The rise in Fascism and Naizsm – Dictatorial regimes in Italy and Germany arose
Mussolini formed the government (Fascist Party) in Italy in Oct 1922
Hitler formed his Nazi Government in Germany in Jan 1933Image : Source
Main Features of Fascism and Nazism
Dictatorial ideas appealed to the masses of Italy and Germany.
It was aggressive nationalism.
Both dictators pursued expansionist policy abroad.
Racialist Policies in Germany.
Media is fully controlled.
Mussolini and Hitler were able to attract, influence and inspire people
One party or One-Man rule. Tolerate no opposition
Racialist Policies in Germany
All people of the Aryan race in Europe, whether they lived in Denmark or Poland or France were sought to be united in the German empire. In the name of the ‘Aryan’ principle empire, Jews were mercilessly killed by Nazis. Mussolini also adopted Anti-Jewish policy under Nazi influence.
Holocaust Memorial – In Berlin, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
As a result of WW1, there was an economic crisis in various nations. There was a food shortage, inflation, unemployment, corruption, and nepotism. Democratic governments were not able to face the challenges and problems effectively. Dictators took advantage of the situation. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party started to build the mass following by promising to attain back everything lost.Image : Source
Treaty of Versailles Peace settlement at Paris after WW1 was made in a spirit of revenge. Germany was deprived of its colonies and humiliated after its defeat in WW1. Her military strength was completely crushed. Germany’s defeat in the war and conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles made Germans ashamed and helpless. She was forced to give away large chunks of her territory to France, Belgium, Poland, and Denmark. This fuelled the rise of Nazism in Germany.Image : Source
Fascist movement in Italy – Italy had to spend a lot of money during WW1 on her army and war equipment. She was under heavy debt. At the same time, there were problems like poverty, hunger, disease, and unemployment, riots, strikes. The government was not strong enough to maintain law and order. In this situation, Fascists seized power in Italy. Italy turned towards Germany and Japan. In 1940, Italy entered WW2.Image : Source
US, Britain, France = Liberal democracy, Periodic elections, Freedom of speech and from arbitrary arrest (Allies)
Italy, Germany = One political system, no elections, Had expansionist aims (Axis)Image : daniel-reche at pexels
Hitler’s act of aggression –
- In 1936, Hitler made his first move to occupy Rhineland that had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles.
- He then captured Vienna, the Capital of Austria, in 1938. The western Allies do nothing to stop him.
- Soon he turned his attention to acquire Sudetenland. Hitler declared that Germans were being forced against their will to live there. He wanted to liberate them. The president of Czechoslovakia was not prepared to make a compromise. The war seems inevitable. The head of four nations – Germany, Italy, Britain, and France met in 1938 and decided to hand over Sudetenland to Germany. The Czechoslovakia government was persuaded to accept this pact (Munich pact) in the interests of peace.
- But later, in 1939, Hitler invades the rest of Czechoslovakia.
The policy of Appeasement – Hitler managed to suspend the regulations of the Versailles treaty step by step. There were 2 main reasons why Britain and France followed a policy of appeasement towards Germany.
- they believed that the treaty of Versailles had been too severe on Germany.
- they thought that if genuine grievances of Germany were removed, she would not harm the peace of the world. As a result, they agreed to transfer Sudetenland to Germany.
- Depression of the 1930s was a pressing issue for them. They were concerned about their problems rather than looking at what was occurring in foreign countries.
Hitler’s next move was Poland. German invaded Poland and demanded the Danzig corridor. Hitler was demanding the Danzig corridor for two reasons.
- the city of Danzig was inhabited by Germans
- he could connect East Prussia with Germany by occupying the Danzig corridor
Poland was accused of committing atrocities against Germans living there. This time Britain and France pledged assistance to Poland against German’s aggression.Image : Space_Cadet at English Wikipedia
Hitler was worried about how the Soviets would react to his invasion. In August 1939 Germany signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Russia and agreed to take no military action against each other. It took the world by surprise because Russia and Germany were ideologically different countries and their pact seemed unlikely.
