Chapter 15: Years of Crisis, 1919-1939 By: Kori Guffey

Section 1: Postwar Uncertainty

A New Revolution in Science:

The ideas of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud were important in the 20th century. These people were part of the scientific revolution.

Impact of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: Albert Einstein offered startling new ideas on space, time, energy, and matter. Scientists found that light travels at a speed unlike matter, in that gravity doesn't affect it. Einstein then stated that though the light was constant it was the space and time that is not. It is called theory of relativity because it deals with the relativity of motion. People didn't like this though because it contradicted the laws of motion and gravity.

Influence of Freudian Psychology: Sigmund Freud had revolutionary ideas much like Einstein, because he treated patients with psychological problems. He thought that humans behavior was irrational. He called this unconscious. In the unconscious the conscious mind is unaware. This means that making good decisions is hard while this unconscious is on. Even so, by the 1920s, Freud’s theories had developed widespread influence.

Literature in the 1920's:

The Brutal killings in WWI caused people to question ideas of reason and progress. They then questioned religion because that is what a lot of people biased there reason on. Some writers tried to scare people by showing them disturbing visions of the present and the future. In 1922, T. S. Eliot, an American poet living in England, said the people have lost their spiritual values, said it was almost like they were in a wasteland with our hope and faith. In 1921, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats says there are dark time coming.

Writers Reflect Society’s Concerns: Many writers were horrified by the war. The Czech-born author Franz Kafka wrote eerie novels about it. His books were about people caught in threatening situations they can neither understand nor escape. Many of these novels showed the influence of unconscious. James Joyce gained attention with his stream of consciousness novel Ulysses (1922). This book focuses on a single day in the lives of three people in Dublin, Ireland. Joyce wrote this uniquely in a bold attempt to mirror the workings of the human mind.

Thinkers React to Uncertainties: Some thinkers now turned to existentialism.  A major leader was Jean Paul Sartre. People started to believe that there is no meaning to life. Each person creates his or her own meaning in life through choices made and actions taken. In the 1880s, Nietzsche wrote that Western ideas such as reason, democracy, and progress had stifled people’s creativity and actions. Nietzsche urged a return to the ancient heroic values of pride, assertiveness, and strength. His ideas attracted attention because he had a great impact on politics in many places.

Revolution in the Arts

Many of the new directions in painting and music began in the prewar period, but people started to evolve after the war.

Artists Rebel Against Tradition: Artists rebelled against earlier styles of painting. They wanted to depict the inner world of emotion and imagination. Inspired by traditional African art, Georges Braque of France and Pablo Picasso of Spain founded Cubism in 1907. Cubism transformed natural shapes into geometric forms. Often several views were depicted at the same time. Surrealism, an art movement that sought to link the world of dreams with real life, was inspired by Freud’s ideas. Surrealists tried to call on the unconscious part of their minds. Many of their paintings have an eerie, dreamlike quality, looked unrealistic.

Composers Try New Styles: In both classical and popular music, composers moved away from traditional styles. In his ballet masterpiece, The Rite of Spring, the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky used irregular rhythms and dissonances, or harsh combinations of sound. A new popular musical style called jazz emerged in the United States. It was developed by musicians, mainly African Americans, in New Orleans, Memphis, and Chicago.

Society Challenges Convention

New ideas and ways of life led to a new kind of individual freedom during the 1920s.

Women’s Roles Change: The independent spirit of women showed clearly the changes they were making in their lives. The war allowed women to take on jobs. Their work in the war won them the right to vote. Women’s suffrage became law in many countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Austria. Women abandoned restrictive clothing and hairstyles. They wore shorter, looser garments and had their hair “bobbed,” or cut short. They also wore makeup, drove cars, and drank and smoked in public. Most women still followed traditional paths, a growing number spoke out for freedom. The numbers of women in medicine, education, journalism, and other professions then increased.

Technological Advances Improve Life

During and after WWI there were many technological advances that occurred to improve life.

The Automobile Alters Society: The automobile benefited wartime innovations. they now had electric starters, air-filled tires, and more powerful engines. Cars were now looked good. In prewar Britain, autos were owned exclusively by the rich. British factories produced 34,000 autos in 1913. After the war the middle class could afford cars. By 1937, the British were producing 511,000 autos a year. this made more people have jobs further away from home, and some people now traveled for pleasure.

