IB History Review Guide/Totalitarian Europe

Totalitarian Europe, 1922 to 1953: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia edit

From the Syllabus edit

  • nature of one-party states, ideologies, repression, propaganda, state control
  • Mussolini's rise and rule, 1922 to 1945: domestic and foreign policies
  • rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party
  • Hitler in power, 1933 to 1945 domestic and foreign policies
  • Stalin in power, 1928 to 1953: domestic and foreign policies

Definition of Fascism: Its implications edit

Economic self-sufficiency: The country must be autocratic. To do this the government controlled the economy, and ran to some extent. See Corporate State.

A Totalitarian State: A state which aims to control all aspects of people's lives and attempts to subordinate the individual. See Totalitarianism.

Single-party State: There is no democracy. Support is won through the use of propaganda.

Military State

Benito Mussolini edit

Modified from Jakes - Assorted revision notes

Italy at War edit

  • Italy was initially part of the Triple Alliance which was a defensive alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. When World War One broke out, Italy did not join despite this alliance. However, Italy saw this as an offensive war.
  • At this time, Benito Mussolini, a leader of the socialist party and and editor of the socialist paper named "The Avanti" called for intervention in the war. He was expelled from his party and from there founded his own paper called Il Popo D'Italia.
  • Italy eventually joined the war in April of 1915, but on the side of the Entente. This was after the signing of the secret Treaty of London.
  • The treaty promised Italy land from the Austria-Hungarian empire including Istria, Dalmatia, and South Tyrol. The Italians fought the Austria-Hungarians in the alps and in the battle of Caporetto, were forced to retreat.
  • Italy lost some 600,000 soldiers and had 1.2 million wounded.
  • It lost 150 billion Lira financially.
  • Huge inflation ensued, the cost of living rose to five times as much, exports stopped and unemployment rose.
  • The Italian government had continued to gain support for the war by making empty promises such as land for the peasants, jobs, pensions, benefits for soldiers, free medical care for the wounded and so on. These were never kept. Some 160,000 returning soldiers were bitter at the government.
  • In the Treaty of Versailles Italy received Istria and South Tirol, but not Dalmatia which had been promised. It was instead given to the newly formed state of Yugoslavia.
  • This fueled the sentiment of nationalism. People began to talk about the "mutilated victory". These formed into the Arditi, special fighting forces.
  • Mussolini formed the Fascio di Combattimento in March 1919 which would develop itself into the Italian Fascist Party. It originally consisted of merely 50 malcontents, and won zero seats in the 1919 elections.

Mussolini's Rise to Power edit

Italian Economic situation:

  • Inflation, the lire devalued to 1/5 of its original values.
  • Italy still had massive war loans. The Italian debt was 6x the prewar level.
  • Italian tourist trade and exports virtually came to a standstill. There was large scale unemployment.

Political conditions

  • Between 1914 and 1921- Italy had seven different prime ministers.
  • No majority could stay in power.
  • Orlando lost support and resigned in 1919.
  • The Socialist party was gaining widespread support. Party membership grew from 50,000 before war to 200,000 in 1919. With increased membership came more strikes.

Social conditions

  • Italian patriots felt the Italian government had betrayed them in 1919.
  • Occupation of Fiume. In September 1919, a volunteer force led by the poet Gabrielle D'Annunzio took over Fiume. They were not driven out until January 1921.
  • Soviets began establishing Soviets in 1920. Workers took over 600 factories.
  • Peasants began simply taking land.

