Lesson Plan – Day One


The period of history in Europe and the world that preceded the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. Since the cessation of the guns of World War I life in Europe has been a struggle for all nations as they try to rebuild. Did these interwar years merely serve as a temporary truce among the nations? The strong feelings that were created as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles seemed to remain just below the surface of each country. It will only be a matter of time that they will emerge and lead Europe into another war that is far more destructive than the last.

Educational Goals:

The Student will learn facts and comprehend the events pertaining to:

  • The underlying causes of World War II
  • The provisions of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I
  • The rise of Fascism in Europe and Asia
  • The economic effects of the world wide depression of the 1920’s
  • The establishment of Communism

Duration of instruction time required:

  • 45 – 50 minutes

Required materials:

  • World or American History Textbook
  • Map of Europe
  • Map of Asia

Supplemental materials (included):

  • Photograph of Adolf Hitler (under “X”) as a soldier in World War I (National Archives; NARA file#: 208-PU-93Y-4 )

During World War I Hitler served as a common soldier rising to the rank of Corporal.

Question to the students: “Do you think that Hitler’s experience as a common enlisted soldier in World War I have an effect on how he would conduct World War II? Answer: Yes, since he only saw the small picture of his own area of operations in WWI and throughout the course of WWII the German generals did not have complete trust in him based on his own wartime experiences.

  • Photograph of German Reichstag Fire, shortly after Hitler’s appointment to power (National Archives; NARA file#: 208-N39835)

The Reichstag fire of February 1933 provided Hitler with a pretext to assume more ruling power and dissolve the authority of the elected Reichstag.

Question to the students: Do you think that when the elected Reichstag members allowed Hitler to assume dictatorial power he would later relinquish those same powers? Answer: Depending of the depth of the student knowledge, they should be able to recognize that once someone gains a degree of power they are certainly not willing to give it up at a later time.

  • German Air Sport Membership Book

Since Germany was prohibited from maintaining an Air Force many pilots maintained their flying proficiency by joining various flying or glider clubs.

Question to the students: By using false sporting organizations to train and maintain basic proficiency, do you think that these individuals would be prepared sufficiently to enter the military? Answer: Many individuals who already had basic skills would use these opportunities while those who wished to learn could do so. Further, the individuals who really had no skill or aptitude could be “washed out” without much investment of time.

  • German Workers Front Membership Book

In order to maximize the German labor force, all able men and women had to serve in productive employment in either private or government service.

Question to the students: Do think all people regardless of their personal situation should be expected to work? Answer: Germany was a totalitarian state in which all the people served the government. In America it is just the opposite.

  • German Travel Pass

As Germany became more and more a totalitarian state citizens were required to carry a variety of documentation that governed what they could and could not do, including travel throughout Germany and outside of Germany.

Question to the students: Do you think that a country has the right to restrict the travel of its residents? Answer: Responses from the students may very, but again the students have to remember that Germany had begun to suspend the citizens “civil rights” when they took power in 1933.

  • German Army Identification Book

Men who were serving, or who had served, in the Germany armed forces were required to carry documentation attesting to their status. Former soldiers from World War I were still considered to be involved in the German military if still physically able.

Question to the students: How long should someone be eligible or face the potential for military service? Answer: Many varied responses. In some European countries today men are eligible for call up to serve in the armed forces through their mid-50’s.

  • Life Magazine; July 10, 1939

As war clouds approached in Asia, the American public was still able to keep informed of the key personalities within the Japanese government.

Question to the students: Do you see a trend in the Japanese personalities who were occupying power in the Japanese government? Should the United States government have taken to heart some of the commentary that is listed in the article? Answer: The article points out the militaristic leanings of many of these individuals. Most likely the American government was already familiar with the potential for trouble that was “brewing” in the Japanese government.

Instructional evaluation (included):

  • Ten question multiple choice quiz
  • Answer sheet
  • Suggestions and exercises for evaluation and review of primary source materials

Topics to be covered:

1. The Treaty of Versailles

2. Chaos in Germany

3. Rise of Fascism

  • Italy – Mussolini
  • Germany – Hitler
  • Spain – Franco

4. Japanese Expansion

  • Militarism – Emperor

5. Establishment of Communism

  • Lenin – Stalin


Part I.

