After the war, European countries were in bad shape. European influence in world affairs was declining. Many of the new republics that had formed out of the old empires of Europe often had shaky governments. Even nations that had had democracy for many years experienced problems. They had so many political parties that no one party could rule alone. There were so many governments formed that it was difficult to develop policies. The situation was worst in Germany.
The people felt little loyalty to the newly established democratic government, the Weimar Republic (officially the German Empire), mainly because Germany was in such economic depression.
Many Germans were outraged at the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and felt that it was unfair. The $5 billion in reparations the Germans had to pay was equal to around $60 trillion in today’s economy. This sent Germany’s economy into a severe depression and Germany could no longer pay.
The peace settlement also created repeated border disputes among the new nations.
The French, who suffered great losses in WWI, demanded that the Germans be punished and the Treaty of Versailles be strictly enforced. When the Germans couldn’t pay their reparations, the French army marched into and occupied the Ruhr Valley (Rhineland) in Western Germany, an industrial and mining center. The French planned to take the reparations by operating German industries themselves.
In response, German workers went on strike. The government paid them by printing more money. This devalued the German currency (the mark) and increased the inflation that had begun before the end of the war. The German mark became completely worthless. By the end of 1923, it took more than 4 trillion marks to equal one U.S. dollar!
German children using stacks of money as building blocks.
The huge inflation meant that people suffered terribly. The economic problems led to political unrest in Germany.
Many countries actually stepped in to aid Germany as they paid their reparations. Even American investors saw an opportunity to assist as well as making a profit. American banks opened themselves to Germany and loaned them money. This was known as the Dawes Plan. By 1929, German factories started to produce as much as they had before the war.
As Germany began to recover, the French and Germans became more cooperative. France and Germany even promised never to attack one another. It was seen by many as the beginning of a lasting peace. In fact, most countries of the world signed a treaty in which they pledged not to use war to gain their goals. However, there was no way to enforce the treaty, however, which made it weak. And while Germany had been forced to reduce its military, no other European nation was willing to take this step. The trust of European countries for each other did not go that far.
The United States was experiencing a booming economy in the 1920’s. But this growth hid problems. Workers were unable to buy all the goods produced, and when their purchases slowed, factories slowed production. Farmers faced falling food prices and slow sales. They were unable to repay loans and lost their farms.
Just as things were starting to look up for Germany and the rest of Europe, the brief period of prosperity ended in 1929 with crash of the American stock market and the onset of the Great Depression.
Since 1924, Germany had been borrowing money from U.S. banks to make reparations payments. After the stock market crashed, American banks and investors quickly pulled their money out of Germany. This weakened banks in Germany and other European countries.
Though there had been depressions in Europe before, the Great Depression was far worse. Unemployed and homeless people filled the streets of many countries.
Governments did not know how to deal with the depression. They tried to lower wages and raise tariffs on foreign goods to promote sales locally. This backfired. Worldwide trade between countries nearly stopped altogether. As trade and industrial production slowed, huge numbers of people lost their jobs. Not only were the United States and Europe affected, the world suffered. Japan, especially was weak where the rice crop also failed. Latin American nations had similar problems.
Some governments, such as in the United States, became more involved in the economy by creating public works or controlling priced and wages. In the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1932. He began a program that he called the New Deal. The government spent large amounts of money on building public works—roads, dams, bridges, airports, and buildings. This effort created jobs for millions. Businesses and farmers also got help from the government. The American economy got better but the recovery was slow.
The Great Depression led many people to follow political leaders who proposed simple solutions in return for complete power. Communism became popular in many countries. Democratic governments were challenged everywhere.
Between 1919 and 1939, all the major countries of Europe except France and Great Britain had adopted some form of dictatorial government. The best examples of this style of government was Germany, Italy and the USSR. Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania all had dictators—or kings who ruled like dictators. A new form of dictatorship was the modern totalitarian state. Totalitarian governments aimed to control all aspects of their citizens’ lives. Totalitarian governments wanted to control the hearts and minds of everyone and used mass propaganda and modern communication to achieve their goals.
A single leader and a single party led the new totalitarian states. There were no individual freedoms or limits to government power. Individuals were considered subservient to the collective will of the masses, which was controlled by the state. The state demanded that its citizens actively support any of its goals.
