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Post World War I leading to World War II

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1 Post World War I leading to World War II

2 The Depression in the 1930s was the deepest and most widespread economic collapse in history. What were its international economic and political consequences? After the stock market crash, consumption and production of manufactured goods around the world declined. Unemployment rose drastically. American banks called in overseas loans to offset their losses. Nations deeply in debt from war loans or reparation payments could not afford early repayment, and panic spread. Nations erected protective tariffs, resulting in ruined export industries and additional reductions in world trade. Still, some nations fared better than others. France and Britain were to some extent insulated from the world economy by their overseas colonies. Those colonies, particularly India, also fared well. Nations that were heavily dependent on imported food and raw materials suffered the most from the Depression. Exported agricultural crops, such as Malayan rubber, Caribbean sugar, and Brazilian coffee, were very hard hit. Widespread economic distress had profound political consequences. For example, the United States enacted sweeping New Deal legislation, and radical politicians came to power in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Nations devastated by declining monocrop exports consciously imitated those new dictatorships and exercised authoritarian control over their peoples and economies. Those political changes had particular significance in the decade leading toward World War II.

3 Explain the rise of fascism in Europe and the events leading up to the Second World War.
Fascism was a direct result of the social and economic instability caused by World War I and the Depression. Opportunistic politicians used wartime propaganda techniques to appeal to disgruntled Europeans. Those politicians promised prosperity, the prevention of communism, territorial conquests, and a cure for social problems. That was the basis for the rise of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, both of whom appealed to unemployed veterans and violent youths. Hitler also emphasized Aryan racial superiority and blamed Jews for Germany’s postwar troubles. Hitler tested French and British resolve by repeatedly violating the Treaty of Versailles. Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, while Germany reentered the Rhineland and annexed Austria and portions of Czechoslovakia. The “appeasement” of the Munich Conference in 1938 revealed a lack of British and French resolve. War seemed imminent after Munich, as Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, made an alliance with the Soviet Union, and invaded Poland.

4 Compare the lives of civilians on the home front in the United States during World War II with the experiences of civilians in Europe and Asia. The civilian populations of Europe and Asia suffered the depredations of invading armies, disease, starvation, and exposure to the elements. The war created millions upon millions of refugees in Europe and Asia. Millions abandoned their homes or watched them being destroyed. The war pulled the United States out of the last stages of the Depression, eliminating unemployment and improving nutrition and health. In World War II more civilians were killed than soldiers. In particular, the Nazis attempted to achieve their policy of eliminating entire races of people. Jews were deprived of citizenship and legal rights and forced into ghettoes. In 1942 the “final solution” started the systematic extermination of human beings. Concentration camps such as Auschwitz were created for the sole purpose of extracting work and killing prisoners. It is estimated that over 6 million Jews lost their lives. In addition, 3 million Polish Catholic elite were killed. Other special targets of the Nazis included homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, the disabled, the mentally ill, and Communists. In the United States, Japanese civilians were arrested and placed in detainment camps because of their race. Enemy military forces intentionally targeted cities and industrial areas for destruction in the “total war.” Enemy bombs never fell on the United States, and the soldiers of foreign armies did not march in American streets. Hiroshima was the site where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb, killing approximately 200,000 people. Three days later, another atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki. It has been a subject of debate as to whether the use of these weapons was necessary. The role of women was altered Women in the United States entered industry in large numbers, and the booming economy had long-lasting positive consequences for American society. German women were urged to stay at home and bear children, whereas women in many other countries, particularly in the Soviet Union, became crucial to wartime industries.

