I would like to go into further detail with regards to this Hitler quote:
“I never wanted to annex the Czechs, I assure you. My sole thought was to liberate the four million Germans who found themselves in an intolerable situation in Bohemia. But this problem immediately raised the question of the other nationalities. The Hungarians, Poles, and Slovaks all demanded their rights. So I was obliged to re examine in its entirety a question which had only been partially settled at Munich. [...]You Rumanians know better than anyone else the stubbornness with which the Hungarians and Poles sought to divide Subcarpathian Ukraine between them so as to have a common frontier. You were opposed to the idea; so were we. But I did not wish to play a thankless role, and I ended by yielding to the insistent demands of the Hungarians. . . . Since, at that moment, Slovakia manifested its desire to gain its independence, I realized that there could no longer be any question of maintaining a state that was breaking up itself.”
Adolf Hitler to the Romanaian Foreign Minister: Grigore Gafencu, Last Days of Europe: A Diplomatic Journey in 1939 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948), Pp. 74-75.
The historical facts of which Hitler mentions here are incontrovertibly true, and I wish to make that point here quite briefly.
The Poles and the Hungarians both sought to destroy Czechoslovakia, this is an inconvenient fact which is ignored in all major histories. if it is mentioned not much emphasis is given to it, because this fact alone justifies, or at least, puts into perspective Hitler's actions against the Czech remnant and his insistence to only support Slovakia if she were to announce her independence entirely. It was of course in Hitler's interest to see the Czech state disappear, for she would remain a possible threat to German security, simply looking at her geographical position on a map justifies Hitler's concern without question:
The hostility of Churchill and the "anti-appeasers" to an understanding with Germany prompted Hitler to consider the future. Should the opposition come to power in London, it would in all probability abandon the policy of understanding and seek to encircle Germany. In this case it had to be expected that Benesch would return to power in Prague and again pursue a policy hostile to Germany. In an alliance with England, France and Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia could again become a danger to the German Reich, which Hitler wanted to prevent at all costs. He therefore issued an instruction to the General Staff of the Army on 21 October 1938 to make immediate preparations to "finish off the rest of Czechoslovakia".
Walter Post, Die Ursachen des Zweiten Weltkriekes: Ein Grundriß der internationalen Diplomatie von Versailles bis Pearl Harbor (Tübingen: Grabert-Verlag, 2003), Pp. 303.
However the point here is to show that the Poles were attempting to bully their neighbours by issuing ultimatums, and threatening war if they didn't comply with her demands. Firstly, the German Ambassador to Poland, Hans-Adolf von Moltke, received information from a source close to the Polish Foreign Minister Beck, in which he learned of the Polish insistence on a common border with Hungary, exactly as Hitler stated to Gafencu. Moltke reported this in a telegram to the German Foreign Ministry on October 22, 1938:
From a source close to Foreign Minister Beck I have heard that he returned greatly disappointed from his trip to Rumania. Although King Carol had shown understanding for the Polish viewpoint, Comnen had stubbornly opposed any solution which would deprive Rumania of direct contact with Czechoslovakia. M. Beck had not, however, permitted this to divert him from his plans and was determined to achieve a common frontier with Hungary under any circumstances, if necessary by force.
DGFP, D, Vol. V, Doc. 79, p. 102.
If one looks at a map, this common border could only have been created had Slovakia ceased to retain relations with Czechia, and either announced its independence or was ravaged by either Poland or Hungary, perhaps both.
Map from: Sean McMeekin, Stalin's War (Allen Lane, 2021), Pp. 73.
As can be seen by looking at this map, in order for Poland and Hungary to share a border, Czechoslovakia would have to have been eliminated.
This is what lead Hitler to invite Tiso to Berlin, and give him an option of either being hung out to dry, or allowing Slovakia to survive independently secured by Germany:
He [Hitler] had now summoned Minister Tiso in order to clear up this question in a very short time. Germany had no interests east of the Carpathians. It was a matter of complete indifference to him what happened there. The question was, did Slovakia want to lead an independent existence or not? He wanted nothing from Slovakia. He would not stake his people, or even a single soldier, for something which the Slovak people did not want at all. He wanted a final confirmation as to what Slovakia really wanted. He did not want Hungary to reproach him for preserving something which did not want to be preserved. In general, he took a very generous view of disturbances and demonstrations, but in this case the disturbances were only an outward sign of internal uncertainty. He could not put up with that, and he had therefore summoned Tiso to hear his decision. It was a question not of days but of hours. He had previously said that if Slovakia wished to become independent he would support and even guarantee her efforts in that direction. He would keep his promise as long as Slovakia clearly expressed the desire for independence. If she hesitated or refused to be separated from Prague, he would leave the fate of Slovakia to events for which he was no longer responsible. Then he would look after German interests only, and they did not extend east of the Carpathians. Germany had nothing to do with Slovakia. She had never belonged to Germany.
