Posts Tagged ‘mussolini’

Title: Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed The World (1940-41)
Author: Ian Kershaw
Genre: World War II, History, Politics

The series of events that marked the opening of the Second World War left most of the world in a state of shock. Suddenly it seemed almost anything was possible. For the aggressors there was no limit to what they could do; for their victims a new Dark Age seemed to beckon. Within this hurricane of events, small groups of individuals were faced with a huge range of decisions on which triumph or extinction could turn.

In this gripping book Ian Kershaw re-creates ten critical decisions taken between May 1940 (when Britain decided to fight on rather than surrender) & the autumn of 1941 (when Hitler decided to destroy Europe’s Jews). In London, Tokyo, Rome, Moscow, Berlin & Washington, politicians & generals, often working with very poor information & vast logistical, financial, economic & military problems, had to decide how they were going to exploit or combat the unfolding crisis. These decisions really did determine the future of the world.

Fateful Choices gives the reader an extraordinary sense both of the real constraints within which leaders worked but also of the role of personality: Churchill fighting on in the face of the catastrophe in France, Hitler ordering the invasion of the USSR despite Germany’s failure to defeat Britain, Stalin trusting Hitler & leaving his country wide open to Operation Barbarossa, Roosevelt realizing that the revolutionary idea of lend-lease could keep Britain fighting, the Japanese high command opting to attack the USA even in the face of evidence that it would fail.

Fateful Choices is a remarkable book that looks into the terrible heart of the modern age, & attempts to understand how decisions that changed or ended millions of lives really came about.

Read more about Sir Ian Kershaw @ Wikipedia


Type: Documentary
Title: Apocalypse: The Second World War
Category: World War II

Thanks to the efforts of a few, private collectors & archivists, these forgotten films have been rediscovered, restored & made available by National Geographic Channel in an extraordinary six-part series: Apocalypse: The Second World War. In addition to stunning footage, the series presents WW2 in an innovative & provocative way, giving audiences an unprecedented sense of the reality of war not conveyed by black & white footage.

Made up entirely of original 35mm, 16mm & 8mm films, Apocalypse: The Second World War includes rare footage of the Polish officers’ massacre at Katyń, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, the inhumane treatment of French soldiers taken prisoner by the Nazis & the sacrifice of Soviet soldiers at Stalingrad.

By bringing this incredible footage together, Apocalypse: The Second World War provides viewers with a ground-breaking portrait of WW2 that depicts not only its complexity, but the perspectives of both its victims & its victors.

Apocalypse: The Second World War is a six-part documentary consisting of the following episodes:

The Aggression (1933-39): Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
The Crushing Defeat (1939-40): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
Shock (1940-41): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
World Ablaze (1941-42): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
The Great Landing (1942-43): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Inferno (1944-45): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV


Adolf Hitler’s first Nazi ID card, Benito Mussolini’s fez, & General Sepp Dietrich’s sword have all been in & out of the hands of Craig Gottlieb, a man of Jewish descent who deals Nazi memorabilia out of his Solana Beach office.

Now he has something with a historical significance that could trump all those.

Gottlieb is selling Hitler’s inkwell desk set, used in the signing of the disastrous 1938 Munich Pact, for between $750,000 & $1 million. “That’s basically the surface upon which the fate of nations was decided,” he said.

His office in Solana Beach is, frankly, scary. It’s adorned with a swastika flag. Several SS uniforms line the walls. A display case holds Nazi hats. An electrician once reported him to sheriff’s deputies on fears Gottlieb was running a militia.

It’s actually his line of work — selling mainly World War II items, with a focus on Nazis, the architects of the Holocaust. It’s a path that Gottlieb, born to Jewish parents & who said he had family who died in the genocide, has had to reconcile. [Read More]


A veil has been torn from a treacherous intrigue which for weeks had been enacted by an Italian clique, serfs to Jews, & alien to their own people.