The country of Italy suffered greatly after WWI. When they had switched alliances from the Central Alliance to the Triple Entente, they were promised land, glory and riches. This was not the case. Italy played a small role in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles and received little of what they were promised. As a result, the country had severe economic problems.
Many people were unhappy with the Treaty of Versailles and at the socialist government. There was a great deal of social and political upheaval. This unrest led to new ideals and the creation of a new style of government – Fascism.
Fascism is a political ideology founded in Italy during WWI. Fascism is a type of government which glorifies the state of above the individual. A strong central government and a single dictator run the state. Fascism gained popularity following WWI.
The best example of early Fascism is Benito Mussolini. Mussolini and his political party, the “Blackshirts”, used violence and intimidation to come to power. Despite these tactics, Mussolini appealed to nationalist pride among Italians. Mussolini was also a great public speaker. He demanded that Italy get more land from the peace treaties WWI and promised to revive the economy and armed forces of Italy.
Once he had enough followers, Mussolini overthrew the government. Under his leadership, Italy established the first Fascist government in 1926.
Mussolini gave extensive power to the government. He outlawed any opposition. He gave the police the authority to arrest anyone. He also created a “secret police” to control the people. The government also controlled all media outlets. They used the media to spread Fascist propaganda.
Mussolini also created Fascist youth groups that focused on military activities. The Italian Fascists tried to create a new nation of fit, disciplined, and war-loving people.
The USSR suffered as much as anyone else during the Great Depression. Millions of people were jobless and starving. Many died due to famine.
In 1924, Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the Soviet state died and Joseph Stalin assumed power. Stalin enacted plans to industrialize his nation and bring it out of the depression. The government seized control of all aspects of the economy including farms and factories.
Urban housing for millions of workers was very poor and wages were not high. Many of the people resisted these changes and government control. The government dealt with these problems by using propaganda to boost morale. Stalin also started purging his government of any opposition and any citizen who resisted his programs would be executed or sent to the Gulags in Siberia. The Russian people had no choice but to accept these changes.
During the Soviet regime, the GULAG was a government agency that administered several prison/labor camps in Siberia. These camps housed a wide range of convicts, from small time criminals to political prisoners or anyone resisting government control. Some people were even sent there for petty theft, unexcused absences at work or anti- government jokes. More than half of the prisoners were sent to the Gulag without even going on trial.
Over one million prisoners in the Gulag system would die from inhumane working conditions and hunger.
Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889. As a young man, Hitler wanted to become an artist. His father was violently abusive and disapproved of his ambitions. Following his father’s death, he dropped out of high school and moved to Vienna to pursue a career as an artist.
Around age 18, he tried to get into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He was rejected. Many people on the admissions board were Jewish and he blamed them for his failure to gain entry. He eventually sold all his possessions and became a homeless drifter who slept on park benches and ate at soup kitchens throughout Vienna (age 19).
As WWI approached, Hitler left Austria and joined the German army. Hitler was excited to fight for Germany. He found a home fighting for the “Fatherland”. He was a regimental messenger, not an easy job at all. At his highest, he held the rank of corporal.
Was awarded the Iron Cross twice. (5 medals overall) Highest military honor in German Army. Single handedly captured 4 French soldiers. Was temporarily blinded by a gas attack towards end of the war.
Hitler was devastated when he heard the news of the German surrender. He was appalled at the anti-war sentiment among the German civilians. Believed there was an anti-war conspiracy that involved the Jews and Marxists. Also, felt that the German military did not lose the war, but that the politicians (mostly Jews) at home were responsible for the defeat.
Hitler was depressed after WW I. Still in the army, he became an undercover agent whose job was to root out Marxists. Also, lectured about the dangers of Communism and Jews.
Hitler was sent to investigate the German Worker’s Party meeting in Munich in 1919. He went to a meeting and was impressed with the group’s ideals. - strong nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist ideas, which favored a strong active government, a "non- Jewish" version of socialism He gave a speech himself and was then asked to become a member, which he did.
Hitler immediately became a leading member in the group. He began to think big for the German Worker’s Party. Began placing ads for meetings in anti-Semitic newspapers. He also changed the name to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party) or NAZI for short. Within two years, the Nazi Party had grown to 55,000 people, with 15,000 in the militia.