German troops stormed into west Poland on 1st September 1939. The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. Soviets and Germany pact was revealed in which it was ultimately known that they had divided Poland between themselves.
On 3rd September, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Hitler was horrified as he did not expect that. Hitler was not ready for the war. Hitler’s eyes were set on the east (Poland), and now there were enemies on the west also (France and Britain).Image : Source
Failure of the League of Nation When weaker nations appealed to the League to take actions against Hitler, Mussolini, the only weapon that was available was economic sanctions which proved ineffective. If member states had taken collective action against Italy’s or Japan’s aggression, the world would have been spared the horror of the war. League failed to take action against aggressors which encouraged Germany to occupy Austria and attack Poland – ultimately led to WW2.
China also appealed to the League of Nations to declare sanctions against Japan but Britain and France followed the policy of appeasement. Thus, Japan occupied Manchuria (North East China). In 1933, Japan left the league and started occupying the American and British properties in China. Britain and France did not give any attention, thinking that the Japanese could be used to weaken China.Manchuria in red and pink – Image : Source
At the same time, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands were annexed by Germany for resources to fight the war. British could not help Norway and suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Germany there. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain resigned because of the Norway issue. He was replaced by Winston Churchill. Meanwhile, in 1940, Luxembourg, and Belgium also surrendered. Germany wanted to acquire ports and bases from where he could invade Britain.Western allies (blue), Soviet & allies (red) and Axis (black), December, 1940 Image : Source
BlitzKrieg’ (lightning attack)
Germany invaded France with overwhelming force. France was slow to react. France thought it would take time for the Germans to reach their territory, but to their surprise, something different happened. Hitler adopted a new method of warfare, called ‘BlitzKrieg’ (lightning attack).
German soldiers were given medication (known today as crystal meth). It gave them the strength to move forward non-stop without any sleep. The long-term psychological effects of it were not good but it gave the German army the ideal drug to combat fatigue and remain active for a long time with high morale.
The aerial attack, up to the minute communications, and the fast movement of the superhuman army was the new method adopted. This method of warfare became one of the extraordinary events of WW2.Image : Source
Finally, Germany occupied Paris. To prevent their beloved Paris from being destructed in bombings, the French flew the city, leaving it to be captured. It was the biggest victory for the Germans. Thereafter an armistice ( an agreement to stop fighting for a certain time ) was signed with French leadership.Hitler in Paris – Image : Source
Battle of Britain
It was one of the most heroic clashes of WW2 in the 1940s. Britain, at this point, was standing alone against Hitler’s army.
Some continued to push Churchill for a deal with Hitler. But Churchill refused to negotiate. Churchill said, “ I will not talk to that man”. The magic of Churchills’ forceful speeches inspired British people a lot.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”Winston Churchill | Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Churchill’s immediate concern was that Germans would have the large French fleet at their disposal now that France is defeated and under Germany’s control. Churchill reluctantly orders the Royal Navy to sink the French fleet. Many French servicemen got killed. Winston Churchill called this attack his most hateful decision.
Hitler was not interested to invade Britain in the first place. His major enemy was the Soviet Union but the peace offering given by Hitler was rejected by Britain.
Hitler, thereafter, intensified air war against Britain. Operation Eagle Day was a series of attacks on key British key airfields so that German planes could have air superiority over the English Channel. But due to bad weather conditions, the Germans ordered to postpone the attack. Unfortunately for Germany, some got the orders, and some did not.Image : Source
Germans were also unaware of the British advanced warning air defense systems. There were radars along the east coast that could detect aircraft up to miles away.
When Germans planes approached, the response from British airforce RAF was deadly ( as if they knew they were coming because of the radars ). Many German planes were shot down.
