Origins of the Great War Views 2

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
1.Introduction 2
1.1 Origins of the Great War Views 2
1.2 Armistice and Europe’s New Boundaries 4
1.3 The Paris Peace Conference Views 6
1.4 Conclusion 8
2.The Age of Dictatorship 9
2.1 The Treaty of Versailles 9
2.2 Resentment of Versailles 11
2.3 Bolshevism and Stalinism 13
2.4 The Nazi Party 14
2.5 Hitler’s Rise 16
2.6 The Nuremberg Laws 18
2.7 Conclusion 19
3.The Road to War 20
3.1 Origins of the Second Sino-Japanese War 20
3.2 Lebensraum 21
3.3 Europe’s Response 23
3.4 Anschluss and the Conquest of Czecholovakia 25
3.5 Conclusion 26
4.Blitzkreig and Sitzkreig 27
4.1 The Invasion of Poland 27
4.2 The Winter War and Weserubung 29
4.3 The Phony War 30
4.4 The Fall of France 32
4.5 Conclusion 33
5.The Battle of Britain 34
5.1 Who Was Winston Churchill? 34
5.2 German and British Strategy 36
5.3 Conclusion 38
6.The Mediterranean and the Eastern Front 38
6.1 The Mediterranean and the Balkans 38
6.2 The Decision to Invade the USSR 40
6.3 Executing Barbarossa 41
6.4 The Siege of Leningrad 44
6.5 Conclusion 45
1.Introduction
1.1 Origins of the Great War Views
In this video, I’d like to talk about one of the most important factors that caused World War
II. And that is the legacy of World War I. The conflict that was fought about 20 or 30 years
before World War II. The — one way of interpreting World War II as a sequel to World War I
as an effort on the part of Germans, in particular, to reverse the verdict that had been
handed to the Germans in the wake of their defeat in World War I through something called
the Treaty of Versailles. But before we talk about the Treaty of Versailles, we need to talk
about why World War I broke out in the first place. Many of the factors that caused World
War I continued to be problems, in terms of diplomatic relations among the nations of
Europe, and would, again, flare up in the 1930s and produce World War II. So the easiest
way of understanding World War I is as a conflict between empires. Imperial conflicts,
however, were not new. They had been going on for centuries among the powers of Great
Britain, France, Spain, and so forth for control of the resources and markets of overseas
colonies. So although the clash of empires was not new, there were some new factors that
exasperated the disintegration of empires and with that disintegration, the clash among the
imperial powers themselves. So the first of these important factors was the rise of
nationalism. By nationalism I refer to the shifting in allegiances that people had in the 19th
century in particular and beyond for the nation as opposed to other forms of identity that it
had superseded. These superseded forms of identity would include affiliation with a church,
affiliation with a regional community, loyalty to a monarch, and so forth. These traditional
forms of social identity and organization. In the 19th century, people began to think of
themselves as peoples in new ways. And that sometimes meant organizing around a
common language. Organizing around a particular piece of territory. Organizing a particular
narrative of history. So I think it’s quite easily actually for us to understand nationalism if we
think about the American Revolutionary War which helped produce the United States as a
nation. This was a conflict that began with Englishmen primarily fighting against Englishmen.
Many of the Englishmen thought of themselves as being different from those born in
London or whom lived in London in 1776 but they were not fully yet identified with the
nation itself. In fact, they would not — they would continue not to be arguably, in many
cases, until decades after, you know, perhaps after the Civil War. Until that point, people
continue to identify, I think, primarily with their local communities and their states rather
than with the Union as a whole. So what was true in the United States in the late 18th
century was equally true of the subject peoples of Europe in the 19th century. And so what
you saw was a decline in religious belief. You saw the emergence of representative political
institutions and the emergence of mass media primarily print media. These — all of these
new developments helped forge national identities and those national identities clashed
with the imperial’s systems under which many of the subject peoples of Europe existed. So
the Austria-Hungary Empire which stretched from Austria to — through much of the Balkans.
The Ottoman Empire which included much of the Middle East contained many peoples who
now wanted to be distinct in terms of their — they wanted to be politically independent, in
other words. Another important cause of World War I was the rise of industrialization. The
emergence of new technologies and new systems of labor organization and the competition
for resources that occurred in the 19th century. As bath swathes of countryside urbanized,
as they began to become integrated into larger global economies where one resource would
be extracted from, often from a colony. Brought to the industrializing nation. Converted into
a good. Sold to the domestic market or reexported colonial market. This helped exacerbate
the conflict between European empires. And not just in Europe. In fact, as we’re going to
hear there’s a similar story in Japan. As Japan industrialized in the early 20th century, it
began to seek out new resources necessary to industrialization. And it also began to seek
out new markets. And it looked to China in much the same way that the United States and
various European empires have looked to Asia and Africa and the Americas for resources
and for markets for products. So this industrial competition began to create a friction among
the empires. Finally, there was — there’s another important factor that helped produce
World War I and that was the system of interlocking alliances in which various European
nations allied with each other against one another. So that basically if nation a goes to war
and it has established a treaty with nation b, then that plunges b into the war alongside a,
against a’s enemy. These interlocking alliances were not entirely new but the extent of them
was greater in the early 20th century than it had been. And this, as we will see, help produce
a domino effect that plunged much of Europe into war in World War I. So if we turn our
attention to the slide at the center of the screen, we can get a sense of what Europe looked
like in 1914. And what you see at the center of the screen is Austria-Hungary which was one
of Europe’s largest landed empires. And it had numerous peoples. Czechs. Slovaks. Pols.
Ukranians. Romanians. Serbians. Croatians. In addition to its ethnic German population.
German, itself, had only recently been unified in the mid-19th century under the leadership
of a very canning leader Otto von Bismarck. Prior to that, it had existed primarily as a
collection of small city states, principalities, many of them ruled by princes. But it had
become unified in the 19th century and it had looked to its neighbors with a sense of envy
for their colonial possessions overseas. This was a point of friction, as I’ve said, that help
produce World War I. In the 1870s, the Germans who were then known as Prussians had
fought a war with France. The French had, of course, invaded Central Europe under
Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century. And so it was a war, of course, that they
ultimately, that the French ultimately lost. In the 1870s, another war was fought. The Franco
Prussian War and as a consequence, France was forced to give up as was usually the
outcome when a war was lost in those days. It was forced to give up some of its territory.
And these were the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine in Eastern France. And these actually
become kind of a like a yo-yo in many of these wars. The provinces of Alsace-Lorraine are
lost by the Germans in World War I and they take them back during World War II. But the
more important point is that in looking at some of these larger — in looking at a unified
German, in looking at a landed empire with peoples who under the fervor of nationalism
began to attempt to seek their independence. Many of Europe’s powers began to seek out
alliances with one another that would help keep their empires intact and protect them from
their neighbors. And so Bismarck, himself, who had helped unify Germany established what
was known as the Triple Alliance in the 1880s. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy,
otherwise known as the Central Powers, were obligated to defend the other two in the
event that either was attacked. And in subsequent years, as there were conflicts between
France and Germany, for instance, over the question of whether Morocco would become a
French colony among other things, a protector in fact. A similar alliance became established
between the United Kingdom, France, and Russia in order to contain the power of Central
Europe. And so again, to return to our themes here. Part of the problem is that many of
these powers want to prevent themselves from disintegrating under the forces of unrest on
the part of peoples who wanted to be independent in their own nations. Part of it had to do
with the competition for resources overseas in places such as North Africa and then part of
it had to do, frankly, with the long history of conflict within Europe. And so the actual chain
of events that help produce World War I can be described in these terms. In 1908,
Austria-Hungary began to — wanted to expand. It wanted to seek out much as France and
the Great Britain and the Dutch had overseas. And so it annexed part of the Balkans. The
Balkans is this region to the Southeast of Austria-Hungary. And of course, this was
unpopular with Serbian nationalists who thought that Serbians should exist in independent
nation. And so Serbia having recently attained independence from the Ottoman Empire of
which it had previously been a part, did not take Austria-Hungary’s annexation very happily.
Nationalist Serbs had wanted to — they wanted to absorb Serbs living outside of Serbia
including many whom lived in what is now known as Bosnia Herzegovina. And which is, if
you can see if this area down here, Sarajevo. And so there were various nationalists, secret
societies that formed. So in 1914, the Arch Duke of Austria-Hungary, France Ferdinand, was
touring Sarajevo sort of as a kind of gesture of demonstrating Austria-Hungary’s dominance
in this part of Europe when he was assassinated by a member of one of these nationalist
pro-Serbian nationalist societies. As a consequence, Austria-Hungary declared war on
Serbia. And Germany pledged support for Austria-Hungary. Remember that they had been
allied through this Triple Alliance. It’s worth pointing out, however, though the Triple
Alliance was a defensive pact. And this would become an issue in the future. So
Austria-Hungary had not been attacked by Serbia in the view of many. It was simply a
Serbian who has assassinated an Austria Hungarian leader and so whether that invoked the
pact or not is a matter of dispute. In any case, Austria-Hungary after declaring war on Serbia
received a pledge of support from Germany. And then Russia which had seen itself
traditionally as the protector of Slovak peoples in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe,
had basically prepared to mobilize against Austria-Hungary and Germany. And since France
had an alliance with Russia, the Triple Entente, it had to respond as well and as did the — as
did Great Britain. So you might wonder at this point, well what happened to Italy? Italy is
one of the Central Powers but as I’ve said before, and as Italian politicians pointed out at the
time, Austria-Hungary had not actually been attacked by Serbia. It had been at the aggressor
and so the obligation of the pact was not invoked. Okay. So basically this helped produce
the conflict of World War I. World War I was largely a defensive conflict. It — there was a
very quick period of forward advance into France and Belgium followed many years of very
static trench warfare where a very large group of soldiers died for the sake of advancing
their lines, hundreds of yards or mere miles but did not accomplish much. And so this is
important to remember when we think about what the mood was in Europe after World
War I when the Treaty of Versailles was established and when nations began to contemplate
actions that might lead them into another war. So it explains some of the reservation there
was, I think, ultimately about stopping expansion in the future. So the lessons of World War
I, in fact, can be, I think, blamed or credited, if you will, with leading the Europe to — into
World War II.
1.2 Armistice and Europe’s New Boundaries
Hello class this is the last video in lesson 1 and what I want to talk to you about in this
particular segment is the aftermath of the conflict which you should have just watched a
short documentary video on. At the end of World War I you saw a very different looking
Europe than what you saw before and so I put up this map to kind of indicate some of the
territorial shifts that had taken place. These are important because they provided a major
irritant for German nationalists in the post war period and they also produced a number of
independent states that would be actors in World War II so when we look at these maps
we’re trying to understand first of all what Hitler was attempting to accomplish and also
who were some of the actors that were attempting to resist his war of expansion in 1939.
Germany did it lost on the western front, not in the most spectacular manner but it did lose.
Nevertheless on the eastern front you can follow my pointer here, on the eastern front it
actually did rather well. And this is an important point because when a lot of German you
know officers and ordinary German soldiers reflected on the period reflected in the period
after the war on what happened many of them did not feel as if they had been fairly
defeated and so that became a kind of another irritant for German nationalists. In addition
to that it also made the experience of the defeat incomprehensible for most German
civilians who were not privy to the horrific scenes of battle which you just watched in the
documentary. They did not see you know they felt some of the deprivations that civilians
feel during war time but they did not feel that they were losing necessarily and so the
[inaudible] came as something of a shock for them. So the war was hard on all of the nations
that participated in it World War I that is and but it was particularly difficult for Russians and
there had been a kind of movement to replace the Tsar in previous decades there had been
different political factions within that movement, including social democrats and Bolsheviks
and so forth and as a result of the famine and the destruction and the kind of social unrest
that the war produced in Russia in 1917 Tsar Nicholas II advocated and a number of soviets
which were basically kind of workers councils took over and under Lennon Vladimir Lennon
Bolsheviks took control and the Civil War ensued for the next two years between the whites
and the reds so in other words the Bolsheviks and their enemies. So in the process of
fighting the war against the central powers imperial Russia was destroyed and replaced with
a kind of Russia in the middle of the Civil War that eventually the Bolsheviks would win.
Before the Bolsheviks won however, Germany had managed to take control of areas that
had belonged to imperial Russia which are now Poland and the Baltic states Estonia Latvia
and Lithuania and so through before the World War I actually ended Germany had gained
much of these territories, which then at the end of the war when the central powers lost
Germany was forced to surrender and under the auspices of the 14 points the treaty that
brought an end or the plan that Wilson proposed, the states were made independent. So
that is how you ended up with a new kingdom of Poland and you ended up with these as
you can see on the right part of the map you see Estonia Latvia, Lithuania and east Prussia,
there was a part of one of the terms of the 14 points was that Poland would have access to
the Baltic, the sea up here and that meant that Poland basically there was a kind of free city
known as Danzig which was administered by the League of Nations, which was another
product of the end of the war that we’re going to talk about in a moment. And the reason
why I bring up all of these things is because these were points of irritation for German
nationalists in subsequent decades and so the loss of these territories which Germany had
gained very briefly at the end of World War I and many of which had large very substantial
German populations became a grievance that many German’s felt entitled them to reject
the terms of the peace that were imposed upon them. So November 11, 1918 there was an
armistice in addition to the Russian losses which I’ve just mentioned, the Austria Hungary
empire dissolved and it disintegrated and you ended up with so you can see on the left here
this is before the war you see that what happens is you end up with Czechoslovakia, you end
up with Hungary, Austria, they’re all separate states, you end up with Yugoslavia, Romania,
which and Bulgaria and so you have basically something that looks similar to the Balkan’s
today with the exception that Yugoslavia no longer exists of course. So basically another
central power had been greatly reduced and many of these states would also these new
states would also see factious movements arise after World War 1 as they did in Germany
and so they became sort of natural allies with the Nazi’s. In addition, some of these states
down here I should mention were basically under Ottoman rule and the Ottoman empire
dissolved, remember the Ottoman’s had allied with central powers and so the Ottoman
empire was already not doing very well before World War I and so basically you ended up
with the independence of the remains of the Ottoman empire and then a new Turkish state
which was the core of the Ottoman’s before. So beyond this new territorial settlement you
had a great deal of disillusionment with war, 10 million dead, 20 million wounded and in a
sense no one really had won.
1.3 The Paris Peace Conference Views
So in January of 1919, you had something called the Peace of Paris. This was just a few
months after the Armistice which stopped conflict. And stopped fighting, that is. And the
Peace of Paris produced the Treaty of Versailles. The major negotiators there were the big
four. These were France’s Premiere George Clemenceau, Britain’s Prime Minister David
Lloyd George, President Wilson, and the Italian Premier Vittorio Orlando and Russia, given
that it was now under Bolshevik rule and these were states that were generally hostile to
communism. Russian was not invited to these negotiations. You had, a very kind of,
different set of attitudes among these world leaders about what sort of treaty should be
imposed. Probably the idealist of the group was Wilson. He proposed these 14 points that
were in line with a kind of more democratic vision and which were aimed at sort of the
changing the system of diplomacy which had helped produce World War I in the first place.
So he wanted free trade. He wanted open agreements. In other words, not secret
agreements of the sort that had created the domino effect that we previously discussed. He
wanted democracy and he wanted self determination. So, in other words, a guarantee that
the nations that had become newly independent would be able to keep their independence
and preserve it from their stronger neighbor’s aggression. Wilson also wanted leniency
against Germany. This was a very idealistic position. The problem was that there was a lot of
disagreement about this. That the French, in particular, for somewhat obvious reasons. The
French are located — they share a border with Germany and they had fought numerous
wars. I mean if you think about the history. You know there was the Franco Prussian War
which we’ve already discussed in the 1870s. You know the Napoleonic campaigns earlier in
the 19th century. And you know, many, many wars before that as well. So basically the
French were most concerned — most determined to ensure that Germany would be
weakened and would not be able to invade France in the future. The British were maybe
somewhere I would say in between they — in terms of what sort of tact should be taken with
Germany. They wanted basically to stay out of any future conflicts in Continental Europe.