Hewel Memo of the Conversation between Adolf Hitler and Josef Tiso on March 13, 1939: DGFP, D, Vol. IV, Doc. 202, p. 245.
This is how D.C. Watt describes this conference, although he makes Hitler sound more urgent than the memo itself seems to justify, nonetheless it's accurate:
Hitler was at his most truculent. He was going to settle with the Czechs. What would the Slovaks do? They could choose independence now and Germany would guarantee their security, or they could stay with the Czechs; in which case Hitler washed his hands of them. He would abandon them to their destiny, probably to occupation by Poland and Hungary. He wanted a decision at once - Blitzschnell!
D.C. Watt, How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989), Pp. 149.
However, I think the best most succinct account is given by the historian Kurt Glaser. He confirms all the most important points, which I will underline:
Among the Slovak leaders, Monsignor Tiso, Deputy Premier Karol Sidor, and their supporters from the Agrarian party would have been content to have Slovakia remain an autonomous state within a federal Czecho-Slovakia, had such a solution been possible. Others, such as Professor Tuka (released from prison in October, 1938) and Minister Ferdinand Durcansky, favored complete independence. It is doubtful, however, whether Slovakia would have become an independent state in 1939 without pressure from Germany—particularly since Prague still had large contingents of Czech troops stationed in Slovakia, while the Slovak contingents of the Czecho-Slovak army were mostly in Bohemia.
While the Western Powers and Prague assumed that Hitler would respect the new boundaries drawn after Munich, Tiso and his ministers had better information. Through the Carpatho-German leader, Franz Karmasin, and other German contacts, they learned that the Führer planned to seize Bohemia and Moravia in the near future.64 They also knew that Hungary planned to annex the remainder of Slovakia and that Hitler—who, like many Austrians, tended to believe that Slovaks liked Magyar rule—was not averse to this move. Politics being the art of the possible, there was only one way in which Tiso and his friends could stave off the reconquest of Slovakia by Hungary. That was to convince the Nazi leadership that Slovak independence would be more to Germany’s interest. To accomplish this end, the leaders of the Bratislava government, including Durcansky, Mach, Tuka, Karmasin (since October 10, 1938 State Secretary for German Affairs), and on one occasion Tiso himself, held extensive conferences with Reich officials. These conferences alarmed President Hacha and the Prague ministers, who walked squarely into the trap which the Nazis had set for them.
Early in March, 1939, Hacha and his cabinet decided to liquidate the Slovak government, or at least its “separatist” wing. The Czech Minister in Berlin, Dr. Mastny, asked the Wilhelmstrasse how Germany would regard Czech military intervention in Slovakia, and was given to understand that the Reich viewed it as “a Czecho-Slovak internal matter.” On the night of March 9, President Hacha dismissed Tiso and his cabinet, and declared a state of emergency in Slovakia. General Homolka, the local commander, arrested Ministers Cernak, Mach, and Tuka, while Durcansky escaped to Vienna, where he made a radio speech urging the Slovaks to revolt against the Czech oppressors. Reluctantly, Sidor assumed the premiership: his first act was to obtain the release of the arrested ministers.
Hitler, of course, had no intention of regarding Hacha’s coup de force as a Czecho-Slovak internal matter. On March 12, 1939, a Nazi delegation headed by State Secretary Wilhelm Keppler of the Foreign Office and Reich Governor Arthur Seyss-Inquart of Austria arrived in Bratislava and urged Premier Sidor to proclaim the immediate independence of Slovakia. Sidor refused adamantly, stating that he lacked authority for such an act, but arrangements were made for Tiso and Durcansky to fly to Berlin and for a special session of the Slovak parliament to be held upon their return.
At a conference in the Chancellory, Hitler laid down the terms of the decision the Slovaks had to make. If Slovakia wished independence, he would support it and even guarantee it, but “if she hesitated or did not wish to dissolve the connection with Prague, he would leave the destiny of Slovakia to the mercy of events for which he was no longer responsible.” At the psychological instant, Ribbentrop produced a telegram reporting Hungarian troop movements along the Slovak frontier. After Monsignor Tiso had reported to the Slovak parliament the following morning, a law was passed unanimously declaring the independence of Slovakia and transforming the regional parliament into that of the Slovak Republic. A new government was formed with Tiso as premier and Durcansky as Foreign Minister.
