Radio and Movies Dominate Popular Entertainment
Guglielmo Marconi's first successful experiment with the radio was in 1895. The real push for radio improvement came along during World War I. KDKA was the world's first commercial radio station. It was located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; it began broadcasting in the 1920s. Radio mania swept throughout the United States pretty much overnight. All of the major cities had stations that broadcasted news, plays, and even live sport events. Most families soon owned a radio. Motion pictures also evolved in the 1920s. From Cuba to Japan, many countries were producing movies. Film was a very serious art form in Europe, but that was not the case in Los Angeles. In the Hollywood district, was where 90 percent of all films were made, and they were produced for entertainment. Charlie Chaplin was the king of Hollywood's silent screen. He's a English-born comical genius who is known for being the lonely little tramp frightened by life. Suddenly, sound was added into movies in the late 1920s. All of the many advances in transportation and communication that came after war and brought the world closer. Global success depended on the well-being of all major nations, especially the United States.
Section 2: A Worldwide Depression
The cost of World War I was very extreme, not only on economic terms but with human suffering as well. The Great War left all major European countries almost bankrupt. Also, Europe's domination in world affairs declined after the war.
Unstable New Democracies
As soon as war ended, democracies started to rise. From 1914 to 1918, Europe's last rulers had been overthrown and during this time, new governments were formed in Russia. This began in 1917, with the Provisional Government, it hoped to make constitutional and democratic rule. Plans for this new government did not follow through, and within months it became a Communist dictatorship. At the same time, most European nations had democratic governments. Germany, France, Italy, and many more had been used to being ruled by emperors and kings. Transitioning into new democracies was hard when they had citizens with little experience in representative government. France and Italy's parliaments existed before World War I and with the large number of political parties, it made effective government very difficult. Some countries had a dozen political groups, or more. In countries like those, it was pretty impossible for one party to earn enough support to govern effectively. Coalition government is a temporary alliance of several parties, and this occurs when no single party wins a majority. This was needed to form a parliamentary majority. Coalitions happened very often because all the parties disagreed so much on policies. All of the changes in government made it hard for countries to have a solid and strong leadership. It also kept them from making long-term goals. Coalition government's weaknesses started to be a major problem during times of crisis. Suddenly, voters in many countries were willing to sacrifice democratic government to have a strong, authoritarian leadership.
The Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic was created in 1919, and it was named after the city where the national assembly met. It had major weaknesses from the beginning, starting with Germany's lack of a strong democratic tradition. Then after the war, Germany had many big political parties and many smaller ones. The worst thing was millions of Germans blamed the Weimar government for their country's loss. They didn't blame the wartime leaders, and they also blamed the government for the postwar humiliation caused by the Versailles Treaty.
Signing the Treaty of Versailles
Inflation Causes Crisis in Germany
Germany dealt with many economic problems that had started during the war. Germany hadn't increased it wartime taxes like Britain and France. To pay off all the expenses of war, the Germans decided to print money. However, this money lost its purpose after the Germans were defeated. Germany printed even more money because they had to pay the Allies and they had other economic problems. The value of the mark fell very hard as Germany's currency was called. Severe inflation suddenly set in and Germans started needing more and more money just to buy basic goods. People to wheelbarrows that were full of money, just to buy food. Germans then started questioning the value of their new democratic government.
Attempts at Economic Stability
An international committee helped Germany defeat the 1923 inflation. The Dawes Plan got a $200 million loan from American banks so they could get Germany back on track. Charles Dawes was the leader of this committee and he wanted to make Germany's economy stronger. The plan also gave a realistic schedule for Germany's reparations payments. The Dawes Plan slowed inflation when it was put into effect in 1924. Germany's economy attracted more loans and investments from the United States as they began recovering. In 1929, German factories also began producing much more than they did before the war.