5 What was the source of conflict between Japan and China from 1931 to 1945?
The economic dislocation of the Great Depression and growing militarism in Japan led to this military confrontation. Japanese quest for resources contributed. When the Great Depression hit, China and the United States erected tariff barriers against Japanese imports. The collapse of demand for rice and silk ruined Japanese farmers; to survive, many sold their daughters into prostitution while their sons flocked to the military. Ultranationalists viewed a colonial empire as a solution to Japan’s dependence on foreign trade. Although most of Asia’s potential colonies had been claimed, China with its vast population and resources was not colonized. The confrontation of the Second World War began with the Japanese seizure of Manchuria by junior officers in the military. They renamed the region Manchukuo. When Chinese students, workers, and housewives boycotted Japanese goods, Japanese troops briefly took over Shanghai and the area around Beijing. During the next few years the Japanese sped up their rearmament, especially the building of warships. In 1937, Japanese leaders once again considered options for solving Japan’s economic problems. Some proposed conquest of China while others advocated war with the Soviet Union. But once again, junior officers took matters into their own hands. On July 7, 1937, Japanese troops attacked Chinese forces near Beijing. Within weeks, Japanese troops seized Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and other coastal cities, and the Japanese navy blockadebd the entire Chinese coast. The United States and the League of Nations denounced the Japanese atrocities, but were too preoccupied with economic problems and events in Europe to risk military confrontation. The Chinese armies were large and fought bravely, but they were poorly led and armed and lost every battle. Japanese planes bombed Nanjing, Hankou, and Canton while on the ground soldiers broke dikes and burned villages, killing thousands of civilians. In spite of Japanese organizational and fighting skills, the attack on China did not bring the victory Japan had hoped for. Japanese leaders realized that the war with China was a drain on the Japanese economy and manpower and that their war machine was becoming increasingly dependent on the United States for steel and machine tools and for nine-tenths of its oil. The Chinese continued to resist. Japan’s periodic attempts to turn the tide by conquering more of China only pushed Japan deeper into the quagmire. For the Japanese people, life became harsher and more repressive as taxes rose, food and fuel became scarce, and more young men were drafted. Warfare between China and Japan was incredibly violent. In the winter of 1937–1938, Japanese troops took Nanjing, raped 20,000 women, killed 200,000 prisoners and civilians, and looted and burned the city.

6 What were the Soviet economic successes in the period between the wars and what were the effects of these successes? Stalin’s two Five-Year Plans as responsible for the economic and social transformation of the Soviet Union. The First Five-Year Plan increased Soviet military and industrial might by developing electric power and heavy industry. To ensure an adequate food supply, Stalin also collectivized agriculture. Collectivization transformed Soviet rural society, imposing an urban-industrial way of life on the peasantry. Rebellion among the kulaks resulted in widespread starvation and hardship. After Nazi Germany’s rise to power, the Second Five-Year Plan abandoned its goal of producing consumer goods and focused instead on military expansion. In spite of the terror of purges and persecutions, economic expansion continued. For those who avoided the gulags and moved to the cities, there were many new opportunities. Women in particular entered employment and careers formerly denied them. The agricultural successes experienced were a profit for the state as surplus was exported while there was famine even as the expansion continued

7 Some Communists escaped, Mao Zedong among them.
Who was Mao Zedong and how did he present a challenge to the Chinese government? What is the Long March? Before the Japanese invasion in 1931 the Chinese government under the Guomindang was recovering. The main challenge to the rule of the Guomindang was the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communists were advised to join the Guomindang and to subvert the government from within. The leader of the Guomindang, Chiang Kai-shek, eventually turned on the Communists in the Guomindang and had them arrested. Some Communists escaped, Mao Zedong among them. Mao Zedong applied the theories of Marxism to China by substituting the industrial proletariat with Chinese peasantry. His plans for China included land redistribution and women’s rights. When the Guomindang pursued the Communists into the mountains, Mao and his forces had to eventually break out of this encirclement called the Long March. 100,000 communist forces fled the Guomindang and only 10,000 returned but the populist ideas of Mao spread throughout the march and he acquired the support of the peasant. These peasants were used to combat the weakened Guomindang during and following the Japanese occupation.

8 What were some of the technological advances during World War II that made it a “war of science?”
Existing technology underwent considerable improvement during World War II. Airplanes were larger and faster, flew farther, and dropped many tons of bombs each. Jet planes appeared for the first time. Heavily armored tanks ruled the battlefields. New inventions also began to dominate warfare. Synthetic rubber and oil reduced the dependence on foreign imports and the control of the seas. Aircraft carriers and submarines made battleships obsolete. Radar warned of aircraft attacks. Code breakers and intelligence specialists predicted enemy attacks. Guided missiles delivered unstoppable offensive attacks. The antibiotics used in World War II resulted in a drop in mortality among wounded soldiers. In the war’s ultimate technological achievement, the United States committed enormous resources to develop the atomic bomb in a race against Germany.

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