Section 3 Fascism Rises in Europe
SETTING THE STAGE- Many democracies, including the United States, Britain, and France, remained strong despite the economic crisis caused by the Great Depression. However, millions of people lost faith in democratic government.
Fascism’s Rise in Italy: Fascism was a new, militant political movement that emphasized loyalty to the state and obedience to its leader. Unlike communism, fascism had no clearly defined theory or program. In some ways, fascism was similar to communism. Both systems were ruled by dictators who allowed only their own political party.
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. A newspaper editor and politician named Benito Mussolini boldly promised to rescue Italy by reviving its economy and rebuilding its armed forces. In October 1922, about 30,000 Fascists marched on Rome. They demanded that King Victor Emmanuel III put Mussolini in charge of the government.
Il Duce’s Leadership- Mussolini was now Il Duce, or the leader. Government censors forced radio stations and publications to broadcast or publish only Fascist doctrines. 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. When World War I broke out, Hitler found a new beginning.
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. Its policies formed the German brand of fascism known as Nazism. Within a short time, Hitler’s success as an organizer and speaker led him to be chosen der Führer, or the leader, of the Nazi party. While in jail, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Hitler also declared that Germany was overcrowded and needed more lebensraum, or living space. After leaving prison in 1924, Hitler revived the Nazi Party.
Hitler Becomes Chancellor: The Nazis had become the largest political party by 1932. Conservative leaders mistakenly believed they could control Hitler and use him for their purposes. Once in office, Hitler called for new elections, hoping to win a parliamentary majority. Hitler used his new power to turn Germany into a totalitarian state. He banned all other political parties and had opponents arrested. The Nazis quickly took command of the economy. New laws banned strikes, dissolved independent labor unions, and gave the government authority over business and labor.
The Führer Is Supreme- Hitler wanted more than just economic and political power—he wanted control over every aspect of German life. 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 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. On this night of November 9, 1938, Nazi mobs attacked Jews in their homes and on the streets and destroyed thousands of Jewish-owned buildings. This rampage called Kristallnacht.
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. Only in European nations with strong democratic traditions—Britain, France, and the Scandinavian countries—did democracy survive. By the mid-1930s, the powerful nations of the world were split into two antagonistic camps—democratic and totalitarian.
Section 4 Aggressors Invade Nations
SETTING THE STAGE- By the mid-1930s, Germany and Italy seemed bent on military conquest.
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. Japan’s parliamentary system had several weaknesses, however.
Militarists Take Control of Japan- As long as Japan remained prosperous, the civilian government kept power. But when the Great Depression struck in 1929, many Japanese blamed the government. Keeping Emperor Hirohito as head of state won popular support for the army leaders who ruled in his name. They planned a Pacific empire that included a conquered China.
Japan Invades Manchuria- Japanese businesses had invested heavily in China’s northeast province, Manchuria. It was an area rich in iron and coal. The Japanese attack on Manchuria was the first direct challenge to the League of Nations.The League also included the three countries that posed the greatest threat to peace—Germany, Japan, and Italy.
Japan Invades China- Four years later, a border incident touched off a full-scale war between Japan and China. Japanese forces swept into northern China. Despite having a million soldiers, China’s army led by Jiang Jieshi was no match for the better equipped and trained Japanese. Beijing and other northern cities as well as the capital, Nanjing, fell to the Japanese in 1937.
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. The Ethiopians had successfully resisted an Italian attempt at conquest during the 1890s. The Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, urgently appealed to the League for help. 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. The League’s failure to stop Germany from rearming convinced Hitler to take even greater risks. The British urged appeasement, giving in to an aggressor to keep peace. Hitler later admitted that he would have backed down if the French and British had challenged him. 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. In July 1936, army leaders, favoring a Fascist-style government, joined General Francisco Franco in a revolt. Thus began a civil war that dragged on for three years.Hitler and Mussolini sent troops, tanks, and airplanes to help Franco’s forces, which were called the Nationalists.
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.
United States Follows an Isolationist Policy- Many Americans supported isolationism, the belief that political ties to other countries should be avoided. Beginning in 1935, Congress passed three Neutrality Acts.
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. Hitler next turned to Czechoslovakia. About three million German-speaking people lived in the western border regions of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland.
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. The Munich Conference was held on September 29, 1938. 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. Less than six months after the Munich meeting, Hitler took Czechoslovakia. Soon after, Mussolini seized Albania. 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. Once bitter enemies, Fascist Germany and Communist Russia now publicly pledged never to attack one another. 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.