And so the actual terms of the Treaty of Versailles were a kind of a compromise between all
of these different attitudes. The Italians were — I mentioned before that the Italian Premier
was there but they actually walked out. The Italians joined the war, of course, World War I
late. Sort of expecting to receive some rewards for joining the winning side and they did not
substantially — they did not gain very much. So the major terms were that France regained
these provinces which are Alsace-Lorraine which it had lost in the Franco Prussian. You can
kind of see where the pointer’s going here. And they — and this became a sticking point
again for German nationals. These were areas with, you know, fairly substantial German
populations and so one of the things that the German nationalist parties wanted to do was
to take back these regions. These were to be permanently given to France. The Rhineland —
the Rhine is a river that runs, you know, roughly where pointer is running. The Rhineland is
the area to the west of that river. The Rhineland was an area that was to be occupied under
the terms of the Treaty of Versailles for 15 years. And it was going to be demilitarized. There
was going to be a demilitarized little buffer to the right of, in other words, on the eastern
portion of this occupied zone. And the reason for this was that the French did not want to
see a repeat of 1914. They did not want to see a huge frontier attack. The idea was if you
had an occupied zone and the demilitarized zone, then that would give the French military
adequate time to respond before the Germans — before any future German military attacks
on France. Beyond that, Germany’s colonies which it had a few in Asia and Africa were
handed over to Britain, to France, and to Japan. Germany’s army and this was another real
sticking point for German nationalists. It would be limited to a force of 100,000. There were
not going to be any kind of tanks. No heavy artillery. There was going to be no military air
force and the German Navy would be limited to a very small number of ships. Only 6
warships. No submarines. And these ships would actually be limited in size in comparison
with the British Navy. This was one of the things that the British particularly want because
they were, of course, less threatened by a land attack. A land invasion than by a naval
invasion. Beyond that, Germany would have to pay $5 billion in cash immediately, $33
billion total. That’s — those were in sort of 1919 dollars. And beyond that there would be a
war guilt clause that would blame somewhat implicitly but sort of unmistakably would
blame the Central Powers including Germany for starting the war. These were all points that
rankled German nationalists. And another major outcome of these negotiations was the
creation of the League of Nations. The League of Nations was the forerunner of the United
Nations. It had 5 permanent members. Britain, the U.S., France, Italy, and Japan. And
Germany would eventually join in 1926 but both Germany and Japan would withdraw. The
League of Nations is known for having been a very weak body. It was, perhaps, a good step
in terms of — a positive step in terms of providing a place for, you know, powers to
negotiate openly. But it did not have a lot of power to enforce whatever decisions it made.
So rather than comply with those decisions, Germany and Japan would later simply
withdraw. Among the Germans, the response was generally a sense of disillusionment.
There was kind of disillusionment with the autocratic rule of the imperial state. The
militarized state and this basically led to the formation of the Weimar Republic which was a
more democratic system that existed up until the rise of fascism in Germany. So there was a
disillusionment with the military system. At the same time, there was also a feeling, as I
mentioned earlier, that Germany had not really lost. That the average German soldier had
been, the phrase was stabbed in the back because the surrender had not really been
necessary. And so this created a sense of unhappiness among the Germans. There were
some major economic consequences in addition to the political consequences that I’ve
already named. The United States became a major creditor to these nations in Europe that
had been bankrupted by the war. Germany was required, as I said before, to pay reparations
and to the allies. And the European Allies were broke essentially from the war. And so they
used the money to pay back the U.S. for its loans. Germany was the only power, in fact, that
was forced to pay reparations and in doing so, it quickly exhausted its gold reserves which
required that it start paying in marks, in Deutsche marks. And that essentially flooded the
market with marks and devaluated them. And that created a period of hyper inflation briefly
in the early 1920s which exacerbated German economic problems. That actually had been
mostly sorted out by the time Hitler had come to power. It sometimes erroneously said that
hyper inflation led to the rise of Nazism. In fact, that’s not really the case. It was actually
quite the reverse. The Great Depression created deflation in commodity prices and that was
a much more significant factor. It’s the deflation not inflation was the problem. So you
know, very quickly, and this is something we’re going to discuss more next week but very
quickly, Germany proved unable to keep up with the payments that imposed upon it by the
Treaty of Versailles. And as a result, France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr’s industrial
region around here. And it is the Ruhr’s valley, it’s the Ruhr’s river, the Ruhr Valley has a lot
of coal mines as done a region called the Saar to the south. And so the outcome of this
effort to — basically what this showed was first of all that there was no real effective
response from the League of Nations when Germany violated the terms of its agreement to
pay reparations. And basically what happened was the German workers struck and there
was something called the Ruhr crisis. And it meant that the French and Belgians got nothing
out of occupying these — this German coal region. And so there were repeated attempts at
renegotiating the financial terms of the Treaty. The Dawes Plan, 1924. It ended the
occupation. It provided a line to Germany and it — but the problem was it didn’t produce a
real economic recovery. There was a kind of — there was a period of stabilization toward the
end of the 1920s but then with the Great Depression, 1929, the Weimar regime was
destabilized again. So summing up, you had a lot of — you had a new map was drawn in
Europe. This created a lot of resentment among Germans. It produced a lot of states that
were weakened and vulnerable not only to the Germans to the West but also to the
Russians to the east. And beyond that there was a lot of economic turmoil. The Treaty of
Versailles was — is known as a treaty that had — it was a treaty that was too soft for its own
toughness as a diplomat pointed out at the time. Basically it imposed some very stringent
requirements on Germany but it didn’t really have the means of backing them up. And so,
what we’re going to be talking about next week is the way in which Germany began to flout
some of the terms which had been opposed upon it and basically how those terms also
impacted German politics. And ultimately destroyed this brief experiment in republican rule
that you saw in the Weimar Republic. And so with that, I suggest you have a good weekend
and we’ll see you next week.
1.4 Conclusion
● World War One, the “Great War,” started from a series of diplomatic
crises, fueled by nationalism, competition for colonies and resources, and
balance of power politics in Europe.
● The conflict was an example of total war, requiring a heavy commitment of
military, economic, and social resources.
● The war destroyed the European economy and yielded a number of weak
and independent states. The popular unrest prompted by years of
hardship and famine led to revolutions in Germany and Russia, whose
imperial systems were ultimately replaced by the Weimar Republic and the
Communist Soviet Union.
● The Treaty of Versailles was regarded as excessively punitive by many
Germans, especially by the army, who felt they had been given a “stab in
the back” by their leaders. Among the treaty’s most important terms:
○ France regained the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.
○ The Rhineland was to be occupied by Allies for 15 years, then
demilitarized.
○ Germany’s colonies in Asia and Africa were handed over to
Britian, France, and Japan.
○ Germany’s army would be limited to a 100,000 force; no tanks,
no heavy artillery.
○ German navy would have only six warship, no submarines, no
military air force.
○ Germany would pay $5 billion in cash immediately, $33 billion
total.
○ A “war guilt” clause implicitly blamed the Central Powers
(including Germany) for starting the war.

● These terms became a major grievance for German nationalists, leading
to the rise of extreme right-wing parties, including the
Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the Nazi party.
2.The Age of Dictatorship
2.1 The Treaty of Versailles
We are looking at the second lesson today, which is going to cover the aftermath of the
conflict that we discussed in the previous lesson World War I. We’re going to talk about a
number of things today, which you can see a kind of quick road map of on the PowerPoint
slide. We’re going to talk about Europe in the 1920s. We’re going to talk about the “Treaty
of Versailles,” which resulted from World War I. We’re going to talk about some of the
problems with the treaty and attempts at revising it in the 1920s, and we’re going to talk
about the impact of the “Depression” on European nations in the late 1920s or early 1930s.
One of the consequences of these events was, of course, the rise of a number of
dictatorships, and we’re going to talking about those in a subsequent video. So just to
refresh everyone’s memory, when we left off last time we were talking about the end of
World War I, and one of the things that came about was what’s known as the “Paris Peace
Conference,” which resulted in the “Treaty of Versailles.” What you see pictures in the
photograph before you are four leaders who participated in this conference. The most
important were known as the “big Three,” and you see the British Prime Minister Lloyd
George [assumed spelling], the American President Woodrow Wilson, and the French Prime
Minister Georges Clemenceau. And these three men had very different visions for what was
going to be achieved at the conference, and President Wilson was probably the most
idealistic of the big three. He came over to Europe with what is known as the “Fourteen
Points,” and this was a very sort of lenient vision of what the peace would be. And it was a
vision that clashed with that of Georges Clemenceau, who was the French Prime Minister
who took a much more punitive view of how Germany should be treated, partly because of
historical experience. As I mentioned last time, Germany had invaded France in the 1870s,
had fought a war, which France had lost, and in the process Germany had acquired some
territory that had belonged to France, the Provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. And so this
experience of a history of hostility between France and Germany made the French Prime
Minister more inclined to want to restrict the Germans economic recovery, the possibility of
another German invasion through rearmament, and so forth. Wilson had a much different
view partly because he had–one thing we should remember is that the United States did not
come into World War I until rather late, and beyond that you know Wilson had not
experienced the tremendous bloodshed, or he had not seen it firsthand. In fact when he
came to visit Europe he refused to go to the battlefield, which was something that the other
leaders wanted him to do in order to perhaps persuade him to take a more united position
toward Germany. And so from the point of view of the European leaders, you know wars
usually ended in some kind of–there was always going to be something gained by the victor.
Wilson had a different point of view. He thought that in fact the tremendous bloodshed in
World War I was proof that this system was not going to work. That it would just set off a
set of endless conflicts, territory being gained, being lost, and so his idea was that this war
should be the end–the war to end all wars, which obviously it was not, but his thought, was
very different from that of his European colleagues. The British occupied a kind of middle
position were George felt that, of course, you know the British enjoyed their splendid
isolation, you know being on an island, and perhaps less vulnerable to a German attack than
the French were. And so, and they were probably more inclined to want to see a German
economic recovery. The ultimate outcome of the “Treaty of Versailles” was somewhere
probably in-between what Clemenceau wanted, and what Wilson wanted; probably leaning
toward the more punitive terms that Clemenceau had in mind. However, Wilson was
successful in some regards, he actually discussed this–he brought up this idea of creating a
world body that would adjudicate future conflicts and disputes between nations in an effort
to avoid war, and this was known as the “League of Nations.” It was kind of a fore runner of
today’s United Nations. But the–and he had a number of other ideas in his fourteen points,
most of which were not actually adopted. So looking at the terms of the “Treaty of
Versailles,” and you will be able to find this outside the video box in the lesson, these were
some of the most important terms. First, France regained Alsace and Lorraine, which it had
lost in the Franc0-Prussian War of the 1870s. The Rhineland, that region in western
Germany was going to be occupied by the allies for 15 years, and demilitarized. Germany’s
colonies in Asia and Africa were handed over to Britain, France, and Japan under “League of
Nations” mandates. That meant that they were technically administered by these nations on
behalf of the “League of Nations.” In practice, the simple became–they were just colonies
handed over to Britain, and France, and a few in the Pacific were handed over to Japan.
Germany’s army was very much limited. There would only be 100,000 soldiers, there would
be no tanks, no heavy artillery. The–German’s navy would have to be limited to six
warships, no submarines, no military air force. It’s the–any ships in excess of that that it had
in its navy went to Britain, and they would have to pay–they would have to write a big
check, $5 billion immediately that would go toward war reparations, $33 billion total in
time. This was, of course, something which evoked protest not only among German’s who
you know had been devastated by the war economically just as much as the allies had been,
but it also–it prompted skepticism among certain economists including John Maynard
Keynes a very prominent British economist who pointed out that there was no way that
Germany would ever be able to pay off this debt, and that it was, in fact, counterproductive
because it would, in fact, create economic turmoil that might prompt another conflict, and
Germany would almost certainly, he’d pointed out very presciently, try to evade the terms
of the “Treaty of Versailles” if that figure was so high. Nevertheless, it stood. The European
powers were in a punitive mood following this very costly conflict and were not moved by
Keynes arguments; at least not at first. In addition there was a “war guilt” clause, which
implicitly blamed the Central Powers 9including Germany) for starting the war. And finally,
another of the most important terms, Anschluss, which means union in German, was
forbidden. What this meant was that Germany could not unite with Austria. Remember that
several European empires were basically dissolved through the conflict, including the
Ottoman Empire, which was already disintegrating, the Austria-Hungary, in which a number
of Balkan states gained their independence. And of course, the territory that had belonged
to Imperial Russia in which was seeded to Germany in the waning years of the war, but
which Germany then was forced to seed at the end of the war; these nations became
Poland, and the Baltic Nations, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Okay, so one of the ironies of
the “Treaty of Versailles,” and the League of Nations, which had come out a bit, was that
although it was many of–part of it was–came from Wilson’s inspiration; he was the major
proponent of the League of Nations. However, the United States never actually ratified the
treaty, or rather never joined the League of Nations, and that was in part because of a kind
of political shift, which took place within Congress, basically Wilson who was ailing, his
health was ailing at this point, was–he returned and he was unable to get Congress to ratify
the Treaty. So the United States actually did not belong to the League of Nations, and that is
a fact that this contemporary cartoon here, which shows some of the most important
members of the League of Nations, Belgium, France, England, and Italy, as participating in it.
Basically the cartoonist here is perhaps suggesting that if the keystone of the United States
isn’t part of the bridge, then the bridge is not going to stand. And you know whether–we
can debate whether, in fact, the U.S. participation would have made a difference in the
outcome of the League of Nations, but ultimately you know we can’t really know. But, of
course, another nation–important nation here is missing, and that is Germany. Germany
was not invited to join the League of Nations, and so this became–although Germany did
join the League of Nations later when there was a kind of effort, a diplomatic effort, to bring
Germany back within the European fold; in the 1920s it only left again. It left again when–as
Hitler rose to power. So just to take a look at an image, which you may have seen before,
this was the outcome, the actual outcome was–and if you follow the mouse here you can
see that the Rhineland was demilitarized. These areas, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, etcetera
were carved out of former Austria-Hungarian territory. Poland, much of its region had been,
as well as the countries that you see to the north of it had belonged to Russia, and they
became independent as a result of the war. And many of the nations that–or many of the
territories that had belonged to the Ottoman Empire became–including areas in the Middle
East, as well as Southeastern Europe, either gained their independence or became
mandates administered through the League of Nations, essentially becoming British and
French colonies.
2.2 Resentment of Versailles
OK. I don’t expect you to know all of these treaties but this is just to give you a sense that
there was not a comprehensive sinkable treaty that reads through the lines of the map of
Europe. It said there were a number of treaties that pieced together this new map and these
include the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which was the treaty that in which a Russia, which was in
turmoil by the end of the war, granted Baltic States to Germany. And then when Germany
lost these Baltic States became independent. You have the Treaty of Saint Germain-en-Laye,
which dissolves Austria-Hungary. You have the Treaty of Trianon, which carved out
Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary from the former Austrian Hungarian Empire.
The Treaty of Rapallo, which came a few years after the war. And this was when Germany
and this new state of the Soviet Union began to renounce territorial claims on each other.
This was an action which provoked the German Right, most German nationalists felt that
they had won the Russian territory fair and square, and that they– even though they had
you know perhaps lost in the West, although not as dramatically as might have made the
outcome of the concept clearer. Germany felt– many right-wing Germans felt that they still
should have territory in the Soviet Union. And in fact, or that had belonged. And indeed
there was a kind of you know the right-wing of course detested bolshevism, which was a
left-wing movement of course. And so you know many of the politicians in the Weimar
Republic who signed this treaty became targets for the right-wing and in fact one of the
most important was Walther Rathenau, a Jewish politician was assassinated by some of the
extreme by-wing parties in Germany for having made– for having signed this Treaty of
Rapallo. Next we have the pact of Locarno. This is established western European borders.
And it was a kind of optimistic moment because it was a treaty that– in which Germany
took place– took part in designing unlike the Treaty of Versailles, and basically these nations
in Western Europe said “OK. The way the borders are now are how they should be.” And so,
I say it’s an optimistic moment because there was a sense of greater sense of consensus in
the diplomatic community about what Europe should look like. And so a lot of people felt
this was going to become sort of lasting, a lasting peace would come out of this pact. One of
the problems of course was that the Germany was having trouble paying off reparations and
this resulted in as I think I mentioned last time the crisis in the rural region, which was–
these were– this was a very sort of coal rich region which had very productive mines which
the French got to administer as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. And so one thing that
happened was that basically as Germans felt that they could not as Germans– Germany was
unable to pay reparations the French came and occupied the mines. German workers struck.
They refused to work and basically the French were forced to withdraw, the– without
having gained much. So there were numerous attempts over the course of the 1920’s and
early 1930’s to re-negotiate Germany’s debt and Europe’s debt as a whole. And so the
Kellog-Briand Pact was one of these. And one of the terms of it however was that was that
in exchange for alleviating some of the debt the European nations owed, you know either
Germany to the other victors of World War I, or to the United States, war was going to be
renounced as an instrument. There would be no future war– war would not be used in this
fashion. Now Wilson was dead at this point but this was a — you know we can imagine him
smiling at this. This was sort of a positive note suggesting that perhaps World War I was
indeed the war to end all wars. But this was not to last for long. OK. So just to get a visual
picture of what we just discussed, you’ve already seen this imagine. This shows you the
different maps that you can see of Europe in 1914 and 1919. A lot of new territories were
born. One of the things that happened as a result of the treaties that were signed at the end
of World War I was that Germany became– it lost some territory. If you look over here, this
becomes Poland. But then part of this area East Prussia, which was part of Germany before,
probably because Prussia is kind of a synonym for Germany is– was actually cut off from
Germany. So Poland actually if you look when it reaches the Baltic Sea it cut off East Prussia
from Germany. And this became a kind of sticking point and it became a sort of impetus for
this notion that we’re going to talk about in more depth of Lebensraum. This notion that
basically the German states should be enlarged in order to accommodate its people. So we
will talk about that more. And this is just to show you the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk when
Imperial Russian seeded some of these territories. You see this new area here you have the
Ukraine, you have Estonia, and Lithuania, and Latvia, and there’s a new border drawn. OK?