Efforts at a Lasting Peace
Gustav Stresemann, Germany's foreign minister, and Aristide Briand, France's foreign minister; tried to improve their country's relationship. They both met in Locarno, Switzerland in 1925 with officials from Belgium, Italy, and Britain. A treaty was signed that stated, France and Germany would never go to war against each other again. Germany also said they would respect the existing borders of France and Belgium. This was then sent to the League of Nations. The Kellogg-Briand peace pact was made in 1928 because of the hopes raised by the "spirit of Locarno." Frank Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, made this agreement with France's Briand. Every country in the world, along with the Soviet Union, signed this peace pact. They decided "to renounce war as an instrument of national policy." Sadly, the treaty didn't enforce its provisions. The League of Nations had no armed forces and since the United States didn't want to join it, that weakened it. The peace agreements seemed to be a good start.
In the late 1920s, the American economy played a big role. If the U.S. economy weakened, the whole world's economy would weaken, or maybe even collapse. Then in 1929 it collapsed.
A Flawed U.S. Economy
There were many weaknesses in the U.S. economy like distribution of wealth, overproduction by business and agriculture, and many Americans bought less. American factories were turning out almost half of the world's industrial goods by 1929. This uprise in productivity led to huge profits, but this wealth was not distributed fairly. 33 percent of the income went to the richest 5 percent of the population. While 60 percent of all American families didn't even earn $2,000 per year. Which meant that most families didn't have enough money to buy the goods that were being produced. Store owners eventually cut back their orders from factories and to fire back, factories decreased the production and laid off workers. Meanwhile, overproduction affected American farmers greatly. Therefore, scientific farming methods along with new farm machinery increased crop yields. While they began producing more food, they faced a ton of competition from Australia, Latin America, and Europe. Because of this, a worldwide supply of all these agricultural products decreased prices and profits. Since farmers couldn't pay off the bank loans that kept them in business, it weakened banks and forced many to close. These danger signs of overproduction should've been a warning to people against gambling on the stock market, but no one listened.
The Stock Market Crashes
New York City's Wall Street was the financial capital of the world in 1929. Sidewalks were lined with banks and investment companies. Positivity about the popular U.S. economy was displayed in the soaring prices for stocks, at Wall Street's New York Stock Exchange. Many middle-income people started buying stocks on margin to get involved. Which meant that they would pay a small percent of a stock's price as a down payment and then borrow the rest from a stockbroker. This system worked pretty good as long as stock prices were rising. If the stock prices fell, then investors had no money to pay off the loan. Around September 1929, many people began thinking that stock prices were too high. They started selling their stocks, because they thought the prices would go down soon. Then, by October 24, the slow decrease of stock prices transformed into an all-out downslide. This cause panic, and everyone wanted to sell stocks but no one wanted to buy. Prices fell down further, on Tuesday, October 29. 16 million stocks were sold and suddenly, the market collapsed.
The Great Depression
A mother and her children during the Great Depression
People weren't able to pay the money they owned on margin purchases and stocks they bought at high prices were now worth nothing. Shortly after the crash, unemployment rates were rising as industrial production, prices, and wages fell. The Great Depression followed, which is a long business slump. The stock market crash not only resulted in the Great Depression, but it also caused the collapse of the economy to quicken. By 1932, factory production was cut in half, and thousands of businesses failed. At the same time, banks closed and about 9 million people lost the money in their savings accounts because their banks couldn't pay them. Farmers lost their lands due to failed mortgage payments. Sadly, by 1933, one-fourth of American workers were unemployed.
A Global Depression
The world was majorly effected because of the crashing of the American economy. While American bankers wanted to be repaid of all their overseas loans, American investors withdrew their money from Europe. The U.S. Congress put high tariffs on imported goods because they wanted American dollars to stay in the U.S. and only pay for American goods. This caused the American market for European goods to drop tremendously. This policy backfired and it made everything worse for the United States. It also hurt countries that depended on exporting goods to the U.S. Therefore, when the United States raised tariffs, other nations made higher tariffs. This dropped world trade by 65 percent, and caused terrible unemployment rates.