Option One:

Instructor can provide to each student copies of the related materials as listed above and lead the students in a discussion of the events as they transpire

Option Two:

Instructor can highlight and summarize in a lecture format the events that encompass each of the above listed topics.

Part II.

Teacher will provide to each of the students copies of the various primary source documents (Included) and perform a review and critique of each in the following manner:

a. What is the overall purpose or theme of each document?

b. What is the significance of each document to the people of the period?

c. Does each document provide a good visual imagery of the particular period of history being represented?

The Treaty of Versailles

The fighting on the Western Front in World War I ended by agreement between the Allied governments of England, France, and the United States and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918.

An armistice or agreement to stop fighting was signed in the railway passenger coach of French Marshal Ferdinand Foch at 05:00 AM the woods of Compiegne, France. The cessation was to take effect in six hours. The Armistice provided for the immediate evacuation of all of the German controlled territory in France, Belgium and Luxembourg and withdrawal of all German military forces to areas in Germany that were east of the Rhine River.

The leader of Germany was known as the Kaiser, a corruption of the Latin Word Caesar. The Kaiser Wilhelm (William) II abdicated his throne on the 9th of November 1918 and fled to Holland where he would live until his death in 1940. Germany was then proclaimed a Socialist Republic by the political leaders in Berlin.

This date, November 11, 1918, in American history would become known as Armistice Day and would be celebrated as a holiday. This lasted until after World War II when it was renamed “Veteran’s Day’. In England and the British Commonwealth it became known as “Remembrance Day”.

By agreement the Allied powers began meeting in Paris on January 18, 1919. This was known as the “Paris Peace Conference”. There were 27 nations that were represented as the “Victorious Powers”. Those victorious allies present included representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, new Zealand, France, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Hellenes (Greece), Guatemala, Haiti, Hedjaz (Arabia), Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Serbia-Croatia-Slovenia (Yugoslavia), Siam (Thailand), Czecho-Slovakia, and Uruguay. The “Big Three” major participants of the conference were President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of England, and President Georges Clemenceau of France. The Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando played a lesser role as part of the “Big-Four” of the Allied leaders.

Germany as a country was excluded from participating in the Peace Conference process until they were presented with the terms of the treaty nearly ready for signature. Russia which became known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was also excluded from the Peace Conference. They had earlier reached a negotiated end of the war with the Germans in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which they signed on March 3, 1918, abandoning their territorial occupations of Eastern Europe including Poland, the Baltic States and areas near western Asia and the Middle East.

The Germans had hoped that the Peace Settlement at Versailles would be based on American President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Due to conflicts among the big three over the terms of the treaty many of Wilson’s points faded from view in the discussions. A League of Nations was created early in the process with the goal to somehow maintain the peace in the world.

Germany was presented with the draft treaty on May 7, 1919. The treaty was found to be objectionable for a number of reasons, but only slight changes were enacted in the draft document. With growing unrest at home, Germany felt they were forced to sign the treaty.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles on the 28th of June 1919.

  1. Germany was to accept guilt for causing the war under the “War Guilt Clause #231.
  2. Germany was to loose the territory of Alsace-Lorraine
  3. Germany was to return parts of Belgium
  4. Germany was to forfeit her overseas colonies
  5. Germany was to provide parts of West Prussia to Poland in order to give Poland an “outlet to the sea”
  6. Germany was to be occupied on the West bank of the Rhine River for 15 years
  7. Germany was to pay reparations for 30 years of an amount yet to be determined
  8. Germany was to limit their armed forces to 100,000 men, maintain no air force and have a navy of six ships and no submarines.

Of the major powers, the Treaty of Versailles was subsequently ratified by the governments of Germany, France, England, Italy and Japan. It was never ratified by the United States.