And so these new nations are coming into existence. And finally, there were some small
changes to I guess you might say what is it this sort of central European map. And you see
some Austria gained some territory in fact and Hungary lost this area became
Czechoslovakia. They lost territory which was awarded to Romania and so forth. OK. So just
to conclude this video we’re going to– before we start talking about the rise of dictatorships
in Europe, it’s worth you know thinking– it’s worth remembering that despite what was
coming ahead, many Europeans felt probably quite optimistic in 1928, before the Great
Depression. They felt that you know as a result of these new treaties there renunciation of
war as an instrument of dispute, the emergence of the League of Nations, which by that
point Germany had entered the– and the willingness of the American Financial community
to revise some of the terms of the debt in order to kind of ease conflict over the reparations
in Europe. All of these developments had created a sense that perhaps Europe had settled
World War I. Of course many people did not feel that way. Many German nationalist. Many
particularly Germans on the right-wing did not feel that way. And there were still active
movements of course on the left that you know you know continued to point out the
inequality of the classes and were you know calling for strikes and labor action and so this–
there was sort of a simmering conflict I guess you might say in places like Germany between
the left-wing and the right-wing that would really come out into the fore once the
depression hit and exasperated. The economic situation which you know had to begun to
recover and contributed to this kind of political turmoil between left and right among
European nations. So we will talk about that more when we look at the next video.
2.3 Bolshevism and Stalinism
You have just heard about the diplomatic developments that resulted from the end of
World War I in the Treaty of Versailles, and so I’d like to talk, in this video, about some of
the internal processes which took place in the nations of Europe, politically speaking. The
rise of the number of dictatorships that occurred, and so just to give you a quick summation
of the points in the last video, we see that basically, the League of Nations, when the U.S.
failed to ratify the treaty, what happened was, in fact, that nations which were around
Germany began to look toward each other for support. So France formed defensive alliances
with Belgium, with Poland, with Czechoslovakia, and these all would prove important when
World War II occurred for reasons that are, you know, after knowing a little bit about the
history of the start of World War I, where diplomatic agreements led nations into the war,
one after another, because they, you know, were coming to the aid of their allies.
Something similar, a system of defensive alliances in Europe was being reconstructed, partly
in lieu of, because of the U.S. not entering into the Treaty of Versailles. Okay, so we’re going
to talk about dictatorships. Some of these dictatorships emerged before The Great
Depression. Some emerged, arguably, as a result of it, but one thing to keep in mind is that,
you know, some of the class conflict that was brought to the fore as a result of The
Depression already existed. A lot of it, in fact, existed. So, and particularly, probably the
most egregious example of inequality was Imperial Russia, which was a nation that, it
differed from many European nations, in that it existed in a kind of feudal state. It was still
largely agricultural, almost overwhelmingly agricultural. Industry was very poorly developed
in Russia before World War I, and the land was really in the hand of these small class of
landowners, and there were serfs attached to the land in a very kind of medieval fashion,
and so when the war broke out in World War I, it began to devastate the economies of
Europe and also of Russia. Russia was probably one of the hardest hit, and you began to
have famine. You began to have riots, and so the Bolsheviks came to power promising a
number of things but promising land, promising bread, and promising peace, so they would
keep Russians out of the fighting. They would redistribute land to the serfs who were the
agricultural engine of the country but were impoverished and owned nothing, and it would
ensure that people were fed. Okay, so in the process of the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia
broke out into civil war between The Whites and The Reds. The Whites, being allied more
with the imperial system that had been lost and The Reds, of course, being the Bolsheviks.
In fighting this war, the Bolsheviks were forced, and at this time, Vladimir Lenin was still
alive and the head of the Bolshevik Party, and he decided that it would be necessary to
resort to what was known as war communism, which meant basically that grain, livestock,
other commodities, would be requisitioned, in other words, taken from the peasantry in
order to fight the war, and this would end when the war was over, and so this would,
although it would probably aggravate the problems in Russia, it would allow Russia to end
its civil, but, in fact, it proved quite unpopular, and Lenin was, in fact, forced to start
introducing certain market reforms, including creating an open market for peasants on a
temporary basis. This was called The New Economic Policy. These are not things you
particularly need to know, but it’s an explanation of, you know, we have to keep in mind
that the rise of Joseph Stalin, who would become a much more dictatorial figure, or a much
more, sort of, controversial figure in 20th Century history, was partly a result of the speed
with which the Bolsheviks attempted to modernize this very feudal economy in Russia. Lenin
died in 1924. He was succeeded by Stalin, who many of you probably already know about.
Stalin was a very, kind of, Machiavellian, ruthless, and smart in political terms, leader. Stalin
abolished private ownership, collectivized farms. His idea was basically that he really wanted
to industrialize The Soviet Union in a hurry, but there were a number of peasants, kulaks,
who had been made rich under The New Economic Policy, and they revolted against this,
and Stalin sent The Secret Police after them. So this was sort of the start of a kind of a new
policy of repression in the Soviet Union. About 10 million people or so died as a result of
collectivization, and Stalin also purged about 800,000 enemies within the party itself. You
know, Stalin literally means iron. So he ruled with an iron fist. But that’s it. He also
accomplished some things for the Soviet Union. He promoted industrialization. He improved
conditions for peasants, and he critically shaped the Soviet Union’s role in World War II. In
effect, making it possible for the war to be won by the allies. So, you know, when we look at
Stalin’s dictatorship, you know, I think we have to put it in the context of the problems that
existed in Imperial Russia and, you know, we might say that probably for many, many
Russians peasants, life actually improved under Stalin and under his collectivization policies,
but many people were also ruthlessly purged and murdered under his dictatorship, and
that’s why, you know, I say that there’s a very sort of controversial legacy of Stalin. Okay, so
while you had a left-wing dictatorship emerge in the Soviet Union, you had something quite
different happen in a number of other nations, including in Spain and Italy and Germany, as
we’ll discuss. When the Bolshevik revolution succeeded, this deeply frightened people on
the right, including monarchists, people who believed in preserving the monarchy, which
was the traditional political system in a number of European nations. Well, all of them
actually. And it disturbed a lot of right-wing nationalists and those of a more imperialist
bend. Those, in other words, who felt that the nation should exist as a kind of militarized
entity. So there were very deep ideological divides among these dictatorships. Even if they
were repressive, they had very different politics.
2.4 The Nazi Party
And so Mussolini became an example, for Hitler. Mussolini had achieved his fascist
revolution, although it was actually, it had occurred, again, by legal means, Hitler looked at
Mussolini’s success in the 1920’s and he was inspired by him. Okay, so, to say a few words
about Hitler, Hitler was a veteran of World War 1 and as I mentioned before, you know,
Germany had a kind of, a lot of German citizens did not appreciate the extent of the
destruction which took place in World War 1. German industry was largely untouched,
because the fighting had gone on in France and Belgium, away from German industry, and
the, you know, in the 1920’s, the German economy had begun to recover; by the late
1920’s, that is. The problem was that Germany was politically speaking, domestically, in a
state of turmoil. Germans were quite aware that they were vulnerable to attack because
they had a very weak military, so they were vulnerable to attack from France and Poland,
and this was exacerbated by again, that alliance that France struck with Poland, in 1921.
Germans also felt a sense of humiliation. And so, when they looked at the Treaty of
Versailles, they had a choice, basically between defying the treaty and fulfilling it. You know,
the West had the choice of maintaining the treaty or revising it and easing conditions. In
other words, allowing Germans to pay less, in terms of reparations, to grow stronger
militarily, and in other words, giving Germans incentive to keep complying with the Treaty
of Versailles, rather than simply defy it entirely. So, in 1919, the Weimar Republic, which
was the democratic federal republic, not unlike that of the United States was founded,
through national constitution. But there was much of the same kind of, there was much of
the same inner turmoil in Germany that you found in other nations, probably worse in fact.
Where you had a very kind of radical political divide among the left and the right. You had
different visions for what the state should do. There was a Communist party, in Germany on
the far left, believing that the state should serve the workers. This is, we can contrast this
with a kind of fascist vision in which individuals are all serving the state, ultimately. Then you
had sort of, moving from the hard left toward the center, you had Social Democrats. They
wanted to see some of the class problems, these conflicts between rich and poor resolved
gradually, through transition from private, to what they called social ownership. And then
moving even more to the center, you have People’s Party, or moving to the right in fact, you
have the People’s Party, which was a kind of businessman’s party, which was primarily
interested in economic recovery. It was opposed to democracy originally, but by the end of
the 1920’s, it began to transition toward democracy. It moved, this People’s Party moved
from center right to center. And then you had a Nationalist party which was very right wing,
very pro-military. It wanted to reverse the verdict of 1918. It wanted to, you know, it
probably had more resentment than the other German parties. And then even farther to the
right, than the Nationalist Party was, was the Nazi party which emerged in the 1920’s. It was
extremely anti-Bolshevist. It was extremely nationalistic and had a kind of, a belief that the
nation was sacred, that the nation was the most important entity, political entity and
therefore, disagreed strongly with the socialists and Communists who felt that you know,
basically the working class were the most important. So, this produced a number of
disputes. As I mentioned, in 1922, Walter Rathenau who was the Weimar Foreign Minister,
he had signed a treaty, the Treaty of Rapallo, with the Soviet Union, and it, basically they
renounced territorial and economic claims on each other. He was assassinated. Hitler, in
1923, led something called the Beer Hall Putsch. This was a year after the assassination of
the left wing, well he was more of a liberal Democrat, actually. This assassination of Walter
Rathenau by the right wing, in 1923, the Beer Hall Putsch occurred. Putsch is basically kind
of a coup d’etat. A league of nationalist parties on the right wing, who were led by a Nazi
party leader by the name of Adolf Hitler, attempted to seize power in Munich. It’s called the
Beer Hall Putsch because the plan for it was hatched at a beer hall. These were sort of larger
than, these are large halls. You know, don’t think of a bar, so much as like a kind of an
auditorium or gymnasium type size place. That they declared they were going to seize
power in Munich, and capital of Bavaria and basically take control of the Bavarian state,
because they were dissatisfied with the more leftist policies of the government, of the
federal government, so forth. This event, the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch did not succeed. The,
Hitler and the others who participated in it were defeated in attempting to stage this coup,
and Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison. He was only, he was released after only
nine months; so he didn’t serve out his sentence and in fact, what happened, the
consequence of this Beer Hall Putsch were a couple of things. While he was in prison, he
wrote a book called “Mein Kampf,” which was demanding something called “Lebensraum”
for Germany, living room, literally, for Germany, by taking land in Eastern Europe and in the
Soviet Union, through which Germans could, by taking this land, and making it productive,
Hitler argued, Germans could both fulfil their national destiny and find a way out of the
economic straight jacket that they had been put into by the Treaty of Versailles and by the
depression. The Beer Hall Putsch also made Hitler a kind of national celebrity. Or made him,
you know, I mean, many people did not like him, so we could say it made him infamous, as
much as it made him famous. But it made him recognizable to Germans. And that actually
assisted him in his political future. Another thing that the Beer Hall Putsch did was that it
showed the importance of winning over the broader population. It had failed because,
because basically you could not simply have a very kind of conservative party, a very small
group of very devoted followers was not capable of staging a coup. You needed popular
support for the coup. Or at least you needed a population that would be sufficiently
intimidated not to oppose the coup. And that didn’t exist in 1923, and so the Beer Hall
Putsch did not succeed. So after the 1923, Nazis shifted to starting, they tried to win
elections. They did not prove particularly successful at this, but this is what occupied them
for much of the 1920’s.
2.5 Hitler’s Rise
Then sort of moving on to the next event that brought Hitler to power in 1929 we have
the–the Depression–Great Depression which breaks out. It’s starting in the United States
but it quickly spreads to Europe. And it’s particularly hard felt in Germany because we have
to remember that–that private–private investors were–had given loans to Germany. And as
soon as those private investors who were–were predominantly American, as soon as they
felt the effects of the Great Depression they–they began to–they didn’t want to extend
credit anymore. They–and as a result, German production declined, businesses failed and
unemployment skyrocketed in Germany. So, because–because Germany in other words had
been weakened, and put under these–under the economic conditions of the Treaty of
Versailles, when the Great Depression happened it probably effected Germany worse
than–than many other European nations, and it exacerbated that simmering resentment
that had existed since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. So, as Germany plunged into
economic chaos, after starting the Great Depression, German labor unions wanted
unemployment assistance. But, the business leaders refused. And so, you–you had–in
Germany you had a–a chancellor and you had a president. These are two different roles.
And so, the–the president who was quite old at this point, his name is Paul von Hindenburg.
Hindenburg the–the–the ill-fated zeppelin was named after him, in fact. He appointed
Herman Bruning, who was a monarchist to become chancellor. It was the job of the
president to–to–to determine who was the chancellor. The chancellor, in turn, was kind of
like a prime minister figure who would–would oversee the–the–the Reichs–the Reichstag.
The German parliament. Bruning was–wanted to appease both sides. Both–both the left
wing, the communists on the left wing and the Nazis on the–on the right wing. And, but in
the end he–he found this difficult. He resigned in May 1932 and he was replaced by Franz
von Papen. Okay. In–von Papen was probably more sympathetic to the right. He–he didn’t
necessarily–he didn’t like Hitler, perhaps, but he attempted to lure in the Nazis–the Nazis
into German government. And he failed in doing so. So that year, when parliamentary
election was called, the–in other words, to determine, you know, which–which party would
get the most seats in the German parliament, and–and thus be able to, you know, thus
determine who the chancellor would be, the Nazis seized on this as an opportunity to–to try
to intimidate the population and–and–and basically intimidate communists, intimidate
socialists, social democrats, everyone on the left in order to–in order to win a larger
percentage of the vote. Basically intimidate them out of–out of participating in this process.
The Nazis–it was–it was somewhat successful. This–this–these attacks, incidentally, were
connected by the people I mentioned before. The Brownshirts. This Sturmabteilung, which
we usually called the SA. It’s easier to pronounce. Sometimes we call it Storm Troopers. And
they–they created a lot of havoc and this helped the Nazis do much better in the election.
The Nazis won thirty-seven percent of the vote. This is, of course, short of the majority. But
it made them the largest party. The same year Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor. This
is–this is what comes with–with winning an election. Being the–the–the largest party.
Hindenburg believed that he could control Hitler. You know, Hitler was–Hitler was, in his
view, a kind of rabid fanatic, but not very politically savvy. This was actually probably not the
case. Hitler was smart enough to attempt to–to–to pursue a kind of two pronged strategy in
bringing his party to power. The one–the one prong, of course, was participating in
elections, as I said, after the Beer Hall Putsch. The other was to use the sort of street
violence tactics to–to–to intimidate his opponents on the–on the left. So, in 1933 another
major event occurs, which is–which is that the Reichstag, this –this building in Berlin where
the seat of government is, the parliament is. In February of 1933 it–it burned. The Nazis
blame this on the communists. And they used it as an excuse to–to clamp down on the
Nazis. Or, I’m sorry, to clamp down on–on–on the communists. SA troopers, these Storm
Troopers, they surrounded the Reichstag on the day that–that parliament was meant to
vote on a bill. Which was called The Enabling Act. And basically what The Enabling Act was
was a bill that would allow the chancellor to enact laws without the Reichstag. So, it’s a bit
like the presidents being able to pass laws without having to go to the legislature to–to vote
on them. Hitler, of course, was chancellor and this was–this was, you know, a clear
opportunity for Hitler to make a grab at power. Okay. And The Enabling Act,
because–because, in part of the success of the–this–these Storm Troopers in intimidating
the population, The Enabling Act was passed, Hitler becomes chancellor. After this he began
making decrees. He–he brought he state government under his control. He established the
Gestapo, which was a kind of secret police. He merged all the labor unions into a single
union, and he denied them the rights to collectively bargain and strike. He was–he was
basically going to put–put an end he felt to–to socialism and communism within Germany,
and by–by essentially preventing workers from–from striking. And bargaining. He did a
number of other things . He rewrote the educational curriculum, glorifying the nation, giving
a narrative of–of World War I in which Germany had been the–had been mistreated.
And–and this, of course, was–was quite important in terms of producing, in a few years’
time, a group of, you know, young ideologically… Ideologically… Well, basically
creating–creating ideologically committed… Nazi youth. One of the ways to is he also
merged a number of youth groups. Youth groups have always been quite popular in
Germany for some reason. He merged them into the Hitler Youth. He also established
concentration camps for his political opponents. These concentration camps did not initial
exist for–for Jews, but–but rather for–for Hitler’s enemies. So, you know, largely the first
people who went into these camps were actually Bolsheviks. Communists, German–German
communists were the–were the–were the first. Many of them were–were Jewish ,and
gradually it–it morphed into these–these concentration camps which–which began as
places for interning the left wing, became places for interning Jews. Okay. So, moving ahead
to the next year. 1934. In 1934 Hitler purged the leadership of the SA. So this was–these
were the–the Storm Troopers, or the Brownshirts helped bring Hitler to power, but they
were also a powerful entity in their own right, which–which Hitler began to fear could
challenge his authority over the Nazi party. And so something called the Night of the Long
Knives occurred where–where the leadership of the SA was–was murdered. This included
his–his major rival, one of the early Nazi party members, Ernst Rohm. And–and this really
sort of consolidated Hitler’s total authority over the Nazi party. That same year President
Hindenburg died. And this allowed Hitler to combine the offices of president and chancellor.