Effects Throughout the World
Germany and Austria suffered greatly because of war debts and depending on American loans and investments. Austria's biggest bank failed in 1931. Asia's farmers and urban workers also had a hard time because the value of exports dropped by half from 1929 to 1931. Latin America was effected by the crash as well. When European and U.S. demand for Latin American products like sugar, beef, and copper fell, prices collapsed.
The World Confronts The Crisis
The Depression met democracies with a serious challenge to their economy and political systems. Each country dealt with the crisis in its own way.
Causes of the Great Depression
Britain Takes Steps to Improve Its Economy
Britain had to take on the Depression head on. British voters elected a multiparty coalition, which was called the National Government, because they wanted to take care of the emergency. It increased taxes, passed high protective tariffs, and regulated the currency. To promote industrial growth, they lowered interest rates as well. A slow recovery was on its way and by 1937, unemployment had been cut by a half. Production levels risen and Britain ignored political extremes and preserved democracy.
France Responds to Economic Crisis
France had a good, self-sufficient economy. It was still pretty agricultural in 1930, and less dependent on foreign trade. A million French workers did not have a job by 1935. This economic crisis also related to political unstableness. In 1933, five coalitions governments were created and crashed. Quite a few political leaders were scared of the growth in antidemocratic forces in France and other areas in Europe. Moderates, Socialists, and Communists formed a coalition in 1936. They named it, the Popular Front, and passed many reforms to help the workers. Wage gains were then offset because of the price increase. The unemployment rate still remained high, but France preserved democratic government at the same time.
Socialist Governments Find Solutions
The Socialist governments in the Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were challenged by the economic crisis but overcome it successfully. They created recovery programs based on the tradition of cooperative community action. Then in Sweden, the government promoted huge public work projects that kept people employed and producing. Scandinavian countries increased pensions for the elderly and raised unemployment insurance, subsidies for housing, and other welfare benefits. The governments taxed all citizens to pay for these benefits. Meanwhile, democracy remained intact.
Recovery in the United States
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to be elected after the Depression had started. He calmed many citizens with his personality while the Depression was in its process. On March 4, 1933, he urged restoration in American faith. The New Deal was formed by Roosevelt as a program of government reform. Those with no jobs were provided with work by large public work projects. Big amounts of public money was spent on welfare and relief programs and new government agencies helped businesses and farms financially. Roosevelt and those that he worked with believed that government spending would make jobs and start a recovery. Regulations were formed to restore the stock market and banking system. The New Deal eventually helped the American economic system and Roosevelt's leadership preserved the country's faith in its democratic political system. He was then seen as a leader of a democracy in a world threatened by ruthless dictators.
Wax Figure of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Section 3: fASCISM rISES IN eUROPE
faSCISM'S rISE IN iTALY
Fascism was a political movement that promoted loyalty to the state and obedience to its leader. It had no specific theory or program, unlike communism. Therefore, most Fascists shared ideas. They wanted an extreme form of nationalism and they also believed that nations must struggle. Without loyalty to one's country or if the states are peaceful, then things wouldn't be right. They took a pledge to be loyal to an authoritarian leader that guided and brought order to each state. Fascists wore different colored uniforms in each nation, and they also used unique salutes and held mass rallies. Fascism was similar to communism in some ways, and both systems were ruled by dictators. Both rejected individual rights and in both the state was supreme. Neither of them practiced any kinds of democracy. Fascists didn't want a classless society, while Communists did. Fascists believed that each class had a certain role and Fascist parties were mainly made up of aristocrats and industrialists, war veterans, and the lower middle class. Fascists were also nationalists, and Communists were internationalists, they hoped to bring workers together worldwide.