The Treaty of St. Germain was signed on September 10, 1919 between the victorious allied powers and the remains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

  1. Austria was to recognize the independence of the countries of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary
  2. Austria was to cede parts of their southern provinces
  3. Austria was limited to an army of 30,000
  4. Austria was to pay reparations for 30 years
  5. Austria was forbidden to create any type of union with Germany

The Treaty of Neuilly on November 27, 1919; the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920 and the Treaty of Sevres on August 20, 1920 dealt with the disposition of the other nations that were part of the Defeated Central Powers. They reflected the future course of Bulgaria, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire respectively.

Chaos in Germany

With the collapse of the German military and government in November 1918 Germany descended into a state of chaos with no one group or governmental agency in charge of the country. This led to the creation of various quasi-military organizations of former soldiers and sailors (“Freikorps”) that were intended to provide some sort of order in the various cities through Germany. These Freikorps units came into violent clashes throughout Germany, but most notably in the major cities of Berlin and Munich.

Among the various political parties that existed in Germany at the end of World War I was the small Communist party. In December these Communists, known as “Spartacists”, recognizing that they could not take power in Germany through democratic means, attempted to take power through a rebellion as they had in Russia. In January 1919, the Communists took control of Berlin. However, this rebellion was short lived and was put down brutally by the Freikorps units on behalf of the new German Provisional Government. These new leaders of Germany in the Provisional Government realized that to remain in Berlin where the Communists had a large amount of popular support would not allow them to begin a new democratic government without undue influence. For this reason the resort city of Weimar to the southwest was selected as the new seat for the fledgling German government. It was here that the new constitution for Germany was created and the democratic institution in Germany became known as the Weimar Republic. While these new German leaders were meeting in Weimar, further unrest was occurring in other places such as Bavaria and the Ruhr regions. In each of these places the differences between the political parties bordered on civil war as each place was dealt with in a firm manner by the Freikorps. Throughout the next three years stretching into 1923 various political parties throughout Germany attempted to seize power with violent means rather than follow the democratic process spelled out by the Weimar Constitution. It was in this scenario that the victorious Allied powers continued to occupy the Rhineland to ensure that Germany would pay their reparations that had been placed on them by the Treaty of Versailles.

It was under these circumstances that the German people and particularly the German military felt that they had not been actually “defeated” at the end of World War I, but had been sold out by the “disloyal traitors” in the government. Rather than being decisively defeated in battle, the German military simply retreated from their frontline positions into Germany. These feelings when coupled with the internal unrest of Germany and the failure of the Allied occupation forces to provide order outside of the Rhineland created a climate the quickly provided nationalistic tendencies for the Germans to reclaim their “honor”. The activities of the various Freikorps units to provide some degree of order among the chaotic cities of Germany additionally contributed to the rise and continuance of militaristic tendencies in the German population. These characteristics began to pave the way for the introduction of new political ideas imported from Italy that became known as Fascism.

Rise of Fascism

Italy – Mussolini

At the conclusion of World War I Italy was counted among the victorious allies that had defeated Germany and Austria-Hungary. The majority of the Italian participation in the war stemmed from their agreement in the Treaty of London in April 1915. In this treaty Italy was to be given the areas from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire of the South Tyrol, Trentino, Trieste, Dalmatia as well as an expansion of her African holdings at the expense of the Ottoman-Turkish Empire. In May 1915 Italy declared war against the German led Central Powers.

At the end of the war and in the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles Italy did not get all of the territory that had been promised. This led to further unrest in Italy, although not to the level of Germany, among rival political parties to include a smaller Communist party. Out of these various groups emerged a new political party known as the Fascio di Combattimento or “Fascists” led by a former World War I soldier and newspaper editor, Benito Mussolini. These Fascists consisted of many former soldiers who adapted the Black shirt as their militaristic uniform. From the start Mussolini became actively involved in the postwar Italian political scene. By 1922 the Fascists had grown in power after seizing control of the city governments in Fiume, Bologna and Milan from rival political parties such as the Communists. This subsequently led to the March on Rome in October 1922 by the Fascists and Mussolini being given dictatorial powers by the King Victor Emmanuel III to restore order to Italy. If nothing else the most memorable act accorded to Mussolini early in his tenure as Prime Minister was that “he made the trains run on time”.

