World War Two and the Origins of the Cold War
In 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered German troops to march into Poland, setting off a chain of events that would devastate most of the world. Nothing is quite as captivating as the stunning global effect of Hitlers Nazi Germany and the associated events in the Pacific Theatre. Between the years 1939 and 1945, war struck the majority of the world and the consequences fundamentally altered not only the ideas of power and government restraint, but also concepts of racism, human rights, and criminal justice. In the process of the Second World War, vast changes would spark technology, leading to such innovations as nuclear power, the moon mission, enhanced computers, and even the internet. Philosophy, psychology, and history would be transformed as a result of this enormous disaster in casualties. And the Holocaust is etched into the minds of all who learn of it.
It is sometimes difficult to realize that Hitler was elected to be Chancellor in 1933. Modern day comparisons to Hitler were flung left and right. Yet it is important to remember that he was a charismatic young man, eager to show Germans that they had been wronged in the treaties that ended World War One. Their desperation was complete and Hitler felt he could revive Germanys past by extracting what he saw to be the most terrible elements of society. Most famously, he focused on the Jews, but he also rounded up Communists and union workers, gay men, and those of Polish descent. Millions died cruel deaths under his regime and the entire episode put German people into an odd position of hope and despair.
Following the conclusion of World War Two, which we read about this week, the world sought to heal itself from such splitting tension. European countries had fought each other, but their relationships to communities all over the globe, through both trade and empires, meant that soldiers from every almost country in the world fought in the Second World War. Exceptions included neutral countries like Switzerland and Ireland, but even such nations were involved even if they did not fight. The war itself gave colonized peoples new hope that now, certainly, they would be granted their freedom from imperial domination. Struggles for decolonization followed. Some were peaceful and easily accommodated, while others were violent battles for power when the Empire was not yet ready to leave.
As these struggles persisted all over the globe, technology was fundamentally changing the face of trade. Computers and enhanced transportation possibilities made international trade much cheaper. Newly formed international units allowed and encouraged the rise of globalization as we know it today: the interconnectedness of every nation on earth. In industrialized nations, the affordability of the television made nationalism so much easier, as millions of people could receive a single message at the same time: a feat previously impossible excepting perhaps the radio. Entire generations grew up watching the same shows and understanding the same jokes. Automobiles, trains, and airplanes made the exchange of ideas and cultural norms much easier. Indeed, today the person who has never flown is a rarity.
But among the backdrop of developing global relationships was a growing division in the world, between first and second world economies: first world economies were industrialized, capitalist societies. Second world economies were industrializing communist countries. And third world countries were those developing economies that occupied something outside of strict capitalism or communism. This division was literal in the case of Germany, which was split in half after the collapse of Hitlers armies in 1945. East Germany was handed to the Soviet Union and West Germany fell under American control. Berlin the city was itself split down the middle with a terrible wall of concrete, literally dividing neighbors, friends, and even families.
Both sides of the Cold War fought for control over the minds and resources of the world. Each feared another world war, but each prepared for that eventuality. This preparation led to both nations and their imperial outskirts to create an overabundance of bombs and weapons in an attempt to scare the other out of the idea of attack. Children in America learned what they should do in the event of an atomic bomb attack while they were at school. Russian children learned about the evils of capitalists, who delighted in the death of poor people. Neither side was particularly positive and both sides were scared.
In Russia and the Soviet holdings of Eastern Europe, Stalin attempted to employ all his government administrations in order to drag Russia into industrialization. Russia had been tremendously difficult to industrialize, for a number of reasons: it was a vast territory, covering 11 different time zones. Its people had different languages, customs, and religions. There were no centralized forms of communication. Furthermore, during this period the Russians did not have a great understanding of natural resources. Famine and harvest failure were common. In one terrible moment of harvest failure in the 1930s, Stalin refused the offers of aid from America and Canada seeing such charity as a weakness and instead employed Collectivization among existing farms in the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. This policy forced ALL food to be directed away from the people in the Ukraine and toward Russia. The result was millions of people sentenced to death by starvation. Livestock animals were confiscated and the local residents were left to forage what they could or die.
We now know that Russia is actually sitting atop one of the riches oil deposits in the world, which allows Russia to command more of a global monetary influence. But they did not know this before hand, and Stalin attempted to drag Russia into industrialization with his Five-Year Plans. After Stalins death, the communist regime continued, using the rhetoric of equality and opportunity while destroying half the resources of the people and funneling what remained to a secretive inner party of corrupt officials.
The Cold War was one of the defining global influences until 1989. Communism led the United States into military conflict in Vietnam and elsewhere. When it ended, it was rather sudden. But the effect was instantatious. Within the year, Berlin, Moscow, and St Petersburg were under construction. The New World order began to take shape as international relations attempted to heal the almost 50-year-long rift along the Iron Curtain that was the Cold War divide.
Why were extreme ideologies so popular in various areas of the world in the twentieth century? Using at least two of the resources below, please write a three-page paper (at least 850 words) describing three kinds of extreme ideologies and their relationship between violence and popularity.
Lev Kopelev, The Education of a Believer:
The 25 Points of Nazism:
Klink, To be German is to be Strong:
Benito Mussolini, What is Fascism?:
Soviet Posters from the 1920s:
Images from Popular Nazi Rallies:
Try to synthesize both what the sources are saying or showing with some commentary of your own in order to answer the questions. How was it possible for kind, normal people to find hope in authoritarianism or totalitarianism? You must use the textbook and two sources throughout your paper, cited properly using APA style conventions. An abbreviated URL is fine for your in-line citation, so long as you include a full citation in your works cited list with title, author, URL, and date accessed.
This is our final paper for the course: use all that weve covered on paragraph organization, proper citation, and use of evidence so this can be your best work!