Airplanes Transform Travel: International air travel became an objective after the war. In 1919, two British pilots made the first successful flight across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Ireland. In 1927, an American pilot named Charles Lindbergh captured world attention with a 33-hour solo flight from New York to Paris. Most of the world’s major passenger airlines were established during the 1920s. At first only the rich were able to afford air travel. Still, everyone enjoyed the exploits of the aviation pioneers, including those of Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart was an American who, in 1932, became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Radio and Movies Dominate Popular Entertainment: Guglielmo Marconi conducted his first successful experiments with radio in 1895. However, the real push for radio development came during World War I.

In 1920, the world’s first commercial radio station—KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—began broadcasting. Almost overnight, radio mania swept the United States. Every major city had stations broadcasting news, plays, and even live sporting events. Soon most families owned a radio.

Motion pictures were also a major industry in the 1920s. Many countries, from Cuba to Japan, produced movies. In Europe movies was a serious art form and in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles movies were entertainment. The king of Hollywood’s silent screen was the English-born Charlie Chaplin, a comic genius best known for his portrayal of the lonely little tramp bewildered by life. In the late 1920s, the addition of sound transformed movies.

The advances in transportation and communication that followed the war had brought the world in closer touch. Global prosperity came to depend on the economic well-being of all major nations, especially the United States.

Section 2: A Worldwide Depression

By the late 1920s, European nations were rebuilding wartorn economies. They were aided by loans from the more prosperous United States. Only the United States and Japan came out of the war in better financial shape than before. In the United States, Americans seemed confident that the country would continue on the road to even greater economic prosperity. One sign of this was the booming stock market. Yet the American economy had serious weaknesses that were soon to bring about the most severe economic downturn the world had yet known.

Postwar Europe

In both human suffering and economic terms, the cost of World War I was great. The Great War left every major European country nearly bankrupt. In addition, Europe’s domination in world affairs declined after the war.

Unstable New Democracies: War’s end saw the sudden rise of new democracies. From 1914 to 1918, Europe’s last absolute rulers had been overthrown. The first of the new governments was formed in Russia in 1917. Even so, for the first time, most European nations had democratic governments. Many citizens of the new democracies had little experience with representative government. For generations, kings and emperors had ruled Germany and the new nations formed from Austria-Hungary. Even in France and Italy, whose parliaments had existed before World War I, the large number of political parties made effective government difficult. When no single party won a majority, a coalition government, or temporary alliance of several parties, was needed to form a parliamentary majority. Frequent changes in government made it hard for democratic countries to develop strong leadership and move toward long-term goals. Voters in several countries were then willing to sacrifice democratic government for strong, authoritarian leadership.

The Weimar Republic

Germany’s new democratic government was set up in 1919. The Weimar Republic had serious weaknesses from the start. First, Germany lacked a strong democratic tradition. Furthermore, postwar Germany had several major political parties and many minor ones. Worst of all, millions of Germans blamed the Weimar government, not their wartime leaders, for the country’s defeat and postwar humiliation caused by the Versailles Treaty.

Inflation Causes Crisis in Germany: Germany also faced enormous economic problems that had begun during the war. Unlike Britain and France, Germany had not greatly increased its wartime taxes. To pay the expenses of the war, the Germans had simply printed money. Burdened with heavy reparations payments to the Allies and with other economic problems, Germany printed even more money. As a result, the value of the mark, as Germany’s currency was called, fell sharply. Severe inflation set in. Germans needed more and more money to buy even the most basic goods. People took wheelbarrows full of money to buy food. As a result, many Germans questioned the value of their new democratic government.

Attempts at Economic Stability: Germany recovered from the 1923 inflation thanks largely to the work of an international committee. The Dawes Plan provided for a $200 million loan from American banks to stabilize German currency and strengthen its economy. Put into effect in 1924, the Dawes Plan helped slow inflation. As the German economy began to recover, it attracted more loans and investments from the United States. By 1929, German factories were producing as much as they had before the war.