From this start Mussolini continued to grow in power and fain greater support among the Italian people. Mussolini continued to build up the Fascist political party and his own “personal cult” even gaining the nickname of “Il Duce” or the leader. As time went on Mussolini saw himself as the person who could restore the former glory of the Roman Empire to 20th century Italy. His leadership continued to foster a spirit of Nationalism among the Italian people that was incorporated into the very militaristic Fascist party. He was not completely support by everyone which led to assassination attempts, such as Irish women Violet Gibson in 1926. It was in 1929 that Mussolini secured his most sought after support when he negotiated the Lateran Accords with Pope Pius XI which gave temporal power for pope to rule the Vatican City state and a significant amount of monetary support in return for Papal support of the Italian government.

Beginning in the 1930’s Mussolini saw himself as a leader in European politics who was determined to restore the prestige and power of a unified Italy. This included developing imperialistic aims in Africa that would allow Italy to compete on the world stage against the established interests and empires of both England and France. In the 1930’s Italy continued their Imperialistic dreams by moving into territories in Africa and the Balkans that would increase their economic and political power. Since the early 1930’s Mussolini had been strengthening his positions in Eritrea and Italian Somaliland that bordered Africa’s lone autonomous country – Ethiopia. By 1935 Italy was ready and in October began their invasion of Ethiopia. Within nine months Italian forces had overrun the country and the Emperor Haile Selassie fled the country. Subsequently appearing at the Headquarters of the League of Nations in Geneva after the fall of his country it seems that Selassie became quite prophetic in his address to this international body. His words were an impassioned plea for justice that seemed to fall on deaf ears, for the Leagues sanctions against Italy were rescinded within the month. Ironically it was reported that he then told the members that today it was his country that was under attack and occupation, but soon it would be theirs.

Germany – Hitler

When the Armistice of World War I was signed on the 11th of November 1918, Adolph Hitler was in a German hospital recovering from the effects of a poison gas attack he had endured while serving in Belgium. As the terms of the Versailles Treaty took effect Hitler found himself returning to his military roots as a soldier in a Bavarian Infantry Regiment. His wartime service had been such that he was wounded twice and had received both the Iron Class First and Second Class (See included photograph of Hitler in WWI). This was unusual for a junior non-commissioned officer and it becomes ironic when it is realized that he received his Iron Cross First Class based on the recommendation of his Regimental Adjutant who was Jewish. These were the only military decorations that Hitler would wear throughout his life.

Hitler returned to Munich, remaining in the military as a reservist, where he became a member of the Intelligence Section of the Munich Military District. In this capacity he was responsible to monitor the various political parties that were emerging in the Bavarian capital and report any potential unrest or demonstrations to his chain of command. This eventually led to his attending a meeting of a small group known simply as the German Workers Party. This group was one of many from among the socialist, communist, Catholic, and nationalistic groups who competed for the support of the returning military veterans and the conservative Bavarians. After a few days Hitler returned to the German Workers Party and became a member, eventually giving up his position in the post war German military. It was quickly recognized that Hitler had a strong gift as a speaker and could be counted on to provide fiery rhetoric that seemed to stir both passion and peoples emotions. Starting out as the propaganda chief he quickly rose to the leadership of the organization which changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party (N.S.D.A.P) which became known as the Nazi party. Being a veteran’s organization many of the members continued to wear their old uniforms which were adapted to the color of Brown and militarized into various organizational formations. This body became known as the Strum Abteiling (Brown Shirts/Storm Troopers) or S.A. Hitler adopted the symbol of the Swastika to be the identifying emblem of his party since it was an ancient design that conveyed an Aryan heritage.

As early as 1922 the American Military Attaché’s office in Germany was reporting on the Nazi party as a popular movement and as a counterpart to the Italian Fascists. The report recognized Hitler as possessing great oratorical skills and the arousing of nationalist feelings in Bavaria that parallel those in Fascist Italy. Further the Attaché’s report highlights Hitler’s recognition that democracy will not work in Germany and that a national dictatorship is necessary.