Kurt Glaser, Czecho-Slovakia a Critical History (Caxton Printers Ltd. 1961), Pp. 44-46.
In other words, without Germany Slovakia would've been stuck under the thumb of the Czechs, unable to militarily decide their own fate even if they wanted to. Therefore it wasn't possible for the Slovaks to remain independent in a federal Czecho-Slovakia, they needed outside help and Germany was in the perfect position to provide that help, in fact, they were the only country the Slovaks could rely upon. Thus to talk of a possible federal Czecho-Slovak state is to miss the entire point, which is that because of Germany's advantageous position she needn't have applied any sort of pressure upon the Slovaks, but instead simply impress on her leaders that without German help, Slovakia might disappear, and if she wanted to avoid that the Slovaks would have to come to terms with a solution that also benefitted German interests which would entail the full independence of Slovakia, which it mustn't be forgotten, couldn't have occurred had there not been a latent desire for it in the first place. This is exactly what happened. The Slovaks were simply, due to matters of fate out of their geographic and geo-political control, in a more subservient position in which they needed Germany more than Germany needed them. Although it seems as though both nations needed each other in the end, and both benefitted.
None of the aforementioned events could've happened by Hitler's will alone, and it took the independent choice of others to create the situation possible for certain outcomes to be brought about. To blame Hitler for how things turned out would be an absurd simplification. That's assuming the situation that resulted is even that which needs to have blame delegated to it.
Hitler could not have regarded the actions taken by the Czechs against the Slovaks as a purely "internal matter", he had already made it clear in his popularly cited speech on September 26, 1938 that he would not be interested in the Czech state once she resolved her minority problem:
It could also be pointed out that Hitler is usually quoted incompletely with his Sports Palace speech of September 26, 1938, that he guaranteed the Czech state and that he did not want any Czechs at all. For Hitler had made this declaration conditional at the outset on the Czechs having to come to terms with their other minorities in a satisfactory manner: "And I further assured him [Chamberlain] that the moment Czecho-Slovakia solves its problems, i.e., the moment the Czechs have come to terms with other minorities, and have done so peacefully and not by oppression, that I will then no longer be interested in the Czech state. And that is guaranteed! We don't want Czechs at all. . ."
Dr. Richard Pemsel, Hitler: Revolutionär - Staatsmann - Verbrecher? (Tübingen: Grabert-Verlag, 1986), Pp. 291-292.
The point here is that Hitler had made an independent decision on the course Germany would take toward the Czech state and her position on Slovakia. According to this course he frankly told Tiso (as we just read) that unless he declared total Slovakian independence that country would not be able to count on the support of Germany in the future. Hitler then left the ball in Tiso's court, it was still his decision to make
. One cannot criticise Hitler for this, he wasn't obligated to unconditionally support Slovakia. The genius of this foreign policy manoeuvre lies in the nature of Hitler's ability to take advantage of a situation he didn't create to guide an outcome that was best suited to German interests. This he cannot be blamed for and can only have been expected.
Hitler had asked Ribbentrop at the meeting with Tiso if he had anything to add:
The Reich Foreign Minister also emphasized that a decision was a matter of hours, not days. He handed to the Führer a report just received announcing Hungarian troop movements on the Slovak frontier. The Führer read this report, told Tiso of its contents, and expressed the hope that Slovakia would reach a decision soon.
DGFP, D, Vol. IV, Doc. 202, p. 245.
Watt claims the report Ribbentrop received on Hungarian troop movements was most certainly "a lie" yet presents no evidence for this claim. As I've established, and will emphasise a little more with another document or two in a moment, the Poles and Hungarians seriously intended to annex their own territories at the Czechs "expense", lauded Hitler biographer Alan Bullock confirms this:
At the same time, the ground was carefully prepared with the Hungarians, who were eager to recover Ruthenia and at least part of Slovakia, and with the Slovaks themselves, who were cast for the same role the Sudeten Germans had played the year before. The actual moment at which the crisis broke was not determined by Hitler and took him by surprise, but that was all. The Slovaks were at once prodded into declaring their independence and putting themselves in Hitler's hands. The Czech government, after Hitler had threatened President Hacha in Berlin, did the same. The 'legality' of German intervention was unimpeachable: Hitler had been invited to intervene by both the rebels and the government. War had been avoided, no shots exchanged, peace preserved - yet the independent state of-Czechoslovakia had been wiped off the map.
Alan Bullock, "Hitler and the Origins of the Second World War," in: The Origins of the Second World War: Historical Interpretations (Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1971), Pp. 210.