So in 1934 he essentially, not only, I mean he–he already has total control over the state as
chancellor. Now–now that he is president he can keep reappointing himself, as it were,
indefinitely and–and he can rule for–for life. And so, at this point he–Adolf Hitler really is
the German state. He also replaced the SA, the Brownshirts, with the SS, at this point which
was a kind of a defense corps, and he allowed them to form combat troops. And one of
his–his colleagues, Heinrich Himmler, who is head of the SS took control of the Gestapo.
Okay. So, we’re going to talk a bit next time about the nature of Nazi ideology,
the–the–what it–what it sought to achieve for Germany, what its political vision was, but
this is just a–this video, you know, we should be thinking about the–the–the kind of
situation that itself provoked the rise of fascism. And that, again, is just to recap, it’s these,
in the case of Germany, it’s that World War I produces a lot of resentment in its resolution
for Germans. It–it creates a kind of republic, but–but one that is very politically fractured
between left and right, where the–the left is sort of moving to–to reduce economic
inequality. Either through revolution or through more gradual means. And the right wing
sees–sees the left wing as a threat to the nation, and–and begins to embrace a kind of
fascist politics. The Depression breaks out in 1929. It exacerbates some of these conflicts,
and–and in the case of Germany, as in the case of Spain and–and Italy in the 1920’s, the
right wing prevails and–and uses the kind of turmoil within the country as a kind of pretext
for establishing an extreme right wing dictatorship. And–and sees itself as being kind of
the–the–as–as the enemy of the Soviet Union and–and–and the Bolsheviks who had taken
power there at the end of World War I. So, again, economic social turmoil in–in Europe
produces by the 1930’s these–these dictatorships, these right wing dictatorships,
which–which come to power. They had–and they had a political agenda which we’re going
to talk about next time, but, just to sort of, you know, recap Versailles, the Great
Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, these are all factors in the emergence of these
dictatorships.
2.6 The Nuremberg Laws
So, many of his ideas were proposed at what were known as the Nuremberg Rallies. These
were annual rallies that attracted a huge number– growing crowds of right-wing Germans
and they were held in the city of Nuremberg, which was sort of the spiritual home of the
Nazi party. It would also become the place where after the war many of the heads of that
party were put on trial as a sort of– it was a sort of a symbolic retribution for what the Nazis
had done. OK. So, I mentioned these racial laws, the Nuremberg laws did a number of
things. They prohibited– and this is starting in 1935, these laws were introduced at one of
these– the Nuremberg Rallies that I just mentioned. Jews were not allowed to marry or
have sexual relations with Aryans. Jews had their citizenship stripped away and the Jews, if
you can make out the various columns in this chart, you can see that there are different
classifications of Jews. The one on the left says of German blood and then it’s crossbreed
second degree, crossbreed first degree Jew. And so this is basically if you had three Jewish
grandparents, then you were a full Jew on the right or if you had four, obviously, and you
were considered a first degree Jew if you had two Jewish grandparents, a second degree if
you had one Jewish grandparent and you could only be of German blood if you had none.
And so these racial laws were implemented in order to both control the Jewish population,
prevent it from reproducing and also to encourage it to leave Germany. There were– which
in a few years will become an impossibility because at that point the regime will prevent it
from happening. There are, you know, a number of other persecutorian [phonetic] laws,
which we will talk about in a later lecture, it’s worth pointing out that the Jews of course
were not the only population targeted by the Nazis. Among the others were homosexuals,
gypsies, known as the Roma, communists and Slavs. And in fact, communists are really the
initial target of the regime. The concentration camps that we’ll– we’re going to discuss in a
future lecture developed not at first in order to intern Jews, but to intern Bolsheviks and
gradually they kind of– they morphed into something else. OK. So, while Hitler was passing
these laws, he also began rearming and this was in violation of the terms of the Treaty of
Versailles, he began rearming the nation on a more massive scale in 1934. Basically,
Germany had been rearming all along, as I said, it had this secret pact with the Soviet Union
that it had struck in 1921, but what happened was that Hitler accelerated the pace of
rearmament to such a degree in the mid-1930’s that it could no longer be hidden. So, he
understood that it was time to– for him to shift from pursuing this rearmament in secret to
basically say, you know, I’m, you know, Germany is rearming, what are you going to do
about it? So, in 1935 he admitted that Germany had an Air Force. He announced that there
would be conscription of soldiers and that the German Army would be in large to a little
over a half million troops. And of course we know, again, from the Treaty of Versailles that
Germany was only supposed to have 100,000 troops. And so this was a kind of provocation
to the West. It was a calculated provocation. Not just to the West, but to all of Germany’s
neighbors and it was a kind of– it was a calculation that paid off for Hitler because for
several years, nothing was done. There was– there had been so many failures to enforce the
Treaty of Versailles in the past when Germany had flouted it that, you know, Hitler was
probably pretty secure in making the bet that he did and so we’ll talk in the next video
about what the response of Germany’s neighbors was, but the answer is that in the
mid-1930’s it was very little and so it would appear– it appeared to Hitler that he was well
on the way of implementing his plan of creating [inaudible], being able to rearm to the point
where Germany would be able to expand its territory, taking the territory of its neighbors
and expel its– the populations that Hitler and his fellow travelers and the Nazi party did not
want in Germany.
2.7 Conclusion
● The Treaty of Versailles, as well as a number of other treaties, satisfied
few. The treaty would inevitably be revised, but how and when remained
a source of friction among European powers
● Despite the problem of inflation, the 1920s was a period of economic
recovery, but political instability, with highly unstable coalition
governments in Germany and elsewhere
● Beginning in 1929, the Great Depression plunged governments in Europe
into crisis. As aid dried up, production dropped, governments struggled to
form coalitions between workers, many of them socialists, and nationalists,
many of them fascist.
● In Italy, Spain and in Germany, the forces of nationalism prevailed, and
fascists took control of government either by constitutional means or by
terrorism
● In the Soviet Union, totalitarianism emerged under Stalin under the pretext
of advancing the interests of the proletariat
3.The Road to War
3.1 Origins of the Second Sino-Japanese War
We’re going to be talking, in the next series of videos, about the, the next step in the
movement toward war. In the previous videos, we talked about the rise of a number of
dictatorships in Europe. And so now, what I’d like to talk about is how those dictatorships
began to clash with their neighbors. And, I’d also like to take a brief detour at the beginning
of the class, in this first video, to talk about the expansion of Imperial Japan. This was, this is,
this is something that we’re going to be talking about intermittently throughout the class.
We’re going to pay more attention to the specific theater in future classes. But, it’s good to
know a little bit so that we can compare and think a little bit about how, what was
happening in Japan as it moved aggressively in China, how that compares to similar events
in Europe, in particularly with Germany. So, we’re going to talk a little bit, in this class, in this
video, about the background of Japan in the 19th century and in the early 20th century
because the drift toward dictatorship, military dictatorship in the case of Japan, took place
probably much more gradually than in Europe. You know, one saw, in the case of Germany,
the Weimer Republic becoming a military dictatorship under Hitler in a matter of a decade
or so. It took much longer in Japan for this to take place. And, understanding why it took
place and why it was such a long term process requires that we know a little bit about what
the, what Japanese history was in the 19th century and what its relationship, in particular
with China and with the west was. So, just to quickly look at the roadmap, we’re going to
talk in this first video about Japanese Imperialism. And then, we’re going to Europe, we’re
going to talk about Hitler’s plan, why he wanted to take these aggressive steps that lead to
war and what the response of Hitler’s, of what the neighboring countries were in Europe.
And then, we’ll talk about the final steps that lead to the outbreak of war in 1939. So, so in
the mid-19th century, Japan did not look much like it does today. It was a decentralized
Shogunate. The Shogun were basically kind of a warrior class. They were something like
futile lords in that they had sovereignty over their own territories. They’re, so it was a very
decentralized system. You know, sometimes, the popular impression in Japan is that it is a
country that revered its emperor and obeyed its emperor in every detail. But, in fact, 19th
century Japan or prior to the mid-19th century Japan the nation was actually much more of
a decentralized entity. It was dominated, however, by a particular clan called the Tokugawa
Clan. And, you can see the photo of Prince Tokugawa for you. And, this situation might have
continued but for the fact that the West, in particularly the United States, had become more
and more interested in Japan. In the 19th century, China had, which of course lies just to the
west of Japan, had become, you could say, semi-colonized by Western powers. It had,
basically, been forced, through the opium wars, to open itself to trade with the West to
grant extra territorial concessions which would mean that, you know, when a, if a
Westerner were charged with a crime in China, he would have to be treated according to
the laws of his nation. And this, of course, was a factor in the weakening of China in the 19th
century. The Japanese saw this and they worried that the same could happen to them. And
so, for this and for, perhaps, traditional cultural reasons, the Japanese had had been very
fearful and unwilling to engage in diplomatic relations extensively or trade extensively with
the West. It had traded. But, it refused to allow the trade to take place on the terms of the
West and with, you know, powers such as the Dutch, who had been in the Pacific for
centuries, and the British and Americans, you know French, so forth. And so, at one point, in
fact, foreigners were only allowed to step foot in Nagasaki the port city of Nagasaki which,
ironically, would be later destroyed by the west, by an American atomic bomb. And the, and
the reason for this was, of course, this mistrust that the Japanese had of all outsiders
including Westerners and the desire to avoid the same situation of domination that the
Chinese, their Chinese neighbors found themselves under. So, this changed in the 1850s
when Japan was, like China, was forcibly, was forced to sign trade treaties that opened it up
in a greater way to Western trade. This provoked quite a bit of resentment. It resulted in an
anti-foreigner movement. And that, itself, proved to be the undoing of the Shogunate
system. In 1867 you had what was called the Meiji Restoration. This was the restoration of
the imperial system, the authority of the emperor which had, in centuries past, had been
much stronger. That authority was restored.
3.2 Lebensraum
Okay, so now that we’ve had a chance to get ourselves caught up with what was taking
place in the East, in Japan and China and so forth, I’d like to return to Europe and, in
particular, I’d like to talk about what Hitler’s plan was and how that plan actually translated
into war. So, if we think back to what we’ve studied in previous lessons about the grievances
that Germans had after their defeat in World War I and while living under the terms of the
Treaty of Versailles we can see that we can better understand how someone like Hitler
comes to power and what exactly his appeal was. So, the term that helps us understand this
is Lebensraum was not a term that Hitler coined, it had existed since probably, it was
probably coined sometime in the early 20th century and it basically translates as “living
room” and there’s an equivalent in Italian Spazio vitale which means basically the same
thing “living space” and notion is simply that the strength of the nation depends really
greatly on its size and on its population, a large nation territory, with a large territory and a
large population is a powerful nation, a nation that does not have much land, does not have
many people, it’s going to be small. This notion seems to sort of antiquated probably from
our perspective today, if we look at very, very small nations like Singapore that are
economic giants or if we look at, I don’t know, nations like Israel that are very, very that
have powerful militaries. It’s clear that the notion that one needs a large territory and a
large population to be powerful is clearly not necessarily the case, but you know, there was
the example, however, of for instance the United States which had expanded dramatically in
the 19th century and the, and Hitler’s model in many respects was the United States. This
notion of manifest destiny that had been popular in the 19th century United States, the idea
that Americans were destined to take over the territory that had belonged to Native
peoples and other European colonizers in North America and create a united continent from
the Atlantic or the Pacific. Well, Hitler had a similar notion but it was, his vision lay to the
East, it lay in Eastern Europe and it was rooted in part in his view of the racial inferiority of
the people who slaughter people who lived to the East, slaughter Jewish populations of
Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and so his plan was basically to do two things; it was to
increase the size of the nation but also it was to purify it’s population in racial terms. So, this
would involve taking over, first of all, we know that after World War I there were many
nations that, individual nations that had a large German populations or German speaking
populations. Hitler wanted to unite them, so one of his first steps of course was to achieve
Anschluss union with Austria. He wanted to take over the Sudetenland which was an area of
Czechoslovakia that had quite a few of Germans. He wanted to take over the port city of
Danzig which was cut off from Germany by Poland, reunite with East Prussia, these various
areas that have a lot of Germans speaking, German speaking population, ethnic German
population that is, but which were not part of the Germany that was left behind after World
War I and so he, and this, you might ask, you know, how do we know that this was his plan?
Well, he spelled out quite a bit of it in “Mein Kampf” that book that he wrote as I mentioned
in a previous lecture while he was imprisoned after the failed “Beer Hall” Putsch and he
basically laid out a plan for the creation of the New Germany that would be more powerful
and that would be able to, you know, throw off is suppose the humiliations of the, of World
War I and the Treaty of Versailles and allow Germany to take its rightful place in Hitler’s
view as a master nation. Okay, so the specifics of Hitler’s plan, well he recognized first of all
that he would probably have to make war with France if he was going to, if Germany was
going to take over Eastern Europe. If you recall France had a looked after the Treaty of
Versailles to some of its smaller neighbors, you know, nations such as Poland to be, to bring
them into a mutual defensive alliance against future German aggression. So, Hitler realized
that, of course, if he were to invade the East he would have to deal with France which, you
know, remained very suspicious of Germany, very fearful of Germany and so that would be
probably be an inevitable war in Hitler’s view. However, he did not anticipate that there
would be war with England which he thought was, you know, Hitler had a grudging respect
for the British who had done very well with the colonial power and he also had respect, as I
mentioned before, for Mussolini, so he thought that peace with England and Italy would be
the, was what would take place and, but his ultimate objective though was to, was really to
expand into Eastern Europe and into the USSR. And so this poses kind of an interesting
question because one of the first things that happens after the Treaty of Versailles in the
early years in the Weimar Republic is that the Germans establish a secret pact with the USSR
in 1921. Basically, they because Germany faces these restrictions on the size of its military
and, you know, not being allowed to have a military Air Force and so forth, it established a
pact with the USSR to allow it to conduct training there and to use it as a kind of arms
manufacturing base and this was at a time, of course, after the Soviet Revolution when the
Bolsheviks had come to power and the German right wing very much detested, the hated
the Bolsheviks, you know, the Bolsheviks in Hitler’s view, in many right wing German’s view
were responsible for the weakness of Germany that had led to its defeat in World War I and
so the, so there was a kind of a contradiction that, in so far as that this Bolshevik nation
would help Germany rebuild itself, but etiologically it was the enemy of the proponents of
rearming Germany. Okay, so the first part of the plan, as I said, it to take greater territory
including with, including that of the USSR. The second is to purify the German population of
what were known as Untermenschen, which means under humans, subhumans and by
either, this meant by either encouraging their departure or as it developed later or by
exterminating them, by killing them. The idea of, that extermination would be necessary
that what would become known as the final solution was probably not originally part of
Hitler’s plan, but he was intent upon solving what he called [inaudible], the Jewish Question
and so the way he did this was, you know, on the one hand while he was pursuing a kind of
aggressive foreign policy, domestically the, Hitler and the Nazi party began instituting in the
1930s various racial laws that would encourage Jews to leave Germany and therefore purify
the nation or that would result in a confiscation of Jewish property and strengthen the
nation that way and so the.
3.3 Europe’s Response
So we’ve talked in a previous video about the aggressive steps that Hitler had taken in
Germany rearming. We’ve talked about the rise of other dictatorships such as General
Franco’s and Mussolini’s and so what I’d like to talk about in this video is what the western
response was. It was no secret that as I’ve said before that Hitler had designs upon eastern
Europe to create his so-called lebensraum and so one of the questions we’ve to ask is why
there was so little reaction in Europe which basically sat on its hands watching Germany
rearm for most of the second half of the 1930s and so I’m going to sort of go through and
think about this as kind of a list. The first of the major factors is that was basically a fear of
the Soviet Union. A fear of Bolshevism that was shared among both some of the right-wing
dictators who talked about Franco and Mussolini and Hitler but it was also shared in places
such as France and in the Great Britain. These were places that in the middle of the
depression were having a lot of labor unrest of their own and they feared that similar
politicians in these countries particularly on the right and some in the center believed that
there was a possibility of a similar sort of Bolshevik revolution taking place in those nations
and so many of them listened to Hitler’s diatribes against Bolshevism and his aggressive
designs on the Soviet Union with a sense of sympathy I suppose. Part of this was not just the
ideological threat of Bolshevism but in these capitalist or social democratic nations but it
was a mistrust of Stalin because during the 1930s Stalin had proven to be quite the tyrant.
