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Treaty of Versailles – The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I between Germany and the Allied Powers. Because Germany had lost the war, the treaty was very harsh against Germany. Germany was forced to “accept the responsibility” of the war damages suffered by the Allies. The treaty required that Germany pay a huge sum of money called reparations. The problem with the treaty is that it left the German economy in ruins. People were starving and the government was in chaos.
Japanese Expansion – In the period before World War II, Japan was growing rapidly. However, as an island nation they did not have the land or the natural resources to sustain their growth. Japan began to look to grow their empire in order to gain new resources. They invaded Manchuria in 1931 and China in 1937.
Fascism – With the economic turmoil left behind by World War 1, some countries were taken over by dictators who formed powerful fascist governments. The first fascist government was Spain which was ruled by the dictator Franco. Then Mussolini took control of Italy. These dictators wanted to expand their empires and began to look for new lands to conquer. Italy invaded and took over Ethiopia in 1935. Adolf Hitler would emulate Mussolini in his takeover of Germany.
Hitler and the Nazi Party – In Germany, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power. The Germans were desperate for someone to turn around their economy and restore their national pride. Hitler offered them hope. In 1934, Hitler was proclaimed the “Fuhrer” (leader) and became dictator of Germany. Hitler resented the restrictions put on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. While talking about peace, Hitler began to rearm Germany. He allied Germany with Mussolini and Italy. Then Hitler looked to restore Germany to power by expanding his empire. He first took over Austria in 1938. When the League of Nations did nothing to stop him, Hitler became bolder and took over Czechoslovakia in 1939.
Appeasement – After World War 1, the nations of Europe were weary and did not want another war. When countries such as Italy and Germany became aggressive and began to take over their neighbors and build up their armies, countries such as Britain and France hoped to keep peace through “appeasement.” This meant that they tried to make Germany and Hitler happy rather than try to stop him. They hoped that by meeting his demands he would be satisfied and there wouldn’t be any war. Unfortunately, the policy of appeasement backfired. It only made Hitler bolder. It also gave him time to build up his army.
Great Depression – The period before World War II was a time of great economic suffering throughout the world called the Great Depression. Many people were out of work and struggling to survive. This created unstable governments and worldwide turmoil that helped lead to World War II.
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