Ten million deaths, a lost generation, disillusionment and despair were among the fruits of World War I. Some of the survivors turned to pacifism, while others were attracted to radical national ideologies such as fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany. The treaties ending World War I did not assure peace as the League of Nations had little power. France, fearing Germany, formed the Little Entente with the militarily weak states of Eastern Europe. Occupying the Ruhr when Germany failed to pay reparations, France gained little other than a disastrous fall in the German mark. By 1924, the Dawes Plan established a realistic reparations schedule. The Treaty of Locarno made permanent Germany’s western borders, but not the east. Germany joined the League, and in 1928, sixty-three nations signed the Kellogg-Briand pact, renouncing war, but it lacked any enforcement provisions.
European prosperity, largely the result of American loans and investments, ended with the Great Depression. The economist John Maynard Keynes favored increased government spending and deficit financing rather than deflation and balanced budgets, but had little support. Britain’s unemployment remained at 10 percent during the 1920s and rose rapidly in the depression. France was governed, or ungoverned, by frequent coalition governments; its far-right was attracted to fascism and many on the left by Soviet Marxism. The United States’ New Deal was more successful in providing relief than in recovery, and unemployment remained high until World War II. Among most of the nations of Europe, there was a retreat from democracy, which seemed to have failed, both politically and economically.
Totalitarian governments, which required the active commitment of their citizens, came to power in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Italian fascism resulted from Italy’s losses in the Great War, economic failure, and incompetent politicians. In 1919, Benito Mussolini organized the Fascio di Combattimento. Threatening “to march on Rome,” he was chosen prime minister in 1922. Legal due process was abandoned, and rival parties were outlawed, but totalitarianism in Italy was never as effective as in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.
In Germany, the depression brought the political extremes to the forefront. Adolf Hitler headed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis). A powerful orator, Hitler published his beliefs in Mein Kampf, and created a private army of storm troopers (SA), but it was not until the depression that the Nazis received wide support. Hitler became chancellor in 1933, and a compliant Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, giving him dictatorial power. In his quest to dominate Europe, Hitler rearmed Germany, abolished labor unions, and created a new terrorist police force, the SS. The Nuremberg laws excluded Jews from citizenship, and in the 1938 Kristallnacht, Jewish businesses and synagogues were burned and Jews beaten and killed.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin assumed leadership in the Soviet Union. In 1928 he announced his first five-year plan to turn the Soviet Union into an industrial society by emphasizing oil and coal production and steel manufacturing. Giant collective farms were created, and in the process 10 million lives were lost. Stalin’s opponents were sent to Siberia, sentenced to labor camps, or liquidated. With the exception of Czechoslovakia, authoritarian governments appeared in eastern Europe as well as in Portugal and Spain. In the Spanish Civil War, the fascist states aided Francisco Franco, and the Soviet Union backed the Popular Front.
Radio and movies become widely popular, as did professional sports. Automobiles and trains made travel accessible to all. Issues of sexuality became more public, and psychology became more popular. In art German Expressionism reflected the horrors of war and the corruptions of peace, Dada focused upon the absurd, and Surrealism explored the unconscious. The unconscious “stream of consciousness” technique was used in the novels of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. The Bauhaus movement emphasized the functional in architecture. It was also the “the heroic age of physics.” The discovery of subatomic particles indicated that splitting the atom could release massive energies, and Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” had implications far beyond the study of physics.
Reading 1: Pages 796-802
An Uncertain Peace:
The Impact of World War I
The Search for Security
The Hopeful Years (1924-1929)
The Great Depression
Reading 2: Pages 802-805
The Democratic States in the West:
The Scandinavian States
The United States
European States and the World
Reading 3: Pages 805-815
The Authoritarian and Totalitarian States:
The Retreat from Democracy: Did Europe Have Totalitarian States?
Hitler and Nazi Germany
Reading 4: Pages 815-822
The Authoritarian and Totalitarian States:
The Soviet Union
Authoritarianism in Eastern Europe
Dictatorship in the Iberian Peninsula
Reading 5: Pages 822-830
The Expansion of Mass Culture and Mass Leisure:
Radio and Movies
Cultural and Intellectual Trends:
Nightmares and New Visions: Art and Music
The Search for Unconscious in Literature
The Unconscious in Psychology: Carl Jung
The "Heroic Age of Physics"