Efforts at a Lasting Peace: As prosperity returned, Germany’s foreign minister, Gustav Stresemann, and France’s foreign minister, Aristide Briand, tried to improve relations between their countries. In 1925, the two ministers met in Locarno, Switzerland, with officials from Belgium, Italy, and Britain. Germany also agreed to respect the existing borders of France and Belgium. It then was admitted to the League of Nations. In 1928, the hopes raised by the “spirit of Locarno” led to the Kellogg-Briand peace pact. Frank Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, arranged this agreement with France’s Briand. They pledged “to renounce war as an instrument of national policy.” Unfortunately, the treaty had no means to enforce its provisions. The refusal of the United States to join the League also weakened it. Nonetheless, the peace agreements seemed a good start.

Financial Collapse

In the late 1920s, American economic prosperity largely sustained the world economy. If the U.S. economy weakened, the whole world’s economic system might collapse. In 1929, it did.

A Flawed U.S. Economy: Despite prosperity, several weaknesses in the U.S. economy caused serious problems. These included uneven distribution of wealth, overproduction by business and agriculture, and the fact that many Americans were buying less. By 1929, American factories were turning out nearly half of the world’s industrial goods. Yet 60 percent of all American families earned less than $2,000 a year. Factories in turn reduced production and laid off workers. A downward economic spiral began. As more workers lost their jobs, families bought even fewer goods. In turn, factories made further cuts in production and laid off more workers. Scientific farming methods and new farm machinery had dramatically increased crop yields. As a result, a worldwide surplus of agricultural products drove prices and profits down. Unable to sell their crops at a profit, many farmers could not pay off the bank loans that kept them in business. The danger signs of overproduction by factories and farms should have warned people against gambling on the stock market. Yet no one heeded the warning.

The Stock Market Crashes: In 1929, New York City’s Wall Street was the financial capital of the world. Banks and investment companies lined its sidewalks. At Wall Street’s New York Stock Exchange, optimism about the booming U.S. economy showed in soaring prices for stocks. This meant that they paid a small percentage of a stock’s price as a down payment and borrowed the rest from a stockbroker. However, if they fell, investors had no money to pay off the loan. In September 1929, some investors began to think that stock prices were unnaturally high. They started selling their stocks, believing the prices would soon go down. A panic resulted. Everyone wanted to sell stocks, and no one wanted to buy. A record 16 million stocks were sold. Then the market collapsed.

The Great Depression

People could not pay the money they owed on margin purchases. Stocks they had bought at high prices were now worthless. Within months of the crash, unemployment rates began to rise as industrial production, prices, and wages declined. A long business slump, which would come to be called the Great Depression, followed. By 1932, factory production had been cut in half. Thousands of businesses failed, and banks closed. Around 9 million people lost the money in their savings accounts when banks had no money to pay them. By 1933, one-fourth of all American workers had no jobs.

A Global Depression: The collapse of the American economy sent shock waves around the world. Worried American bankers demanded repayment of their overseas loans, and American investors withdrew their money from Europe. The American market for European goods dropped sharply as the U.S. Congress placed high tariffs on imported goods so that American dollars would stay in the United States and pay for American goods. Conditions worsened for the United States. Many countries that depended on exporting goods to the United States also suffered. Moreover, when the United States raised tariffs, it set off a chain reaction. Other nations imposed their own higher tariffs. World trade dropped by 65 percent. This contributed further to the economic downturn. Unemployment rates soared.

Effects Throughout the World: Because of war debts and dependence on American loans and investments, Germany and Austria were particularly hard hit. In 1931, Austria’s largest bank failed. In Asia, both farmers and urban workers suffered as the value of exports fell by half between 1929 and 1931. The crash was felt heavily in Latin America as well. As European and U.S. demand for such Latin American products as sugar, beef, and copper dropped, prices collapsed.

The World Confronts the Crisis

The Depression confronted democracies with a serious challenge to their economic and political systems. Each country met the crisis in its own way.

Britain Takes Steps to Improve Its Economy: The Depression hit Britain severely. To meet the emergency, British voters elected a multiparty coalition known as the National Government. It passed high protective tariffs, increased taxes, and regulated the currency. It also lowered interest rates to encourage industrial growth. These measures brought about a slow but steady recovery.

