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Interwar Period
Ms. Buckman’s World History Class
Postwar Democracies &
European Recovery
Part I
Post-World War I
The catastrophe of World War I shattered the sense
of optimism that had grown in the West since the
Enlightenment. Despair gripped survivors on both
sides as they added up the staggering costs of war.
Especially among the democracies, economic and
political crises only added to the growing pessimism
of the 1920s and 1930s.
Postwar Issues
Democratic Hopes
Three western democracies in 1919 - France,
Great Britain, and the United Sates
Boosted hope for democracies in new Eastern
European countries at the end of WWI
Postwar Europe, though, faced many problems
Postwar Issues
Economic Problems
Most pressing issues - finding jobs for returning
veterans and rebuilding war ravished lands
Many nations owed huge debts after borrowing
money to pay for the war
Economic problems led to social unrest and
made radical ideas more popular (think Russian
Revolution - enter Communism)
Postwar Issues
Fears of Communism As No Leaders Can Be Found
Russian Revolution unleashed fears that
communism might spread
Socialism and other nationalistic political
movements took place
Europe lacked strong leaders when they were most
The war killed many of those who might have helped
solve critical problems
Obstacles to Peace
Pursuit of Peace
Many pursued disarmament (the reduction of
armed forces and weapons)
United States, Great Britain, France, Germany,
Japan, and other nations agreed to reduce the
size of their navies (could not decide on how to
limit the size of their armies)
League of Nations encouraged cooperation and
tried to get members to make a commitment to
stop aggression
Obstacles to Peace
How Can Peace Be Enforced?
Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 - agreement to
denounce or outlaw war
But there is no way to enforce this ban on war
1931 - Japan invades Manchuria and the League of
Nations can’t do anything about it
Ambitious dictators note the League’s weakness
and returned their military forces and pursued
aggressive foreign policies
Recovery & Depression
European Economies Slowly Recover
Economies returned to peacetime manufacturing
and trade
Veterans gradually found jobs
U.S. emerged as world’s leading economic power
American loans and investments backed the
recovery in Europe
As long as the American economy was healthy, the
global economy remained relatively prosperous
Recovery & Depression
U.S. Great Depression of 1930s
The problems of overproduction and inflation created an
imbalance that could only lead to financial disaster
Stock Market Crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression
Banks failed, businesses closed, and millions were out of
Around the world many lost faith in the ability of
democratic governments to solve problems
Misery & hopelessness led to extremists promising
radical solutions
France & Britain
Britain’s Foreign Policy After WWI
Postwar foreign policy created tension with its
ally, France
British leaders wanted to relax the Treaty of
Versailles’ harsh treatment of Germany
Fear of Germany becoming so weak that the
Soviet Union could eventually take it over,
allowing France to gain too much control in
France & Britain
France Lacks Leadership & Cannot Forget German
After a series of coalition governments, France
remains a democratic country even though it lacks
strong leadership
Chief concern was securing the borders against
Germany (remembers German invasions of 1870 &
Built massive fortifications along the border (The
Maginot Line, a defensive “wall”)
Still seeking security, France strengthens its military
and sought alliances with other countries, including the
America Strengthens Before
The New Deal
Americans elect a new president in 1932,
Franklin D. Roosevelt or “FDR”, projected a new
sense of energy and optimism
Introduced the Neal Deal - massive package of
economic and social reform programs
Helped get America back on its feet after the
Great Depression
Political Shifts & Conflict
Part II
Economic Problems Are the Root of It
Postwar Europe was economically and socially
Economic depression prevailed in Europe for much of
the inter-war period
debtor nations found it impossible to pay their debts
without borrowing even more money
Germany especially was destroyed economically by
World War I and its aftermath: the reparations to
Britain and France forced on Germany by the Treaty
of Versailles were impossibly high.
League of Nations Fails Despite Good
The League of Nations represented a chance for
Europe to maintain a balance of international peace,
But it never grew strong enough to make a significant
impact on politics
The goals of deterrence of war and disarmament
were left unaccomplished.
Extreme Politics
Many countries thought that extreme ideas could solve
Europe's postwar problems
Extreme viewpoints won out in the form of totalitarian states
in Europe during the inter-war years, meaning a
government is ruled by a one-party dictatorship that
regulates every aspect of citizens’ lives
Communism took hold in the Soviet Union, while fascism
controlled Germany, Italy and Spain.
Extreme Politics Continued…
The extremist nature of these new governments turned
European politics into an arena for sharp conflict
For example, conflict erupted in Spain during the late
1930s in the form of the Spanish Civil War, after which
Francisco Franco became dictator
In Germany, Adolf Hitler's fascist Nazi Party came to
power during the 1930s and prepared once again to
make war on Europe.
With Britain and France tied up in their own affairs, the
path to World War II lay clear.
Central Europe – Center for
Postwar Italy was a place of economic and political
Fascism became one of the most popular ideas in
Italy during the Interwar Period (strong economic and
social control of a country and all of its people by a
single dictator)
Constant struggle between the rise of communism
and the rise of fascism in Italy – red shirts vs. black
shirts – openly fighting in the streets
Benito Mussolini – Italy's
• Benito Mussolini's
• Under this doctrine he ruled
ascent to power is also a
perfect example of the
means by which
dictators during the interwar years commonly
rose to power (1922)
"All in the state, nothing
outside the state,
nothing against the
Italy with a tight fist during
the war years, instituting
economic and social reforms,
some successful, others
He was sympathetic to Adolf
Hitler's desire to regain glory
for Germany and Europe,
and proved Hitler's most
important ally.
Hitler’s Rise to Power
Hitler fought for
Germany in WWI and
was very disturbed by
the German loss
(blamed Jews and
1921- Adolf Hitler
becomes leader of the
National Socialist
German Workers’ Party
(NAZI Party) in
1923 - Hitler and Nazis
jailed after a failed
attempt at a government
take-over in Munich. The
Beer Hall Putsch.
1925 – Publishes Mein
Kampf (My Struggle)
which outlined his future
policies, centered on the
theory of Aryan
superiority and Jewish
Hitler’s Rise to Power
1930 – Nazi party now
the 2nd largest political
party in Germany.
1933 - Hitler named
Chancellor in Germany.
Nazi party responsible
for using terror against
their political opponents
in Germany
1933 - The Enabling Act
makes Hitler the dictator of
1933 - All other political
parties are outlawed. This
makes Germany a
totalitarian state. (one party
1934 - Hitler declares
himself Führer in Germany
Why did Germany Allow Hitler’s Rise to
He was a master orator, practicing his
public speaking skills in front of the mirror
for hours at a time.
A skilled manipulator, he played the
masses, the government, and the media
perfectly, creating a political party that
reached into every aspect of German life.
Why did Germany Allow Hitler’s Rise to
The German people were in a situation that made
totalitarianism possible.
Germans were deeply ashamed of their loss in World
War One, and the German state was devastated by
the war and the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler offered not freedom, but rather security. He
promised to take action to improve the economy, and
return German national pride, and the masses, in
most cases, were happy to grant him the ultimate
power he needed to do so.