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Political Leaders
Adolf Hitler (1933-1945)
Leader of the Nazi Party in Germany during
the Third Reich. Responsible for widespread
state repression, the suspension of civil
liberties, invasion of territories across Europe
and the Holocaust. He was a fascist leader,
using nationalism, military power and
cultural propaganda to maintain a tight grip
on his people. During the Holocaust, he
ordered the killing of over 10 million people.
“By the skilful and sustained use of
propaganda, one can make a people see
even heaven as hell or an extremely
wretched life as paradise.”
Benito Mussolini
He is credited as being the first fascist leader,
using nationalism as a means of promoting
social unity. Taking power in 1922 and ruling
until 1943, he would lead his country, Italy,
into the second world war with hopes of
imperialistic glory. Known by the nickname
“Il Duce”, he often used his secret police to
eliminate dissidents and engaged in the use
of widespread propaganda to indoctrinate
the Italian people.
“The truth is that men are tired of
Josef Stalin
One of the most powerful and murderous
dictators in history, Stalin was the supreme
ruler of the Soviet Union for a quarter of a
century. The population suffered immensely
during the Great Terror of the 1930s, during
which Stalin purged the party of 'enemies of
the people', resulting in the execution of
thousands and the exile of millions to the
gulag system of slave labour camps. In all,
Stalin was responsible for the death of over
20 million people. When the Nazis turned on
the USSR, the Soviets mobilized, sending
forces to meet Hitler’s armies on the nowopen eastern front. Stalin was a ruthless
dictator; yet he was instrumental in the
defeat of Nazism.
“When one person dies, it's a tragedy,
but when a million people die, it's a
As Canada’s PM during WWII, he stood
beside Britain in the quest to stop Hitler’s
armies from conquering Europe. In a move to
assert Canadian independence and
autonomy, Mackenzie King declared war on
Germany one week after Great Britain. One
of his biggest challenges during the war was
how to deal with the question of conscription
and Quebec. He goes down in history as
Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister
though his sending back the St. Louis placed
a dark mark on Canadian history.
“It is what we prevent, rather than
what we do that counts most in
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Known predominantly by his initials, “FDR”,
he was US president from 1933-1945, dying
while in office. As WWII loomed on the
horizon, FDR gave financial support to China
and Britain while officially remaining
neutral. On December 6, 1942, a naval base at
Pearl Harbour (Hawaii) was bombed by
Japanese pilots, a date which marked the
official entry of the United States in the
Second World War.
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe
if the people tolerated the growth of
private power to a point where it
becomes stronger than the democratic
state itself.”
“Those who want to live, let them fight,
and those who do not want to fight in
this world of eternal struggle do not
deserve to live.”
“All within the state, nothing outside
the state, nothing against the state.”
“Let us have a dagger between our
teeth, a bomb in our hand, and an
infinite scorn in our hearts.”
“You cannot make a revolution with
silk gloves.”
“Die, but do not retreat.”
“When we hang the capitalists they will
sell us the rope”
“Far more has been accomplished for
the welfare and progress of mankind by
preventing bad actions than by doing
good ones.”
“Not necessarily conscription, but
conscription if necessary.”
“We have learned that we cannot live
alone, at peace; that our own well-being
is dependent on the well-being of
nations far away. We have learned that
we must live as men, and not as
ostriches... We have learned to be
citizens of the world, members of the
human community.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but
rather the assessment that something
else is more important than fear.”
Neville Chamberlain
He served as British PM from 1937 to 1940.
He is best known for his policy of
appeasement towards Hitler, especially with
the signing of the Munich Agreement which
ceded the Sudetenland to Germany. His
pledge to defend Poland brought Britain to
the forefront of war in 1939.
Winston Churchill
Widely regarded as one of the greatest
wartime leaders of all time, Churchill lead
Britain through the bulk of WWII. When
times got tough and people thought Britain
would fall, he refused to surrender, pushing
forward in his country’s efforts to rid Europe
of Hitler’s tyranny. His undying dedication
to the cause kept Britain’s morale high, even
as his country faced bombing nightly during
the German Blitz of London in 1940-1941.
Charles DeGaulle (French Resistance)
De Gaulle began World War II as the leader
of a French armoured division. But when the
German blitzkrieg defeated the French army
in six weeks, leading to the evacuation of the
military during the Miracle at Dunkirk in
1940, De Gaulle took on a political role as the
head of the Free French movement. De
Gaulle called on all French people to resist
their Nazi occupiers and later was recognized
by the Allies as the official head of the French
Philippe Petain (Vichy)
Petain was a French national hero for his role
in defending the country during World War
I. During the German invasion of France in
1940, Petain offered a cease fire with the
Nazis and in return was named “Chief of
State”. While the Germans controlled the
North and West of France, the remainder was
left under the command of Petain who made
the new capital of his collaborationist state
Vichy. His regime cooperated fully with
Germany until its defeat, and even created its
own anti-Semitic legislation. In doing so, he
gained power but lost the respect of many of
the citizens of France and ultimately was
sentenced to life in prison for his traitorous
Emperor Hirohito
After his father’s death when he was only 25,
Hirohito became the Emperor of Japan.
While the Japanese people regarded the
Emperor as being divine or God-like,
Hirohito actually had very little control over
his country as most important decisions were
made by older political and military leaders.
So, although he did not really want to go to
war at all, he reluctantly supported the
Japanese invasion of China and the bombing
of Pearl Harbour. This decision ultimately
lead to the destruction and defeat of Japan, as
the United States use of the atomic bomb on
the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945
forced Japan to surrender.
“We should seek by all means in our
power to avoid war, by analyzing
possible causes, by trying to remove
them, by discussion in a spirit of
collaboration and good will. I cannot
believe that such a program would be
rejected by the people of this country,
even if it does mean the establishment
of personal contact with the dictators.”
“I believe it is peace for our time . . .
peace with honour [after signing the
Munich Agreement].”
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every
opportunity; an optimist sees the
opportunity in every difficulty.”
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a
matter of choice; it is not a thing to be
waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
“An appeaser is one who feeds a
crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
“Danger: if you meet it promptly and
without flinching, you will reduce the
danger by half. Never run away from
anything. Never!”
“France has lost the battle but she has
not lost the war.”
“You have to be fast on your feet and
adaptive or else a strategy is useless.”
“A man of character finds a special
attractiveness in difficulty, since it is
only by coming to grips with difficulty
that he can realize his potentialities.”
“The cemeteries of the world are full of
indispensable men.”
“Our spirit of enjoyment was stronger
than our spirit of sacrifice. We wanted
to have more than we wanted to give.
We tried to spare effort, and met
“We have resolved to endure the
unendurable and suffer what is
“That most unfortunate war, which I
deeply deplore.”