What events occurred in Europe in 1938-1939 that led to World War II?
Following the circumstances of the Great War, several events occurred throughout Europe that precipitated the Second World War. The rise of fascism in Italy resulted as a response to the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Benito Mussolini created the Fasci Italiana di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squadron), which called for two things: 1) a totalitarian form of government 2) a heightened focus on national unity, militarism, social Darwinism, and loyalty to the state. Mussolini became prime minister in 1922 and quickly transformed the nation into a single party state while removing all restraints on his power between 1925 and 1927 (Corbett et al., 2017) .
In Germany, political fragmentation during the 1920s accentuated the country’s severe economic issues. Unsurprisingly, nearly 30 percent of the German labor force was unemployed by 1932. A man the world would soon know and never forget, created the anti-Communist National Socialist Party: Adolf Hitler. At the beginning of 1933, Hitler’s party, known as the Nazis, was the largest in German legislature; President Paul von Hindenburg had no choice but to appoint Hitler as chancellor that same year (Corbett et al., 2017) .
The domination of the German elections in early March 1933 by the Nazi part further cemented Hitler’s position and power. The Enabling Act was passed, essentially allowing Hitler free reign to make any and all laws for the next four years. From then on, events spiraled out of control (Corbett et al., 2017) :
- Germany caused a commotion when they withdrew from the League of Nations in October 1933;
- The 1935 Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews of German citizenship and the rights thereof;
- Hilter sent military units into the Rhineland on the border with France in 1936; and
- Austria was finally invaded in March 1938, on the pretense that Germany was seeking to “reunite” ethnic Germans within the borders of one country.
Similar occurrences were working their way across the continent, but it was the actions of Hitler and like men that ultimately tipped the scale.
Corbett, P. Scott, Volker Janssen, John M. Lund, Todd Pfannestiel, Paul Vickery, and Sylvie Waskiewicz. 2017. U.S. History. Houston: OpenStax.