  • Mussolini was the son of a blacksmith, and actively involved in Politics.
  • Editor of the Avanti, an official socialist newspaper.
  • Fought in the war, but was hurt in an army training exercise.
  • There was a general atmosphere of frustration and discontent amongst the Italian people due to the broken promises. The government was weak and failing.
  • Universal suffrage introduced in 1919.
  • Italian proportional system meant that political parties had to form coalitions in order to achieve anything in parliament.
  • A wave of strikes shook Italian cities throughout 1919-1922. Rising prices with rising unemployment explain the increase in membership of the Italian socialist and communist parties.
  • 361 strikes in May of 1919.
  • 1920: Half a million workers on strike.
  • Mussolini drew a wide assortment of support from different sections of Italian society. He was seen as a defender of private property and the social order. He organized the Fascio di Combattimento into an anti-socialist police force.
  • The Fascist's opponents were divided, the socialist and the communists did not work together. The Prime minister, Giolitti could not govern the country with the socialists opposing him in Parliament. He organized the 1921 elections, attempting to bring the Fascists in parliament, in hopes that they would back his liberal party.
  • Fascists won 35 seats, while the socialists held 122. The socialists could still block the government's policy in parliament.
  • The general strike of the summer of 1922. Mussolini organized his fighting units and started to terrorize his opponents through physical force. The socialist party called for a general strike in July of 1922, but this was in Mussolini's favor. He was able to propose an ultimatum- either the Italian government stop the strikes, or he would.
  • The March on Rome: By Autumn 1922, the fascists felt strong enough to bid for power. 50,000 fascists took to the countryside and marched on Rome. These were poorly organized and easily stopped. However, the King refused to give the Prime Minister special powers to stop the march. He instead telegrammed Mussolini asking him to become the new Italian prime minister.
  • The army leader thought 10 or 12 arrests would be enough to stop the March on Rome.
  • Train loads of fascist supporters were stopped at check points. Some 20,000 of them were stopped by 200 policemen.
  • Only 5,000 men reached the assembly which was guarded by 28,000 troops.
  • King Emmanuel III never asked the military commander of Rome what the situation was, nor did him the powers required to further disrupt the March.

From Government to Dictatorship edit

  • Mussolini did not have a fascist majority in parliament, and could still be dismissed by the king. He also did not have control of the army.
  • He however, did obtain the posts of Minister of Interior (control of police) and Foreign affairs in order to strengthen his position.
  • He used the squadristi to intimidate his political opponents.
  • He played on the middle class and business men's fear of socialism and communism.
  • Mussolini obtained the open support of the church by banning contraceptives and promising to introduce compulsory religious education in schools. (Being a Catholic country, and one of great importance, religion was an important factor for political support)
  • In July 1923, Mussolini introduced the Acerbo Law: This put and end to the proportional system and instead said that any party with 25% of the votes and the highest number of seats in parliament would automatically get two-thirds of the seats in parliament. This discarded the need for coalition governments.
  • In April 1924, general elections were held in Italy. The Fascists naturally won and were given two-thirds of the seats in parliament, and this the majority they needed.
  • The death of Matteotti: Socialist MP, C.Matteotti gave speeches in parliament denouncing the fascists' use of violence in the electoral campaign. In June of 1924, Matteotti was kidnapped and stabbed to death by fascist thugs. Anti-fascist feeling spread and eyes slowly turned on Mussolini as the culprit. Mussolini denied any involvement in the assassination.
  • December 1924, Mussolini introduced new reforms:
  • Press censorship established
  • Political meetings banned
  • Secret police set up
  • January 1925- Mussolini gave a speech claiming responsibility for Matteotti's death and stating that he was proud of it.
  • Gradually centralized his regime. Created a post of Head of government, which was not accountable to parliament, but only the King Victor Emmanuel III. Began to rule by decree. Set up the Fascist General Council.
  • Cult of Personality: Began calling himself "Il Duce", Italian for "the leader". Everyone loved him, he was respected worldwide. Italian newspapers called him the new Caesar.
  • Threat from Squadristi: Radical members of the PNF (Fascist party) led by secretary Farinacci put pressure on Mussolini to carry out a "Fascist Revolution". Widespread violence used from April to October 1925. Mussolini took certain measures to secure his own power and remove dissidents from his party. (Note: Excellent point to compare with Stalin and Hitler)
  • He replaced Farinacci with a more moderate leader
  • He blamed squads and gangs for the violence
  • He purged 60,000 PNF leaders by 1928
  • He reorganized local branches of the PNF- local leaders were not appointed directly from Rome