Mussolini Takes Control
Fascism started to rise in Italy was because of the bitter disappointment over the failure to win large territorial gains at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Inflation increasing and unemployment also took place in the social unrest. Democratic government seemed pointless when dealing with the country's problems to many Italians, and they wanted a leader that would take action. Benito Mussolini promised to rescue Italy by renewing its economy and reestablishing its armed forces. He wanted to give Italy strong leadership and Mussolini then founded the Fascist Party in 1919. He became very popular when economic conditions became more severe. He finally criticized Italy's government and groups of Fascists wearing black shirts, attacked Communists and Socialists on the streets. He began winning support from middle classes, the aristocracy, and industrial leaders. About 30,000 Fascists marched on Rome in October 1922. They wanted King Victor Emmanuel III to put Mussolini in charge of the government. The king then came to the conclusion that Mussolini would be the best decision for his dynasty to survive. After all the violence and threats that were everywhere, Mussolini took power "legally."
Statue of Benito Mussolini
II Duce's Leadership
Mussolini became II Duce, or the leader. He destroyed democracy and outlawed all political parties except the Fascists. Secret police put his opponents in jail and government censors demanded radio stations and publications to broadcast or publish only Fascist doctrine. Mussolini banned strikes and he wanted to control the economy by uniting Fascists with the industrialists and large landowners. Mussolini never had the full control that Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union had, or Adolf Hitler in Germany.
Hitler Rises to Power in Germany
While Mussolini was dictator of Italy in the mid-1920s, Adolf Hitler was a political leader whose early life had been disappointment. Hitler found a new beginning as World War I begun. He volunteered for the Germany army and earned the Iron Cross award twice for being brave.
The Rise of the Nazis
Hitler settled in Munich at the end of the war. In 1919, he became part of a right-wing political group. This group believed that Germany had to get rid of the Treaty of Versailles and combat communism. The group later earned the name National Socialist German Workers' Party, called Nazi for short. Its beliefs created the German version of fascism which was Nazism. This party created the swastika, or hooked cross, as its symbol. They also set up a secret militia called the storm troopers or Brown Shirts. Shortly after, Hitler's success led him to being the der Fuhrer, the leader of the Nazi party. Hitler and the Nazis planned to seize power in Munich in 1923, and the attempt failed. Hitler was then arrested and was tried for treason, but only sentenced to 5 years in prison. However, he only served less than nine months. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf while serving his time in jail. It shared his beliefs and goals that he had for Germany. Hitler said that Germans, or what he called "Aryans," were a "master race." He also stated that non-Aryan "races," like Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies, were inferior. Hitler strongly disagreed with the Versailles Treaty and promised to take back German lands. He even stated that Germany was overpopulated and needed more lebensraum, or living space. Hitler vowed that he would get that space by conquering eastern Europe and Russia. After he left prison in 1924, Hitler brought the Nazi Party back. Most Germans just ignored him and his angry message until the Great Depression ended the nation's postwar recovery. When American loans ended, the German economy crashed. Civil unrest exploded, and Germans now turned to Hitler because they were afraid. They realized they needed a firm leader.
Hitler BEcomes Chancellor
The Nazis were soon the biggest political party in 1932. Conservative leaders always made the mistake of thinking they could control Hitler and use him for their wants and needs. In January 1933, they all suggested that President Paul von Hindenburg name Hitler chancellor. Then Hitler took power legally. Not long after, General Erich Ludendorff, a former Hitler ally wrote a letter to Hindenburg. Hitler requested new elections when he arrived in office. He wanted a parliamentary majority and six days before the election, a fire demolished the Reichstag building, where the parliament met. The Nazis said it was the Communists fault, to stir up their fear, and the Nazis along with their allies won a slim majority. Hitler used his power to transform Germany into a totalitarian state. He arrested opponents and banned other political parties. At the same time, SS (Schutzstaffel, or protection squad) was created. They were an elite, black uniformed unit, that was loyal to Hitler only. In 1934, the SS put hundreds of Hitler's enemies in jail and even murdered some. This terrible action and the terror created by the Gestapo, or the Nazi secret police, shocked a lot of the Germans into total obedience. The Nazis quickly took over the economy and new laws banned strikes, decreased independent labor unions, and gave the government control over business and labor. Hitler employed millions of Germans. Their jobs consisted of constructing factories, building highways, manufacturing weapons, and serving in the military. The number of unemployment dropped from about 6 to 1.5 million in 1936.
