By then, however, Adolf Hitler was chancellor of the German Reich. A common impression of Herbert Hoover is that he was passive in the face of the Depression and isolationist in foreign policy. The truth was almost the reverse, and in the campaign his Democratic opponent, Franklin Roosevelt , was the more traditional in economic policy and isolationist in foreign policy. Indeed, Hoover bequeathed to his successor two bold initiatives meant to restore international cooperation in matters of trade, currency, and security: the London Economic Conference and the Geneva Disarmament Conference.
At home, Roosevelt proposed the series of government actions known as the New Deal in an effort to restore U. The Disarmament Conference came to a similar end. But a secret German decree of April 4 created a National Defense Council to coordinate rearmament on a massive scale. Clearly the German demand for equality was a ploy to wreck the conference and serve as pretext for unilateral rearmament. Negotiations were delayed by a sudden initiative from Mussolini in March calling for a pact among Germany, Italy, France, and Britain to grant Germany equality, revise the peace treaties, and establish a four-power directorate to resolve international disputes.
Mussolini appears to have wanted to downgrade the League in favour of a Concert of Europe , enhancing Italian prestige and perhaps gaining colonial concessions in return for reassuring the Western powers. The French watered down the plan until the Four-Power Pact signed in Rome on June 7 was a mass of anodyne generalities.
Any prospect that the new Nazi regime might be drawn to collective security disappeared on Oct. The origins of the Nazi Third Reich must be sought not only in the appeal of Hitler and his party but also in the weakness of the Weimar Republic. Under the republic , Germany boasted the most democratic constitution in the world, yet the fragmentation of German politics made government by majority a difficult proposition. Many Germans identified the republic with the despised Treaty of Versailles and, like the Japanese, concluded that the s policy of peaceful cooperation with the West had failed.
What was more, the republic seemed incapable of curing the Depression or dampening the appeal of the Communists. In the end, it self-destructed.
Its platform was a clever, if contradictory, mixture of socialism , corporatism, and virulent assertion in foreign policy. The Nazis outdid the Communists in forming paramilitary street gangs to intimidate opponents and create an image of irresistible strength, but unlike the Communists, who implied that war veterans had been dupes of capitalist imperialism, the Nazis honoured the Great War as a time when the German Volk had been united as never before. In any case, the Communists on orders from Moscow turned to help the Nazis paralyze democratic procedure in Germany in the expectation of seizing power themselves.
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After two short-lived rightist cabinets foundered, Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor on Jan. The president, parliamentary conservatives , and the army all apparently expected that the inexperienced, lower-class demagogue would submit to their guidance. Instead, Hitler secured dictatorial powers from the Reichstag and proceeded to establish, by marginally legal means, a totalitarian state.
Within two years the regime had outlawed all other political parties and coopted or intimidated all institutions that competed with it for popular loyalty, including the German states, labour unions, press and radio, universities, bureaucracies , courts, and churches. Only the army and foreign office remained in the hands of traditional elites.
Where Marx had reduced all of history to struggles among social classes, in which revolution was the engine of progress and the dictatorship of the proletariat the culmination, Hitler reduced history to struggle among biologic races, in which war was the engine of progress and Aryan hegemony the culmination. The enemies of the Germans, indeed of history itself, were internationalists who warred against the purity and race-consciousness of peoples—they were the capitalists, the Socialists, the pacifists, the liberals, all of whom Hitler identified with the Jews.
This condemnation of Jews as a racial group made Nazism more dangerous than earlier forms of religious or economic anti-Semitism that had long been prevalent throughout Europe. For if the Jews, as Hitler thought, were like bacteria poisoning the bloodstream of the Aryan race, the only solution was their extermination. Nazism, in short, was the twisted product of a secular , scientific age of history.
Why Nationalism Works And Why It Isn’t Going Away
Lebensraum, wrote Hitler in Mein Kampf, was to be found in the Ukraine and intermediate lands of eastern Europe. By Hitler had apparently imagined a step-by-step plan for the realization of his goals. The first step was to rearm, thereby restoring complete freedom of maneuver to Germany. The next step was to achieve Lebensraum in alliance with Italy and with the sufferance of Britain.
Sooner or later politics must give way to war, but because Hitler did not articulate his ultimate fantasies to the German voters or establishment, his actions and rhetoric seemed to imply only restoration, if not of the Germany of , then the Germany of , after Brest-Litovsk. In fact, his program was potentially without limits. European reaction to the rise of Nazism was cautious, but not at first overtly hostile. Hitler sought to end Vatican support for the Catholic Centre Party while he proceeded to subordinate the churches and to corrupt Christianity into a state-centred form of neo-paganism.
Pope Pius XI , like every other European statesmen after him, thought that he could appease and moderate the Nazis. On Jan. He hoped to preserve a balance in his relations with the two giant neighbours Poland signed a three-year pact with Moscow in July but feared the Soviets from whom Poland had grabbed so much territory in more than the still-weak Germans. The pact with Germany was meant to run for 10 years. France was the nation most concerned by the Nazi threat and most able to take vigorous action. But fear of another war, the defeatist mood dating from the failure of the Ruhr occupation , the passivity engendered by the Maginot Line due for completion in just five years , and domestic strife exacerbated by the Depression and the Stavisky scandal of , all served to hamstring French foreign policy.
