Prior to the advent of World War II, no pavilion received a more sympathetic response than Czechoslovakia's. On October 9, 1938, The New York Times' editors exclaimed: "There is something still indomitable about the Czechs and the Chinese, the two underdogs in this present bull-pit of nations we call the world. Both are deserted by their friends. Yet both will proudly take their places in our Hall of Nations with exhibits uncurtailed by their current troubles." (China eventually withdrew from the fair.)
Initial plans called for a $400,000 structure with 60,000 feet of floor space.
Following the enforcement of the Munich agreement, allowing the annexation of major Czech land areas by Germany, the world's fair held an exhibit contract with a country that no longer existed.
The pavilion's original exhibit director, Bohuelar Soumar, arrived in New York in mid-March, 1939, intent on opening the unfinished pavilion. "I do not know what will happen but I am going to continue with my work until I am ordered to stop." The New York Times lamented: "It was begun as an exhibit of a free and proud republic. Now it stands for a nation in chains."
Within days word arrived from the "protectors" of Czechoslovakia – the pavilion could proceed with local support, only if it contained no anti- Nazi propaganda. The German government even offered to forego the use of the swastika in the pavilion.
Two days later Mayor LaGuardia met with the Czechoslovakian ambassador to the United States to discuss the pavilion's future. Vladimir Hurban, the Czech minister, had defiantly informed the Nazi controlled government he would not recognize their puppet president and would retain control of the Czechoslovakian embassy in Washington.
In early April Grover Whalen received a telegram from Oldrich Vasticka, the Minister of Public Works in Prague, announcing the Nazi government had changed its mind. "Pavilion will not be opened. Negotiate through German Embassy for sale or rent of pavilion. Do not proceed with construction for exhibits." The gauntlet was down.
With less than a month before the fair's April 30th opening, a determined movement organized to complete the Czechoslovakian pavilion. If funds could be raised, the organizers held the trump card over the Hitler dominated government in Prague. Before leaving office, the republic's former president Eduard Benes sent twenty carloads of exhibits and materials to the United States. The New York Times exalted "One bit of Nazi arrogance is decisively squelched." Hitler fumed!
On April 12, Mayor La Guardia announced the formation of the "Committee for Czecho-Slovak Participation in the World's Fair." Headed by Dr. John H. Finley, editor emeritus of The New York Times, the committee hoped to raise enough money to fund the pavilion. The mayor said: "The purpose of the exhibit at the Fair is to show the progress made by the independent republic of Czecho-Slovakia – up to the period of the 'interruption.'" In other words, the Czech exhibit would become a tangible reproach to Adolph Hitler and his policies.
The appeal issued to friends of the dismantled republic urged: "Last month the invader broke promises he himself had freely given and annexed the whole country in order to commandeer its immense munitions works. It is beyond our power as individuals to right the wrong that has been done, but one small thing we can do. We can complete the Czecho-Slovak Pavilion at the World's Fair as a stirring reminder of this industry, the artistic spirit, the humanitarian principles of that sturdy race."