Ten million deaths, a lost generation, disillusionment, and despair were among the fruits of World War I. Some of the survivors turned to pacifism; others were attracted to radical national ideologies such as fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany. The treaties ending World War I did not assure peace, as the League of Nations had little power. France, fearing Germany, formed the Little Entente with the militarily weak states of Eastern Europe. Occupying the Ruhr when Germany failed to pay reparations, France gained little other than a disastrous fall in the German mark. By 1924, the Dawes Plan established a realistic reparations schedule. The Treaty of Locarno made permanent Germany’s western borders, but not the eastern ones. Germany joined the League, and in 1928, sixty-three nations signed the Kellogg-Briand pact, renouncing war, but it lacked any enforcement provisions.
European prosperity, largely the result of American loans and investments, ended with the Great Depression. The economist John Maynard Keynes favored increased government spending and deficit financing rather than deflation and balanced budgets, but had little support. Britain’s unemployment remained at ten percent during the 1920s and rose rapidly in the depression. France was governed, or ungoverned, by frequent coalition governments; its far-right was attracted to fascism and many on the left by Soviet Marxism. The United States’ New Deal was more successful in providing relief than in recovery, and unemployment remained high until World War II. Among most of the nations of Europe, there was a retreat from democracy, which seemed to have failed, both politically and economically.
Totalitarian governments, which required the active commitment of their citizens, came to power in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Italian fascism resulted from Italy’s losses in the Great War, economic failure, and incompetent politicians. In 1919, Benito Mussolini organized the Fascio di Combattimento. Threatening “to march on Rome,” he was chosen prime minister in 1922. Legal due process was abandoned, and rival parties were outlawed, but totalitarianism in Italy was never as effective as in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.
In Germany, the depression brought the political extremes to the forefront. Adolph Hitler headed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis). A powerful orator, Hitler published his beliefs in Mein Kampf, and created a private army of storm troopers (SA), but it was not until the depression that the Nazis received wide support. Hitler became chancellor in 1933, and a compliant Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, giving him dictatorial power. In his quest to dominate Europe, Hitler rearmed Germany, abolished labor unions, and created a new terrorist police force, the SS. The Nuremberg laws excluded Jews from citizenship, and in the 1938 Kristallnacht, Jewish businesses and synagogues were burned and Jews beaten and killed.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin assumed leadership in the Soviet Union. In 1928, he announced his first five-year plan to turn the Soviet Union into an industrial society by emphasizing oil and coal production and steel manufacturing. Giant collective farms were created, and in the process, ten million lives were lost. Stalin’s opponents were sent to Siberia, sentenced to labor camps, or liquidated. With the exception of Czechoslovakia, authoritarian governments appeared in eastern Europe as well as in Portugal and Spain. In the Spanish Civil War, the fascist states aided Francisco Franco, and the Soviet Union backed the Popular Front.Radio and movies become widely popular, as did professional sports. Automobiles and trains made travel accessible to all. Issues of sexuality became more public, and psychology became more popular. In art, German Expressionism reflected the horrors of war and the corruptions of peace, Dada focused upon the absurd, and Surrealism upon the unconscious. The unconscious “stream of consciousness” technique was used in the novels of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. The Bauhaus movement emphasized the functional in architecture. It was also “the heroic age of physics.” The discovery of subatomic particles indicated that splitting the atom could release massive energies, and Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” had implications far beyond the study of physics.
Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
- Describe the major characteristics of the 1920s in Europe.
- Explain why Europe experienced a great depression in the 1930s and how it affected both domestic politics in the democracies and international affairs.
- Give the common characteristics of the various totalitarian states that emerged between the two world wars.
- Describe the history and nature of fascism in Europe.
- Trace Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, what methods he used, what conditions made it possible for him to become Germany’s leader, and how his career affected world history.
- Examine the changes in Soviet leadership and policy.
- Discuss the intellectual and cultural trends of the time between the wars, and explain both what inspired them and their influence on society.
Please progress through this module as follows:
Before reading the materials below, review the identification terms and readings questions. As you progress through the material, take note of information which helps answer, identify, and explain those items.
- Read Chapter Twenty-Six, “The Futile Search for Stability: Europe Between the Wars, 1919-1939," in Spielvogel, Western Civilization.
- Take Module Nine Terms Quiz by choosing Assessments from the Course Tools menu and selecting Module Nine Terms Quiz.
Use this pre-formatted Word document to complete your Module Nine assignments. Complete all assignments using a single Microsoft Word, or a compatible word processor, file with Times New Roman, 12-point font. Save the file to your computer as "yourname_M9." Once you have completed both assignments, submit them for grading by accessing the Assignments tab in the Course Tools menu, selecting Module Nine Assignment, attaching your Word document, and clicking the Submit button. This rubric will be used to score your essay assignments.
- Survey several of the the following materials from both the US and Germany (sample from the sources - you do not need to read each one, per se), then complete the assignment as directed in part "b".
- Print and Video Resources
- The United States -
- Excerpts from David M. Kennedy's Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945:
- Monopoly (the board game)
- From Digital History:
- American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940.
From Franklin D. Roosevelt's Inaugural Address - 4 March 1933FDR's First Fireside Chat - 12 March 1933FDR's "Four Freedoms" Address - 6 January 1941
- Germany - View the following:
- The Nazis:
- Petzina, Dieter. "Germany and the Great Depression." Journal of Contemporary History 4 (Oct. 1969): 59-74.†
- The German Unemployed: Experiences and Consequences of Mass Unemployment.
- Gerald D. Feldman. "Industrialists, Bankers, and the Problem of Unemployment in the Weimar Repbulic." Central European History 25 (1992): 76-96.*
- Bruno Heilig. "Why the German Republic Fell." 1938.
- German Chancellor Franz von Papen. "Background to the German Crisis." Speech given the Lausanne Conference, Lausanne, Switzerland, June 1932.
- The World in General:
- The United States -
- The United States and Germany both experienced economic troubles during the late 1920s and 1930s. Use the sources above to address the following questions in an approximately 500-word essay. Be specific, and reference the sources you use to support your argument (mentioning them in the text is sufficient). This rubric will be used to score your essay assignments. (25 pts.)
* In many ways the economic crisis in the United States led to a retrenchment/reaffirmation of traditional values (democracy, capitalism, Protestant work ethic, etc.). Such was not the case in Germany. How do you account for the different reactions? Be specific, and reference the sources used to support your argument.
- Print and Video Resources
Once you have completed all assignments for Module Nine, submit them as one single Word file by accessing the Assignments tab on the Course Tools menu, selecting Module Nine Assignment, attaching your Word document, and clicking the Submit button.
- The First World War and the Rise of Fascism [27:44]
- PBS - The American Experience - The Crash of '29 [54:21]
When you have completed the work in Module Nine, proceed to Module Ten.