Italy, germany, the soviet union, and japan

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McKenna: World History

Name: ______________________________________________ Date: ____________________


Directions: Carefully read each section and answer the questions that follow. You will be tested on each of these countries and the totalitarian leaders that came to power.
Looking back on the 20th century, many historians trace the causes of World War II, including the rise of totalitarian leaders, to factors created by World War I and the treaties signed at the end of the “Great War” (as WWI originally was called). After WWI, many countries faced severe economic problems. Germany was particularly hard hit economically. According to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was required to pay large sums of money, called reparations, to the countries that had won the conflict. By 1930, mass unemployment and economic depression led to bitter poverty in Germany, Britain, Japan, Italy, and the United States, as well as other countries around the world. In Germany and Italy, the economic depression weakened the existing governments. As people demanded change, a political movement that believed in an extremely strong, national government, called fascism, became popular in these countries. Fascism included a sense of nationalism (a powerful sense of patriotism) and leaders were often dictatorial, ruthless in suppressing opposition, and interested in centralizing power. Economic problems and ethnic tensions contributed to instability and helped fascist rulers to gain power.

  1. What is fascism?


After World War I, Italian nationalists were outraged when Italy received just some of the territories promised by the Allies. Chaos ensued as peasants seized land, workers went on strike, veterans faced unemployment, trade declined, and taxes rose. The government could not end the crisis. Into this turmoil stepped Benito Mussolini, the organizer of the Fascist party. Mussolini’s supporters, the Black Shirts, rejected democratic methods and favored violence for solving problems. In the 1922 March on Rome, tens of thousands of Fascists swarmed the capital. Fearing civil war, the king asked Mussolini to form a government as prime minister.

Mussolini soon suppressed rival parties, muzzled the press, rigged elections, and replaced elected officials with Fascists. Critics were thrown into prison, forced into exile, or murdered. Secret police and propaganda (any technique that attempts to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of a group in order to benefit the sponsor) bolstered the regime. In 1929, Mussolini also received support from the pope. Mussolini brought the economy under state control, but basically preserved capitalism. His system favored the upper class and industry leaders. Workers were not allowed to strike and their wages were kept low. In Mussolini’s new system, loyalty to the state replaced conflicting individual goals. “Believe! Obey! Fight!” loudspeakers blared and posters proclaimed.

Mussolini built the first modern totalitarian state. In this form of government, a one-party dictatorship attempts to control every aspect of the lives of its citizens. Today, we usually use the term fascism to describe the underlying ideology of any centralized, authoritarian government that is not communist. Fascism is rooted in extreme nationalism. Fascists believe in action, violence, discipline, and blind loyalty to the state. They praise warfare. They are anti-democratic, rejecting equality and liberty. Fascists opposed communists on important issues. Communists favor international action and the creation of a classless society. Fascists are nationalists who support a society with defined classes. Both base their power on blind devotion to a leader or the state. Both flourish during economic hard times. Fascism appealed to Italians because it restored national pride, provided stability, and ended the political feuding that had paralyzed democracy in Italy.

Known as el Duce (“El Doo-chay,” the Leader), Mussolini wanted to establish the greatness of Italy and create an empire. In order to do this, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1936. The Italians, fighting with modern weapons against poorly equipped Ethiopians, conquered this African nation that same year.

  1. Who was the Fascist leader of Italy that created the first totalitarian state?

  1. What was the result of the March on Rome?

  1. What is propaganda? Along with propaganda, what was used to bolster the fascist regime?

  1. What was the slogan the Fascists used to promote loyalty to the state?

  1. Describe the characteristics of a totalitarian state.

  1. How are Fascism and Communism similar? How are they different?

  1. Why did Fascism appeal to Italians?

  1. What did Mussolini do to expand the Italian empire?


Beginning in the 1930s, many Germans supported the Nazi Party, a violently nationalistic organization. The Nazi Party declared that Germany had been unfairly treated after WWI, and that the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, caused the economic depression. Many Germans believed that energetic leader, Adolf Hitler, would solve Germany’s problems. As head of the Nazi party, Hitler promised to end reparations, create jobs, and rearm Germany. In 1933, Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany and within a year he was dictator over the new Fascist state in Germany.

Hitler believed that the western powers had no intention of using force to maintain

the Treaty of Versailles. Subsequently, Hitler built up the military forces in Germany in violation of the Treaty. Most, but not all, Germans believed that Hitler brought strength and courage back to their country, as well as prosperity. Those who opposed Hitler were targeted by the Gestapo, Hitler’s secret police. Most people were proud to be Germans and proud to be Nazis. In 1936, Hitler sent troops to the Rhineland, an old section of Germany along the Rhine River, where they were not allowed according to the Treaty of Versailles. This act, another violation of the Treaty, was a clear indication that Hitler wanted to prove his own superiority over the western leaders. Many Germans and Austrians were proud of this violation of the hated treaty and other countries did nothing to stop it.