German propaganda broadcast on news of Italian capitulation

After the fall of Mussolini, the Allies began peace talks with the Italians. The new Italian government agreed to surrender terms the day the Allies landed on the mainland. But the Germans simply took over. While Italian resistance faded, the Germans tried to force the Allies back into the sea. When that failed they established a series of defensive lines up the peninsula that would stall the Allies for nearly two years. Churchill‘s strategy of attacking Hitler’s Germany through the “soft underbelly of Europe” failed. He had aimed to race up the peninsula & cut Germany off from the advancing Red Army, but Allied troops had to fight ferocious battles every inch of the way.

From The Story Of A World At War: World War II, by Nigel Cawthorne

Unlike Mussolini, Hitler gained power through democratic means. It was only after he became chancellor of Germany that he showed his true colors, and in the space of a few weeks established an authoritarian regime that would brook no political opposition.

In March 1930 Germany’s coalition government, lead by the Social Democrats, resigned, unable to agree upon a coherent policy for dealing with the country’s worsening economic situation. The president, the venerable wartime hero, Field Marshall Paul von Hindenberg, appointed the conservative financial expert, Heinrich Brüning, as chancellor. This was in response to political lobbying by the army. Brüning’s government did not enjoy a majority in the Reichstag and could not get a bill to reform the national finances passed. Brüning therefore had it enacted as an emergency decree, which was allowed by the Constitution, but the Reichstag still blocked it and Brüning felt forced to go to the country.

Changed Political Climate

The situation in Germany was now very different from what it had been in 1928. Both Communists and Nazis were vociferous in their efforts to drum up popular support and there were frequent street fights between the two. The upshot was that the two extremist parties radically increased their share of the votes, with the Communists gaining 77 seats and the Nazis 107. This meant that the more moderate parties were no longer able to form a parliamentary majority and Brüning increasingly had to rule by decree. His severe financial measures, which included drastically cutting public expenditure, made him incredibly unpopular. True, in 1932 at the Lausanne Conference, he did manage to negotiate an end to the reparations payments and also tried to establish an economic union with Austria – although the International Court at The Hague ruled that this was against the Versailles Treaty – but it was all too late to raise his popularity.

In the spring of 1932 Hindenburg’s term as president came to an end.

Brüning saw the Field Marshal as his best protection against the Nazis and other extremists and wanted him to remain in office. The Nazis and other nationalists objected and so Hindenburg had to stand for re-election. This time Hitler – who had finally gained German citizenship – and the Communist leader, Ernst Thälmann, stood against him. After a re-run Hindenburg was re-elected, winning 53% of the vote, with Hitler runner-up after gaining over one third. His star was clearly rising.

We have become once more true Germans…

Adolf Hitler, March 1933

Jockeying For Power

Hindenburg wanted Brüning to form a more right-wing cabinet to reflect the changing political face of Germany, but the latter refused and resigned. He was succeeded by Franz von Papen, who was rejected by all shades of political opinion. And so, in July 1932 another general election was called. Street brawls were even more widespread than in 1930. The Nazis, with 209 seats, became the largest party in the Reichstag, but Hitler refused to join any coalition and so another election was held that November. The Nazis won slightly fewer seats, partly because Papen had been taking a tough stand at the International Disarmament Conference and also because the economic situation had improved.

This was not enough to save Papen, however. The army refused to support him, so to counter this Hindenburg made its spokesman, General Kurt von Schleicher, chancellor.

This was not what Hitler wanted at all. He moved to isolate Schleicher by allying himself to Papen, thus preventing the general from forming a government. Accepting the inevitable, of January 30th, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor, with Papen as vice-chancellor. With only two other Nazis in the cabinet, Papen believed that Hitler could be controlled, but he was soon proved wrong.

The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink… I do not want your vote. Germany will be free, but not through you!