The Fuhrer Is Supreme
Hitler wanted more control, he wanted power over every aspect of German life. Hitler turned to the press, radio, literature, painting, and film into propaganda tools to win praise and support for his leadership. Books that did not support Nazi beliefs were burned, churches weren't allowed to criticize the Nazis or the government either. Even schoolchildren had to join the Hitler Youth or the League of German Girls. Hitler thought that constantly being in battle brought victory to the strong. He turned around the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche to back up his use of brutal force.
Hitler Makes War on the Jews
Hating the Jews was a major part of Nazi ideology. Even though Jews were less than one percent of the population, the Nazis used them as scapegoats because of all of Germany's struggles since the war. This led to the spreading of the anti-Semitism across Germany. In the start of 1933, the Nazis made laws that deprived Jews of most of their rights. Violence against Jews increased, and Nazi mobs attacked Jews on the night of November 9, 1938. They intruded their homes and attacked them on the streets, destroying thousands of Jewish-owned buildings. This outburst, called Kristallnacht, started the process of eliminating the Jews from German life.
Other Countries Fall to Dictators
While Fascists were gaining power in Italy and Germany, the nations that were formed in eastern Europe after World War I, were also falling under the control of dictators. In Hungary, 1919, military forces and wealthy landowners united to make Admiral Miklos Horthy the first European postwar dictator. Also, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, seized power in Poland in 1926. In Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, kings went to strong-man rule. They got rid of constitutions and silenced foes. Only one democracy remained in 1935, and it was Czechoslovakia, in eastern Europe. Britain, France, and the Scandinavian countries' democracies survived. Europeans saw dictatorship as the only way to prevent unstableness. By the mid-1930s, the most powerful nations of the world were divided into two antagonistic groups, democratic and totalitarian. To receive their ends, the Fascist dictatorships showed willingness to use military aggression. Even though all of these dictatorships restricted civil rights, none of them used brutal power to gain control like the Russian Communists or the Nazis.
Section 4: Aggressors invade Nations
Japan Seeks An Empire
The Japanese government became more democratic in the 1920s. Japan signed an international treaty to show they would respect Chinese borders, in 1922. In 1928, Japan signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact for war. Japan's parliamentary system had many weaknesses and its constitution restricted the power of the prime minister and the cabinet. While civil leaders had little control over the armed forces, military leaders only reported to the emperor.
Militarists Take Control of Japan
The civilian government kept power unless Japan wasn't prosperous. In 1929, when the Great Depression hit, many Japanese claimed that it was the government's fault. Military leaders soon gained support and won control of the country. The militarists did not try to make a new system of government like the Fascists. They wanted to give back traditional control of the government to the military. Instead of a strong leader like Mussolini or Hitler, the militarists symbolized the emperor of state power. Since Emperor Hirohito was the leader he won support from the army leaders that ruled in his name. Japan's militarists were big nationalists, and they wanted to overcome all of the country's economic obstacles through foreign expansion. They plotted a Pacific empire that included a conquered China. This empire was supply Japan with raw materials and markets for its goods. It would also give Japan space for its growing population.
Japan Invades Manchuria
Japanese businesses knew China's northeast province, Manchuria, very well. This area had a lot of iron and coal. In 1931, Japan's army took Manchuria, even though the Japanese parliament had objections. The army then formed a puppet government and Japanese engineers and technicians began coming in big numbers to build mines and factories. The Japanese attack on Manchuria was the first test for the League of Nations. In the early 1930s, the League's members consisted of all major democracies except the U.S. The League even included Germany, Japan, and Italy, the three countries that displayed the greatest threat to peace. When Japan got Manchuria, many League members were violent and upset. Japan ignored all of their protests and left the League in 1933.