As we can see Bullock says the Hungarians had some designs on Slovakia. Clearly, if Ribbentrop had presented Tiso with a lie it hardly would've mattered, because for it to have been effective it would've had to have some basis in fact. This is the inconvenient point historians like Watt choose to ignore.
However, on March 12 1939, "The Legation in Czechoslovakia to the Foreign Ministry" reported on Polish and Hungarian troop movements directed against Czechia, this was a day before Tiso came to Berlin, so it seems that Ribbentrop was indeed presenting Tiso with accurate information:
Military preparedness seems to have been ordered in the barracks in Bohemia and Moravia.
Small-scale military convoys in the direction of Slovakia. Movement of police continues.
Polish military and police reinforcements reported opposite Mahrisch-Ostrau.
Reinforcements on the Hungarian frontier reported at the same time.
DGFP, D, Vol. IV, Doc. 189, p. 235-236.
After the meeting with Hitler, Tiso left Berlin without having been subject to any pressure but rather presented with a choice, yet some historians don't seem to be able to tell the difference. Nothing was signed, nothing was accepted, and nothing was even asked of Tiso. Hitler knew he didn't have to ask or push for anything at all, that the situation was such that if the Slovaks were smart they would realise that if they wanted to remain a fixture on the map of Europe they would have to declare their independence.
Tiso remained unmoved and simply told Hitler that he would have to consult the Slovak Assembly which he had meet on the 14th:
Tiso thanked the Führer for his words. He had long desired to hear from the lips of the Führer the latter’s attitude toward his people and his country and how he viewed the problems. He noted what had been said and assured the Führer that he could rely on Slovakia. The Führer would pardon him if, under the impact of the latter’s words, he could make no definite statement at once, let alone give a decision. He would retire with his colleague and consider the whole question calmly, but they would prove themselves worthy of the Führer’s benevolence and interest in their country. Thereupon the conversation ended.
DGFP, D, Vol. IV, Doc. 202, p. 245.
In the end the Slovakian assembly voluntarily decided to declare their independence after having been told about the new German position presented to them.
Tiso nevertheless knew when the cards were stacked too heavily against him. At 9 a.m. the following morning, March 14, he met the Sidor Cabinet and explained what had happened. At 11 he met the Slovak Assembly. Sidor announced the resignation of his Cabinet. Drily and with irony Tiso explained the nature of the choice with which Hitler had faced them. He made no recommendations or proposals. This was left to Martin Sokol, Speaker of the Assembly, who put the vote on a declaration of independence to the Assembly. 'All in favour, rise to their feet.' All present, fifty-seven of the sixty-three members of the Assembly, rose to their feet. Sokol declared, 'I confirm that the Assembly of the Slovakian region, as the sole organ competent to express the political will of the Slovak nation, is decided on the proclamation of an independent Slovak state.' It was just after midday.
Watt, op cit., p. 150.
However it wasn't only the Slovak assembly that unanimously agreed on independence, but also the Slovak people:
There had been no encouragement from Hitler to induce Poland to incorporate the Czech Olsa territory that included the town of Teschen, where large part of the population was German. Furthermore, he had not ordered or advocated provincial parliamentary elections in Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine, and he certainly did not pre-determine their result: The local population there had voted 98% and 92.4%, respectively, in favour of setting up an autonomous government and against centralism from Prague. Furthermore, it was not Hitler’s fault that, after Austria’s reunion with Germany and the breaking away of Slovakia, Czechia’s remaining borderline to the outside world was reduced to a mere 50 kilometres (31 miles), which in this case was a far from friendly Poland.
Udo Walendy, Who Started World War II? (Castle Hill Publishers, 2014), Pp. 127-128; Paul Rassinier, Die Jahrhundert-Provokation: Wie Deutschland in den Zweiten Weltkrieg getrieben wurde (Tübingen: Grabert-Verlag, 1989), Pp. 221.
Any sane man who wanted to see the independence of his nation would've heeded Hitler's advice as Tiso did, but was by no means forced to do. Hitler was simply provided with a perfect opportunity by his rowdy neighbours to let the "chips fall where they may" and let the logical conclusions be come to by his allies who would've recognized that Germany was the only country which offered them the best outcome. Hitler knew this, and so Germany benefitted and Czechoslovakia fell apart just as Hitler described to Gafencu. He was absolutely correct, and justified in his actions. No responsible statesmen would've done differently, even if you consider it to be a bit of a gamble.
I took a bit of a detour in order to contextualise what happened with Slovakia's independence. This is fully in line with Hitler's comments to Gafencu, which means that Hitler had the full support of the historical facts behind him. He was indeed justified upon the basis which he defended. However we're not done. Some final documents from October, and finally November 1938 show how determined the Poles were in attempting to induce the Slovaks to secede from their union with the Czechs.