Hitler, to the Social Democrats in the Enabling Act Debate, March 23rd, 1933

Hitler’s first step was to call another general election for March 5th. Then, on February 27th there was a fire at the Reichstag. In the election that followed the Nazis gained only 44% of the vote, but it was enough. Building on the restrictions he had persuaded Hindenburg to put in place after the Reichstag fire, Hitler succeeded in getting his Enabling Act into the statute book on March 23rd. This gave him the right to rule by decree and effectively banned all political parties other than the Nazis. Within weeks overt opposition to Hitler had been crushed. Germany was now a dictatorship in all but name.

17,277,180 Germans voted for the Nazi Party in the democratic elections of March 1933, the last to be held in the country until after 1945.

The final end to democratic Germany came with Hindenburg’s death on August 2nd, 1934. Hitler was now head of state and free to realize his dreams of a new Greater Germany.

From World War II: The Definitive Visual History, by Richard Holmes

In the course of the 1930s Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy became increasingly belligerent in their foreign policies – Germany within Europe and Italy in Africa. As it had over Japan and Manchuria, the League of Nations showed itself incapable of preventing their acts of aggression.

The aim of the Geneva disarmament conference of 1932-34 was to persuade all European nations to reduce their armed forces to the size of Germany. France; however, viewed the move as weakening its security. Germany, on the other hand, sought to increase its military strength to that of its neighbors. When was this was refused, in October 1933, Hitler withdrew not only from the talks but also from the League of Nations.

The following year Hitler turned his attention to Austria, where Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, under threat from both Left and Right, had ruled without a parliament for two years. Hitler encouraged a Nazi coup and in July 1934 Dollfuss was murdered; but government troops regained control and Mussolini made clear his opposition to a Nazi takeover by massing troops on the border with Austria. Hitler was forced to back off.

Hitler was to enjoy better fortune in 1935. A referendum in the state of Saarland resulted in an overwhelming vote for a return to Germany, and this duly occurred in March. In the same month, Hitler announced to the world the creation of a German air force, the Luftwaffe, and that he was dramatically increasing the size of his army. This was in flagrant breach of the Versailles treaty, but there were only muted protests from Britain and France.

Conquest of Abyssinia

Mussolini, meanwhile, was also flexing his muscles. He had initially hoped to use peaceful means to expand Italy’s African empire by securing Abyssinia. He had signed a treaty of friendship with Emperor Haile Selassie in 1928, but the latter wanted to open his country to all nations and not just to Italy. Mussolini became increasingly irritated over this. In December 1934 Italian and Abyssinian forces clashed inside Abyssinia. Abyssinia appealed to the League of Nations, but it was more concerned about German rearmament. Indeed, in April 1935 Britain and France, whose main objective was to ensure that Mussolini did not ally himself to Hitler, met the Italians to discuss this problem, but did not raise the subject of Abyssinia.

Sensing the weakness of the Western European democracies, Mussolini’s forces invaded Abyssinia in October 1935. By may 1936 the country had been overrun and Mussolini declared it to be Italian territory, the emperor having gone into exile in Britain. The League’s response had been to impose limited economic sanctions, but these did not include coal and oil. Not being League members, neither Germany nor the United States were bound by these sanctions.

Proclaiming the Axis

This 1938 German postage stamp celebrates the ever closer relationship between Hitler & Mussolini that developed after 1936. The slogan reads: “Two peoples and one struggle.”

A Rome-Axis around which all European states that desire peace can revolve.

The Rhineland

In March 1936 Hitler took advantage of the fact that much of the world was wringing its hands over Abyssinia to send his troops into the Rhineland. It was a calculated gamble, since Hitler’s army was by no means ready for war and a firm response by Britain and France would probably have forced a climb-down. But they were in no position to fight another European war.

A New Partnership

Another consequence of the Abyssinian crisis was the Mussolini turned his back on Britain and France because of their part in imposing sanctions on his country. In October 1936 Germany and Italy signed a treaty of friendship, agreeing to recognize each others interests: Germany’s north of the Alps and Italy’s to the south. It was at the singing of the treaty that Mussolini first spoke of a Rome-Berlin axis.

From World War II: The Definitive Visual History, by Richard Holmes