By 1923 Hitler considered the Nazi party sufficiently populist and organized that he felt it could stage a take over of the Bavarian government in the capital of Munich. In early November Hitler and his follows took over a crowd of nearly 5,000 people in Munich’s Burgerbraukeller (destroyed in WWII bombing). This became known as the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Within a period of 12 hours Hitler experienced both the anguish of defeat and the rise of his political star. As he and his followers left the beer hall on their way to the Bavarian governmental offices they were confronted by a company of Bavarian police. In the ensuing melee between the two armed groups 16 Nazi’s were killed and several next to Hitler were wounded including Herman Goering. Hitler emerged unscathed. He was quickly arrested and brought to trial for his treasonous acts. If more than anything Hitler’s trial served to catapult him to national prominence in Germany and provided for him a platform in which to articulate his ideals. Rather than being deported from Germany (Hitler was Austrian and this was his greatest fear) he was sentenced to five years imprisonment at the Landsburg prison in upper Bavaria.

After serving nine months he was released and returned to Munich. While in prison Hitler took the time to dictate his personal testament to his co-conspirator Rudolf Hess which subsequently became known as “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle). From the time of his release in 1925 to his ascension of power in 1933, the Nazi party gained both prominence and membership throughout Germany. Eventually Hitler, as had Mussolini in Italy, gained the support of important industrialists who provided much needed funding to keep his party solvent. By 1930 the Nazi party had gained a respectable number of seats in the German Parliament (Reichstag) (See included photograph of Reichstag Fire) that made Hitler a major political personality in Germany. By 1932 Hitler challenged Hindenburg in the presidential election when he got 11 million votes to Hindenburg’s 18 million. Finally in 1933 Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by Hindenburg and a large number of Nazi party members began to occupy significant positions in the German government. This event saw the demise of the Weimar Republic that had emerged at the end of World War I. Within a short time Hitler’s cult of the personality strengthened with him being referred to as “Der Furher” (the leader).

In the years after Hitler’s assumption of power Germany began a strong rearmament program that saw ways around the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. In violation of the provisions of the Versailles Treaty various organizations were developed that would serve to form a sort of training ground for a future, resurgent German military. To this end little by little the democratic reforms that had make the Weimar Republic faded away. Press censorship, restrictions and a police state became the norm with the German people being told that it was their duty to place the interests of the German state before their own interests. All activity was controlled for the German people and the normal routine each day became highly regimented which in turn required people to give their complete support to the German government. (See included documents – German Air Sport membership book / German Labor Front Membership Book / German Travel Pass / German Army Identity Book)

Spain – Franco

The Gods of war spared Spain involvement in World War I, but the disaster of the Spanish Civil War brought to Spain destruction and the loss of life that made up for that oversight. In the years following World War I Spain suffered a series of political upheavals that had been developing since the late 19th century. The inequities of the social system and the class distinction in Spain found fertile ground in the unhappiness of the workers and peasants of the country. Frequent disputes between the aristocracy, the church, the academic centers and students and industrial workers and farmers led to mutinies, censorship and rebellions. By 1931 the Spanish King Alfonso XIII agreed to general elections that were intended to provide a more representative government. The events following these elections led to King Alfonso leaving Spain and brought about his abdication from power.

The resultant Republican government took control and began issuing decrees that stripped the wealthy of their power and lands and began direct attacks on the Catholic Church in Spain. Within a year, the army found itself more at odds with the new government than with previously hostile workers and farmers. By 1936 the turmoil in Spain had reached crisis stage and the army was preparing for open revolt. On one side of the political spectrum stood the Republicans or Loyalists who supported the current governing regime. Their support centered on the anti-clerical communists, the socialists, the factory workers and labor organizations. On the other side of the political spectrum stood the Spanish military who fostered a strong Nationalist feeling and had the strong backing of the Catholic Church. They were further supported by the remaining aristocratic landowners and conservatives who felt a kinship with the Fascists of Italy. Beginning with the revolt of the Spanish army in Morocco under the leadership of General Francisco Franco, hostilities quickly escalated.

