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1936, Abyssinia, the Rhineland, Spain: Watershed Year of the 1930s

owedtojoy

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According to British historian Piers Brendon, the decade of the 1930s were a "dark valley", starting with economic disaster and ending with a catastrophic world war.

If there was any particular year in which the darkening trend took definite shape, that was 1936. The Fascist powers of Germany and Italy coalesced, Italy won an Imperial war in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), the Nazis under Hitler re-militarised the Rhineland, bringing their armed forces to the French border for the first time since 1919, and a bloody civil war began in Spain, with the forces of the Left pitted against the Right. In another totalitarian power (the Soviet Union), following the terrible Ukrainian famine, the Dictator Josef Stalin began slaughtering the USSR's own people as the Great Terror, or the Great Purge, began.

By contrast with the determination, clear planning and swift execution by the Dictatorships, no matter how savage the exercise, the democracies were in disarray and getting weaker. In Britain, France and the isolationist USA, governments and people still struggled with the Depression. Unemployment was rife and despair in the future of capitalism and democracy was commonplace, even in the United Kingdom, which had not suffered as heavily from the downturn as other countries. By the end of the year, the bulwark of Collective Security embodied in the League of Nations, set up as part of the Versailles Treaty, was to be exposed as futile and without any value whatsoever. In standing up to Dictatorships, every country was on its own.

[As an aside on the last point, one politician who saw this clearly was Eamon de Valera, whose decisive move to neutrality arose from the collapse of the League of Nations into an ineffectual talking shop. De Valera was for a while President of the League Council.]

War in Abyssinia/ Ethiopia:

The war arose from the ambition of Benito Mussolini, Dictator of Italy, to found a new "Roman Empire" in Africa and the Balkans. Italy already had possessions in Libya, Somalia, Eritrea and the Greek Islands. Mussolini had been stung by Hitler's clear ambition - he did not at this time welcome another Fascist Dictator, and regarded himself as the "Senior" of the two.

In 1934, Austrian Nazis assassinated Englebert Dollfuss, Chancellor of Austria, as part of a failed coup. Mussolini moved Italian troops to the Austrian border making it clear that he regarded Austria as an Italian "sphere of influence", and not a German satellite or future partner.

Mussolini met the Primes Ministers of France and Britain in the town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore, and formed the Stresa Front to preserve the Treaty of Versailles, clearly aimed at Nazi Germany (1934).

Abyssinia, the only fully independent African country besides Liberia, had defeated an Italian invasion in 1896, and was deemed ripe for plucking. With a population of 12 million, against Italy's 42 million, the country relied on tribal levies with outdated weapons for defence. Border clashes were manufactured, and in October 1935, Ethiopia was invaded.

The Ethiopian Air Force had three outdated warplanes. The Italians were able to bomb and strafe Ethiopian columns without any opposition. Poison gas was used by the Italians, and by the May 1936, the war was over, Addis Ababa occupied and the Emperor Haile Salassie in exile.



Reprecussions

Ethiopia was a member of the League of Nations and appealed to the League for aid. Emperor Haile Selassie visited Geneva (May, 1936) and made a dignified and passionate plea for assistance. Britain could easily have closed the Suez Canal and blocked Italian supplies to its armies. An oil embargo would have crippled the Italian economy.

But Britain and France had other ideas. They both looked to Mussolini to counterbalance Hitler, and were unwilling to stand up to the Dictator. The French Foreign Minister, Pierre Laval (later an notorious Nazi collaborator executed by the French in 1946), along with the British Minister Samuel Hoare, proposed a deal that would have given most of Ethiopia to Mussolini, and made the rest a "protectorate" (Dec, 1935). There was uproar when this was leaked, and the "pact" was binned, as it was a terrible betrayal of the principles of the League.

The League bickered and dithered. The sanctions that were agreed turned out to be totally ineffectual - there was no oil embargo, and Britain did not close the Suez Canal. Italy could not import foie gras but could still buy raw material for its war industries. Only six countries did not recognise the Italian occupation of Ethiopia: China (itself the victim of Japanese aggression in 1931), New Zealand, the Soviet Union, the Republic of Spain, Mexico and the United States.