Britain as always eschewed commitments, while Poland had come to terms with Germany. Nevertheless, the moment seemed opportune; both Italy and the U.
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Yet, a month later, Austrian Nazis arranged a putsch in which Dollfuss was murdered. Mussolini responded with a threat of force quite likely a bluff on the Brenner Pass and thereby saved Austrian independence. Kurt von Schuschnigg , a pro-Italian Fascist, took over in Vienna.
In Paris and London it seemed that Mussolini was one leader with the will and might to stand up to Hitler. Stalin , meanwhile, had repented of the equanimity with which he had witnessed the Nazi seizure of power. Before , Germany and the U. Still, the behaviour of German Communists contributed to the collapse of parliamentarism, and now Hitler had shown that he, too, knew how to crush dissent and master a nation.
The United States and the U. The new French foreign minister, the rightist Pierre Laval , was especially friendly to Rome. The Laval—Mussolini agreements of Jan. Mussolini took this to mean that he had French support for his plan to conquer that independent African country. Just six days later the strength of German nationalism was resoundingly displayed in the Saar plebiscite.
The small, coal-rich Saarland, detached from Germany for 15 years under the Treaty of Versailles, was populated by miners of Catholic or social democratic loyalty. They knew what fate awaited their churches and labour unions in the Third Reich, and yet 90 percent voted for union with Germany. In the wake of this series of shocks Britain, France, and Italy joined on April 11, , at a conference at Stresa to reaffirm their opposition to German expansion.
Laval and Litvinov also initialed a five-year Franco-Soviet alliance on May 2, each pledging assistance in case of unprovoked aggression. Two weeks later a Czech-Soviet pact complemented it. The U. It was clear that Russian industrialization was bound to overthrow the balance of power in Eurasia, hence Stalin was fearful of the possibility of a preemptive attack before his own militarization was complete. But he was even more obsessed with the prospect of wholesale rebellion against his regime in case of invasion.
Urging the liberal Western states to combine against the Fascists was one method; exploring bilateral relations with Germany, as in the conversations between Hjalmar Schacht and Soviet trade representative David Kandelaki, was another. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of June 18, which countenanced a new German navy though limiting it to not larger than 35 percent the size of the British, angered the French and drove a wedge between them and the British.
The Stresa Front collapsed as soon as Paris and London learned the price Mussolini meant to exact for it. Having failed to pry the French out of their North African possessions, Mussolini fixed on the independent African empire of Abyssinia Ethiopia. Italy had failed in to conquer Abyssinia, thus to do so now would erase a national humiliation. The conquest of Abyssinia would also appear to open the path to the Sudan and Suez. Finally, this landlocked, semifeudal kingdom seemed an easy target. In fact, Emperor Haile Selassie had begun a modernization program of sorts, but this only suggested that the sooner Italy struck, the better.
The Italian army was scarcely prepared for such an undertaking, and Mussolini made matters worse by ordering ill-trained blackshirt brigades to Africa and entrusting the campaign to a Fascist loyalist, Emilio De Bono , rather than to a senior army officer. The military buildup at Mitsiwa left little doubt as to Italian intentions, and Britain tried in June to forestall the invasion by arranging the cession of some Abyssinian territories.
But Mussolini knew that the British Mediterranean fleet was as unready as his own and expected no interference. Adwa, the site of the debacle , fell in three days, after which the advance bogged down and Mussolini replaced De Bono with Marshal Pietro Badoglio. The League Council promptly declared Italy the aggressor October 7 , whereupon France and Britain were caught on the horns of a dilemma. The League finally settled on economic sanctions but shied away from an embargo on oil, which would have grounded the Italian army and air force , or closure of the Suez Canal , which would have cut the Italian supply line.
The remaining sanctions only vexed Italy without helping Abyssinia. Germany, no longer a League member, ignored the sanctions and so healed its rift with Rome. In December, Laval and Sir Samuel Hoare , the British foreign secretary, contrived a secret plan to offer Mussolini most of Abyssinia in return for a truce. This Hoare—Laval Plan was a realistic effort to end the crisis and repair the Stresa Front, but it also made a mockery of the League.
The Italians finally took the fortress of Mekele on November 8, but their slow advance led Mussolini to order a major offensive in December. He instructed Badoglio to use whatever means necessary, including terror bombing and poison gas, to end the war. Hitler observed the Abyssinian war with controlled glee, for dissolution of the Stresa Front—composed of the guarantors of Locarno—gave him the chance to reoccupy the Rhineland with minimal risk. On March 7, , Hitler ordered a token force of 22, soldiers back across the bridges of the Rhine.