In late 1936 the warring parties of the Spanish Civil War began to seek outside help in order to tilt the balance of the war toward their cause. Russia began to provide volunteers and equipment as well as financial aid to the Republican-Loyalist forces. Likewise saw Hitler and Mussolini provide aid in the form of military equipment and personnel to Franco’s nationalists. For the next three years Spain was proving to be a harbinger of what was to come as these rival ideologies fought for control of Spain. Finally in March 1939 Franco and the Nationalists entered Madrid and proclaimed a new government under their control. The effect of the war to Spain was to be saving grace that spared them from participation directly in World War II. However, Spain had suffered over 700,000 dead and untold destruction and devastation to the country that would take a long time to overcome.

Shortly after the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 Spain declared their neutrality in the new European conflict. Within a year Hitler would meet with Franco in an attempt to convince Spain to enter World War II on the side of the Germans. Meeting with no luck, Hitler described his encounter with Franco as saying he would rather have teeth extracted than have to deal with Franco.

Both Hitler and Mussolini found themselves as leaders of their countries through legal means. This would subsequently pose difficult problems for those in their respective governments who disagreed with them, particularly in the military. Both leaders had the military pledge their loyalty to them personally rather than to the government. Both rose to power by being anti-Communist and highly nationalistic and fostered militarism throughout their political party and their country. Germany more so than Italy suffered the rampant inflation that led to the economic ruin of many small shopkeepers and ordinary citizens. The great world wide depression that began in 1929 with the collapse of the American Stock markets reeked havoc on the fragile economy of Europe. These events further drove the ordinary citizen to seek political leadership in both Germany and Italy that could give them a better life. The rise of Franco and Fascism in Spain postdated the Italian and German experience by more than ten years. However, the results were the same that Fascist dictatorships based on the “cult of the personality” were in existence in three major European countries.

Japanese Expansion

Militarism – Emperor

Since the beginning of recorded Japanese history the ruler of Japan has always been attributed with God like status. By the advent of the 20th century and the end of the Meiji era, the Japanese Emperor had long ceased to function as the ruler or the nation. He had become a figurehead who held the singular power of being able to change any particular course of action that the Japanese government and ministers had adopted on his behalf.

Since the end of the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and the World War I conflicts Japan had continued to eye expansion in the far east. These forces were a very visible presence when the American Forces in Siberia under Major General Graves confronted the Japanese Army in 1919. With the eventual departure of the Americans, Japan was the sole major power still with forces in Bolshevik Russia. Japan subsequently relented under various international and Russian pressures and left the newly constituted Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922 after realizing that their imperial expansion could be better served to the south in China. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, Japan had been given Germany’s North Pacific Islands (Caroline, Marshall, and Marianas) which they quickly occupied and incorporated into their expansion plans in the Pacific rim.

Western European and American influences crept into the very orderly Japanese society in the 19th century and the 20th century. This subsequently saw the introduction of both democratic governance and the introduction of radical segments into the Japanese society. Included in these radical segments of society were the militaristic organizations consisting of patriotic young officers from the Army and Navy. With this came an increase in the influence of the military, particularly the army, in Japanese foreign policy and politics. Japanese industry was continuing to expand their influence in the Pacific to the extent that Japan had become the dominant nation in Asia. The only rivals that now faced Japan were the Europeans, primarily the English, and the United States.

China was still week from the revolutionary events of the turn of the century and was seen as any easy prey for expansionist aims. Using a pretext of events in 1931 the Japanese forces, that had previously occupied southern Manchuria since 1916, occupied of the remainder of Manchuria with little response from the Chinese government that was involved with its own civil war. This event has been advanced by some as the actual stating point for World War II. Remaining satisfied with their success, the Japanese military slowly began to build up their presence in China. In the summer of 1937 Japan again continued their expansion into China under the pretext of encountering Chinese forces during night maneuvers. Chinese resistance was minimal and within six months Japanese forces had moved through Peking, Shanghai and were entering the Chinese Nationalist capital at Nanking. The Japanese conduct at Nanking angered popular sentiment in the United States. This was further fueled with the death and injury of American sailors on the U.S.S. Augusta in Shanghai harbor from stray Japanese artillery rounds. The subsequent sinking of the American gunboat the U.S.S. Panay on the Yangtze River near Nanking with the loss of two and wounding of 51 American seamen created even further outrage against Japan. By late 1938 Japan had a commanding presence in China that would be the base for further expansion once World War II began in earnest.

