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The United Nations and the Nations Disunited 1943 -1949

united nations

So at last, in the Pacific as in Europe, the guns were silent; the nations that had brought so much death and destruction to the world had been defeated, but victory alone was not enough. Governments had to be set up for the defeated nations, the destruction of war had to be repaired, hungry people had to be fed, industry and commerce had to be set in motion. Even more important, a way had to be found to keep war out of the world, to settle disputes between nations by peaceful means rather than by violence. The League of Nations, which had been set up for such a purpose after World War I, had failed, but the attempt had to be made again, for a third world war might well destroy all of civilization. Even before World War II ended, President Roosevelt had been looking ahead to the future and the United States proposed the establishment of a new international organization. Her wartime allies were quick to agree. Meeting in Moscow in October of 1943, the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China declared: “The four powers recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Representatives of the same four nations met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington from August 21 to October 7, 1944, to discuss plans for the new organization. When Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta in February of 1945, they agreed that the United Nations Conference on International Organization be held at San Francisco in April. The conference was held as scheduled and it was attended by representatives of fifty nations at …

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“My Name Will Stand Forever” 1933 – 1938

adolf hitler

ABOVE THE German town of Berchtesgaden, in a large, imposing house in the mountains, a man stared out a window. It was a fine February day in the winter of 1938 and the snow-covered peaks of the Alps glistened in the clear air. The man at the window seemed not to see the peaceful mountains. Berchtesgaden was close to the border of Austria and he seemed to see beyond the mountains into the heart of Austria itself — an Austria filled with marching troops‚ cheering crowds and the swastika banners of the Nazis. Staring at this vision, he smiled — for he was Adolf Hitler and he had many reasons to be pleased with himself. He remembered how he had arrived in Austria after World War I. He had been a vagabond — unknown, shabby, dirty, penniless. Now he was dictator of Germany, the ruler of millions of people. He had come to power in 1933 and looking back on the five years that had passed since then, he smiled again. Things had gone well for him — very well indeed. From the beginning, Hitler had been determined to smash the Versailles Treaty, which Germany had been forced to accept after its defeat in World War I. The treaty compelled Germany to disarm and give up some of its territory. Quietly and secretly, Hitler had begun to re-arm and when word of this reached the Allies, the nations which had fought Germany, they did nothing. Among the territories that had been taken away from Germany was the Saar region. Small, but important because of its coal mines, the Saar had been governed by a commission of the League of Nations. In 1935, under the conditions of the Versailles Treaty, the League held a plebiscite, a vote of the people living …

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Germany under the Nazis 1933 – 1939

jews

IT WAS almost midnight in Berlin — a strange hour for a parade in any city, but down the street called Unter den Linden paraded thousands of students, carrying torches that flickered in the darkness. In the big square near the University of Berlin, they gathered around a great pile of books. They cheered as the books were set on fire and flames rose toward the sky. For this was the night of May 10, 1933 — less than five months since Hitler had become head of the government — the night when books were being burned in a number of German cities. These were “subversive” books, “un-German” books — or so the Nazis said. They were written by more than 160 writers, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Jack London, Helen Keller and H. G. Wells. In the light of the bonfire, Dr. Goebbels, who was now Hitler’s propaganda minister, spoke to the students. “The soul of the German people can again express itself,” he said. “These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era; they also light up the new.” There was no doubt that the “old era” had ended and that the “New Order,” as Hitler called it, had come to Germany. As month followed month, Hitler gained more and more control of Germany and its people. He outlawed all political parties but his own. The state, he once said, is the Nazi party. He wiped out the trade unions. He made life more difficult for the Jews. Hitler would decide how Germans lived, worked, worshiped and even thought. He took Germany out of the League of Nations. He made it clear that he would not abide by the Treaty of Versailles and would re-arm. Germany would again become a great military power. Yet, some …

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Fire in the Reichstag 1923 – 1933

nazis

DURING THE years that followed Hitler’s adventure in the Munich beer hall, ministers came and went in the German government. Among them were some able men, particularly Gustave Stresemann. He was foreign minister from 1923 until his death in 1929. His policy was to work out a way of getting along with Germany’s former enemies; so that Germany’s mighty industrial machine could operate again as it had in the past. This policy brought results. Inflation was stopped and foreign bankers made large loans to German industry. Smoke poured from the smokestacks of Germany’s efficiently run factories and the republic began to prosper. It looked as though history had taken a new turn — a turn that would leave Hitler forgotten. Then came 1929. A great depression had begun in Europe and the United States; Germany’s recovery was at an end. There were no more foreign loans for German industry and few markets for its goods. The wheels of factories stopped turning, thousands of people were thrown out of work and long breadlines stretched through the streets of the cities. The Germans had just begun to forget the terrible days of inflation and now they faced days that might be just as terrible, or even worse. The government seemed helpless and so they turned to the communists — and to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Hitler was ready. He had his brown-shirted storm troopers and his black-shirted SS men — the Schutzstaffel, his specially picked and trusted soldiers and guards. To help carry out his orders he had fat Herman Goering, serious Ernst Roehm and meek-looking Heinrich Himmler. He also had Dr. Joseph Goebbels, a small, dark, well-educated man with a limp, who would prove to be a master of propaganda. For the people, Hitler had promises, all kinds of promises. …

