US History Honors
12 February 2015
Dictators, War, and Much More
Before the start of WWII in 1939, the whole world was in a funk. We seemed to be facing a world wide Great Depression, leaving the world unemployed and desperate. Nationalism was sweeping through Germany, China and the Empire of Japan had been at war for 8 years, and German, Italy, and Japan were just beginning to test the League of Nations with multiple invasions (which proved to be without consequences.) The Spanish War broke out in 1936, almost like a dry run before the World War to come. In this war, Germany and Italy supported General Francisco Franco and his nationalist party. A year later, Nazi Germany blazed the path to conflict by rearming and signing a non-aggression treaty with the USSR, annexing Austria, and invading Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, the United States passed several Neutrality Acts in order to try and avoid foreign entanglements as it bounced back from the Depression and the Dust Bowl years. On top of all this, Germany was blamed for causing World War I, the World’s economy was in pieces, ethnic groups were being highly discriminated against, and dictators were on the rise.
During this time, very powerful and strong willed leaders were firmly taking the reigns of their country in their own unique way. Benito Mussolini was a very powerful dictator and the leader of Italy. Mussolini practically built fascism- a system under which the government rules through terror and by appealing to racism and nationalism. In 1922, he became prime minister of Italy. He won over nationalists by promising to turn Italy into a new Roman Empire. In 1935, his fascist troops invaded Ethiopia in Africa. The League of Nations had been formed to halt such aggression. However, it had little success.
The most common dictator, Adolf Hitler, first joined the Nazi party. After World War I ended, Hitler felt bitter and angry along with many other Germans regarding the ‘unfairness’ of the peace agreement that ended the war. The treaty required Germany to pay millions for war damages. Hitler skillfully blamed the nation’s economic woes on Jews and other groups. After coming to power in 1933, he jailed critics. His expansion of German territory began with a violation of the World War I peace agreement. He sent troops into a part of Germany near the French border, invaded Austria, and the list goes on and on.
Another important leader in European history was Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. He transformed the Soviet Union from a peasant society into an industrial and military superpower. However, he