He had conducted very large scale purges including of his own officer corps which would
prove to be something of a disaster for the Red Army when World War II broke out but that
sense of that fear of the Soviet Union basically was one of the things that kept western
Europe sitting on its hands and not intervening earlier than it did. Another major factor
besides this fear of the Soviet Union was and Bolshevism was the lack of coordination and
we’ve already seen that in the 1920s responding to the Euro Crisis in which the French
entered Germany after German failure to keep up its reparation promises and France
basically acted unilaterally. It did not receive any support and so there was not really a great
deal of coordination. You had the League of Nations but the League of Nations had not–it
had proven a more effective body in terms of providing a place for disputes to be arbitrated
than it did for the enforcement of agreements. Okay, so fear of the Soviet Union. We have a
lack of coordination among European nations. There’s also a great deal of passivism after
the bloodshed of World War I. Many nations don’t want to participate in war and basically
stopping Germany from rearming would have probably required some kind of military
intervention and for the British in particular they looked at the United States as being
essential and the United States again had not joined the League of Nations. It had not and
there was definitely a very strong passivist sentiment for reasons that we’ll discuss in a
future lecture. Another factor was The Great Depression so as nations such as France looked
at Germany rearming they contemplated or the possibility of Germany rearming they
contemplated expanding their militaries themselves and certainly they did invest in defense.
The French built a very important defensive structure called the Maginot Line which we’ll be
talking about but generally the dire economic conditions meant that most European powers
were not interested in building their militaries to the point where they would have had easy
victory over Germany. Okay, another factor, there was a certain amount of
misinterpretation I think of Hitler’s intentions. There was a belief that he only wanted to
revise the Treaty of Versailles among the politicians, that he was not planning on expanding
the borders of Germany aggressively, that in other words he only wanted to expand the
military because it was a matter of pride that the Germans like every other nation wanted to
have a significant defensive force and that it would just be used for defense. And so this
proved of course to be wishful thinking but it was another factor in why there was really no
response until the late 1930s to Hitler’s rearmament, Germany’s rearmament. And there
was also in this respect, there was also the western European nations found themselves in a
different position than eastern European nations. You know, Poland for instance they
questioned France’s commitment to the defense of the alliance that they shared. France
was not necessarily going to come to the rescue of Poland should Poland be invaded and so
this was another factor. Another important one and this was one of the factors that led to
the first World War of course as we’ve discussed were these colonial rivalries and basically
these European nations were jostling for control of places in Asia and Africa and so forth and
so they were even though they might have had a common cause in containing Germany
they were competing on so many other fronts that that inhibited their alliances. There was
something called the Stresa Front which was an early attempt to try to contain Germany in
1934. There was a meeting in the city of Stresa between British and Italian and French
politicians and there was going to be basically they were saying you know, let’s cooperate to
in case there are treaty violations in the future but less than a year after the Stresa Front
had met Italy violated this by invading Ethiopia and basically and this was an action that
again, you know the colonial rivalries between these nations–that basically checked
whatever spirit of cooperation there might have been. The other factors, the Soviets have
established an alliance with Czechoslovakia and France in 1935 but they were very weakly
committed to it and the British and the French you know when the Spanish Civil War took
place were also somewhat weakly committed to the Spanish Republicans and while the
Soviets were more committed and so that helped generate a spirit of mistrust among these
western nations of Britain and France and the Soviet Union. So basically the upshot of this is
that the West did very little because it was so disorganized because it lacked the kind of
political will to spend its limited resources on defensive gestures at a time of economic
crisis, a sort of past popular passivist sentiment, people not wanting to go to war and a
general lack of coordination. So these are all factors that we can look to when we think well,
why didn’t these nation come together to oppose German plans to rearm? And a couple of
final questions we might ask conversely, if these European nations were not able to get
together to oppose Germany how is it that Germany and Italy became allied? This is a
particularly interesting question too because according to Nazi racial philosophy the
Laddens, in other words these southern Europeans, Italians were racially inferior. They were
not Aryan but basically the end of the Stresa Front and this cooperation that took place
among fascists in the Spanish Civil War where Mussolini supported the nationalists against
the Republicans that helped create kind of a natural ideological alliance. Mussolini didn’t
really think much of Hitler. Mussolini was, he had achieved success as a dictator in 1920s
and Hitler looked to him as a model but at the same time Mussolini recognized that the
Italian army was quite weak and so he even though he did not like Hitler he sort of
understood that it would be advantageous to create some sort of alliance with the industrial
juggernaut that was Germany. And so in 1939 they would forge something called the Pact of
Steel which would unite the two countries in this military alliance. I’ve talked a bit in a
recent video about Japan. There’s also a kind of I would say not a perfect resemblance
ideologically between imperial Japan and oh, sorry, the 20th century Japan and Japan that
was becoming increasingly militarized and increasingly interested in colonizing China in the
1930s. There’s not a perfect resemblance to fascist Germany but there are quite a lot of
similarities. They shared a common enemy in the Soviet Union. Japan had fought a war with
Russia in the 1905 or so and so they in 1936 they were part of the something called the
Anti-Comintern Pact which forced both Germany and Japan to remain neutral in the event
that there were hostilities and Italy would join this in 1937 and basically you might ask why
is it called the Anti-Comintern Pact? Comintern refers to the International Communist Party
and so even though there was not necessarily a lot of historical connection between
Germany and Japan, a lot of cultural similarity they shared a common rival and that became
part of the reason why end up having a war that brings together these conflicts in the
Europe theatre and the Pacific theatre.
3.4 Anschluss and the Conquest of Czecholovakia
So having discussed some of the reasons that Europe failed to act when Germany began to
rearm in the mid-1930s that is to say publically rearm, it becomes easier to understand the
chain of events that took place in 1937, 1938, 1939. In 1938 Hitler acted upon what was one
of his earliest demands which was to create a union between Austria and Germany and in
his view begin achieving this view of lebensraum in which all Germans would be unified,
united within a single nation. And so he achieved Anschluss in much the same way that he
had engineered his rise to power within Germany, that is through a combination of exertion
of force through political channels but also the organization of street violence which would
help intimidate politicians and intimidate voters from going to the polls and potentially
opposing Hitler’s program. So in 1938 Hitler demanded that Austria’s chancellor appoint
several pro-Nazi politicians to his cabinet. There were quite a number of Austrian politicians
who did not want to enter into a union where Germany and wanted to maintain Austria’s
independence. The chancellor’s response was to hold a referendum in which Austrians
would vote or whether to unify with Germany and his prediction was that most Austrians
would oppose it. Again however Hitler instigated a number of local Nazi demonstrations in
Austria and through these demonstrations he demanded the chancellor’s resignation and in
the place of the chancellor was appointed one of the pro-Nazi politicians whose entry into
Austria’s cabinets Hitler had engineered to be begin with and at this point the chancellor of
Austria declared unification of Germany and Austria and the two nations essentially became
one. So this was another example of a combination of political parliamentary tactics and
also street violence that had helped bring Hitler to power in Germany in the first place. At
this point and this is in March 1938 Hitler began to look to the next step which was to
absorb Czechoslovakia. The way that he accomplished this was that he began to claim that
Sudetenland Germans that is to say Germans who lived in this region that you see on the
map before you in this purple area which had a high concentration of Germans that they
were being abused and that they needed the protection of Germany and so as this
happened European politicians were becoming more and more skeptical about Hitler’s
intentions. The French in particular were highly concerned about the possibility of a German
invasion Czechoslovakia with whom they had, the French had, a military alliance. The
problem was though that after Anschluss the unification of Germany and Austria the French
did not think that they could prevent Germany from invading at least not without help from
the British. Meanwhile the USSR offered its cooperation to France and Britain but both were
suspicion because they realized that for the Soviets to prevent a potential German invasion
of Czechoslovakia would require that the Soviet Union move into territory that was coveted
by Stalin in Poland. So essentially this offer of help was declined and so the approach
instead of European politicians was to counsel Czechoslovakian leaders to give up the
Sudetenland territory to Germany in the interest of preserving what remained of
Czechoslovakia. At the time Britain was under the leadership of Prime Minister Neville
Chamberlain who has taken a lot of abuse in decades after the war for having appeased
German interests but in some ways this criticism of Chamberlain is a bit unfair because
there actually was popular sympathy for what Hitler was attempting to accomplish in the
Sudetenland and a general sense that British interests were not really concerned. It was
thought by many that Hitler only wanted to bring German people under the protection of
Germany. And so Chamberlain was one of those who counselled the Czechs to give
autonomy to the Sudeten Germans in order to appease Hitler. There was a very important
conference that occurred in September of 1938 called the Munich Conference and this is
something that you should know where the leaders of these nations of France and Great
Britain and Italy and Germany got together and they decided well if Hitler is allowed to get
what he wants in the Sudetenland then that will prevent a larger war and resolve the
situation. In fact Hitler had no intention of stopping so after the Sudetenland had been given
independence from Czechoslovakia in March of 1939 this is about six months after the
Munich Conference Hitler began to urge these Slovak extremists to demand independence,
Slovaks living in the eastern part of Czechoslovakia and so it became clear to the leadership
of Czechoslovakia that the country was going to disintegrate having lost an important region
in the west and having an independence movement threatening to disintegrate the eastern
part of the country and so basically between a rock and a hard spot the leadership of
Czechoslovakia, the Czech President accepted that there would be a German protectorate
over the Czech portions of the state, areas known as Bohemia and Moravia which we can
see on this more detailed map of Czechoslovakia and that this would avert a German
invasion. And so as a consequence the Slovaks had an independent state, the Slovak
Republic and in one fell stroke in March of 1939 Czechoslovakia disappeared from the map.
Now the ultimate consequence of this was that European leaders became much more
skeptical of Hitler after this. They had believed that they had averted the crisis at the
Munich Conference of 1938, that they had given Hitler what he demanded and they had
taken him at his word and believed that he would stop with what he had demanded but
after this they were much more skeptical and so when Hitler then turned to Poland as we’ll
discuss in a future video there was a somewhat different attitude among European leaders
and it was that hardening of attitude I think that can really, it really helps us explain why it
was that whereas nothing had been done in Austria and Czechoslovakia to stop German
aggression there was in fact opposition, greater opposition to the invasion of Poland and
that indeed is what plunges Europe into war.
3.5 Conclusion
● Despite liberalizing in the 1920s, a fast modernizing Japan slowly
developed into a dictatorship. By the Great Depression, a growing desire
for resources and markets intensified Japan’s interest in China,
culminating in the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and a far more
widespread occupation in 1937.
● In Europe, Hitler similarly sought Lebensraum (living room) by pursuing
territorial gains and encouraging non-Aryans to leave. His plan also called
for re-armament.
● Britain (and to some extent France) initially pursued a policy of
appeasement, doing little while Germany re-armed on a larger scale
starting in 1934-1935.
● By exerting political and military pressure, Germany created a union
(Anschluss) with Austria (by the invitation of its government), and (without
invitation) occupied and absorbed Czeschoslovakia, eliminating the latter’s
existence.
4.Blitzkreig and Sitzkreig
4.1 The Invasion of Poland
In this next video, I’d like to talk about the next in the movement toward war. We’ve already
discussed the union with Austria that took place during Anschluss and the dismemberment
of Czechoslavakia that took place in the fall of 1938 and the spring of 1939. And now, in this
video, I’d like to talk about the invasion of Poland, which was the true beginning of the war
on September 1st, 1939. So the end of Czechoslavakia produced a change in the attitudes of
many European politicians, with many recognizing that Hitler could not be held to his word.
He had expressed concern about Germans in the Sudetland part of Czechoslavakia and used
as a pretext for pressuring Czechoslavakia. At the Munich Agreement, many leaders
believed or promised that Hitler would be satisfied with the outcome. As Chamberlain, the
Prime Minister of Great Britain put it, he had secured peace in our time, which of course in
hindsight he did not. Well, in March of 1939 the British began to face this fact. And they
reversed their policy, which was to say they promised Military support to the Poles if
German attacked. The French already had an alliance with Poland, which they reaffirmed as
a result of Hitler’s failure to keep his promises in regard to Czechoslavakia. At the same time,
Hitler began to repeat many of the same moves. If we turn to a map of the region, we can
see that there’s an area called Eastern Prussia. East Prussia, I should say, which is up here
right on the Baltic. And you see next to it, Danzig, and you see Poland. This is all known as
the Polish Corridor and it had a large number of Germans living in it, as this had been
Germany territory prior to World War I and the creation of Poland. So Hitler’s claim was that
these Germans should be reabsorbed and protected in a greater Germany, that they were
being abused, and that Germans had a natural right to exist in a contiguous nation. If you’ll
note, East Prussia is actually not adjacent to Germany itself. It was a separate enclave. And
so Hitler used this in his propaganda in order to justify pressuring the Polish for concessions.
This, of course, left the Poles in a state of anxiety. And at this point, the Soviets approached
the Polish Government and offered its support in the event of a German invasion. This, of
course, would require an occupation on the part of Soviet troops and the Poles were
reluctant to do this. Poland had been carved up, or had been created rather, from territory
that had been German and had been Russian prior to World War I. And it was well aware
that both German and Russia had designs upon that territory. So the Poles declined that
offer from the Soviet Union. They would not allow Soviet troops within their borders. At the
same, Stalin feared that the West would strike a separate piece with Germany, that they
would allow German to invade Poland, and then from that point invade the USSR. We have
to remember that the primary ideological enemy of Hitler was Bolshevism. And he had
stated in Mein Kampf that Bolshevism had resulted in the destruction of Germany in World
War I, and it was quite clear that his plans for Levinsrom [assumed spelling] involved taking
territory that was either in Soviet borders or lay at the edge of the Soviet Union. So in
general we could say that there was an atmosphere of distrust in Europe. Germany did not
trust the West. The Soviet Union did not trust the West, nor did it trust Germany. At this
point Hitler, as he realized that at some point Western Europe would become nervous
enough about his actions to oppose him, he looked for allies. He looked for an ally, first of
all, in Italy. And in May of 1939, he and Mussolini signed the so called Pact of Steel. And this
is what created the so called Berlin, Rome access. Japan was initially going to be part of this
pact, but Japan at this time did not want to go along with the attitude of nonaggression that
Hitler had toward the Soviet Union. This attitude was simply rhetorical. It’s very likely that
Hitler planned on invading the Soviet Union all along. Nevertheless, he was able to persuade
Stalin that he did not have any intentions to invade the Soviet Union. And so one of the
puzzling and interesting developments of the war takes place as a result of Stalin’s trust, in
August of 1939. Something sometimes known as the Nazi Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the
Molotov Ribbentrop Pact, so called because Molotov and Ribbentrop were the Foreign
Ministers of the Soviet Union and Germany, respectively. And this pact contained two parts.
One part which was made public and which was known at the time that war broke out, was
that Germany and the Soviet Union pledged not to attack one another. And this is quite
interesting when one considers again that Hitler was, you know, quite ideologically opposed
to Bolshevism, that he had a low opinion of the Soviet Union and of Slavic peoples. And that,
you know, his ultimate plan was in fact to take Soviet territory and to remove this Eastern
European buffer that lay between Germany and the Soviet Union. But nevertheless, the
mistrust between the Soviet Union and the West was also great, you know, particularly as a
result of the fear of Bolshevism among leaders in places like Britain and France. These were
nations, of course, that had a history of labor unrest and had a large contingent of
conservative politicians who were in fact more afraid of the Soviet Union than they were of
Germany. And this is particularly the case in Britain, which regarded Germany as less of a
threat in part because the Germany Navy had been do diminished by the terms of the
Treaty of Versailles. So Hitler, realizing that he was on a confrontation course with the West,
realized that it would be advantageous to fight a one front war, a single front war. And
actually it was Stalin who approached Hitler, or Molotov who approached Ribbentrop in
August of 1939, and suggested that this Nonaggression Pact be signed. And so Hitler,
despite having a long term agenda that involved invading the Soviet Union, agreed to this.
And he had managed to win Stalin’s trust. And Stalin was greatly shocked, in fact, in 1941
when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. There was secret part to this codicil too, which
made it more attractive I think to the leaders of both nations, which was that it carved up
Eastern Europe and Poland, to particular. And it gave one half essentially, or maybe
something like two thirds to Germany and a third to the Soviet Union. And that is what the
slide before you depicts. You can see that the area with this orange color is Eastern Poland.
And you see this area that is a lighter blue is Western Poland. So the pact that Molotov and
Ribbentrop decided upon said basically that when Germany invaded Poland, the Soviet
Union would be able to invade the Eastern half of Poland and they would carve up the
country, as it were. And in addition to that, the Soviet Union would get Finland. It would get
Estonia and Latvia. These were all formerly part of Imperial Russia, but had been lost as a
result of World War I and during the Bolshevic Revolution. And so the result was that when
Germany invaded in September of 1939, the Poles were ready, or least to some extent
prepared for the German invasion. But their plan of defense was not prepared for the
invasion from the East by the Soviets. And it was actually a very short conflict. It was the first
large scale hostility within the war. Czechoslavakia had been invaded and occupied
forcefully, but there had not been resistance. In Poland, that was not the case. So
nevertheless, what took place was a very short battle of a month or so, and partly that had
to do with the state of the Polish Armed Forces. There’s sometimes a myth that the Poles
opposed German tanks with calvary, and this is something of an exaggeration. In fact, the
Poles did have some armor, but what they really lacked was the air strength of the Germans.