Characteristically, he chose a weekend for his sudden move and then softened the blow with offers of nonaggression pacts and a new demilitarized zone on both sides of the frontier. Even so, Hitler assured his generals that he would retreat if the French intervened. German reoccupation and fortification of the Rhineland was the most significant turning point of the interwar years. After March the British and French could no longer take forceful action against Hitler except by provoking the total war they feared. Why did the French, especially, not act to prevent this calamity to their defensive posture?
On the other hand, the French army commander, General Maurice Gamelin, vastly overestimated German strength and insisted that a move into the Rhineland be preceded by general mobilization. The French Cabinet also concluded that it should do nothing without the full agreement of the British. But London was not the place to look for backbone. The strategic situation in Europe now shifted in favour of the Fascist powers. Finally, Belgium unilaterally renounced its alliance with France on October 14 and returned to its traditional neutrality in hopes of escaping the coming storm.
As a direct result of the Abyssinian imbroglio, the militant revisionists had come together and the status quo powers had splintered. Meanwhile, on May 5, , Italian troops had entered Addis Ababa and completed the conquest of Abyssinia, although the country was never entirely pacified, despite costly and brutal repression.
The Abyssinian war had been a disaster for the democracies, smashing both the Stresa Front and the credibility of the League. As the historian A. It is time to explore the roots of democratic lethargy in the face of Fascist expansionism in the s. In the minds of British statesmen, however, appeasement was a moral and realistic expression of all that was liberal and Christian in British culture.
First, cast a dark shadow on the opinion leaders of the s, who determined this time to shun arms races and balance-of-power and commercial competition, and so to spare the world another horrible war. Second, the overextended British Empire lacked the resources to confront threats from Japan in Asia, Italy in the Mediterranean, and Germany in Europe all at once. Wisdom dictated that Britain come to terms with the greatest and closest to home of its potential adversaries, Germany.
Thus, Wilsonian national self-determination perversely made the Nazis appear to be on the side of principle. Fifth, the appeasers also presumed that the Nazis would become less rambunctious once their grievances were removed. Sixth, some demoralized Englishmen believed the propagandistic claim that Fascism was the only bulwark against the spread of Bolshevism. Voices of dissent existed. Some Left-Labourites warned that Fascism must be stopped sooner or later, while a few Tory backbenchers led by Winston Churchill demanded rearmament.
Fear of the Luftwaffe only provided another excuse for appeasement, however, for aviation had developed to the point that theorists like the Italian Giulio Douhet could argue that air bombardment would win the next war in 48 hours by leveling enemy cities. In an air age, the English Channel no longer sheltered Britain from destruction. Many of these same considerations afflicted French policy: fear of another total war and of destruction from the air, apathy toward eastern Europe, and ideological confusion.
The Spanish Civil War highlighted the contrast between democratic bankruptcy and totalitarian dynamism.
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In the Spanish monarchy gave way to a republic whose unstable government moved steadily to the left, outraging the army and church. But the Republicans, or loyalists, a Popular Front composed of liberals, Socialists, Trotskyites, Stalinists, and anarchists, took up arms to defend the Republic elsewhere and sought outside aid against what they styled as the latest Fascist threat. Spain became a battleground for the ideologies wrestling for mastery of Europe. The civil war posed a dilemma for France and Britain, pitting the principle of defending democracy against the principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of other states.
The ineffectual Blum at first fraternally promised aid to the Popular Front in Madrid, but he reneged within a month for fear that such involvement might provoke a European war or a civil war in France. The British government counseled nonintervention and seemingly won Germany and Italy to that position, but Hitler, on well-rehearsed anti-Bolshevik grounds, hurriedly dispatched 20 transport planes that allowed Franco to move reinforcements from Morocco. The Italians performed miserably especially at Guadalajara in March , but German aid, including the feared Condor Legion , was effective.
These included terror bombing such as that over Guernica in April , which caused far fewer deaths than legend has it but which became an icon of anti-Fascism through the painting of Pablo Picasso. International aid to the Republicans ran from the heroic to the sinister. Thousands of leftists and idealistic volunteers from throughout Europe and America flocked to International Brigades to defend the Republic.
A major achievement. Seventy years ago—on August 15, — Emperor Hirohito announced that Japan would accept conditions for terminating the war as set down by the Allied Nations in the Potsdam Proclamation on July In his speech announcement, Emperor Hirohito did not use the Japanese word for surrender. The emperor was insisting that Japan had done nothing wrong by waging war in Asia and the Pacific. In other words, he was distancing himself and the Japanese nation from any sense of war guilt or responsibility. Quite the contrary, he began to see the Japanese as victims of the war rather than perpetrators.
Still more, the emperor ignored the fact the Japanese had been waging war on China and the rest of the East Asia—causing the death of at least 20 million people—since It killed 50 million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded in mind or body, and materially devastated much of the heartland of civilization.
Hirohito: The Early Years
What caused this war? Click here to learn more. Subscribe to our summer-only newsletter to get great reads in your inbox once a week during July and August. Subscribe Magazine Newsletter. Login Sign up Search. Subscribe Login Sign up. Foreign Policy. Party in the U. Over the past two centuries, nationalism has Loading, please wait Will China Seize Taiwan?