Germans planes lost on British soil were investigated. A secret code used was deciphered. It was a radio communication system allowing pilots to navigate at night. It gave information that Germans were planning to bomb Britain at night too.
Finally, Churchill took an opportunity to attack Berlin. For Germans, it was a great shock. Suddenly the war was coming to them in Germany.
To destroy British will, Germans took to night bombings when RAF was helpless to find German planes. Germans planes were heading for London. The combat was on a very big scale.
The war was on as London was in flames, and the poor people took the worse punishment. Hitler’s Operation, Sea Lion, invasion of British, was still on.
To the Germans, the British were defeated but it proved that they were not. The will of the people behind Churchills’ vision was not lost. A whole story here ultimately led the British airforce RAF to achieve a glorious victory against Germans airplanes. Hitler even lost faith in German planes.
Churchill, Radar defense system, and RAF fighter pilots were the key players.
After the outbreak of WW1, when German forces started moving into China, Japan helped Britain to drive them out and gained a key victory then.
But Japanese always felt that they were considered second-rate power by the West despite having the first-rate military. Later Japan’s economy took a major hit during 1929 America’s Great depression.
Hideki Tojo, a military Japanese leader had the vision to expand its influence to make it a powerful country. At that time, the USA, France, and Britain had their colonies in Asia that were rich in natural resources. The USA was always worried that Japan should not take advantage of what was happening in Europe to expand by capturing colonies of defeated European powers.
But this exactly happened. Japan signed a pact with Germany and Italy to support each other. Japan started occupying colonies of France ( Japan invaded French Vietnam) in Asia as France was now under Germany’s control.
After the Battle of Britain, Churchill kept urging the Americans to join the war against the Axis powers, but the USA, which was miles away and separated by an ocean, did not feel that war in Europe could reach its borders.
But the USA sends Japan a warning by imposing sanctions and sending its Naval fleet to keep it permanently based at Pearl Harbor (in Hawaii) in the Pacific. The aim was to stop Japan’s territorial expansions.
For Japan, the war was inevitable. To crush the spirit of the USA, on 7th December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The operation itself was difficult for Japan to go into the Pacific to launch the attack on Pearl Harbor. To keep the surprise element intact, it was also necessary to keep everything a secret.
Though the USA knew that Japan was gearing up for the war but had no inclination about the attack on Pearl Harbour. In two hours Japanese attack was over. Though Japan succeeded and thought it could now proceed with its territorial expansion in the south Pacific, Churchill knew this would bring the USA into the war.
Churchill claimed that he went to bed that night saying to himself in his head, “So we have won after all”.
This is exactly what happened as the USA now declared war on Japan and other axis powers.Japanese Plane and Explosion – Image : Source
In 1939, Hitler and Stalin of the Soviet Union signed a pact not to invade each other. The overthrow of major democracies like Norway, the Netherland, Belgium, and France by Hitler did not alarm the Soviets but later it was made clear that Germany had no intentions of stopping.
Finally, Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941. Germany again used the technique BlitzKrieg that consisted of overwhelming attack by planes, tanks, and army. But Russia stood firm.Image : Source
Meanwhile, Germany thought of taking the city of Stalingrad that used to supply resources to the Soviet’s army. Most Russians had known by then what Hitler had been doing to civilians and jews in the occupied areas. The emotions ran high to save the city from Hitler’s grasp. Soviet women who volunteered were armed and trained in great numbers too. They even used women as snipers.
Then came the long battle of Stalingrad (1942). It was one of the brutal engagements of WW2.
A time came when it was winter and bitter cold. Germans were not equipped to handle low temperatures and were out of food and resources. Eventually, the Germans had to surrender. It was a victory for the Soviets and a humiliating defeat for the Germans.
The striking of Soviet Union was the worse military decision of Hitler. Had this not been done, the story might have unraveled differently. This battle was the turning point.
Thereafter, the red army of the Soviet Union started marching ahead, and towards and against Germany.