If you’ll notice in this chart here, what you can see is that the Polish have 500 combat
aircraft collectively, 200 bombers and 300 fighters in September of 1939. And if we just flip
over to Germany, German aircraft production had ramped up starting really with Hitler’s
push to rearm German in the mid 1930s. So that by in 1939 alone, 4,700 combat aircraft are
produced. And so what happened in Poland next can be described as [inaudible] tactics. This
translate from the German as lightning war. And what it involved was the German Air Force
softening up targets, bombing extensively, catching many of the Polish aircraft on the
ground. Many of them were bunched up together on the air field. So that helped. Most of
them did not make it up into the air. After this aerial assault, there was an invasion of tanks.
Tanks had existed and, of course, had been used in earlier conflicts including World War I.
But they were used in a new way in World War II. Previously they had been disbursed
among the various combat divisions. They had been used alongside infantry generally to
support the infantry. It was the innovation of the German Army, the Wehrmacht, to begin to
group their pansers [assumed spelling], their tanks into concentrated lines. So rather than
attacking a more disbursed area and disbursing the tanks among infantry, the tanks were
lined up so that they would punch through at a single point. And they would make rapid
progress and overwhelm the enemy before the enemy had a chance to mount a response.
4.2 The Winter War and Weserubung
So the most obvious consequence of German invasion of Poland in September 1939 was
that it brought Great Britain and France into the war. It also had a couple of other
consequences though, one of which was that it contributed to a myth of German instability.
The Germans had so successfully overrun Poland that it created the impression or
exacerbated the impression that the Germans had a larger army, a more powerful Air Force
than they actually did. So that is the first sort of secondary consequence. It also gave the
Soviet Union and its leaders an opportunity to further aggrandize its territory, and it did so
in the winter of 1939 in a chapter of the war that’s sometimes overlooked called the Winter
War. And basically what happened was that the USSR invaded on the 30th of November,
and they did so in part because of a historical memory. Finland had been a grand Duchy of
Imperial Russia. It had gained independence however when the Czar, Nicholas the Second,
abdicated in 1917. It had been one of Stalin’s hopes to reconstitute the old Russian Empire.
And so they, the Soviets, also wanted something else, which is that they wanted to get land
to protect Leningrad. So it’s difficult to see on this map, but this is — incidentally this is a
map that was printed in National Geographic in August 1939. It’s a bit ironic because by the
time it had actually come out a few days later much of it has been outdated. Germany had
invaded, and so where is says under Poland that there are 2.5 million under arms waiting for
German invasion. That German invasion had already taken place before this evening got into
National Geographic’s reader’s hands. So in any case, the Soviets had done well, reasonably
well, invading their part of Poland. And so they looked at Finland as an easy target. The
Soviets had three times as many soldiers. They had 30 times the aircraft and 100 times as
many tanks as the Finns. They had just invaded eastern Poland at the cost of only a
thousand men. So they thought it would be quite easy. They also sought to a certain extent
to adopt some of the tactics that had worked so well in Poland for the Germans, the
blitzkrieg tactics. Unfortunately for the Soviets these tactics do not always work. They’re
particularly well-suited to areas that are quickly traversed by mechanized units. Finland,
however, was heavily wooded. It did not have very many paved roads. And so this meant
that pushing tanks through Finland in a blitzkrieg-type fashion was not really much of an
option. And so the Finn’s, despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, did very well
against the Soviets in holding them off. There was a single sniper, and a sniper who was
famous for having chalked up of over more than 500 kills. And in the end the resistance was
such that Finland was able to seed only 10 percent of its territory, and at the same time it
retained its sovereignty. And this began the Russo-Finnish War, which continued throughout
World War Two. This was — this conflict had a larger significance, which was that it
demonstrated to the Germans or at least it left the Germans with the impression, a false
impression perhaps, that the Soviets were weak. They had been held off by the Finn’s, a
small force, for about six months. And so this actually created a sense of confidence on the
part of Hitler that invading the Soviet Union would be feasible. And so in this respect this
somewhat overlooked chapter of the war played an important role in what was to come. So
the next hostilities actually took place in Denmark and Norway in April 1940. You might
wonder what was happening during this time. Great Britain and France had declared war on
Germany in September 1 following Germany’s invasion and — but there had been — not
been any fighting. Instead, something called the phony war was taking place, phony in the
sense that soldiers were sitting, waiting for a war and looking forward to one in fact but no
actual fighting took place on the French border. So instead, Germany invaded Denmark and
Norway. The reason it did this in fact was because Germany had a need for iron ore much of
which was imported. Quite a lot of it came from Sweden. Germany did not in fact invade
Sweden, which technically remained neutral, and though in many ways it was a German ally
during the war. The reason why it invaded Norway and Denmark was to prevent the British
from cutting off the access that the Germans had to that Swedish iron ore. And so the iron
ore was shipped from a port city in Norway called Narvik, which you can see on a map if you
look at it. And so the idea was that if Germany did not take control of this city, then the
British would come take control of the port and that would cut off Germany’s iron supply. So
meanwhile, in Denmark, the invasion was a very, very brief one. It lasted something like six
hours. It didn’t have a whole lot of military significance but it was strategically important for
this German invasion of Norway. And so during those six months after the invasion of
Poland, these were the major conflicts. This winter war in which the Soviet Union invaded
Finland did not do very well, and it boosted German confidence about Hitler’s confidence
about the possibility of a future invasion of the Soviet Union and at the same time the
German occupation of Norway and Denmark which helped secure its position in the North
Sea.
4.3 The Phony War
I would like to talk in this video about the next phase of the war: The Battle of France. That
there was a Battle of France, itself, requires some explanation in fact. It was not a foregone
conclusion that France would go to war. For one thing, France was quite politically divided in
1939 when it declared war following Hitler’s invasion of Germany. It had lost 1.4 million
citizens in World War I and many people were reluctant to repeat that sort of bloodshed.
And so, as a consequence, Hitler, himself, was a bit puzzled when the French and the British
declared war. He did not think — particularly after the inaction of Czechoslovakia and Austria
— that the response would be any different when he invaded Poland. It was. And so why
that is requires a bit of analysis. I think the first factor is that the French were, to some
degree, pulled into the war by the British. The British had, perhaps, less to fear from
Germany. Their traditional military strength had been in the Navy and the German Navy was
still small in comparison with the British Navy, and so the French were somewhat unhappy
when Chamberlain gave the Poles a pledge of support in March of 1939 — before the
German invasion, but after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. The French realized that
the British did not have an army. They had a navy. But it would be an army that would have
to invade Germany if it came to that or defend a German invasion of France. And so, you
know, at this point, the French army was something like five million and the British army
was significantly smaller. It was, actually, less than a million soldiers. And so I think that, you
know, even by 1939, after years of aggressive moves on the part of the German leadership,
many French did not believe that war was necessarily imminent. Beyond that, the French
believed that their defenses were quite adequate to the German threat. They had spent
many years building something called the Maginot Line, which you can see on the slide in
front of you. And this was a system of fortifications that included walls, trenches,
underground roads used to transport troops and armaments and, you know, many other
sort of clever appurtenances in order to prevent the sort of invasion that had taken place
during World War I. So there were many French — probably the dominant group within the
French military believed that if war came, it would resemble World War I in being an
infantry-led invasion that took place over a dispersed region. And in such a case, the
Maginot Line would be very, very effective in preventing Germany from invading, and
deterring German leadership from invading to begin with. So this partly explains the mood
of calm and even exuberance in parts of France during the period between the declaration
of war in September of 1939 and the actual battle that took place in the spring and summer
of 1940. The Maginot Line, as you can see, however, did not stretch all that far. The solid
portion of the red line constitutes the strong fortifications. This is where it was really built.
But it was not actually completed for a number of reasons. One of which was a lack of funds.
We have to remember that it was being built during the Great Depression. And so that was
an impediment to its completion. Beyond that, there was a political problem with Belgium.
World War I had been fought, to great extent, in Belgium. This is what is known as — it’s part
of the Low Countries. It’s a very flat region, and so it’s almost a natural battlefield,
particularly for soldiers on foot. And battles had traditionally taken place there. They had
taken place there in the Napoleonic Wars, in the Frank Oppression Conflict, and in World
War I. So the assumption that many French made was that conflicts that — any conflict that
took place in the future would be taking place in Belgium. So when the construction of the
Maginot Line happened, the Belgians objected to the creation of a system of fortifications
that would leave them outside. So, in a sense, the problem was that the Belgians did not
want the Maginot Line to be on the western side of Belgium, nor did they want the line to
be within Belgium itself, which would help guarantee that any conflict which arose between
Germany and France and Great Britain would take place on Belgium soil. They, furthermore,
did not want the line to be on the eastern Belgian border because that would be seen as a
provocation on the part of Belgium toward Germany. As a result and because of the lack of
funding, as I said before, the line remained quite incomplete. Nevertheless, there was a
great deal of faith in it. In part because there had been a failure to recognize the changing
nature of warfare with the development of mechanized units — faster, more powerful
mechanized units — and also more extensive air forces. So the — you can say that France was
under prepared for the threat in that respect. There was a contingent of French officers,
including Charles Segal, the future leader of France, who saw that war might be different
the next time around and were not as confident in the capacity of the Maginot Line to keep
France safe. But the French military was disorganized. The armed forces were in a state of
competition and so, as a result of this state of disorganization, within French politics and
within the French military, there was no — there was insufficient preparation for the
possibility of a German invasion. So the other thing to keep in mind is if the French had not
had a Maginot Line, they probably would have prepared more for the possibility of an
invasion. On the other hand, if the Czechs believed that the line would work, then the
French would not come to their aid. They probably — they and the Poles — would have been
less likely to strike a defensive alliance with France to begin with and France’s declaration of
war wouldn’t have been necessary. So, kind of summing up, the errors, defensively — the
French army was not — it was not underprepared in technological terms, necessarily. Its
tanks were, arguably, better, but it did have a serious manpower shortage. Not for lack of
people. In fact, France was a large nation. It is a large nation. But it did not have enough
ready soldiers when the right moment came. The French had more planes, but they also
failed to deploy them. Instead, they were scattered across French colonies. This was a
liability which the Germans did not have because the Germans did not have any significant
colonies at this point.
4.4 The Fall of France
So, in other words, the French were mired and defensive — a defensive mindset that had
applied in World War I, but would prove to be obsolete with the blitzkrieg tactics of the
German army during the invasion of France. Now, beyond that, the French made a strategic
miscalculation. They had three plans as of August 1939 to deal with Germans. They thought,
perhaps, that first that they might move into Belgium after Germany invaded Belgium. That
would have shifted the battleground to Belgium and it is possible that if they had pursued
that then the Germans would have been defeated then and there. In their second plan, they
would start a protective line at the lower Belgian border. And that plan, itself, was actually
not implemented. The third plan, which was disastrously implemented and which happened
to align quite advantageously with the German strategy, involved putting motorized
divisions at the North Sea to reinforce the Belgian army. The problem with this was that
these divisions were located too far away from the point at which the Germans actually
broke through at Sedan and were not able to get to where they needed to be in time. So the
result was that between September and May of 1940, there had been very little action. But
when it did come and the Germans invaded near Sedan, the French and their Belgian and
British allies were quickly overrun. Almost immediately, the German forces began to
progress in two directions. One was toward Paris. Another was cutting back along the
Maginot Line to the south. And that’s what you see down here. And then there was also this
push up toward Dunkirk. So at this point, the French and their allies had three choices. They
could keep fighting. They could surrender or they could stage in evacuation. And so they
chose to evacuate. The two major German army groups had become threateningly close.
And so after the French and their allies had moved past what is known as the [Inaudible]
Aisne, which is — there is a river called the [Inaudible]. They found themselves trapped on
either side in this region. And so they began to head for the coast. And what followed is a
sort of an interesting moment because the Germans, at this point, probably could have
caught up with the retreating forces. Why they chose not to is a matter of controversy. Was
it simply caution on the part of the German commanders or was it an effort to spare the
British in hopes of persuading the British to get out of the war. And this is not a question
that has ever been fully resolved. But what ended up happening was that the bulk of the
allied forces made it to Dunkirk, and about 338,000 of them managed to escape. About
two-thirds of those were British and the remainder came from various other nations:
French, Dutch, Belgian and so forth. This gave the British a kind of psychological lift, but it
demoralized the French. And it created a state of animosity. The French leadership had been
panicked, really from the moment that the breakthrough at Sedan had taken place. The
premier, Paul Reynaud, was — he resigned and he was quickly replaced. And in his place was
appointed Marshal Philippe Petain, who was a hero of World War I and he was then, I think,
in his seventies. And he became the leader of France. And this had some fateful
consequences. Some of the French thought that they should go on fighting. And so — one of
whom, of course, was Charles de Gaulle. But instead, Petain chose to pursue an armistice
and he had, you know, many reasons for doing this. One of which was that past experience
had suggested that wars would be short. Obviously World War I was an exception, but his
logic was probably that whatever sort of terms France would have to agree to would be
fairly lenient. And so, you know, a final question that we have to ask here is why, in fact,
[Inaudible] Germany would not accept a Polish state, but it would accept the possibility of
the French maintaining sovereignty. France was occupied by the Germans following the
armistice, the surrender. However, it remained intact as a state. And the price of this, of
course, was an occupation. In fact, the French were forced to reduce their army to a
100,000. This was a symbolic figure that reflected the similar terms being imposed upon
Germany through the Treaty of Versailles. But at the same time, the French empire would
remain under the control of the new French collaborationist government, which would be
located not in Paris, but in Vichy. And furthermore, the French would make some payments
to Germany as long as the war continued. But they did not believe that the war would — the
French did not believe that the war would continue long so they did not expect to have to
pay much. And so this was a deal that the French had — French leadership felt was in their
interest and it was also in the interest, Hitler believed, of his own cause because it would
help persuade the British to surrender if their French allies had done so fairly quickly.
4.5 Conclusion
● Germany owed its military success in Poland and France to blitzkreig, a
military doctrine that advocates using armor and air power to make quick
offensive thrusts instead of waiting for soldiers to advance on foot.
● The French decision to declaration of war had as much to do with their
wish to remain allied with the British as with conviction in the value of their
military alliance with Poland. The French declaration of war caught Hitler
off guard; he did not really anticipate that the French would honor their
alliance with the Polish.
● The French defeat occurred because of both the failure of the Maginot
Line and tactical errors of the French military leaders, stemming both from
a lack of organization among the armed forces and a failure to appreciate
the potential of blitzkreig.
● The terms of the French and German armistice was far more lenient than
that those of the occupation Germany imposed on its eastern neighbors.
To a great extent, France surrendered because its leaders presumed that
the war would be short, and feared that the British would strike a more
favorable peace agreement with Germany first.
5.The Battle of Britain
5.1 Who Was Winston Churchill?
In previous videos we’ve talked about some of the leaders of the access nations. Such as
Mussolini and Hitler. In this video I’d like to talk about one of the most important figures
during the war, in general, but particularly during the battle of Britain. Winston Churchhill,
who became Prime Minister in 1940. So, here, I’d like talk a little bit more about Churchhill
as an individual, his political background, and that is a kind of an interesting window in to
British Politics, and British response to the events of late 1939 and 1940. Churchhill was
born an aristocrat, he served as an officer in a number of places in the British Empire, India,
the Sudan. He served in the second Boer war which was a war essentially fought between
the British and Dutch, at the turn of the twentieth century over control of gold mines in
South Africa. After this, he also served as a war correspondence, and as, or course, as a
politician. In many ways, Churchhill was more of a 19th century style leader, than a 20th
century style leader. In so far as he sincerely believed in British Empire, and that was one of
his major objectives during the war. Is not simply defeating the access, but preserving British
Empire at a time when there were forces of decolonization threatening many of British
colonies. This was an attitude that was probably more conservative and more attuned to the
attitudes of the 19th century than many other politicians had–and a large section of the
British public had as well. So, never the less, you know, many people have argued that
Churchhill was the man of the hour, as it were, in so far as, his firm belief in the–strength of
the British Nation, kept civilian morale, and of course the military morale high. So, he, after
serving as a war correspondent and a politician, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer,
and he, essentially, he made some mistakes during this period that actually put his political
career in jeopardy for several years. He was part of the conservative government’s, that’s
capital C, conservative, this is a British political party, and he returned the pound to its
prewar value, in the 1920’s. This was seen as causing deflation. And, one of the
consequences was that when the great depression hit, in 1928, the Conservative
government in which Churchhill served, was defeated. So, that in the 1930’s, he found
himself out of office and rather unpopular, even within his own party. As I said, he had some
very 19th century attitudes about British Empire, he opposed the movement for the
increasing home rule for India. This was a movement that demanded greater
independence–and self-rule for the India people. And, some of his views, I think we would
characterize as being rather extreme. In hindsight, he supported letting Gandhi die, when
Gandhi went on a hunger strike. In addition to this, he resisted the avocation of Edward the
8th, who was, he wanted to marry an American socialite who had been divorced twice
before. This was seen as a kind of scandalous affair. But, never the less, because of his
strong belief in the traditional, political, and social system of Great Britain, he did not think
that Edward the 8th should be compelled to step down from the thrown. He also supported
abandoning universal suffrage. He wanted to return to the property franchise which
required that you have a certain amount of property to be able to vote. So, these were
stances that even many members of his own Conservative party disavowed. All this is not to
impugn Churchhill’s character. But, it’s to help us understand what his attitudes were with
regard to entering the war against Germany. In some ways he both feared Hitler, but he also
sympathized, at least at certain movements with some Hitler’s aims. He–the main aim that
he sympathized with was the war against Bolshevism. So, he, at one point, declared that this
movement among Jews is not new, but a, as he put it, a worldwide conspiracy for the
overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested
development of envious malevolence and impossible equality. So, some of his racial
attitudes were, you know, bore some similarities to Hitler’s and also his view that
Bolshevism was the most important threat. These views would, I think, would evolve over
time. At a later date Churchhill said that he would have slept with the Devil in order to
defeat Hitler. And, he considered Stalin, himself, to be something of a devil, but he was
willing to ally, at least uneasily, with Stalin in order to defeat Hitler. So, he was a man of
complicated political views and–he played in that sense, an interesting role in the war.