No one would stand up for the rights of a poor African nation. It is said that the Pope blessed Italian troops departing for Ethiopia. Over 10,000 died in the war, with the same number wounded. By 1941, after four years of sporadic resistance by the Ethiopians, and a British invasion that restored Haile Selassie, the butcher's bill had risen by a factor of more than 20.

Military Occupation of the Rhineland (1936)

It was against this backdrop that Hitler chose to send German armed forces back into the Rhineland (March, 1936), from which they were banned by the Treaty of Versailles. Germany had already left the League, as had Japan. Though the Soviet Union had joined, the League was clearly losing what credibility it possessed.



For all the efforts of Britain and France to placate Mussolini, supported even by Churchill, their efforts were a total failure. Feeling the sting of international criticism, and finding Hitler sympathetic, Mussolini had conceded German "rights" over Austria. The short-lived Stresa Front was dead.

Germany now had an an ally one of the victors of World War I. The Axis was born.

Hitler was also facing an economic crisis as the public works instituted to alleviate the economic crisis in Germany ran out of steam. Some distraction was required, and the ratification of a Franco-Soviet pact was a convenient occasion to present a countervailing foreign policy victory.

There was just no stomach to stand up to Hitler on this one. With Britain and France still at loggerheads over the Hoare-Laval pact, and the British public blaming France, the UK Government was not going to prevent the Germans "going into their own backyard" to please the French. Hitler could have obtained all of what he wanted by patient negotiation, but it suited him better to present it as a daring coup.

But even so, the Germans advanced cautiously, preceded by unarmed marching bands. German re-armament had not advanced very far, and the troops were under orders to withdraw at the first signs of any resistance. But the French High Command (as it was to do in 1938 over Czechoslovakia, and in 1939 over Poland) advised its Government there was nothing that could be done. Senior German officers like Heinz Guderian later admitted that, if the French Army had crossed the border, "we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen".

While Germans rejoiced, most of the public demonstrations were by Nazis. Most Germans quite soberly did not think that letting the army into the Rhineland was worth the price of putting peace at risk. However, as was to happen again and again, Germans fears were proven to be illusory by the weakness of Hitler's opponents.

Spanish Civil War

One of the results of Hitler's rise was the cessation of Communist attacks on Social Democrats ("Social Fascists" in the words of the Comintern), and the encouragement by Stalin of coalitions between Communists, Socialists and Liberals. The results was Popular Front governments in France and Spain.

The Spanish Popular Front Government was elected in January, but Spain had a history of Army coups, and a group of senior officers had already decided to stage a putsch.

The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) broke out with a military uprising in Morocco on July 17, triggered by events in Madrid, where a leading Conservative politician, Calvo Sotelo, was murdered by terrorist elements that included left-wing police officers. Within days, Spain was divided in two: a "Republican" or "Loyalist" Spain consisting of the Second Spanish Republic (within which were pockets of revolutionary anarchism and Trotskyism), and a "Nationalist" Spain under the insurgent generals, and, eventually, under the leadership of General Francisco Franco.

In the early days of the war, over 50,000 people who were caught on the "wrong" side of the lines were assassinated or summarily executed. Probably the most famous such victim was the poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca. Atrocities were committed by both sides, and were to continue through the war until it ended with a Nationalist/ Franco victory in 1938.

Spain was the scene of the first concerted action by the Fascist Dictators. The Germans supplied some of their air force. And in the early days, German logistical support was vital in flying Franco's troops from Morocco to Spain itself. Mussolini sent Italian troops directly, and Stalin sent equipment and advisers to help the Republican side.



The democracies stayed "neutral" under a false flag of non-intervention that was a flag of convenience for Germany and Italy. The International Brigades of men from other countries who served in Spain did bolster the Republican cause, but eventually were withdrawn under the "non-intervention" agreement.

Summary

So the year ended with the Rome-Berlin Axis fully formed and functioning in Spain to further the Fascist cause. The League of Nations was in total disarray, and lost any ability to influence events. European countries that might have collaborated to resist aggression (like Sweden, Switzerland or Ireland) adopted compliant policies that would avoid provoking any "big beasts". Democracy was gone in Southern Europe, and in Spain it was in mortal peril.

The democratic "powers" seemed just to advertise their own weakness. His Rhineland success convinced Hitler of his own tactical genius, and the contemptible weakness of his opponents. In a new economic plan, re-armament and expansion of Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine were fully embraced, in defiance of any economic damage it might cause. He began to expound on the destruction of Bolshevism and a massive gain of Eastern Lebensraum.

