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Today in history: Hitler gets the go-ahead

75 years ago today, the Munich treaty was signed and the word 'appeasement' entered the English language.

On Sept. 2, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry called the need to strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons, a "Munich moment."

Americans cannot be "silent spectators at the slaughter," Kerry said on the phone to Democrats.

The "Munich moment" Kerry invoked occurred Sept. 30, 1938 — 75 years ago today — when world leaders from France, Italy and the UK agreed not to wage war against Nazi Germany, instead choosing to sign the Munich treaty.

That pact authorized Hitler to take over part of Czechoslovakia called Sudetenland in exchange for leaving the rest of Europe alone.

We all know how that ended up.

Prime ministers (left to right) Lord Neville Chamberlain (UK), Edouard Daladier (France), Nazi German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini (Italia) and Italian Foreign minister Count Gian Galeazzo Ciano gather in Munich to sign the Munich treaty on Sept. 29, 1938. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Munich treaty was initially hailed as a peaceful solution (the Sudetenland was full of German-speakers, many of whom said they wanted to be a part of the Third Reich).

But it turned into quite the opposite. It wasn't long before Hitler took over most of Eastern Europe. 

So now the word "Munich" is used to mean "appeasement," or letting slip the moment when it would have been the easiest to stop a dictator. 

Britain Prime Minister Arthur Neville Chamberlain signs the Munich Treaty as Hitler's Secretary Martin Bormann (right) looks on, Septemb. 29, 1938 in Munich. (AFP/Getty Images)

The diplomatic middle ground the international community seeks on Syria may not directly equate to appeasement, but Secretary of State Kerry, at least, thinks it's worth giving pause.