Hitler drafted a platform of 25 points: - The union of all Germans in a greater German Reich - A strong central government - Revoke the Treaty of Besides changing the party Versailles. name, the red flag with the - Revoking rights of Jews SWASTIKA was adopted as - Citizenship determined by the party symbol race. No Jews were considered German.
The swastika has been used in many cultures around the world for thousands of years prior to the use by the Nazis. In fact, it is considered a good luck symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism.
October 30, 1923 Hitler held a rally in Munich beer hall and declared revolution Led 2,000 men to take over the Bavarian Government It failed and Hitler was imprisoned
• At his trial (Hitler was charged with treason), he used the opportunity to speak about the NAZI platform and spread his popularity.• The whole nation suddenly knew who Adolf Hitler was and what he stood for• He was sentenced to five years, but actually only served about 9 months• When he left prison, he was ready to go into action again.
Hitler’s book “My Struggle” - wrote while in jail Sold 5 million copies, made him rich Topics included: Jews were evil, Germans were superior race, Fuhrer principal, dislike of Communism and Democracy and need to conquer Russia
When he got out of prison, he worked to expand the Nazi Party throughout Germany. Hitler realized that the way to power was through legal means, not through violent overthrow of the government. Used popularity from failed revolution and book to seize power legally. Spoke to mass audiences about making Germany a great nation again.
Hitler was a war hero and had a celebrity status since his failed overthrow of the government and ensuing book. He was also an excellent public speaker. Amidst the German economic depression, Hitler promised a return to glory. He promised the rich industrialists that he would end any communist threat in Germany Constantly blamed Jews for Germany’s problems, not the German people.
Germany’s economic problems helped the rise of the Nazi Party. By 1929, the Nazis had a national party organization, and by 1931 it was the largest political party in the Reichstag, or parliament. 230 members of 600
The “Brownshirts” or SA (Stormtroopers) SA was used to put down opposition parties Threatened and beat up Jews and anti-Nazi voters Wore brown shirts, pants and boots Numbered almost 400,000 by 1932
In the presidential election of 1932, Hitler loses to incumbent president Paul von Hindenburg. However, Hindenburg appoints Hitler as Chancellor of Germany (head of the Reichstag) in 1933.
One night in 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire by a communist. Believing that this act of terrorism was just the beginning, Hitler uses this opportunity to seize power. Hitler convinces Hindenburg and the Reichstag to suspend the constitution and give him emergency dictator powers. The Reichstag agrees and votes Hitler to be “temporary” dictator.
Despite the fire being blamed on a communist, it widely believed that the Nazis themselves set the Reichstag on fire. Hitler and the Nazi party used this “act of terrorism” or catastrophe to seize more power.
Once in power, the Nazis established control over all aspects of government. All political parties except the Nazis were abolished. Peoples’ liberties were suspended Jews were purged from the civil service, and trade unions were dissolved. Concentration camps were set up for Nazi opponents. The Nazis had set up the basis for a totalitarian state.
Paul Von Hindenburg dies, 1934 Hitler assumes both chancellor and president positions Adopts the title Fuehrer, German word for leader or one who guides
Hitler had a goal in creating a totalitarian state. Nazis wanted the Germans to create a new empire as the Romans had done. Hitler thought there had been two previous German empires (Reichs): the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne and the German Empire of 1871 to 1918. Hitler called his empire the Third Reich.
Hitler demanded active involvement from the German people. The Nazis used economic policies, propaganda, mass rallies, organizations, and terror to control the country and further their goals. The Nazis also burned books that went against their ideals.
In setting up a totalitarian state, the Nazis recognized the importance of winning young people over to their ideas. The Hitler Youth, an organization for young people between the ages of 10 and 18, was formed in 1926 for that purpose.
Hitler put people back to work through public works projects and grants to private construction companies. He also embarked on a massive rearmament program (rearming the military) to stimulate the economy. Unemployment dropped, and the depression was ending.
Hitler visits a factory and isenthusiastically greeted. ManyGermans were grateful for jobs afterthe misery of the depression years.
Defying provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany began rearming itself at a rapidrate shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933.
