economic war effort by rapidly collecting information about important factories and setting them going again as soon as possible.
For this reason the sparing, as far as military operations permit, of Czech industrial and engineering establishments may be of decisive importance to us.
7) All preparations for sabotage and insurrection will be made by O.K.W. They will be made in agreement with and according to the requirements of the branches of the Wehrmacht so that their effects in both time and place will harmonise with operations by the Army and Luftwaffe.
Certified true copy
Lieut. Colonel, General Staff
Source: Documents on German Foreign Policy, series D, vol. II. Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1950 © Crown copyright.
For more information on the Crisis over Czechoslovakia: March – September 1938 please visit:Department of Modern History, University of St Andrews