Mussolini's consolidation of power edit

  • Using the OVRA, secret police, Mussolini managed to ban the political opposition.
  • Mussolini introduced press censorship.
  • Mussolini brought local power under control.
  • The government also controlled education, which was used to encourage the denunciation of opponents of the regime and to give good views of Mussolini.
  • Furthermore, he recognized the Vatican as an independent state.
  • Made Christian Catholicism the official religion in Italy
  • Promised to introduce compulsory religion education.
  • Paid a large sum of money to pope in compensation for the land he lost in 1870.
  • The Corporate State: Trade unions were made illegal, and instead replaced with Fascist-controlled trade unions.
  • By 1936, there were 22 corporations.
  • Strikes were made illegal.
  • Workers lose quite a bit of freedom, but in compensation get Sundays off, paid holidays and free football and concert tickets.

Mussolini's Social Policy edit


  • Lateran Treaty- recognized the sovereignty of the Vatican. Made Catholicism the state religion.
  • Various Battles, such as Battle of Births, and Battle for Grain which focused attention away from the country's real problems.
  • Formation of the Balilla (Youth group)
  • 1923- Education act which made fascist culture compulsory in schools.
  • 1925- "Leggi Facistissime" which imposed further press controls.
  • 1931- University professors were forced to swear an oath to fascism.
  • In Mussolini's own words "women do not count in our state". The role of women was emphasized as being child-bearers and were encouraged to marry and to have children. In 1927, Mussolini launched one of his many social battles, this one being the battle for births which aimed to increase the Italian population from 40 million to 60 million by 1950. He tried to do this by:
  • Giving loans to married couples, which were then canceled after a newborn child.
  • Discouraging women from working outside of the home.
  • Promotion in civil services were only given to married men.
  • Awarding medals to women with many children.
  • Much like other social battles Mussolini waged, it did not work.

Legal system

  • November 22nd- vote of confidence and the king gave him emergency powers to restore order and reforms.
  • July 1923- Acerbo law
  • Use of violence and intimidation.
  • Leggi Facistissime, prime minister became head of the state and responsible only to the king.
  • 1926- Mussolini outlaws all opposing political parties.
  • 1928: Mussolini abolishes Universal Suffrage and restricts Parliamentary elections/

Crushing of Opposition

  • 1923: MSVN which took on oath to the state and not the king. Volunteer fascist militia provided Mussolini with an army of 30,000
  • Death of Giacomo Matteotti
  • Aventine session- abused it, parties had to forgo their seats.
  • 1926- outlaws all political parties
  • 1925-1926L arrested, sentenced to death, or exiled some 10,000 fascists.

Mussolini's Foreign Policy edit

  • 1922-1934: Pressured Yugoslavia for Fiume, and pressure for indirect control of Albania.
  • 1935: War waged against Abyssinia.
  • 1936: Friendship with Nazi Germany.
  • Doubled the size of the army from 175,000 to 275,000 men.
  • It is difficult to be precise about Mussolini's plans and methods in his foreign policy since Mussolini himself never gave any references to it in his speeches. Though he never made remarks directly, Mussolini was very ambitious with his eyes set on the Balkans, Mediterranean, and Africa. Mussolini dreamed of reconciling a new Roman Empire.
  • There were two phases of Mussolini's foreign policy.
  • In the first, he played the peace-maker, the diplomat, participating in the formation of numerous peace treaties.
  • In the second, he drew upon the image of the Ancient Roman Empire for territorial gains and expansion
  • Italy remained in the League of Nations and signed the Kellog-Briand Pact in 1928 which agreed to refrain from using war in order to solve disputes.
  • Mussolini also joined the Stress Front with Britain and France in 1935 which attempted to resist any further breach in international agreements with Germany.


  • 1925- Locarno Pact with Britain and France promising to guarantee Germany's western frontier.
  • In 1934, Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss was assassinated by Austrian Nazis. Hitler tries to advance on Austria but is blocked by Mussolini who sends troops to the Austrian frontier.
  • In 1935- Stressa Front is formed which is an anti-Hitler front ensuring Austria's independence.
  • 25th October 1936- Rome-Berlin axis is formed.
  • Italy withdraws from the league in 1937.

