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Tag Archives: World War I

The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965

colonialism

Even before the Korean War, the United Nations had proved that it could take effective action to control serious conflicts. It first took such action in the conflict over Palestine. During World War I, the British had ousted the Turks from Palestine. When the war was over, the League of Nations placed that land under the authority of Britain. The British then issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people that Palestine would someday become their homeland, but the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding countries strongly objected to this and year after year passed without the British making good their promise. During and after World War II, Britain refused to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter Palestine. In 1946 Jewish terrorists began to stage raids against the British army and a year later Britain turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations. The General Assembly set up a special committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations and several months later the committee delivered its report. It recommended that Palestine be divided into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish. Although the Arabs, who formed a majority of the people in Palestine, said they would never allow the existence of a Jewish state, the General Assembly approved the committee’s report. Britain was expected to carry out and enforce the recommendations. Instead, the British suddenly left Palestine in the spring of 1948 and war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were supported by troops from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but the Jewish army, which included many hardened veterans of World War II, won battle after battle. With every victory, the Jews added to the territory originally granted them by the United Nations special committee. Most …

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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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A World at War 1939 – 1941

world war 2

Now the people of Europe began to hear a new sound, a sound that would haunt them throughout the years of war — the wail and shriek of air-raid sirens. At night, the lights of Europe went out and the “blackout” made familiar streets strange places of darkness. Street lamps were left unlit and windows were covered with heavy draperies. Any stray gleam of light might help guide enemy bombers to their targets. Hurrying about their wartime duties, the people of Britain and France began to wonder. They had not wanted war and yet war had come. Why? What had happened? It seemed mysterious and impossible to understand, but as they thought about it, certain things became clear. Some of the problems that led to World War II were left-overs from World War I. Germany and Italy had remained “have-not” nations. They needed more territory for raw materials and more markets for their goods. The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was humiliating, unjust and the Allies had done nothing to change it. The League of Nations, especially without the participation of the United States, had been weak and had not carried out its promise of real disarmament. The United States had not wanted to get involved in Europe’s problems and had followed a policy of “isolation.” These were some of the causes of the war; there were others as well. France had suffered greatly in World War I and was afraid of being drawn into another conflict. Her generals had hesitated to send troops against Hitler at a time when it was still possible to stop him and then there was the distrust of the Soviet Union and Communism. Many French and British statesmen, such as Chamberlain, had believed that Fascism would protect Europe against Communism. Unlike Churchill, they …

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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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“On the Dole” 1918 – 1936

dole

IN Europe as in America, the leading democratic nations — Great Britain and France — faced the problems of the great depression. In those nations, too, the question arose: Could democracy survive, or would it give way to totalitarianism? Would the people turn instead to fascism or communism? Although Britain had a brief period of prosperity immediately after World War I, of all the world’s democracies, it was struck hardest and soonest by the depression. For Britain had a special problem. A highly industrialized country, it lived by its exports. It sold manufactured goods and coal to other countries and imported its food. Even before the war, Britain had begun to lose its markets. Other countries were making wool and cotton cloth, which was one of Britain’s most important exports. New fuels were developed that were replacing coal. More and more countries were using high tariffs to keep out foreign goods. After 1918, the situation became even worse. The fact that Britain had long been an industrial country was now working against it. Its machinery and manufacturing methods were old-fashioned and could not compete with the modern machinery and methods of other lands. Exports fell, factories shut down and millions of Britons were out of work. Britain had had unemployment insurance as early as 1911. Now the payments were increased and the unemployed went “on the dole,” as they called it. The government also provided old-age pensions and some medical and housing aid, but the people felt that the unemployment and other benefits were too small and they were dissatisfied. They began to turn to the Labour party. Up to this time, Britain’s strongest political parties had been the Conservative party and the Liberal party, with the Labour party a poor third. In 1922, the Labour party became second only …

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Panic in Wall Street 1929-1932

depression

AS MILLIONS of Americans hurried to work on the morning of October 24, 1929, it seemed like the start of an ordinary day. It seemed just as ordinary to the brokers and bankers who were entering their offices on New York’s Wall Street. True, the prices of stocks had been falling for several days, but that was nothing to worry about. There were bound to be ups and downs in the stock market and prices would surely rise again. For never before had the United States known such prosperity as it did in the 1920’s. Herbert Hoover, who had become President seven months before, had said, “We in America are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. . . . We have not reached the goal, but given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.” Many Americans agreed with him. They invested their savings in stocks and just as they hoped, the price of stocks rose. To make even more money, they bought stocks on margin — that is, on credit. They knew that they could be wiped out if stocks took a sudden tumble, but why should that happen? The richest men in the country said it wouldn’t and if they didn’t know, who did? The country was booming and anyone who didn’t get rich was a fool. More and more Americans bought stocks and prices went higher and higher — until October of 1929. As the prices of stocks began to fall, people stopped buying and began to sell. The more they sold, the lower prices fell; the lower prices fell, …