France Responds to Economic Crisis: In 1930, it was still heavily agricultural and less dependent on foreign trade. Nevertheless, by 1935, one million French workers were unemployed. The economic crisis contributed to political instability. In 1933, five coalition governments formed and fell. Many political leaders were frightened by the growth of antidemocratic forces both in France and in other parts of Europe. So in 1936, moderates, Socialists, and Communists formed a coalition. Unfortunately, price increases quickly offset wage gains. Unemployment remained high. Yet France also preserved democratic government.

Socialist Governments Find Solutions: The Socialist governments in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway also met the challenge of economic crisis successfully. In Sweden, the government sponsored massive public works projects that kept people employed and producing. All the Scandinavian countries raised pensions for the elderly and increased unemployment insurance, subsidies for housing, and other welfare benefits. To pay for these benefits, the governments taxed all citizens. Democracy remained intact.

Recovery in the United States: In 1932, in the first presidential election after the Depression had begun, U.S. voters elected Franklin D. Roosevelt. His confident manner appealed to millions of Americans who felt bewildered by the Depression. Roosevelt immediately began a program of government reform that he called the New Deal. New government agencies gave financial help to businesses and farms. Large amounts of public money were spent on welfare and relief programs. Regulations were imposed to reform the stock market and the banking system. The New Deal did eventually reform the American economic system. Roosevelt’s leadership preserved the country’s faith in its democratic political system. It also established him as a leader of democracy in a world threatened by ruthless dictators, as you will read about in Section 3.

Section 3: Fascism Rises in Europe

Many democracies, including the United States, Britain, and France, remained strong despite the economic crisis caused by the Great Depression. In response, they turned to an extreme system of government called fascism. Fascists promised to revive the economy. Many people who felt frustrated and angered by the peace treaties that followed World War I and by the Great Depression.

Fascism’s Rise in Italy

Fascism was a new, militant political movement that emphasized loyalty to the state and obedience to its leader. Nevertheless, most Fascists shared several ideas. Fascists believed that nations must struggle peaceful states were doomed to be conquered. In both, the state was supreme. Neither practiced any kind of democracy. Also, Fascists were nationalists, and Communists were internationalists, hoping to unite workers worldwide.

Mussolini Takes Control: Fascism’s rise in Italy was fueled by bitter disappointment over the failure to win large territorial gains at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Rising inflation and unemployment also contributed to widespread social unrest. A newspaper editor and politician named Benito Mussolini boldly promised to rescue Italy by reviving its economy and rebuilding its armed forces. Finally, Mussolini publicly criticized Italy’s government. Groups of Fascists wearing black shirts attacked Communists and Socialists on the streets. Because Mussolini played on the fear of a workers’ revolt, he began to win support from the middle classes, the aristocracy, and industrial leaders. In October 1922, about 30,000 Fascists marched on Rome. The king decided that Mussolini was the best hope for his dynasty to survive.

Il Duce’s Leadership: He abolished democracy and outlawed all political parties except the Fascists. Government censors forced radio stations and publications to broadcast or publish only Fascist doctrines. Mussolini outlawed strikes. He sought to control the economy by allying the Fascists with the industrialists and large landowners. However, Mussolini never had the total control achieved by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union or Adolf Hitler in Germany.

Hitler Rises to Power in Germany

When Mussolini became dictator of Italy in the mid-1920s, Adolf Hitler was a little-known political leader whose early life had been marked by disappointment. He volunteered for the German army and was twice awarded the Iron Cross, a medal for bravery.

The Rise of the Nazis: At the end of the war, Hitler settled in Munich. In 1919, he joined a tiny right-wing political group. This group shared his belief that Germany had to overturn the Treaty of Versailles and combat communism. Its policies formed the German brand of fascism known as Nazism. The Nazis also set up a private militia called the storm troopers or Brown Shirts. Inspired by Mussolini’s march on Rome, Hitler and the Nazis plotted to seize power in Munich in 1923. The attempt failed, and Hitler was arrested. He called the Versailles Treaty an outrage and vowed to regain German lands. After leaving prison in 1924, Hitler revived the Nazi Party. Most Germans ignored him and his angry message until the Great Depression ended the nation’s brief postwar recovery. When American loans stopped, the German economy collapsed. Civil unrest broke out. Frightened and confused, Germans now turned to Hitler, hoping for security and firm leadership.