There were two years to go before the annexation of Austria and the Munich Agreement, then another year to the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the start of aggression against Poland.

There were bright spots in the bleakness, though visible only in retrospect. Outside Europe, democratic institutions still flourished in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the USA, Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected in a landslide, and the New Deal reforms were safe. In North West Europe, from Ireland to Finland, democratic institutions also remained stable and permanent. In Scandinavian countries, social democracy became rooted in a consensus from the centre-left to right.

Intellectual and artistic life flourished. Popular culture was lively in film and theatre. The Best Picture nominations for an Academy Award in 1936 included classics like Romeo and Juliet, Tale of Two Cities and a biopic about Louis Pasteur. The winner was a film about an icon of popular culture The Great Ziegfeld, starring William Powell.

Medical science continued to advance, while mathematicians like John von Neumann and Alan Turing laid the theoretical foundations of the computer revolution. In 1936, economist John Maynard Keynes published his work The General Theory of Interest, Employment and Money. Keynes, a liberal who hated both communism and fascism, described how a capitalist economy could stave off deep depressions by the state making "counter-cyclical" interventions - spending in periods of bust to pump-prime the economy, and collecting taxes as normal in periods of boom. This was to enormously influence economic thinking after 1945, and was to be often misapplied and misunderstood, though it did not have a great impact in the 1930s.

But the overall tone at the end of 1936 was that of looming threat. Many held out a hope of halting the Fascist march in Spain, but that was a vain dream. The Spanish war did not eventually become part of the World War Two, like Ethiopia and China did, but that was a bit of an accident.

War had arrived onto the European continent, and time was running out.
 
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Boy M5

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Didn't Chamberlain really start pushing rearmament in 1936?
 

between the bridges

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The 'allies' often get criticised for not stopping Adolf earlier however this ignores the fact that Mussolini was viewed as the senior more established power. Also the memory of slaughter of WW1 meant to most appeasement was preferable to another conflict.

If anyone can be viewed as failing to stop or defeat the Nazi's it was France. They had one of the largest and reasonably well equipped military. But again the spectre of WW1 huanted their policy makers, the number one priority was to avoid conflict on French soil, hence the Maginot line. The French kindly decided that Belgium would be their battlefield of choice and once given the opportunity they charged as far into it as possible. Which was exactly what the German's expected and wanted.

With the obvious benefit of hindsight the greatest failing of WW2 was once war had been declared the French should have invaded Germany. The few German troops in the West were facing the aforementioned Maginot line, a French flanking move and a Blitzkrieg towards Berlin ( lighting war wasn't a new German invention) would have put an end to it all.
 

owedtojoy

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Didn't Chamberlain really start pushing rearmament in 1936?
I think it was after Munich 1938.

I read somewhere that it helped the British in a way. If they had re-armed in 1936, they might have ended up with a lot of planes like this:



Instead of this:



However, re-arming in 1936 might have imposed better deterrence on Hitler. As it was, re-arming after 1938 was pretty glumly taken as preparation for war.
 

RasherHash

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What's the point of this post, to rehash events prior to WW2?

There's nothing new in this, imo there needs to be far more critical analysis of the notion that the UK, France and US were democracies while they still robbed, murdered and plundered the world over.

Both Germany and Italy wanted part of the action that the Brits and French had cornered for over 100 years, and from their pov and the times that were in it who could blame them.

Zoo ;)
 

owedtojoy

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The 'allies' often get criticised for not stopping Adolf earlier however this ignores the fact that Mussolini was viewed as the senior more established power. Also the memory of slaughter of WW1 meant to most appeasement was preferable to another conflict.

If anyone can be viewed as failing to stop or defeat the Nazi's it was France. They had one of the largest and reasonably well equipped military. But again the spectre of WW1 huanted their policy makers, the number one priority was to avoid conflict on French soil, hence the Maginot line. The French kindly decided that Belgium would be their battlefield of choice and once given the opportunity they charged as far into it as possible. Which was exactly what the German's expected and wanted.

With the obvious benefit of hindsight the greatest failing of WW2 was once war had been declared the French should have invaded Germany. The few German troops in the West were facing the aforementioned Maginot line, a French flanking move and a Blitzkrieg towards Berlin ( lighting war wasn't a new German invention) would have put an end to it all.
Yes, the French Army were psychologically anchored in the slaughter of 1914-18. Their top generals were veterans of the conflict.