On 27 October 1938 von Moltke again informed Ribbentrop of Poland's actions against the Czecho-Slovak state:
As I have already stated in report P V 47 of October 14, 1938, Poland is trying to induce Slovakia to break away from the political union in which she has been joined until now. For this purpose use is made of the Slovak Deputy, Sidor, who for a long time apparently has been getting material support from Poland for his political purposes. So far, however, it has not been possible to discover any indication here that the Polish Government may be bent on uniting an independent Slovakia with Poland through a personal union, in violation of the interests of its close ally, Hungary. Rather, the information available here indicates that according to the Polish view Slovakia could very well become an independent state ; it would then remain to be seen whether she would seek a future alignment with Hungary or Poland. Moreover, this also seems to be the opinion of the Hungarian Minister here, who regards the rumors mentioned in the telegram referred to above, which he likewise has heard of, merely as Czech attempts to cause trouble.
DGFP, D, Vol. V, Doc. 87, p. 115.
A telegram a few days prior, on October 22, 1938 also made comments about Hungary, Poland and Slovakia:
In the Slovak question the Polish Government, too, was of the opinion that Hungary had to make certain concessions. On the other hand it took the view that the cities of Ungvar and Munkacs should be given to Hungary. For the rest, it was well known that the Poles favored an autonomous Carpatho-Ukraine associated with Hungary. Since all this was well known he was today only requesting that regular contact be maintained with Poland in dealing with. Hungarian frontier questions; he had spoken about this with the State Secretary a few days ago.
DGFP, D, Vol. V, Doc. 80, p. 103.
And on November 1st the Legation in Czechoslovakia sent a telegram to the German Foreign Ministry stating:
The Czechoslovak Foreign Minister told me shortly before he left for Vienna that an agreement had been reached between the Polish and Czechoslovak Governments- whereby the Czechoslovak Government had in the main complied with the Polish demands except for cession of the industrial area near Hrusow (telegram 685, paragraph 1 a). Yesterday the Slovak Government had given its consent to this settlement. Polish pressure on Czechoslovakia had been extremely strong. The Polish note had spoken of immediate resort to extreme measures in the event that the proposal was rejected. The Czechoslovak Government had had no other choice than to accept the heavy territorial and economic sacrifice demanded, in order to avoid armed conflict.
DGFP, D, Vol. V, Doc. 94, p. 121.
David Hoggan was thus entirely correct in his summation of Poland:
There is an astonishing parallel between American policy toward Japan in 1941 and Polish policy toward Germany in 1939. In the latter case, the Poles maintained the fiction of seriously seeking an agreement with the Germans until confronting them with a mobilization and a threat of war. Some observers have suggested that events in Bohemia explained this Polish attitude, but the records show that the Poles were actually eager to produce the collapse of the rival Czech state. After initiating a crisis, the Poles refused to negotiate for a solution. Much the same happened in 1941.
David L. Hoggan, The Myth of 'New History': The Techniques and Tactics of the New Mythologists of American History (The Craig Press, Nutley, N. J., 1965), Pp. 178.
Udo Walendy makes the same point:
The rejection of the German negotiation proposal of 26 March 1939 [to the Poles] was deliberately provocative, since there was no cause whatsoever for answering this with threats of war, mobilisation, aggravated minority policies, with the “awakening of the anti-German mood among the Polish people of every social strata and circle” and, lastly, to underline it with the acceptance of a British carte-blanche.
The assertion that Hitler’s entry into Prague on 15 March 1939 was responsible for this response is demonstrably false. The Polish leadership, “the only one not to have issued a formal protest against the annexation” of Czechia, did not consider the establishment of the protectorate – done with the approval of the Czech government! – as being a threat to Poland. Indeed, they were the ones who had never believed in the viability of Czecho-Slovakia and, in addition, it was they who were working toward the further partitioning of this State with their territorial claims and ultimata after the Munich conference, and who were defending a common border with Hungary.
Walendy, op cit., p. 190.
I suppose the TL;DR is that yes, there is documentary proof of Poland and Hungary's attempt to put pressure on Czechoslovakia in order to bring about a common frontier, just as Hitler stated to the Romanian Foreign Minister Grigore Gafencu. Hitler's actions against the Czechs on this basis was justified, he was far from the only one who could gain from the total destruction of the Czech state. There is no reason to suppose that Czechoslovakia, a state barely 20 years old, was an integral, or sacred political fixture. To view it as such when nobody at the time considered it to be so is ridiculous. The only reason anybody cares about Czechoslovakia is because it serves an anti-German "anti-Nazi" political dogma.