Chapter Fifteen: Years of Crisis 1919-1939 Maggie Stinson

SECTION ONE: Postwar Uncertainty

A New Revolution in Science:

Scientists like Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud played an extremely important role in the understanding of science during their time period. Einstein, a German-born scientist, created the Theory of Relativity in 1905. Likewise, Sigmund Freud (an Austrian physician) chose to study the human mind instead of time and space. His ideas and findings were called Freudian Psychology. By the 1920s, his works continued to spread and influence the people.

1920's LIterature:

As an effect of World War I, people began to think differently. Feelings of despair, hopelessness, and doubt were reflected in the poems and novels of the day. These teachings forced people to question their traditions, beliefs, and faiths. Some of the people who contributed to this mindset were:

T.S. Eliot: an American-born poet most famous for his work The Hollow Men.

William Butler Yeats: an Irish-born poet most famous for his dark poem The Second Coming.

Franz Kafka: a Czech-born author famous for his eerie novels such as The Trial and The Castle.

James Joyce: Irish-born author of the famous novel Ulysses.

"This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper."

The Hollow Men, T.S. Elliot


"a philosophical theory that emphasizes the existence of an individual person of free will"

Existentialism thrived under the teachings of a German philosopher of the name Friedrich Nietzsche.

Revolution Concerning the Arts

Another effect of the war on the public was changes in art style. Instead of painting in the traditional, realistic, style; artists began to paint while focusing on the more imaginative side of the mind.

This was referred to as surrealism.

It was also at this type that changes in music took place. One major example of such was the introduction of jazz, born in New Orleans.

Challenging Society:

Women, having been empowered after the war, began to stand up for themselves. While the men were away fighting, women ran nearly everything else back home; thus proving that themselves, as women, were not useless or otherwise confined to keeping house.

With these newly-discovered capabilities, women of the time took things a step further. They started wearing makeup they liked, bobbing their hair, smoking, drinking, and protesting in public.

Technological Advances

After automobiles made their grand debut, people turned their attention to the sky. In 1919, two British pilots made the first successful flight across the Atlantic. Later, in 1927, American pilot Charles Lindbergh was made famous for his 33-hour flight from New York to Paris. However, it is impossible for anyone to forget Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932.


In 1920, the first radio station, KDKA, was broadcasted out of Pennsylvania. It was an overnight sensation. Films became an equally popular form of entertainment, and 90% of all movies were produced in Hollywood.

SECTION TWO: Worldwide Depression

The cost of WWI became the top concern of every country involved. It was also during this period of time that most absolute rulers were overthrown and replaced with democracies. (The first of which was Russia, in 1917.) All these changes in government made things very difficult to get done.

The Weimar Republic:

The Weimar Republic was Germany's new democratic government, (Set up in 1919), and was made up of many different political parties. This new government faced many critical problems, but the most relevant one being inflation. Money was lost to reparations and the people were not heavily taxed to pay for the war, meaning that basic goods were costing more and more. This lead to people questioning the new government.

Efforts to stability and peace

Germany recovered from such severe inflation in 1923. This was possible thanks to an American banker, Charles Dawes, and his international committee. They provided a $200 million loan to help Germany stabilize, which finally occurred in 1929.

After Germany regained prosperity, the foreign minister, Gustav Stresemann, began attempts to strengthen Germany's relationship with France. The two ministers met in the ultimate place of peace, Switzerland, along with officials of Italy, Belgium, and Britain. A treaty was signed as a promise that Germany and France would never again declare war on one another, and all boundaries would be respected by the Germans.

Financial Collapse

Up until 1929, the U.S. economy had been the very thing that kept the entire world economy afloat, that is, until it finally gave way. Wealth was being distributed unevenly, meaning that the richest 5% of the population received 33% of all personal income.

Most families were too poor to buy even basic goods. Therefore, store owners weren't able to sell any basic goods. A chain reaction was set off; store owners reduced their orders from factories, hence people lost jobs working at those factories, less money for those people meant less money to buy goods and support their families.

In 1929, Wall Street in New York City was the financial capital of the world. The heart of which was the New York Stock Exchange. Many people invested in this stock market, never expecting anything to go wrong. By October of that year, stock prices were through the floor, and decreasing rapidly. It was then that the market collapsed.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a period of time directly after the stock market collapse when millions of people became too poor to support their families. Jobs were lost, businesses were forced to close due to lack of... well... business, and many were starving. 1 out of 4 of all Americans were unemployed, and could find no work.

Like I said before, the American economy was the very thing keeping the entire world economy from collapsing. Since the American economy was now pretty much done for, the entire world felt the repercussion.

The American market for European goods dropped as a result of high tariffs the U.S. congress placed on imported goods. Other nations took after, and set tariffs of their own. All of this caused world trade to plummet by 65%.

The crisis is confronted

With the world economy spiraling down the drain, countries were forced to take action to spare themselves. Britain, for instance, raised their taxes and began regulating currency.

France, with it's already self-sufficient government, was able to preserve democratic government; But not before five coalition governments were formed and fell.

Many Scandinavian countries began building their recovery programs. These included raising pensions for the elderly and increasing unemployment insurance.

The first presidential election after the Depression began was held in 1932, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was voted into office. He was an image that Americans turned to for hope.

Roosevelt created a program called the New Deal, which meant that large public works helped provide jobs for the suffering unemployed people. He also set regulations that helped to reform the stock market. And just as he promised, Roosevelt restored the country's faith in itself and preserved the well-known American Spirit.