Japan Invades China
About four years later, a border accident brought forth a war between Japan and China. Japanese forces invaded into northern China, and even though China had a million soldiers, led by Jiang Jieshi, they were nothing compared to the better trained and prepared Japanese. Beijing and other northern cities along with the capital, Nanjing, fell under Japanese power in 1937. Japanese soldiers killed thousands of captured troops and civilians in Nanjing. Jiang Jieshi created a new capital at Chongqing, because he was forced westward. During that time, Chinese guerrillas led by Mao Zedong, their communist leader, continued to fight the Japanese in that conquered area.
European Aggressors on the March
The League's failure to defeat the Japanese encouraged European Fascists to plan aggressive behavior of their own. Mussolini dreamed of building a colonial empire in Africa similar to Britain's and France's.
Mussolini Attacks Ethiopia
Ethiopia was one of Africa's three independent nations and they successfully stayed away from Italy's attempt at conquest in the 1890s. Mussolini then ordered a huge invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935. The weaponry of the Ethiopians wasn't anything compared to Italian airplanes, tanks, guns, and poison gas. The Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, went to the League for assistance. Even though the League criticized the attack, its members didn't do a thing. Britain continued to allow Italian troops and supplies to pass through the Suez Canal to make it to Ethiopia. By giving in to Mussolini, Britain and France wanted to keep peace in Europe.
Hitler Defies Versailles Treaty
Hitler promised to undo the Versailles Treaty long ago. The treaty had limited the size of Germany's army and in March 1935, the Fuhrer stated that Germany wouldn't listen and obey the restrictions. The League only had a mild disapproval. The League's lack of success to keep Germany form rearming convinced Hitler to take even bigger chances. The treaty prohibited German troops to enter a 30-mile-wide zone on either side of the Rhine River. The zone, known as Rhineland, created a shield between Germany and France. It was also an important industrial area. On March 7, 1936, German troops went into Rhineland. The French were unwilling to risk war and the British demanded an appeasement, giving in to an aggressor to keep peace. Hitler confessed that he would've stepped down if the French and British had tested him. The German reoccupation of the Rhineland marked a change in the march toward war. It gave Hitler's power and prestige in Germany strength. The balance of power the transformed in Germany's favor. France and Belgium were now vulnerable to being attacked by German troops. Finally, the fragile response by France and Britain encouraged Hitler to expand faster. Hitler's increasing strength convinced Mussolini that he should go for an alliance with Germany. In October, 1936, the two dictators went for an agreement that became known as the Rome-Berlin Axis. One month later, Germany made an agreement with Japan. Then Germany, Italy, and Japan became called the Axis Powers.
Civil War Erupts in Spain
Hitler and Mussolini then challenged the will of the democracies of Europe in the Spanish Civil War. Spain was a monarchy until a republic was declared in 1931. Liberals and Socialists, that ran the government, held office amid many crises. In July 1936, army leaders, that liked a Fascist-style government, linked General Francisco Franco in a revolt. This started a civil war that lasted for three years. Hitler and Mussolini sent troops, tanks, and airplanes to assist Franco's forces, which were called the Nationalists. The armed forces of the Republicans got little assistance from abroad. The Western democracies stayed neutral and only the Soviet Union sent equipment and advisers. An international brigade of volunteers struggled with the Republican side. Early in 1939, Republican resistance crashed and Franco became Spain's Fascist dictator.
Democratic Nations Try to preserve Peace
Instead of opposing Fascist aggression in the 1930s, Britain and France consistently made concessions, hoping to keep peace. Both nations were struggling with serious economic situations as a result of the Great Depression. Therefore, the terror of World War I created a deep longing to resist war.
United States Follows an Isolationist Policy
A lot of Americans supported isolationism, or the belief that political ties to other countries should be avoided. Isolationists fought for the idea that World War I was a costly error. In the start if 1935, Congress passed three Neutrality Acts. These laws forbid loans and the sale of arms to nations in war.
The German Reich Expands