There were actually two parts to the Maginot strategy. The second one, that of having a highly mobile armoured reserve to attack from the cover of the defences, had been completely forgotten. The French had actually sufficient tanks, and possibly better ones, in 1940, but they dispersed them as infantry support along their lines. The German Panzer divisions always had superiority in numbers at decisive points.

Charles de Gaulle actually led a French counter-attack with a hastily-assembled armour division in 1940, and it was quite successful. But it was too little too late.
 

between the bridges

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Yes, the French Army were psychologically anchored in the slaughter of 1914-18. Their top generals were veterans of the conflict.

There were actually two parts to the Maginot strategy. The second one, that of having a highly mobile armoured reserve to attack from the cover of the defences, had been completely forgotten. The French had actually sufficient tanks, and possibly better ones, in 1940, but they dispersed them as infantry support along their lines. The German Panzer divisions always had superiority in numbers at decisive points.

Charles de Gaulle actually led a French counter-attack with a hastily-assembled armour division in 1940, and it was quite successful. But it was too little too late.
Not sure that the French tanks were superior, the two man turret v the three man and top speed usually half that of the German ones. But as you say tactical the German's got it right, the British also had some localised success with an armoured counter attack ( Sherwood's? Tbh I'd have to check).
 

GDPR

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What's the point of this post, to rehash events prior to WW2?

There's nothing new in this, imo there needs to be far more critical analysis of the notion that the UK, France and US were democracies while they still robbed, murdered and plundered the world over.

Both Germany and Italy wanted part of the action that the Brits and French had cornered for over 100 years, and from their pov and the times that were in it who could blame them.

Zoo ;)
Cruimh came up with an interesting quote from an Ulster Bishop who suggested that it was better if the Third Reich were to win because even if they were as Anti-Christian as people were saying (and they were) people would eventually rise up against them and over throw them while an Allied victory would mean American and the evil side of English culture dominating Western Europe and they were more destructive than Hitlerism could ever be because more insidious. Its hard not at this stage to believe that the Bishop was actually totally on the money.

Another thing is that thon Nazis really knew how to put on a parade; they could certainly teach our own Orangies a thing or three about parading.
 

owedtojoy

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We forget Ireland's foreign policy was closely bound up with the League of Nations.

Then, as the United Nations now, it was seen as the only body that can impose some sort of legal order on what could become a Great Power free-for-all. De Valera took its failure as the signal for neutrality - he was willing to go to war with Italy over Abyssinia as part of an alliance. http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/columnists/ryle-dwyer/one-irish-statesman-who-led-by-example-at-home-and-abroad-132348.html

The Irish Free State assumed the Presidency of the Council on a few occasions.

Eamon de Valera was a highly respected speaker at the League Assembly, and was elected its President in 1938

Sean Lester, a former member of the IRB, was the League's last Secretary-General. He oversaw its dissolution, and the assumption of its powers by the United Nations in 1945. He was also High Commissioner for Danzig (Gdansk), a Free City under the direct control of the League, when the Germans attacked it (and Poland) in 1940.

Ireland's unhappy experience with the League is probably one of the reasons we did not join the United Nations until 1955.
 

Boy M5

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I think it was after Munich 1938.

I read somewhere that it helped the British in a way. If they had re-armed in 1936, they might have ended up with a lot of planes like this:



Instead of this:



However, re-arming in 1936 might have imposed better deterrence on Hitler. As it was, re-arming after 1938 was pretty glumly taken as preparation for war.
No pretty sure it was 1936 - there's a long lead time. As the Brits are discovering re Brexit,
 

between the bridges

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No pretty sure it was 1936 - there's a long lead time. As the Brits are discovering re Brexit,
Actually rearming started in 1932 initially due to fears of a war in Asia, and iirc air defence was made a priority in 1935.

As for the rest of yer post stop being childish there are plenty of threads available for your normal behaviour...
 

parentheses

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Ireland's unhappy experience with the League is probably one of the reasons we did not join the United Nations until 1955.



As far as I know the only reason we didn't join the UN until 1955 was because of the soviet veto.
 