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Revolution in a Beer Hall 1923 – 1924

hitler

ON NOVEMBER 8, 1923, about three thousand men were sitting at the tables of a large beer hall on the outskirts of Munich. They had come this evening not just to drink beer; they were to hear a speech by Gustave von Kahr. He was the head of the government of Bavaria, one of the states of Germany. Conditions had been bad in Germany since the end of World War I and Kahr’s audience was anxious to learn what the government intended to do. Kahr was still speaking when there was a commotion at the back of the ball. Several men had come in and one of them leaped up on a table and fired a pistol into the air. He wore his hair combed down over one eye and had a small moustache that resembled Charlie Chaplin’s. Kahr recognized him. His name was Adolph Hitler. He was the head of a political group, the National Socialist German Workers party, whose members were usually called Nazis. Hitler and his companions pushed their way to the speaker’s platform, where Hitler shouted, “The National Revolution has begun!” The building was surrounded by his brown-shirted storm troopers, their machine guns ready. Soon, he said, the Nazi flag with its black swastika would be flying over Bavaria. Then the Nazis would march on Berlin and take over all of Germany. As it happened, Hitler was a bit too optimistic. He would not take over Germany quite that soon. Forcing Kahr and two other important government officials into a back room, Hitler threatened them with his pistol. He thought he had won them over and could expect their help, but again he was mistaken. In the confusion they managed to slip away and Kahr issued an order dissolving the Nazi party. The next day, disappointed …

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The 1905 Revolution

revolution

SOME DAY there would be no tsars, but there was little sign of that during the last years of the nineteenth century. Alexander III still held Russia in a firm grip. When he died in 1894, his son Nicholas II came to the throne. Nicholas was twenty-six years old. He was a handsome young man and a few months after his father’s death he was married to a German princess. They were in love and it looked as though Nicholas would be a popular ruler. His reign began badly. In 1896, a great crowd gathered on a field in Moscow to celebrate his coronation as tsar. It was the custom to hand out little presents, such as handkerchiefs and cups, at these celebrations. Afraid that there might not be enough for everyone, the crowd surged forward. When mounted police tried to hold back the crowd, men, women and children were pushed into ditches and two thousand persons were killed. To make it even worse, that same night the tsar and the tsarina, his wife, danced at a ball held at the French embassy. People grumbled that the tsarina was a foreigner who had no feeling for Russians and the tsar was not much better. Nor did the people like the tsar’s reply to a message of congratulation from the officials of a town near Moscow. The officials said that they hoped “the rights of individuals and public institutions will be firmly safeguarded.” Nicholas answered that he would support the principle of absolute rule just as firmly “as it was preserved by my unforgettable great father.” It was plain that under Nicholas the Russians could expect no greater freedom than they had had under Alexander III. There would be no civil liberties, no better treatment of the peasants and of minority …

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Rivalries in the Middle East 1856 – 1912

ottoman

THE MIDDLE EAST where Europe, Asia and Africa meet had long been known as one of the great crossroads of the world. Most of its people were Moslems, but among them were many Christians and Jews. They spoke languages as different as Arabic and Latin, Slavic and Turkish. They had little in common except that they were all subjects of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire — so called after its early founder, Othman — was the last of several empires to rule over a large part of Islam. Unlike the earlier empires, it was dominated not by Arabs, but by Turks. Centuries before, the Turks had fought their way west from Central Asia and founded a new homeland in the West Asian peninsula of Turkey. From there, they had pushed outward, conquering lands and peoples. In 1699, however, they had lost Hungary to the Austrians. After that, while the nations of western Europe grew stronger, the Ottoman Empire became weaker. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman sultans had to combat enemies both within and without their empire. Their foreign enemies were the European powers, which snatched up their outlying lands. Their enemies at home were the subject peoples, especially in the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, who demanded their freedom. Unrest was chronic and the Ottoman Empire, which was usually called simply Turkey, came to be known as “the sick man of Europe.” By the 1850’s, Turkey had lost lands north of the Black Sea to Russia and Algeria‚ in North Africa, to France. Of its former Balkan holdings, Greece was independent and both Serbia and Rumania had some freedom. A native Arab dynasty ruled much of Arabia. In Egypt, a former Turkish governor had set himself up as hereditary khedive, or viceroy, …