Abyssinia Crisis (1935-1936)

  • Mussolini aims in acquiring Abyssinia in order to increase Italy's national and international prestige and for Italian economic gains. Abyssinia was one of the two remaining African colonies which were never colonized. Furthermore, it was already situated next to two Italian colonies, Eritrea and Somalia. From October 1935 to April 1936, Italy attacked Abyssinia even going as far as using poison gas against civilians. This was all, naturally, against the laws of the league of nations.
  • There were only 2,000 Italians settled in Italy's colony of Libya.
  • Italy sends an army of 400,000.
  • Mussolini still gained popularity.
  • Tensions rise with France and Britain due to their own African colonies.
  • Mussolini forges closer relations with Germany.
  • The League of Nations condemns Italy's actions and enforces very weak economic sanctions. Coal, oil, and iron are excluded from the sanctions, and the Suez Canal remains open, allowing Italian boats direct access. Nevertheless, Mussolini is disappointed in the actions of Britain and France.


  • When the civil war broke out in July of 1936, Mussolini immediately provided the nationalists with men and equipment on the grounds that he could not allow a Communist government be formed in the Medittaranean.
  • Volunteers were sent to keep the alliance secret, but eventually was disclosed when film showed Italian cars with Italian license plates.
  • Mussolini was also supplying submarines to attack Russian ships carry goods.

The Munich Conference

  • In September of 1938, it became clear that Mussolini wanted to settle the Czech crisis without resorting to war.

Adolf Hitler edit

Rise of NSDAP membership

  • 1925: 25,000
  • 1926: 49,000
  • 1927: 72,000
  • 1928, the NSDAP won 2.6% and were given 12 seats.
  • 1929: Young Plan
  • Alfred Hugenburg
  • Law against enslavement of German people
  • 1930 Elections
  • 6.4 million votes
  • Largest party in the Reichstag
  • Still not a majority.
  • Deception for Hitler
  • 1932 Elections
  • 13.7 million votes
  • Largest party in the Reichstag
  • Still not a majority
  • Hitler frustrated
  • Who voted for the Nazis?
  • Northerners
  • Protestants
  • Farmers
  • Extreme Nationalists
  • Youths
  • Ex-supporters of Centre-Democrats
  • Who were relatively anti-Nazi?
  • Southerners
  • Catholics
  • Urban people
  • Educated people
  • Communists and socialists

Propaganda edit

  • Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that "The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted: they forget easily". Goebbels, Hitler's future minister of propaganda believed that the key to successful propaganda was simplification and repetition. Hitler is thought to have invented modern propaganda.
  • Hitler used posters extensively. Every German town was full of cleverly designed Nazi posters.
  • Hitler utilized modern technology by making use of loud speakers, film, music, radio, and cinema to reach as many people as possible.
  • He used to cars and airplanes to quickly move between campaigns and give the image that he was a modern statesman.
  • Rallies were cleverly organized. They contained flags, torches, uniforms, song, and anthems. Everything was done to stir up a frenzy of excitement and make the audience behave as a group.
  • Hitler's speeches sometimes contained specific messages targeted at groups of people.
  • Violence was used on political enemies by using the SS and SA. Prussia had 461 political riots in July 1932.
  • Local party branches were told to organize events such as football matches and concerts so that individuals would be exposed to Nazi propaganda.

Why did the Weimar Republic fail? edit

  • The constitution contained an article 48 a measure which allowed the President to rule by decree without the consent of the Reichstag. This gave the Nazis the right to basically do whatever they wanted and Hindenburg foolishly allowed them so.
  • The Weimar Republic was born out of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty which still left the German bitter. Many believe they never actually lost the war.
  • Economic problems.
  • Proportional government which allowed for splinter parties.
  • There was an appealing alternative by 1932, Hitler.