The rise of militarism in Japan continued to increase sharply in the 1930’s by a series of assassinations of the more moderate leadership in the Japanese government. (See included Life Magazine July 10, 1939) The remaining liberal and moderate members of the Emperor’s cabinet fell under the fear of death if they should oppose the expansionist plans of the armed forces. Many of these assassinations were repeatedly carried out by young army and naval officers who had patriotism as their motivation. At subsequent judicial proceedings these men were given very light sentences which they never completed. Included in these actions was vicious infighting among the military leadership with the result being that those senior officers who favored restraint in foreign relations were murdered. Failure of the Emperor to step in and denounce the aggressiveness of the Japanese armed forces set the course for Japan in World War II which became resolutely set when Hideki Tojo became prime minister in October 1941.

Establishment of Communism

Lenin – Stalin

The revolution in Russia had been a long time in coming. Beginning with numerous attempts, both successful and not, various groups had tried to remove the Romanov Czars from the throne of Russia. Although that majority of these groups wanted to gain more rights for the Russian people and at the same time end the monarchy they were only successful to a degree. After the 1905 “Bloody Sunday” deaths the Czar allowed the Russian people to participate in the government through the Duma or parliament. However, this participation proved to be inconsistent and had little real voice in the functions of the government under the Czar.

By the start of World War I Russia had aligned itself with their ethnic peers (Serbia) as well as England and France against both Germany and Austria-Hungary. It did not take long for Russia to feel the sting of defeat and the impact of the war to the Russian citizens. With few available to provide the necessary agricultural support for a five million man army and the general populace, Russia spiraled into disarray. Finally in early 1917 the first of two revolts struck the country. The Czar abdicated his throne and subsequently was held prisoner and ultimately killed along with his family. At first the Provisional Russian government under Alexander Kerensky kept Russia in World War I, but with more defeats and setbacks Russia was falling into near anarchy. By late fall 1917, a second revolution took place which ended any pretense of democratic government and catapulted the Bolshevik party into power and control of Russia under Vladimir Lenin. In early 1918, Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, thus ending their participation in World War I. The capital of Russia was moved from Petrograd (St. Petersburg) to the historic capital of Moscow and the Kremlin fortress.

After World War I ended for Russia a violent civil war erupted that pitted the Bolshevik revolutionaries (later to be known as the Communists or Reds) against the forces who proclaimed their loyalty to the Monarchy and the Czar (known as Whites). To complicate matters further England, France, Japan, and the United States moved their soldiers into Russia ostensibly to protect vast stores of war materials from falling into the hands of the Germans. By 1921 the Red Communist forces had gained control of the country and the foreign powers had for the most part left Russia. Lenin began to consolidate his power and bring some form of order, self-sufficiency and government to Russia. By 1924 Lenin was dead from a stroke and Trotsky (War Minister) and Stalin (General Secretary) were involved in a power struggle for the control of the leadership of Russia. Ultimately Stalin emerged the victor while Trotsky found himself living all over Europe and ultimately settling in Mexico.

In the decade of the later 1920’s and the 1930’s Russia under Stalin moved away from the monarchy that had once been Russia. Stalin was determined to modernize Russia and put it on an equal footing with the major European powers. This included a need to make Russia both an industrial and agricultural power. Ultimately, Russia suffered as an outcast among the world powers who feared the rise of the Communist state. Thus both Germany and Russia were looked upon as being outcast nations in the years after World War I. In Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) the price the people would have to pay for this modernization was staggering. It has been estimated that in excess of twenty million Russians perished under Stalin’s collectivization policies and governmental purges. However, Russia emerged now on the European stage as a major player who would not be so easily dismissed.