Hitler Becomes Chancellor

The Nazis had become the largest political party by 1932. In January 1933, they advised President Paul von Hindenburg to name Hitler chancellor. Thus Hitler came to power legally. Soon after, General Erich Ludendorff, a former Hitler ally, wrote to Hindenburg: Once in office, Hitler called for new elections, hoping to win a parliamentary majority. Six days before the election, a fire destroyed the Reichstag building, where the parliament met. Hitler used his new power to turn Germany into a totalitarian state. Meanwhile, an elite, blackuniformed unit called the SS was created. It was loyal only to Hitler. In 1934, the SS arrested and murdered hundreds of Hitler’s enemies. Hitler put millions of Germans to work. They constructed factories, built highways, manufactured weapons, and served in the military. As a result, the number of unemployed dropped from about 6 to 1.5 million in 1936.

The Führer Is Supreme: Hitler wanted more than just economic and political power he wanted control over every aspect of German life. To shape public opinion and to win praise for his leadership, Hitler turned the press, radio, literature, painting, and film into propaganda tools. Books that did not conform to Nazi beliefs were burned in huge bonfires. Churches were forbidden to criticize the Nazis or the government. Schoolchildren had to join the Hitler Youth (for boys) or the League of German Girls. Hitler believed that continuous struggle brought victory to the strong. He twisted the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche to support his use of brute force.

Hitler Makes War on the Jews: Hatred of Jews, or anti-Semitism, was a key part of Nazi ideology. Although Jews were less than one percent of the population, the Nazis used them as scapegoats for all Germany’s troubles since the war. Beginning in 1933, the Nazis passed laws depriving Jews of most of their rights. Violence against Jews mounted. On the night of November 9, 1938, Nazi mobs attacked Jews in their homes and on the streets and destroyed thousands of Jewish-owned buildings.

Other Countries Fall to Dictators

While Fascists took power in Italy and Germany, the nations formed in eastern Europe after World War I also were falling to dictators. In Poland, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski seized power in 1926. In Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, kings turned to strong-man rule. They suspended constitutions and silenced foes. With no democratic experience and severe economic problems, many Europeans saw dictatorship as the only way to prevent instability. By the mid-1930s, the powerful nations of the world were split into two antagonistic camps democratic and totalitarian. Although all of these dictatorships restricted civil rights, none asserted control with the brutality of the Russian Communists or the Nazis.

Section 4: Aggressors Invade Nations

By the mid-1930s, Germany and Italy seemed bent on military conquest. The major democracies Britain, France, and the United States were distracted by economic problems at home and longed to remain at peace. As fascism spread in Europe, however, a powerful nation in Asia moved toward a similar system. Following a period of reform and progress in the 1920s, Japan fell under military rule.

Japan Seeks an Empire

During the 1920s, the Japanese government became more democratic. In 1922, Japan signed an international treaty agreeing to respect China’s borders. In 1928, it signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war. Its constitution put strict limits on the powers of the prime minister and the cabinet. Military leaders reported only to the emperor.

Militarists Take Control of Japan: As long as Japan remained prosperous, the civilian government kept power. Unlike the Fascists in Europe, the militarists did not try to establish a new system of government. Instead of a forceful leader like Mussolini or Hitler, the militarists made the emperor the symbol of state power. Keeping Emperor Hirohito as head of state won popular support for the army leaders who ruled in his name. They wanted to solve the country’s economic problems through foreign expansion. The empire would provide Japan with raw materials and markets for its goods. It would also give Japan room for its rising population.

Militarists Take Control of Japan: As long as Japan remained prosperous, the civilian government kept power. Unlike the Fascists in Europe, the militarists did not try to establish a new system of government. Instead of a forceful leader like Mussolini or Hitler, the militarists made the emperor the symbol of state power. Keeping Emperor Hirohito as head of state won popular support for the army leaders who ruled in his name. They wanted to solve the country’s economic problems through foreign expansion. The empire would provide Japan with raw materials and markets for its goods. It would also give Japan room for its rising population.