Known as der Fuhrer (the Leader), Hitler preached that the Germans were a superior race and that many minorities, including Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and communists, should be oppressed, exiled, or worse. A persuasive speaker, he convinced his followers that Jews and other minorities were inferior and were the root of Germany’s problems. The efficient ruthlessness and brutality of Hitler and his devoted followers and Hitler’s spell-binding effect as a speaker, created a horrifying and powerful government dedicated to the superiority of the Aryan race (white, northern Europeans) and the establishment of a new German empire. Hitler’s radical beliefs included: anti-semitism (persecution or hatred of Jews), extreme nationalism, aggression (occupying nearby countries to create a German empire), lebensraum (union of all German nations), anschluss (German union with Austria), and a hatred of Communism.

  1. What was the Nazi party?

  1. What did Hitler promise?

  1. How did Hitler rise to power?

  1. How did Hitler violate the Treaty of Versailles?

  1. How did Hitler suppress opposition?

  1. How did Hitler convince his followers that Jews and other minorities were inferior to Germans?

  1. What is meant by the “Aryan” race?

  1. Identify the six radical beliefs (of Hitler) listed in the last paragraph.


Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union grew into a totalitarian state that controlled all aspects of life, including agriculture, culture, art, and religion. The state also developed a command economy, in which it made all economic decisions. Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization in order to catch up with the west. To do this, Stalin developed three 5-Year Plans that set high production goals. Despite great progress in some sectors, products such as clothing, cars, and refrigerators were scarce.

Stalin forced changes in agriculture too. He wanted peasants to farm on either state-owned farms or collectives, large farms owned and operated by groups of peasants. Through collectivization, Stalin seized goods from peasant farmers and sold the goods for profit. He used the capital gained from collectivization to finance his industrialization drive. Some peasants resisted collectivization, which resulted in Stalin taking their land and sending them to labor camps where many died. In 1932, Stalin’s policies led to a famine that caused millions to starve.

The ruling Communist party used secret police (KGB), torture, and bloody purges to force people to obey. Those who opposed Stalin were rounded up and sent to the Gulag, a system of brutal labor camps. Fearing that rival party leaders were plotting against him, Stalin launched the Great Purge in 1934. During the Great Purge, the KGB killed thousands of army officers and prominent Bolsheviks who opposed Stalin. Among the victims of this and other purges were some of the brightest and most talented people in the country.

Stalin feared the growing power of Nazi Germany. Soviet leaders had two foreign policy goals. They hoped to spread world revolution through the Comintern, or Communist International. At the same time, they wanted to ensure their nation’s security by winning the support of other countries. These contradictory goals caused Western Powers to mistrust the Soviet Union.

  1. Who became a totalitarian leader in the Soviet Union?

  1. What were Stalin’s 5-Year Plans?

  1. What was collectivization? What did Stalin do with the profits he gained from collectivization?

  1. How did the Communist party force people to obey?

  1. What was the Gulag?

  1. What was the Great Purge of 1934?

  1. How were the Soviet Union’s foreign policy goals contradictory?


Like Germany and Italy, Japan was intent on creating an empire. This small island nation resented the way western countries and heads of state determined that Japan should not expand. Although Japan had an emperor, Hirohito (Hiro-he-tow), the military had taken control of the government. Emperor Hirohito could not stand up to the powerful generals; however, he was worshipped by the people who often fought in his name. Like the Germans, the Japanese shared a strong military tradition. The army, navy, and air force grew in size and strength, and serving in the armed forces became an even more desirable and honorable goal for young men than it had been previously.

Industrialization in Japan led to a need for raw materials. How would Japan, a small island nation in the Pacific, obtain raw materials that it did not have access to? Imperialism! Japan was the first of the fascist countries to successfully expand its empire by invading Manchuria (in northern China) in 1931. Japan occupied most of eastern China by 1938, eventually seeking to bring all of Asia and the Pacific Ocean under its control. Japan’s aggressive imperialistic policies in Asia were ignored by the League of Nations, which did not have the power to stop the militaristic government.

  1. What did Japan, Italy, and Germany have in common?

  1. Although Japan had an emperor, who controlled the government?

  1. How did Japan obtain the raw materials needed for industrialization?

  1. How did the League of Nations respond to Japan’s invasion of Manchuria?

Overall Comprehension Questions

  1. Much of the world was undergoing a severe economic depression, beginning in 1929. How might poverty and unemployment have contributed to the rise of totalitarian leaders in the 1930s?

  1. Many people don’t realize that Hitler came to power legally; he did not overthrow an existing government or seize power through the military. Hitler was elected by the German people. Do you think that people in the United States would ever elect someone like that? Why or why not?

  1. Describe the government of Japan. Is it surprising that Japan, Italy, and Germany became partners in World War II?

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