One of Hitler’s major projects was the completion of the Autobahn. The Autobahn is the national highway system in Germany, famous for it’s lack of speed limits. The ambitious project gave work to over 100,000 German laborers across the country and providing a boost in the economy.
To control the nation, the Nazis used the Schutzstaffel (SS) or “Guard Squadrons.” Under the direction of Heinrich Himmler, the SS controlled all the police forces. The SS were driven by terror. Terror included repression, murder, and death camps.
Aside from fear, the Nazis also used mass media to spread propaganda. New media such as radio and motion pictures played an important role in spreading propaganda. Hitler’s speeches were played over the air for all the country to hear. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, understood that motion pictures were an excellent way to influence the masses. He created a special propaganda film division.
Hitler wanted to develop an Aryan racial state to dominate Europe and possibly the world. Aryans were described as “blonde hair and blue eyed” and were the physical ideal of Nazi Germany.
Hitler misunderstood what Aryan’s were. Aryans are actually people of Indian/Iranian heritage and have dark hair, dark eyes and a darker skin complexion.
Once in power, the Nazi Party enacted programs against Jewish people. In 1935, the Nazis passed the “Nuremberg laws,” which prevented Jews from being German citizens, forbade marriages between Jews and German citizens, and required Jews to wear yellow Stars of David and to carry identification cards saying they were Jewish.
On the night of November 9, 1938, Nazis burned Jewish synagogues and destroyed thousands of Jewish businesses. They killed around 100 people and sent thirty thousand Jewish men to concentration camps. This night was called Kristallnacht (“night of shattered glass”). After Kristallnacht, Jews were barred from all public transportation, schools, and hospitals. They could not own, manage, or work in a retail store. At this time, Jews were encouraged to leave Germany.
Adolf Hitler believed that Germany could build a great civilization. To do this, Germany needed more land to support the German people. He wanted to take back lands Germany had lost in World War I and more. Hitler proposed that Germany be able to revise the unfair provisions of the Treaty of Versailles that had ended World War I. At first he said he would use peaceful means; however, the rearmament of Germany’s military suggested otherwise.
In March of 1936, Hitler sent German troops into the Rhineland (western Germany), which was supposed to be the French occupied demilitarized area. This action, along with the rearmament of Germany’s military, were direct violations of the Treaty of Versailles.
France and Great Britain, condemned Hitler’s actions but they were unprepared to deal with Hitler and Germany due to the Great Depression and other economic problems. Hitler knew that the Germans were more superior and that he had no opposition facing him.
Hitler and Germany also gained new allies. In 1936, Germany and Italy became allies. The alliance was known as the Rome-Berlin Axis. Later, a pact with Japan would make it the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis or just Axis Powers for short.
By 1937, Germany had become a very powerful nation. Hitler pursued a long- held goal, a union with his native Austria. In 1938, Germany annexed Austria, The arrival of German troops in Austria is met with enthusiasm. another direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles that stated Germany and Austria could not form another
Following the annexation of Austria, Hitler set his eyes on a region of Czechoslovakia, called the Sudetenland. In March 1939, he ordered his troops to take over Czechoslovakia. Many hoped that that this would be the last conquest of the Nazis; however, this was the first true aggressive act that suggested that a war in Europe would soon begin. A woman reluctantly salutes the Nazis
Once again, the allies of France and Britain did not step in to intervene and help Czechoslovakia. They did begin to react, though. Great Britain said it would step in and protect Poland if Hitler invaded. France and Britain also began negotiations with Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator. They knew that they would need the Soviet Union to help contain the Nazis if war were to break out.
Hitler was afraid of an alliance between the West and the Soviet Union. In August of 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact. They promised not to attack each other. Hitler offered Stalin eastern Poland and the Baltic states (territory Russia lost in WWI). This would enabled Hitler to invade Poland without fear of opposition from the Soviets.
Stalin Hitler The non-aggression pact was surprising. Hitler and Stalin were seen as natural enemies. Despite these peace talks, Hitler knew that eventually he would break the pact. When Hitler talked of taking over new land for Germany, many thought that he meant Russia. Hitler also hated Communism, the form of government in Russia.
On September 1st, 1939, Adolf Hitler’s German army invaded Poland. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. World War II had begun. German Troops marching into Warsaw, the capital of Poland.