Japan Invades Manchuria: Japanese businesses had invested heavily in China’s northeast province, Manchuria. It was an area rich in iron and coal. In 1931, the Japanese army seized Manchuria, despite objections from the Japanese parliament. The Japanese attack on Manchuria was the first direct challenge to the League of Nations. In the early 1930s, the League’s members included all major democracies except the United States. When Japan seized Manchuria, many League members vigorously protested.

Japan Invades China: Four years later, a border incident touched off a full-scale war between Japan and China. Beijing and other northern cities as well as the capital, Nanjing, fell to the Japanese in 1937. Japanese troops killed tens of thousands of captured soldiers and civilians in Nanjing. At the same time, Chinese guerrillas led by China’s Communist leader, Mao Zedong, continued to fight the Japanese in the conquered area.

European Aggressors on the March

The League’s failure to stop the Japanese encouraged European Fascists to plan aggression of their own. The Italian leader Mussolini dreamed of building a colonial empire in Africa like those of Britain and France.

Mussolini Attacks Ethiopia: Ethiopia was one of Africa’s three independent nations. To avenge that defeat, Mussolini ordered a massive invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935. The spears and swords of the Ethiopians were no match for Italian airplanes, tanks, guns, and poison gas. Although the League condemned the attack, its members did nothing. By giving in to Mussolini in Africa, Britain and France hoped to keep peace in Europe.

Hitler Defies Versailles Treaty: Hitler had long pledged to undo the Versailles Treaty. Among its provisions, the treaty limited the size of Germany’s army. In March 1935, the Führer announced that Germany would not obey these restrictions. The League issued only a mild condemnation. It was also an important industrial area. On March 7, 1936, German troops moved into the Rhineland. Stunned, the French were unwilling to risk war. France and Belgium were now open to attack from German troops. Finally, the weak response by France and Britain encouraged Hitler to speed up his expansion. Hitler’s growing strength convinced Mussolini that he should seek an alliance with Germany.Germany, Italy, and Japan came to be called the Axis Powers.

Civil War Erupts in Spain: Hitler and Mussolini again tested the will of the democracies of Europe in the Spanish Civil War. Spain had been a monarchy until 1931, when a republic was declared. In July 1936, army leaders, favoring a Fascist-style government, joined General Francisco Franco in a revolt. The armed forces of the Republicans, as supporters of Spain’s elected government were known, received little help from abroad. Only the Soviet Union sent equipment and advisers. An international brigade of volunteers fought on the Republican side. Early in 1939, Republican resistance collapsed.

Democratic Nations Try to Preserve Peace

Instead of taking a stand against Fascist aggression in the 1930s, Britain and France repeatedly made concessions, hoping to keep peace. In addition, the horrors of World War I had created a deep desire to avoid war.

United States Follows an Isolationist Policy: Many Americans supported isolationism, the belief that political ties to other countries should be avoided. Isolationists argued that entry into World War I had been a costly error. These laws banned loans and the sale of arms to nations at war.

The German Reich Expands: On November 5, 1937, Hitler announced to his advisers his plans to absorb Austria and Czechoslovakia into the Third Reich, or German Empire. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited Anschluss, or a union between Austria and Germany. However, many Austrians supported unity with Germany.France and Britain ignored their pledge to protect Austrian independence. In September 1938, Hitler demanded that the Sudetenland be given to Germany.

Britain and France Again Choose Appeasement: France and Britain were preparing for war when Mussolini proposed a meeting of Germany, France, Britain, and Italy in Munich, Germany. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain believed that he could preserve peace by giving in to Hitler’s demand. In exchange, Hitler pledged to respect Czechoslovakia’s new borders. When Chamberlain returned to London, he told cheering crowds, “I believe it is peace for our time.” Winston Churchill, then a member of the British Parliament, strongly disagreed. Then Hitler demanded that Poland return the former German port of Danzig. The Poles refused and turned to Britain and France for aid. But appeasement had convinced Hitler that neither nation would risk war.

Nazis and Soviets Sign Nonaggression Pact: Britain and France asked the Soviet Union to join them in stopping Hitler’s aggression. As Stalin talked with Britain and France, he also bargained with Hitler. On August 23, 1939, their leaders signed a nonaggression pact. As the Axis Powers moved unchecked at the end of the decade, war appeared inevitable.

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