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Industry Transforms America 1865-1914

industry

VETERANS or the Union Army, returning to their home towns in New England or the Middle Atlantic states after the war were surprised at what they saw. They had grown up in towns where most of the people lived by farming, while the rest sold things to farmers or worked in local workshops. Perhaps a mill and a factory had stood on the bank of the town’s river. The farms, stores and workshops remained, but now there were many new brick buildings used for factories, mills and warehouses. American industry, concentrated in the river valleys and ocean ports of the northeast, had grown with a rush during the Civil War. Behind the fighting lines, factories had turned out rails and telegraph wires, rifles and bullets, boots, uniforms, blankets, tents — all the articles needed for the Union forces. These products of Northern industry made a big difference on the battlefields. Before the war, the South had been an agricultural land, with large plantations worked by slaves and smaller farms worked by poor white farmers. Cotton was the big crop and great quantities of it were sold, especially to the mills of Great Britain. The wealth of the South, based on the unpaid labour of slaves, had given it as much influence within the nation as the North, which was partly agricultural and partly industrial. The South had little industry. When war came, it was unable to keep its fighting men supplied with weapons and other needs. The ill-equipped Southerners were worn down by the well-equipped Northerners, until finally they were completely defeated. The victory of the Union upset the balance of power between the North and the South. With the freeing of the slaves, most of the Southern planters were ruined, while the leaders of industry in the North were …

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Feudal France 814-1314

france

AFTER THE BREAKUP OF CHARLEMAGNE’S Empire, France, the western half of the empire, was ruled by a series of weak kings. They were so weak that they were known as the “do-nothing kings,” and indeed, they could do nothing to stop their powerful and greedy nobles from fighting among themselves. Finally the Carolingian line came to an end and the Franks, as the French were then called, elected a new king. He was Hugh Capet, a relative of the famous Count Odo who had directed the defense of Paris against the Vikings. With Hugh began the line of Capetian kings who were to rule France for many generations. The king actually held several positions. He was the sovereign of a vaguely defined nation called France; at the same time he was the feudal lord of his own lands and overlord, of Suzerain, of all other French lords. He was supposed to be defender of the realm, protector of the poor and champion of justice, but he was actually little more than a figurehead, for he had neither soldiers nor money enough to enforce his authority. Like the German monarchs, the Capetian kings faced the problem of winning control of the powerful lords. Also like the Germans, they took the first step by establishing good relations with the Church. In their coronation oath, the French kings swore to defend the Church. In return, for hundreds of years, the Church supported the monarchy against the feudal lords. The hereditary fief of the French kings was the Ile de France, a small, compact area surrounding Paris and it was infested by lawless vassals who terrorized the roads leading to the city. King Louis VI waged war against them. The French nicknamed him Louis the Fat, but his enormous size did not harm his …

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Islam the Civilizer A. D. 622-1406

moslem

IF Islam had never existed, the Christian countries of the world would probably be less advanced and certainly less varied, than they are. For it was Moslems who gave the West many of its basic skills and ideas. From the eighth to the thirteenth centuries, the Arabs and the other Islamic peoples were the main carriers of western civilization. While Europe was torn by almost constant fighting, Moslem scholars preserved the learning of the ancient world. Other Moslems added discoveries and original works of their own. In time, translators in the parts of Europe that were in closest contact with Islam passed this knowledge on to the Christian world. It helped produce a great intellectual and artistic awakening, the Renaissance, which ended the Middle Ages and ushered m modern times. So the West owes much to Islam. Its debt is specially great in philosophy and science. Many cultural treasures would have been lost forever if it had not been for Moslem scholarship. Among them are the works of three of the greatest thinkers of ancient Greece — the philosopher Aristotle, the physician Galen and the astronomer Ptolemy. These works are the foundations on which Renaissance thinkers built modern learning. In one branch of science, astronomy, the Arabs’ superiority is written across the very heavens‚ for most stars hear Arabic names to this day. Example the Acrab (from aqrab, a scorpion), Altair (from al-tair, the flyer) and Deneb (from dhanab, a tail). Allied to astronomy is mathematics. Taking their cue from work done in ancient India, Arab and Persian mathematicians developed algebra, geometry and trigonometry. They also taught Europeans to use the Arabic figures instead of the clumsy numerals based on the letters of the Roman alphabet. Unlike the ancient Greeks, who often came to conclusions by reasoning alone, the scientists …

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