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The Meaning of Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism

So it happened that in many parts of the world people were living under a system of government that came to be called totalitarianism. There were differences in the governments of the totalitarian countries, but they were alike in certain important ways. In each of them, the government was controlled by one political party, usually under a dictator and no other political parties were allowed. The ruling party was not satisfied to control the government; its aim was total control of the life of its people. It controlled the courts and the armed forces, labour and industry, science and the arts. In some countries, it controlled religion completely; in others, religious groups were allowed to exist so long as they did not challenge the power of the government. To keep their strict control of the people, the totalitarian governments set up a secret police and totalitarian countries were often called “police states.” The people had no civil liberties and no part in the governing of the country. They had to obey and do as they were told. If they did not, they risked prison, concentration camp, torture and death. As totalitarianism spread widely over the world, men began to wonder what had made it possible. The reasons were not too difficult to find . The end of World War I had left many countries, especially those that had been defeated, divided and disorganized. Their weak governments could not solve the problems that faced them. This gave “strong men” the chance to take over the government. Another important reason was the great depression that began around 1929. Business seemed to come to a standstill. Unsold goods piled up in warehouses, while factories shut down and millions of people were thrown out of work. Hungry people were willing to listen to anyone …

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Dictatorship and Civil War 1926-1939

franco

THE END OF World War I brought many changes of government in Europe, but in a number of countries the old aristocrats and landowners still had power and the new governments could not solve the problems that faced them. Among these countries was Poland. A democratic form of government had been established, but conflicts between various parties and their leaders kept it from being very effective. General Joseph Pilsudski had helped to set up the new government of Poland. He retired from public office in 1922, when Poland adopted a democratic constitution. Pilsudski wanted a bigger and stronger Poland and he was dissatisfied with what the government was doing. In 1926 he led his armed followers on Warsaw, the nation’s capital and the tramp of marching men sounded in Poland, as it did in Italy and Germany. Within a few days, Pilsudski was in control of the government. Although from time to time he held various offices in the government, Pilsudski was really the dictator of Poland until his death in 1935. Shortly before he died, Pilsudski put through a new constitution. While it called for certain democratic procedures, such as the election of a parliament, it merely made official Pilsudski’s military dictatorship. Pilsudski’s place was taken by General Edward Smigly-Rydz, the inspector-general of the army. He ruled with the aid of a group of military men known as the “colonels.” Although Poland’s political organization was looser than that of Germany or Italy, its form of government was very close to fascism. Much the same thing was true in the countries of the Balkans — in Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria and Rumania. During the 1920’s and early 1930’s Greece tried various forms of government. It was at times a monarchy, at times a dictatorship and at times a democratic republic. …

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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 United States and Victory 1915-1918

war

FEW AMERICANS noticed the advertisement that appeared in the New York newspapers on May 1, 1915. Signed by the Imperial German Embassy in Washington, it reminded Americans that Germany was at war with Britain. It warned that British ships in the water near the British Isles were “liable to destruction,” and that “travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.” That same day, the British steamship Lusitania sailed from New York and among the 1,250 passengers were 188 Americans. On May 6, when the Lusitania was off the coast of Ireland, she was attacked without warning by a German submarine. She was struck by torpedoes and within fifteen minutes she had sunk. Of the 1,154 persons who died, 114 were citizens of the United States. Many Americans were horrified, but they agreed with Woodrow Wilson, who had been president since 1915, that the United States should not take sides in the war. Wilson was re-elected in 1916, after campaigning on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Since the beginning of the war, agents of both the Allies and Germany had been trying to influence Americans. Although Wilson faithfully carried out his policy of neutrality, he was personally sympathetic to the Allies. As a matter of fact, most Americans favoured the Allies. At the same time, American citizens of German descent had no wish to fight against their old “fatherland,” and Irish-Americans, who disliked British for its treatment of Ireland, felt that the England should be given no aid. Then the German submarine commanders asked their government to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. By that, they meant that once again they would be free to sink ships of all nations‚ including neutrals, in the waters around the British …

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