Again, he, at certain points, he praised Mussolini as an anti-communist and he said actually,
before the House of Commons, in 1937, which was after, you know, Hitler’s announcement
of the Germany’s rearmament. He said, “I will not pretend that if I had to choose between
communism and Nazism, I would choose communism.” But, as Hitler made increasingly
aggressive moves, Churchhill began to recognize that the greater threat was indeed Nazism.
So, he’d already supported opposition to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s, he opposed Nazi
rearmament. And, this became his route back to power. He made a speech before the
House of Commons declaring to Chamberlain, that, and this is in the wake of the Munich
agreements, and the failure of Chamberlain to prevent German aggression. He said to
Chamberlain, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor, you chose dishonor,
and you will have war.” And, this indeed, was the case. I think that in hindsight, we have to
be a little bit more fair on Chamberlain than we have been. The, every indication at the
time, was that Germany was much more powerful than it actually proved to be in hindsight.
And, Chamberlain was advised, basically, that the British could not forcibly stop Germany
from conquering Czechoslovakia. So, this explains some of Chamberlains willingness to
appease Hitler at the Munich conference. So, in some, he, Churchill was someone who had a
vision of British strength, that was rooted in the Imperial past and was somewhat of an
archaic politician. But, he also used that vision to help rally the British. He had a very close
relationship with Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt, who, with whom he exchanged more than
1,700 letters, and at the same time, even though these two leaders were the closest allies
during the war, closer than any other, any two other leaders during the war, there was still a
certain degree of mis-trust between them. FDR was suspicious that Churchhill’s main
priority was reconstituting the British Empire, and that at certain points, he was placing that
ahead of the goal of defeating Germany. So, after the British declaration of war with
Germany in September of 1939, Churchhill was restored to a position that he had before,
Lord of the Admiralty, and as a member of the war cabinet. And so, he came to power in
1940, in May. This was after the British were forced to retreat from Norway, and just a few
hours before Germany invaded France, which we’ve already discussed. Chamberlain
resigned. And so, Churchhill was recommended as Chamberlain’s replacement and he was
appointed by George the sixth, who had taken power after his brother had advocated. And,
he served, as I’ve said, the role of boosting morale in Great Britain during the war, but,
never the less, because of his views, he was defeated almost immediately after the war. He
was perceived, essentially as being to old fashioned. So, after losing the Prime Ministership
following the war, he spent a little bit of time out of power but, he returned again. He was
reappointed Prime Minister in the early 1950’s for a time, although he lost his Prime
Ministership again, because he was something of an old fashioned politician and his
approach to negotiating with the decolonization movements in places such as Kenya and
Malaya, was quite heavy handed. So, I think that it, he was a figure who was not very
popular when Britain was not at war, but, during the war, he was immensely popular and to
understand that we have to reflect on Churchill’s rhetorical skills. He was very good at giving
speeches and he made great use of radio, as a tool for rallying the British, much as FDR had
begun doing during the great depression with his fireside chats. Churchill gave a very similar
set of chats and he produced some of the more iconic speeches of the war, which we’ll
listen to.
5.2 German and British Strategy
In this video I’d like to talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages that faced
Britain and Germany as the Battle of Britain commenced in the summer of 1940. At that
time Hitler had expected the British to make peace followi ng the evacuation of Dunkirk.
And he was genuinely surprised when they didn’t. And at this point he started what was k
nown as Operation Sea Lion. This was to be an amphibious invasion of the Isle of Britain.
And it required a number of things. It required air superiority. And this was something which
the Germans believed that they could achieve relativ ely quickly, within a couple of days
perhaps. The Germans could produce slightly more planes. They had a disadvantage
however in that those planes had to fly further across the channel from airfields in France.
Hitler’s strategy was ini tially political. He had success in Poland and in Czechoslovakia by
surprising his adversaries. He would do things lik e attack between parliamentary
governments or on the weekend when leaders were not prepared. But Hitler had his own di
sadvantages. The long term economic balance was against Germany. Germany was more
mobilized. It had converted more of its factories to the production of armaments. But it did
not have the industrial capacity to match the allies’ industr ial capacity. For Hitler this wasn’t
necessarily an issue. He believed very strongly in moral strength and he thought that the
way could be won quickly, which would advantage the side that already had more
armaments. So the advantages o f Germany were several. Hitler could use Soviet industrial
resources and this was before Barbarossa, which we’ll discu ss in a future video. The, as you
know, the Nazi Soviet pact put Germany and the Soviet Union in a condition of peace. And
so the Russians kept sending Germany material before Barbarossa. And the Germans were
also able to make use of th e material that was captured in territory that it conquered. The
Germans also had many more pilots and they had slight ly better aircraft production. And in
addition to this, Hitler was aware that the Americans were, at least at the mome nt, unlikely
to come to the aid of Britain. There was an isolation sentiment in the United States and, as it
happened, Americans did not bring in lend lease until the spring of 1941. So looking at the
constraints that the British faced during the summer of 1940 when the Battle of Britain
commenced, they had a, one of the biggest problems was the lack o f manpower. The British
had conscription power, so they could call up more citizens to help defend the nation, but
tha t would take time. And there was a lack of coordination at this point between the armed
services and also, between arm ed services and industry. Another major problem, which was
also an advantage, was Britain’s geographic isolation as an island. This meant on the one
hand that a land invasion of the sort that conquered Poland would be impossible for the
Germans. But on the other hand it meant that the British were heavily reliant upon the
importation of goods, includin g their food. About 50 percent of their food alone was
imported. And at the same time there was this question of how t o defend the very
sprawling British Empire as the Japanese invaded. So there were numerous constraints on
British stra tegy. They did have some advantages of course. They had, as I said, conscription
power, they had good planes, their ta nks were as good as German tanks prior to the war.
And then of course there was that factor of the island isolation. A nd in Churchill they had a
very rousing leader. He had a great moral advantage in that he had opposed appeasement
in t he 1930s and he was willing to bluff and to claim that the war could be won without
American assistance. So the entry of the United States into the war was a decisive factor.
And so, despite Hitler’s confidence that because of their iso lation as sentiment the
American’s would not enter the war, there were already American politicians who were
suggestin g that it was in the United States’ best interest to do so. The analogy that they
used was borrowing a fire hose, or l ending a fire hose to one’s neighbor when one’s
neighbor’s house is on fire. You would not, you know, think of that as necessarily an act of
altruism so much as an act of self-defense, preventing the fire from spreading further. And
tha t was certainly the way many in the United States regarded the threat of German
expansionism. So now to discuss what t he German plan was. The Luftwaffe, the German air
force which was under the command of Hermann Goering, a close friend and advisor of
Hitler, thought that it could destroy the RAF in four days. And then, having gained air
supremacy, it would begin to bomb all the military installations and effectively smooth the
way for a seaborne invasion. The Luftwaf fe had served in a sort of a tactical role in the
invasion of Poland and Denmark and Norway, which is to say that its primary role was to
support the ground forces, and the armor in particular. But now it had to play something of
the st rategic role. In this case it had to claim air superiority to support the naval invasion.
And so in some ways it perha ps was not prepared to do that. The dynamics of air combat
are such that bombers have very long range, but they’re ext remely vulnerable to attacks by
fighters. The disadvantage that fighters have of course is that they can’t fly that fa r. And so
the battle did not take four days. It took much longer. And during this time the
Messerschmitts, which was t he most common German fighter, fought against more
numerous but slower Hurricanes and some more less numerous but more agile Spitfires.
And the Spitfires and the Messerschmitts were basically evenly matched. So the battle
didn’t go as s moothly as the Germans had hoped. So they began to, the Germans that is,
began to play around with different strategie s. The Luftwaffe began to use dive bombers to
attack channel conveys. This took place throughout the month of July. An d at this time the
Germans actually lost more aircraft than the British did. And the British very effectively
avoided the problem by simply shifting their shipments to rail. So these shipments that
would be imported from places like the United States would be brought to the west coast
of Britain out of the range of the bombers and then they would be br ought across the isle
using railroads. After this the Luftwaffe then switched to attacks on satellite airfields that w
ere closest to the coast, and then radar installations. But they failed to actually disable the
radar. And so by the 2 3rd of August, the Luftwaffe shifted again. And this time they began
to attack aircraft factories and RAF airfields. D uring this entire process the British were
carrying out night bombing raids against Germany. They didn’t have really e nough bombers
to be terribly effective, but it was a gesture that I think helped boost British morale. The
idea that e ven as the enemy is striking us from afar, we can do the same to them. So the
German effort to destroy the RAF failed. And, for reasons that are discussed in why we
fight, in part the British were saved by the Dowding system, which was the world’s first
ground controlled interception system. Basically what it did is it collated information from
various radar installations and, using that information, it allowed the British to scramble
fighters in time to intercept the German air force. And this was a highly successful system.
In World War I interception rates were something like 30 p ercent. And over the course of
the Battle of Britain interceptions climbed from about 75 percent to 90 percent. So thi s
meant that basically that even though the British had something of a disadvantage in terms
of the sheer number of ai rcraft that they were putting in the air, those aircraft were more
effective. And at the same time the Dowding system was not easy to bring down because
the radar towers themselves were difficult to destroy. The British also had some ot her
advantages in the Battle of Britain. When the RAF had to bail out from their aircraft they
landed in their own territory, and they could often be back flying again the same day. When
the Germans landed, of course they became prisoners of war. The British also had excellent
assistance from Polish and Czech fighters. These pilots in other words the Polish air force,
you know, whatever its technical limitations, was renowned for its skill. And of course over
time, as the British ramped up production of aircraft, this became a decisive factor. The
Germans had vastly underestimated the British production capability. The British also
employed some other successful tactics. They used barrage balloons. These were balloons
that basically dangled cables and this forced German bombers to fly higher and this
simultaneously made them more vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. And it also limited German
accuracy. These were balloons which had been used in World War I but were used even
more effectively in this conflict. So as the summer of 1940 passed, the Germans became
increasingly frustrated. And so at this point they began to resort to attacking civilian areas in
an effort to demoralize Britain. In fact this had probably little effect and by October the
regular bombing of London had ceased. There would be sporadic attacks and from July to
December of 1940 something like 23,000 British civilians were killed. About 32,000 were
wounded. But the British morale had not been broken. So I think looking over the battle as a
whole we see it did not end decisively. In fact, arguably was a victory for the British insofar
as they had shown that they could fend off the Germans and that they would not need to
surrender. And this helped motivate some of the forces o f French resistance and it posed
the first real setback for Hitler. And it also helps explain why he made the decision when he
did to start planning an invasion of the Soviet Union under Operation Barbarossa, which we
will discuss in the next set of lessons.
5.3 Conclusion
● The leniency of the terms of France’s occupation reflected French
willingness to collaborate, and contrasted sharply with Germany’s
treatment of its neighbors in the east.
● Churchhill’s political comeback owed in part to the unpopular positions he
had taken in the 1930s, arguing for rearmament and opposing Nazi
Germany, as well as in his ability to rally the British and enjoy close
relations with the United States. Yet his commitment to preserving British
empire ultimately created tensions with his allies..
● The Battle of Britain demonstrated the importance of air power and aircraft
production, as well as the importance of radar and flight range.
● The use of strategic bombing on civilian populations was a strategy of
desperation, designed to demoralize the population rather than achieve a
strategic objective. Though it failed, both sides continued to employ it
throughout the war.
6.The Mediterranean and the Eastern Front
6.1 The Mediterranean and the Balkans
In this next series of videos I’d like to talk about the next major development in the war.
Perhaps, in a sense, the defining moment of the war. Hitler’s greatest mistake was probably
deciding to invade the Soviet Union as he did in the summer of 1941. He had never wanted
to fight a two-front war. And in his calculations he had expected that the British and the
French would be subdued before he would turn to what was his real aim, the creation of
Lebensraum in Eastern Europe and the conquering of the Soviet Union. So by signing the
Nazi Soviet Non-Aggression Pact Hitler had managed to create an ally, albeit a very
mistrustful ally, in Stalin and thereby avoid the situation which had been a catastrophe for
Germany 20 years earlier when it had been forced to fight a war on a Western front and an
Eastern front simultaneously. But at this point things no longer went according to plan. If we
look at this map we can see that the Germans were occupying now the Northern portion of
France, which they were using as a staging ground for their raids on Great Britain while
Vichy, France, the new collaborationist government, had been set up in the Southern part of
the country. So the Germans now had a potential corridor to the Mediterranean that would
allow them to create problems for the British by restricting access through the Suez to some
of their overseas possessions, as well as to Egypt, which didn’t require the Suez. And so
Hitler’s plan was to attempt to persuade the Dictator of Spain, Franco, to allow German
troops to be stationed in Spain. And in exchange for this the Spanish would get the base of
Gibraltar, which the British maintained and was an entry point into the Mediterranean. But
Franco was not satisfied with this offer and instead he insisted that in return for his
cooperation the Spanish should receive the colonies of Vichy, France. This put Hitler in an
awkward position. He was relying upon the Vichy government in order to contain his
unopposed access to territory in France and he certainly did not want to resume hostilities
with France that would potentially postpone his real objective in the east. In fact, Hitler
came away from his meeting with Franco unsuccessful. He famously said that he would
rather go to his dentist for three days rather than talk to Franco again. And so instead of
entering Spain, Germany became embroiled in another adventure in the Balkans. At this
time Italy had its own ambitions, of course, and what it wanted to do was essentially to
create client states out of the Balkans’ countries such as Serbia and Greece and Croatia and
so forth, and at the same time it wanted to expand its colonial possessions in Africa. So it
had already begun doing this really, you know, many decades before the Italians were in
control of the coastal areas of Libya before the 1930s. And there was a colony called Italian,
Libya. And over the course of the 1930s Mussolini began to try to push to take more of
Libyan territory and he fought a war against Ethiopia, which he conquered in 1935 to 1936.
This was one of the reasons that the Italians did not end up forming an alliance with the
British and the French. The so-called Stresa Front. It was a failure. And so Italy had invaded
Albania, another Balkans country, in 1937, and he had converted it into a colony. And in
1940 now the war had begun he invaded Egypt from Libya. Egypt at this time was nominally
independent but it was essentially occupied by British troops and run by the British
government. So effectively this opened up a new front in the war. And the primary
importance of our discussion of North Africa and the Balkans here really is that it ended up
postponing Hitler’s plans for Eastern Europe because, effectively, Hitler was forced to come
to the assistance of the Italians. The Italians had a rather poorly prepared army. It was
technologically inferior and disorganized. And, nevertheless, because of Mussolini’s
ambitions it was put into a situation that it could not handle alone. So this quickly became
apparent when the Italians invaded Egypt. They only got about 50 miles into Egypt under
the command of Marshal Rodolfo Graziani. And at this point the British, under Archibald
Wavell, began to push back and attack from the rear and captured 40,000 Italians, which
was a disaster. The Italians then fled back from Egypt into Libya. Wavell pursued them and
captured another 45,000 Italian troops and in the end took 130,000 prisoners. The key to
this British success was far superior tanks largely. So this misadventure that Mussolini had
embarked on dismayed Hitler. He was worried about the possibility of losing Libya to the
British and so he sent in Erwin Rommel who would make his name as the Desert Fox in
commanding German forces there. He sent Rommel into Libya to bail the Italians out,
essentially. Rommel was a convert to armored warfare. He had seen the success of the
Blitzkrieg in Poland and was impressed. And so he successfully pursued the British back into
Egypt in March and he managed to capture Wavell’s General. And so what commenced was
a, kind of, series of yoyo actions where the access forces would push to the east, they would
be pushed back to the west, and this went on several times. At the same time the British
successfully took East Africa, which included Italian Somaliland, Eretria, and Ethiopia by
May. So even as the Italians had destabilized Africa and jeopardized their position on
Germany’s southern flank by attempting to take over more colonies there they had
committed themselves to a similar strategy in the Balkans. As you can see from the map
these grey areas are countries that were neutral. Were not part of the access at this point.
