Rise of Dictators
For many nations, WWI peace had brought not prosperity but revolution fueled by economic depression and struggle. The postwar years brought the rise of powerful dictators driven by the belief in nationalism. Germany:
* Germans saw the fact that the Treaty of Versailles blamed them for the starting of the war to be unfair. They did not find security in a settlement that stripped them of their overseas colonies and border territories. * Germany was expected to pay off huge war debts and reparations while dealing with widespread poverty. * By 1923, an inflating economy made a five-million German mark worth less than a penny. * In Germany, Adolf Hitler had followed a path to power similar to Mussolini’s. * At the end of WWI, Hitler had been a jobless soldier drifting around Germany. * In 1919, he joined a struggling group called the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, aka the NAZI party. * Hitler proved to be a powerful speaker and organizer and quickly became the party’s leader. * Calling himself Der Fuehrer, the leader, he promised to bring Germany out of chaos. * In Hitler’s book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler set forth the basic beliefs of Nazism that became the plan of action for the Nazi Party. * Nazism is the German brand of fascism, based on extreme nationalism. * Hitler, who had been born in Austria, dreamed of uniting all German speaking people in a great German empire. * Hitler wanted to enforce racial “purification” at home. In his view, Germans, especially blue-eyed, blonde-haired “Aryans” formed a master race that was destined to rule the world. * “Inferior races,” such as Jews, Slavs, and all nonwhites were deemed fit only to serve the Aryans. * A third element of Nazism was national explosion.
* Hitler believed that for Germany to thrive, it needed more lebensraum, or living space. * One of Hitler’s aims in Mein Kampf, was “to secure for the German people the land and soil to which they are entitled on this earth,” even if this could be accomplished only by “the might of a victorious sword.” * The Great Depression helped the Nazis come to power. Because of war debts (reparations) and dependence on America loans and investments, Germany’s economy was hit hard. * By 1932, 6 million Germans were unemployed. Many men who were out of work joined Hitler’s private army, the storm troopers (or Brown Shirts). * The German people were desperate and turned to Hitler as their last hope. * By mid 1932, the Nazis had become the strongest political party in Germany. * In January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor (prime minister). Once in power, Hitler dismantled Germany’s democratic Weimar Republic. * In its place, Hitler established the Third Reich, or Third German Empire. * According to Hitler, the Third Reich would be a Thousand Year Reich” – it would last for a thousand years. * The failure of the League of Nations to take action against Japan did not escape the notice of Europe’s dictators. * In 1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of the League.
* In 1935, he began a military buildup in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. * As in Germany, the League of Nations response was ineffective. The League did nothing to stop Hitler. The new democratic governments that emerged in Europe after WWI floundered. Without a democratic tradition, people turned to authoritarian leaders to solve their economic and social problems. The new democracies collapsed and dictators were able to seize power. Russia:
* In Russia, hopes for democracy gave way to a civil war, resulting in the establishment of a communist state, officially called the Soviet Union. * After Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin took control of the country. Stalin focused on creating a communist state. * Stalin made agricultural and industrial...