SECTION THREE: Fascism in Europe

Fascism: an authoritarian and nationalistic form of government and social organization.

This type of government began to blossom in Italy following World War I. In contrast to communism, there really was no difference. Both governments were run by a single dictator, both focused on individual rights, and both had no part whatsoever in democracy. However, communists sought for a society free of classes, and fascists did not.

Upset and losing jobs due to the lack of gaining territory at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, Italy became desperate for a strong leader. Benito Mussolini fit the bill.

Benito Mussolini made a promise to his country; he would revive the economy by rebuilding the armed forces. Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in 1919, and began to criticize Italy's current government. People in his support wore black in the streets of Italy, and attacked members of the socialist or communist beliefs. Mussolini became a favorite of the middle class.

In October of 1922, thousands of fascists marched in Rome and demanded that Mussolini be made ruler of the government. After a massive threat of violence if the King did not comply, Mussolini was put into power "legally".

Hitler rises to power in Germany

During the mid-1920s, the same time Mussolini was declared dictator in Italy, a German political leader named Adolf Hitler began to rise in power. During World War I, Hitler received accolades for volunteering himself into the German Army.

At the end of the war, 1919 , he joined a tiny political group that believed Germany had to overturn the Treaty of Versailles and put out communism. This group, known as the National Socialist German Workers' Party, became what we know today as Nazis.

Nazism was the German form of Fascism. The well-known symbol of which was a swastika. Hitler was the head of this organization. At one point, he was thrown into jail for treason, where he only stayed for five years. While incarcerated, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, translated "My Struggle." It was basically filled with his personal beliefs regarding... well, everything.

A basic run-down of what Hitler wrote is as follows:

"Germans are supreme." "Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies are inferior, as well as any other non- German people." "The Treaty Of Versailles is void, trash, and will be overturned." "Germany needs more living space, so let's get rid of the people I don't like."

Chancellor Hitler

By 1932, Nazis had become the largest political party, with Hitler being the chancellor (or leader of). Less than a week before the election, the building in which parliament was held was burned to the ground. Communists were blamed. It was at this time, Hitler created a protection unit called the SS. (Schutzstaffel)

Hitler didn't just want economic power, but ultimate power. He invested in every sort of propaganda to sway public opinion in his favor. Books that disagreed to Nazism were burned, churches were not permitted to criticize the government, school children were forced to either join the Hitler Youth (for boys) or the League of German Girls.

Hatred of Jews was a major source of fuel for Hitler's raging ideology. This lead to what was called Kristallnacht, or "The Night of Broken Glass". This was the night of November 9, 1938, when Nazi mobs attacked Jews in their homes, and destroyed countless Jewish-owned buildings.

Other countries fall to dictators

Along with Germany and Italy, the nations in Eastern Europe were also falling to dictators. These included Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. The only democracy left in that area was that of Czechoslovakia.

SECTION FOUR: Aggressors Invade Nations

The Japanese government began to turn towards democracy, and even signed a treaty with China in 1922 agreeing to respect their borders. They signed another in 1928, called the Kellogg-Briand Pact, renouncing war.

Militarists in Japan

Japan was able to keep their civilian government for a while, but after the Great Depression in 1929, military leaders gained support from the people and regained control. These leaders were extreme nationalists like Hitler and Mussolini, and wanted to fix the economy by expanding the country. They decided on invading China, hence, breaking the treaty they had made years before.

In 1931, the Japanese seized Manchuria, China's northeast province. Although protested by the League of Nations, the Japanese merely withdrew from the league in 1933.

After four years, the Japanese and Chinese were engaged in war. The Chinese were no match. The Japanese took control of many northern cities, and killed thousands of Chinese.

European Aggressors

After the League failed to stop the Japanese, European Fascists thought maybe they too could escape their grasp. Mussolini wanted colonies (like those of Britain and France) in Africa. Ethiopia was only one of three independent nations, so Mussolini ordered an invasion in October of 1935. The Ethiopians were no match.

Hitler began to finally take action to execute his biggest promise: to undo the Treaty of Versailles. The League payed no mind to this threat. This pushed Hitler to take even bigger steps. The treaty forebode Germans to enter a 30-mile wide zone of either side of the Rhine River, (between Germany and France). Well, the Germans entered anyway. The French were too stunned to respond to war, so instead urged appeasement. Hitler got a bit of a big head about this, and he continued his quest for expansion.

In 1936, Mussolini and Hitler came to an agreement and founded the Rome-Berlin Axis. Soon, Germany made another agreement with Japan. Germany, Italy, and Japan became known as the Axis Powers.

In Spanish news, Spain erupted into civil war. The revolutionaries were lead by General Francisco Franco. Hitler and Mussolini came to his aid. Ultimately, Franco became the fascist dictator of Spain.

Trying to Preserve Peace

The majority of Americans wanted no part in foreign affairs (isolationism) during the Depression. This was for the main reason of avoiding war. in November of 1937, Hitler announced that he wanted to made Austria and Czechoslovakia into the Third Reich (German Empire). The Treaty of Versailles prohibited this, but many Austrians wanted to. The Czechs resisted, and asked France for help.

Mussolini held a meeting of Germany, France, Britain, and Italy in what was known as the Munich Conference. (1938) Pretty much all the promises Mussolini and Hitler made to respect borders were broken. France and Britain called the Soviet Union to help them shut Hitler down. Russia and Germany ended u signing a nonaggression pact, meaning they would never wage war on one another again.

(Which was a promise soon broken, like the rest.)


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