And by choosing to invade the Balkans the Italians threatened to not create allies for the
access but potential enemies who would be willing to allow their territory to be used as a
staging ground for an attack upon Germany. And so this essentially compelled Hitler to
come to the Italians assistance in the Balkans, as well. The Greeks had installed a military
dictator in 1936. And in 1940, as I’ve said, Mussolini had decided to invade Greece from
Albania. This little country here. And the Greeks successfully resisted at first the Italian
advance and so Hitler, again, had to come to their rescue. He feared, essentially, that the
British would invade Greece from Egypt and expose the Southern flank of Germany. So
recognizing the gravity of the situation in 1940 Hitler began pressuring the government of
Yugoslavia to join the access. But the problem was that the population was heavily against it
and there was a military coup in March of 1941 and this coup threatened to ensure that the
country would remain neutral. And so as this point in April of 1941 Hitler decided to invade
Yugoslavia and Greece. And basically because this was a region that had been divided so
long under imperial occupation by the Ottoman Empire and the Austria Hungarian Empire
the various, you know, sub-populations of Serbians and Croatians were unable to cooperate.
And so this forced the outnumbered allied forces, British and Greek, to flee Greece. So it
was a setback for the allies but even more so, I think, it was a setback for Operation
Barbarossa. Basically Hitler was forced to postpone it until June of 1941 and this meant that
when it bogged down it put German troops into the situation of having to deal with Russian
winter, which had condemned so many previous invasions to failure.
6.2 The Decision to Invade the USSR
In this video, I’d like to start the discussion of Operation Barbarossa by talking about the
decision that Hitler made to invade the Soviet Union. In some ways, this was not a surprising
decision, unlike the war in the west, which was, in some sense, a war of choice for Hitler.
Hitler’s war aims lay in the east, in the creation of Lebensraum and the conquering of his
ideological enemies, the Bolshevik Communists. And so what is more surprising, I think
really, is that Stalin trusted Hitler and signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in August
of 1939 despite the clear clash of ideological beliefs on the part of both leaders. That is not
to say that Stalin completely trusted Hitler. After 1938, he had begun moving vast numbers
of factories to the Ural Mountains. This is a mountain range that cuts across Soviet Union.
Because he was anticipating that Hitler might invade. And so when war actually did break
out in 1941, the, this process, this factory evacuation, was only half complete. And so we
wonder during this time what was going on in Stalin’s mind. And it seems clear that he had
deceived himself for thinking that by continuing to supply raw materials to the German war
machine, so needed resources like manganese and oil, the, Hitler would not attack. So as
long as the Soviet Union could be useful to Germany, that Germany would not invade. And
part of the reason I think Stalin made this decision as well was the Munich Conference in
1938. Britain and France had essentially reneged upon their commitment to mutual defense
in Eastern Europe by walking away from Czechoslovakia. And on top of this, Churchill was
staunchly anti-Bolshevik. There was also, you know, very staunch anti-Bolshevik leadership
in France. And so he decided, that is, Stalin decided to start making overtures to Hitler. At
the same time, the Soviet Union attempted to protect itself by establishing defensive
treaties with some of these nations that you see here in the Baltics — Latvia, Lithuania, and
Estonia. And so he essentially compelled these countries to make defensive treaties with the
Soviet Union and then, of course, as we’ve discussed, the, he invaded Finland and these
nations in the Winter War. Or rather, he annexed some of them. See, he annexed the Baltic
states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia in invading Finland and having a difficult time there.
So the fact that the Soviets had done this also made Hitler uneasy because it essentially put
Soviet troops quite close to the German position. Before, while Eastern Europe had existed
as an independent entity before the invasion of Poland, there had been a kind of buffer
between Germany and the Soviet Union. And this was no longer the case. And so this meant
that Hitler regarded it as imperative that he begin Barbarossa sooner rather than later, but
he was compelled to do otherwise because of having to assist the Italians in North Africa
and in the Balkans. And so it’s further important to note that Hitler was thinking about
carrying out a continental block against Britain. And so he asked Molotov to go to
Ribbentrop in Berlin and to talk about the possibility of cooperating in setting up a blockade
of Britain. And Molotov at the, it’s a kind of a funny story, Molotov, during these discussions,
was sitting in a bunker with Ribbentrop and he heard basically an air raid going on. And he
asked, “What’s that?” And what it was was a British air raid on Berlin. And this perhaps
helped dissuade Molotov from wanting to ally with Germany against Britain instead of
maintaining their neutral position. And so the final factor I think that we should discuss,
aside from the fact that the Soviet Union had always been in Hitler’s war aims and that
there were now, there was now the sort of nervousness about the proximity of Soviet and
German interests, the final reason was the Hitler had underestimated Soviet reserves. And
so he also had just underestimated the military capabilities of the Soviets, who had purged
under Stalin their officer corps and existed certainly in a state of disorganization, which
became evident in their difficulty [inaudible] doing the much smaller country of Finland
during the Winter War. So this gave Hitler confidence enough to embark on Barbarossa. And
so in the next video, we will talk about how that operation played out. It was a long and
difficult campaign that did not turn out the way the Germans had hoped. Instead, it proved
a rather disastrous decision for Germany and one I think which we can trace the German
defeat back to.
6.3 Executing Barbarossa
So going into Barbarossa, Hitler had believed, rather optimistically, that the battle
would last only three months. Of course it lasted much longer and it didn’t turn out
the way Germany had hoped. In some ways I think this is a product of the fact that it
was different from so many of the other successes that Germany had enjoyed in
Poland and Czechoslovakia and France. Germany was dealing with a much larger
front, about 1,000 miles. And the Red Army was a much larger army than any that
the Germans had faced previously. So in Barbarossa something like three million
Red Army soldiers met three million Wehmacht. And so it was a really, quite a
massive battle. And so the, another factor of course in the difficulty that the Germans
faced was that they were split somewhat in their objectives. The German officer core
was dominated by a kind of older 19th century mentality associated with the junkers,
the junkers rather, who were committed to an older doctrine of warfare that a general
by the name of Cozowitz had come up with. And what Cozowitz argued as a military
strategist was that in order to defeat the enemy one should focus on finding a kind of
a pressure point that whose loss will render it impossible for the enemy to keep
going. Usually what this meant was capturing a capital city. Capturing the seat of
government would compel the power to surrender. Hitler had a kind of a more
modern approach to warfare in that his belief was that wars were won by essentially
out-producing industrially the enemy. And that meant that you were best off by
attempting to take out industrial centers and to capture or prevent access of the
enemy to the resources needed in order to keep the war going. And so in the case of
Barbarossa there were three main objectives, strategic objectives, which reflected a
mixture of these Cozowitz aims and these more modern aims. And so there were
three. Essentially there was an assault on Leningrad which is this northernmost
series of arrows that you see at the top of the screen. Leningrad is the city on the
Gulf of Finland. It was strategically important because this was where much of the
Soviet fleet was based. And it was basically the route out of the Soviet Union, an
important transportation route. And the fact that the, the fact that the Russians
inviting the winter war had really been trying to secure a kind of a buffer around
Leningrad to make sure that they were not cut off. So the Germans in Barbarossa
had, as one of their objectives, doing just that. Taking Leningrad and using that as a
way of cutting Soviet transportation network in half by denying them an important
port city. In addition to that the Germans had an objective in the south, so you can
see that there’s a kind of a second set of arrows showing the path of German
invasion. And so the task here was to basically capture the resources found in the
southern Ukraine in what is known as the Donetsk Basin. And so that was another
sort of, kind of an industrial objective meant in order to simultaneously cut off the
Soviets from the oil supplies that they needed. But also to ensure that Germany
could maintain its strength by taking those supplies for itself. And the third problem
was the one that reflected this sort of older Cozowitz model, and that was taking
Moscow. And so you see these arrows in the center here are moving toward
Moscow. The Germans were actually quite close to taking Moscow but they never
quite made it. And so when the invasion took place Stalin was caught off-guard. He
practically had a nervous collapse and, for several weeks, he was not much of an
effective leader I think. What you had at the same time was an amazingly brutal
conflict. Not just in the confrontation between the Germans and the Soviets, but also
in the use of these special forces in eastern Poland and western Russia that begin to
slaughter the Jewish populations. And in fact it’s the rapid early success of Germany
in which we see a kind of shift in policy of using kind of summary executions and
death squads to liquidate the Jewish population and any other sort of, any of the
communist resistance that existed in eastern Europe. And so the very fact that the
Germans were acquiring so much territory so quickly at the beginning of Barbarossa
seems to have been a factor in making it necessary to subdue and murder,
essentially, populations that might resist German advance. So they were securing in
a sense their rear flank because they had moved so quickly in the beginning. So we
can divide up what happens next into essentially four phases. In the beginning you
have battles along the frontier, along this western edge. And this lasted from about
June 22nd to July 3rd. The Germans achieve almost all of their campaign objectives
and as a bonus the Lithuanians and Estonians revolt against their Soviet masters.
So this posed a further problem for the Soviet Union and was a boon to the
Germans. After this things start to become a bit more difficult. You have what is the
Battle of Smolensk, which is going to be an important point on the road to Moscow.
You can see right here that the city of Smolensk. And so part of the problem is that it
began to rain. This delayed the German offensive. And then there was a kind of a
Soviet counter offensive followed by an attack by the German air force that helped
repel that counter offensive. And at this point the Germans began to encircle
Smolensk and they capture, in the process, 300,000 Soviet troops. About 100,000
slip out of the trap. This is a kind of a catastrophic loss and this is part of the reason
why Stalin starts to have what appears to be a nervous breakdown. And so then
there’s kind of a third phase. And that is the push for Kiev and for Leningrad. So at
this point, and we’re talking about between August and October of 1941, the German
supplies were beginning to become exhausted. We have to reflect that the thing
about [inaudible], which it worked so well in Poland and France, is that it involves a
very rapid advance, moving very quickly. And that means that it’s difficult to keep up
your supply lines. You’re pushing forward so quickly that you begin to run out of gas,
you begin to run out of ammunition, and that’s exactly what had become the case,
so, in the case of the Soviet Union with its vast territory. And so as supplies dwindled
and as encirclement had proved only partially effective. You know, we have to
remember those 100,000 troops who had slipped out of the trap at Smolensk. Hitler
had decided to shift to the industrial objective. So sort of putting that second prong in
the middle, moving toward Moscow aside, he focused instead on trying to take Kiev
and Leningrad. And so Kiev was taken on the 16th of September. And something
like 600,000 Soviets were captured in the process. The Soviets lost a half million
troops, which was more than the US lost throughout the whole war, during this battle.
So it was a really a very, very bloody battle. And so that was going better for the
Germans. But at the same time the Germans had reached Leningrad and, in the
north. So Kiev is in the south, Leningrad is in the north. And they had begun to
encounter very stiff resistance. They’re running out of supplies. And so rather than
try to run over the city, the German forces set up a siege. And this siege would last a
very, very long time. Something like some 900 odd days. And it became sort of one
of the I think one of the great stories, tragic stories, as well of the war in which the
population was forced to resort to eating shoe leather and cannibalism and lacked
most supplies. Did not have enough fuel to keep warm and so there were massive,
massive civilian losses. So while this, the siege of Leningrad was taking place, the
battle for Moscow had recommenced on October 2nd. And at first the Germans had
succeeded. They had captured over another 600,000 Red Army soldiers. And at this
point the Soviets had really exhausted their reserve troops. There were only about
90,000 troops left to defend Moscow. But because the German supply situation had
deteriorated, the Germans were not really able to take advantage of their superiority
of numbers. And so they were forced to stop. And this essentially gave the Soviets
new time to activate reserves. And so by 2nd December some of the German troops
had actually gotten within 15 miles of Moscow. They could see the spires of the
Kremlin. But at this point the first blizzards had begun and the troops had to dig in for
the winter when they were very, very close to conquering Moscow.
6.4 The Siege of Leningrad
So, in this video I’d like to take a closer look at the siege of Leningrad, which, as I said before
was kind of an important memory of the war. And, it was certainly more than a memory for
the people who lived through it. It was a horrific experience which, I think, typifies some of
the worst aspects of modern warfare in which not only soldiers but civilians are forced to
confront terrible conditions. By the end of the siege, something like 630,000 people were
thought to have died. And, we’re talking about a city that initially had about 2.5 million
people. So, that works out to be about 1 in 4 people. Actually, the population of Leningrad
was somewhat larger than that because, as Barbarossa succeeded and as Leningrad was put
under martial law, there were many people in the surrounding area who entered the city.
So, there were about 100,000 more refugees in addition to that population of 25, 2,500,000.
So, the problem, of course, was that the area that the authorities had under their control
did not produce nearly enough food to sustain that many people. And so, at the beginning
of the siege, in early September, the city authorities realized that they had only about a
month’s worth of supplies. They had only enough flour and meat and fat and sugar to keep
the population going for maybe a month or two. And so, not only were they cut off by the
German forces, but, there wasn’t very good access by rail since that was also cut off by the
Germans. And so, this meant that the siege, which was going to last about 900 days, began
under really terrible circumstances. And so, and beyond that, Stalin had actually ordered
that the most important supplies be moved out of the city and brought to Moscow instead.
And so, you had a condition of more rationing which in which, you know, the bulk of the
supplies went to soldiers and those who were engaged in manual work building
fortifications and so forth. The children were last. They were given the smallest rations. And
so, this lack of food, which was a problem in itself became even worse as winter began to
approach. Leningrad is very far north. And, it’s off the Baltic Sea. And, it’s a very, very cold
place. And so, as kerosene became unavailable, the residents were forced to start literally
tearing up their homes in order to burn them and keep themselves warm. And so, the, one
of the first things that begins to happen is that people would have to queue up in very, very
long lines to get bread. When they couldn’t, when there wasn’t enough bread dogs and cats
were hunted and there were actually instances of, incidents of cannibalism. And so, in
coping with this, the city authorities tried a number of things. They began to try to
incorporate horse food into the food that was being rationed for the human population.
Some people, though, were forced to do things like eat grease bearings or drink oil from oil
cans because they were, people were just so hungry. And so, you also had, of course, with
that hunger with that cold, a tremendous amount of disease. So, by Christmas of 1941 there
were something like 4,000 deaths alone, on Christmas day alone that is, many more deaths
over the period. So, how did, we might ask, how did people survive the situation? Well,
ironically, because the lake on which Leningrad was located was frozen, the Soviets were
actually able to resupply the city. And, the Germans had not anticipated that they would be,
that the Soviets would be able to do so. And so, the lake was frozen. You couldn’t bring in
barges but, basically, trucks were brought across the ice. And so, they began to bring in
about 100 tons of food a day. This was not really sufficient and people continued to die. But,
it did keep the city going. And so, this lasted, really, for much of the war. The, again, the
population had been about 2.5 million when the siege began, by the end of 1942, it had
dwindled to about 1 million. So, more than half of its residents died. And so, this really only,
the situation only changed when the Germans began to retreat from the Soviet Union in
1944. And so, this became important not just as a, as a tragedy which befell the citizens of
Leningrad, but it became an important claim for the Soviets in terms of the sufferings they
had endured in the war. As they began to press their claims against Germany and to
demand, as Stalin demanded from Roosevelt and Churchill the concession, you know, he
would remind them of cases like Leningrad. And so, Leningrad and similar cases became an
important pretext for Soviet actions during the war but also after the war in terms of taking
Eastern Europe and imposing harsh sanctions and penalties upon the German population,
you know, including relocating Germans and bringing them into war camps and prisons and
so forth. So, it’s interesting to think about this episode as being not just a tragedy in the
moment but also something which really helped define how the Soviets would place a claim
on the postwar European landscape.
6.5 Conclusion
● The Mediterranean theater acquired significance thanks to Mussolini’s
efforts to exploit the British position by invading Egypt and Greece. Hitler
was forced to support Mussolini by diverting forces to the Yugoslovia,
Greece, and North Africa, critically delaying his plan to invade the Soviet
Union for several months.
● The largest invasion in the history of warfare, Barbarossa also led to some
of the most brutal atrocities, and led to a stalemate.
● Germany’s initial gains owed to disorganization among the Soviet officer
corps, thanks to Stalin’s purges, as well as its industrial advantages.
● Germany’s ultimate failure to achieve its objectives owed primarily to
strategic disagreements between Hitler and the officer corps,
underestimation of Soviet reserve strengths, the failure to establish long
supply chains across huge distances, and the brutal Russian winter, for
which the Germans were poorly prepared.

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