Why did Hitler succeed?

  • Hitler's ideas were generally appealing to the public.
  • Hitler identified popular fears and desires and responded to them.
  • Aggressive use of scapegoats (Jews and Communists)
  • Skillful use of propaganda (see above).
  • Charismatic leader
  • Divisions and weaknesses among his political rivals. The Communists and Socialists were dvided and refused to work against Hitler. Many members of the right-wing thought they could control Hitler.

Hitler comes to Power edit

  • Hitler is appointed Chancellor on the 30th of January, 1933
  • Weaknesses:At the time there were only two Nazi members in parliament, W.Frick (minister of interior) and Goring. He didn't have a majority of seats in the Reichstag and lacked support of the Nationalists. Furthermore, his power came entirely from Hindenburg's support.
  • Strengths: Nazi party was the largest party in the Reichstag. It was almost impossible to govern without Nazi support. Besides the Nazis, the only alternative were the communists and Social Democrats. Hitler controls the media and police and is backed by financial businessmen as well as industrialists.
    • Violence: The March 1933 electoral campaigns are marked by extensive use of violence by both the SA and the SS as well as Goring (Nazi minister of interior of Prussia) using the police against communists and all other political opponents.
  • The Reichstag Fire: On the 27th of February 1933, a young Dutch communist by the name of Van der Lubbe was found with incriminating evidence and was arrested. He confessed but insisted that he acted alone. Hitler took advantage of the fire to pass a decree on the 28th of February called the "The decree for the protection of the German people and the state" which:
  • Suspended civic and political liberties
  • Arrested communist and socialist democrat leaders and hundreds of political activists.
  • Powers of federal government in Berlin strengthened.

March 5th Elections:

  • November 1932 - 33.1%
  • March 1933 - 43.9%, still do not have a majority. Hitler disappointed.

The Enabling Act: Hitler wants to rule without a parliament, so he has the Reichstag vote to suspend all parliamentary activities for four years and hand over power to Hitler's government. This requires a 2/3 vote.

  • Hitler's image of respectability was threatened by on-going violence of the SA in the streets.
  • Hitler needed to reassure the German public that he was a moderate leader.

Day of Potsdam: 21st of March 1933. Ceremony to open the Kroll Opera house as the new house of parliament. Hitler makes a big propaganda effort to present himself as a natural leader.

  • 23rd of March 1933. Reichstag votes on Enabling Act. Entire building was surrounded by the SA as show of force and an attempt to intimidate opponents.
  • The Communists and Social Democrats were refused entrance to the Reichstag.
  • Hitler declares that he will respect the Catholic Church and uphold Catholic values in an attempt to gain the backing of the Centre party and Catholics.
  • This resulted in a stunning victory. 444 votes in favor versus 94 against. This legal revolution turns Hitler into a dictatorship.

Hitler's consolidation of Power edit

  • The next step was for Hitler to nazify Germany. He did so by eliminating the most obvious poles of opposition.
  • The federal states
  • Trade-Unions
  • Other political parties.

He did this by:

  • April 1933: More power given to Nazi-controlled state governments over state parliaments.
  • January 1934: State parliament abolished.
  • May 1st 1933: Hitler makes the first of May a bank holiday. This fools unions into cooperating with the Nazis.
  • May 2nd 1933: All trade unions occupied and closed down. The leaders were arrested and DAF (German Worker's Front) is set up as a replacement in an attempt to control the workers.
  • The communist party (KPD) has been outlawed since February 1933. The Social Democratic party is outlawed in June 1933. All other parties vote themselves out of existence.
  • July 14th 1933: Hitler declares Nazi Party the only legal party in Germany.

However, Hitler still has many obstacles. The Gleischaltung is not complete.

  • The army is still capable of stopping Hitler.
  • Hitler does not control the church
  • Hitler depends on big business.

Night of the Long Knives: 30th June 1934


Josif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili edit

Better known by his adopted name, Joseph Stalin. (1878-1953)(Georgian)

See Prescribed Topic One.