RasherHash

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Actually rearming started in 1932 initially due to fears of a war in Asia, and iirc air defence was made a priority in 1935.

As for the rest of yer post stop being childish there are plenty of threads available for your normal behaviour...
Lol, free the Fermanagh wan :)
 

RasherHash

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Cruimh came up with an interesting quote from an Ulster Bishop who suggested that it was better if the Third Reich were to win because even if they were as Anti-Christian as people were saying (and they were) people would eventually rise up against them and over throw them while an Allied victory would mean American and the evil side of English culture dominating Western Europe and they were more destructive than Hitlerism could ever be because more insidious. Its hard not at this stage to believe that the Bishop was actually totally on the money.

Another thing is that thon Nazis really knew how to put on a parade; they could certainly teach our own Orangies a thing or three about parading.
Perhaps, but that's speculation re-what may have happened, I'm more interested in the realities of the times than the constant rehashing of the winners propaganda. Owedtolies likes the neatly packaged propaganda of the war but I believe reality is much more interesting.
 

GDPR

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As far as I know the only reason we didn't join the UN until 1955 was because of the soviet veto.
I remember reading somewhere that that was down to the Soviet Union not recognizing the Legitimacy of the Irish Free State (they had taken the Republican side in the Civil War).
 

sgtharper

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Cruimh came up with an interesting quote from an Ulster Bishop who suggested that it was better if the Third Reich were to win because even if they were as Anti-Christian as people were saying (and they were) people would eventually rise up against them and over throw them while an Allied victory would mean American and the evil side of English culture dominating Western Europe and they were more destructive than Hitlerism could ever be because more insidious. Its hard not at this stage to believe that the Bishop was actually totally on the money.
.
No, he wasn't. The simple-minded bigoted old fool was quite obviously talking out of his a*se about matters beyond his comprehesion or imagination. As are you in fact. How anybody nowadays, knowing just how appalling the Nazis were and how they would most likely have behaved had they been ultimately victorious, can take that kind of idiotic view is simply unbelievable.
 

JacquesHughes

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...... But again the spectre of WW1 huanted their policy makers, the number one priority was to avoid conflict on French soil, hence the Maginot line. The French kindly decided that Belgium would be their battlefield of choice and once given the opportunity they charged as far into it as possible. Which was exactly what the German's expected and wanted.

With the obvious benefit of hindsight the greatest failing of WW2 was once war had been declared the French should have invaded Germany. The few German troops in the West were facing the aforementioned Maginot line, a French flanking move and a Blitzkrieg towards Berlin ( lighting war wasn't a new German invention) would have put an end to it all.

The French would not extend the Maginot line to lie along the Belgium border!

Seems absurd now, but they expected the Germans to attack the line frontally, rather than go round the ends. In the event the Germans did just what they did in the WWI (invading northern France though Belgium) only at several times the original speed. It was another example where 'military experts' hadn't a bloody clue.

Rarely mentioned is; Germany fought the war with a senior officer corps trained under the democratic Weimar Republic. That nightmare, Stalin, spent the 30's destroying (murdering) his officer corps, and had almost no competent people when his turn came.
 

Telstar 62

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I think it was after Munich 1938.

I read somewhere that it helped the British in a way. If they had re-armed in 1936, they might have ended up with a lot of planes like this:



Instead of this:



However, re-arming in 1936 might have imposed better deterrence on Hitler. As it was, re-arming after 1938 was pretty glumly taken as preparation for war.

Pacifists and Leftists held sway in terms of public opinion in Britain, towards
any war in the first half of the Thirties.

Not to mention the small minority who were fans of Moseley
and his Fascists....

And most of Europe, including Britain, was genuinely terrified of Hitler and his
storm troops.
 

JacquesHughes

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We forget Ireland's foreign policy was closely bound up with the League of Nations.

Then, as the United Nations now, it was seen as the only body that can impose some sort of legal order on what could become a Great Power free-for-all. De Valera took its failure as the signal for neutrality - he was willing to go to war with Italy over Abyssinia as part of an alliance. One Irish statesman who led by example at home and abroad | Irish Examiner

The Irish Free State assumed the Presidency of the Council on a few occasions.

Eamon de Valera was a highly respected speaker at the League Assembly, and was elected its President in 1938

.
Thank you. Some remarkable quotes in the Examiner article. Dev was proved right in many ways.
 

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