The defeat of the Axis Powers
In July 1943, the Allies attacked Italy
In April 1945, Mussolini was shot dead
Allied Forces occupied France – Germans built a defensive Atlantic Wall along the coast from France to Norway. A detailed strategic plan was made to land on the beaches of France across the English Channel. Army, navy, and airforce troops of the USA, British, and Canada joined hands in this operation.
Through secrecy and deception, beaches to land in France were selected by the Allied forces. Specially engineered tanks were built to overcome the defense system built by the Germans in France. Detailed planning was involved. Germans fought hard but were beaten in France. On 25th August 1944, Paris was finally liberated, but this victory for allies was bittersweet because of the causalities on both sides. This battle was the beginning of the end.
From here on, the Allied started regaining countries that were lost to Germany.
Meeting at Yalta – Churchill of Britain, Roosevelt of America, and Stalin of Soviet Union met for talks. To help the Soviets advance from the eastern front in Germany, city bombings by the allies were planned to cut supplies of german troops to cause disruption.
One such targeted city was Dresden in eastern Germany. The city was historically and culturally rich. Allied forces air bombed the city killing thousands of civilians. It even unleashed a controversy that to gain a war whether allied forces (Britain and America) were also resorting to atrocities. On the other hand, anti-Hitler sentiments also arose among the people of Germany as they blamed him for this attack.
The pictures and eyewitness reports terrible havoc caused by “terror bombing” – term used by the journalists.
What also happened was that German leaders tried to exaggerate the death toll to gain more world sympathy – one of the successful pieces of fake news that worked. The irony is that the way Germans were treating people in their concentration camps was way more horrendous and monstrous, and yet they had the nerve to gain sympathy for what happened to them.
But the attack on Dresden was something that should not have happened in the first place that too when the end of the war was coming.
As Allied forces marched ahead into Germany, the genocide by the Nazis and the discovery of the concentration camps revealed the true face of the evil. The camps were places where people, mostly Jews, were tortured, intimidated, starved, and killed. The gas chambers were built to commit industrial-level killings of the Jewish community. The scene was horrific for the allied soldiers to witness firsthand.
Fall of Berlin – Germans were caught between British and Americans on one side and Russians on the other side. Hitler committed suicide. On 7th May 1945, the German army surrendered.
Stalin of the Soviet Union takes hold of east Europe to expand its reach. Germany got divided between the USA in the west (capitalist west) and Soviets in the east (communist east).
Japan conquered Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines and continued to fight against America in the Pacific. Japan had no intentions to surrender. The USA was in dilemma to invade Japan without the Soviet’s help and risk high casualties or take Soviets help to beat Japanese but risk spread of communism.
Meanwhile, the USA completes its Manhattan project and tests the world’s first atomic bomb. On 6th August 1945, America dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. On 9th August, another atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Japan accepted the surrender terms on August 14th. The bombs brought devastation and destruction to Japan.
Consequences of the War
- Death and devastation on large scale.
- Overthrow and destruction of Axis Powers (German, Italian and Japanese dictatorial regimes surrendered to the Allies). The Allies occupied Germany and it was partitioned into four zones.
- Trial of most serious offenders
- Rise of communism – Russia under Stalin was successful in establishing communist governments in East European countries – Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and Czechoslovakia.
- Cold war – the US and Russia emerged as great powers of the world. This led to the emergence of the cold war between the western powers led by the USA and the Communist Bloc led by Russia.
- Decolonization and the rise of independent nations. European powers were weakened by WW2. Demand for independence received a great stimulus. Many countries like India, Myanmar, and Srilanka became independent between years 1947 and 1948.
- Use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes for both, growth in industries and agriculture.
- Japan did not remain an enemy but became a military base for America to curb the spread of communism from the Soviets.
- Birth of the UN on 24th October 1945
- Disarmament attempts – CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) provides that non-nuclear states should not manufacture nuclear weapons. Countries rejected it because they did not lay down a time-bound framework to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the earth.