How Did World War 1 Contribute To The Rise Of Dictators In Europe

How did World War I contribute to the rise of dictators in Europe?


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The aftermath of World War I paved the way for the rise of dictators in Europe. The Treaty of Versailles that concluded World War I placed heavy reparations, or payments, on Germany that the country could not finance. The post-war years were marked by instability as well as humiliation in Germany, as Germany also had to accept blame for causing World War I. In addition, Germany lost land in the Treaty of Versailles, and the German people, charged with a sense of nationalism, looked for a leader who could restore their economic power and reclaim their place in the world. In 1933, they found this leader in Hitler.

Italy had entered World War I on the side of the Allies and was promised a great deal of land in return, including parts of the Ottoman Empire, islands in the Adriatic, and lands along the border of Austria-Hungary. The Allies did not deliver on these promises, making the Treaty of Versailles unpopular in Italy. As a result of these broken promises, the country harbored sentiment against England and France, helping Mussolini's rise, as he built on this sentiment to gain power.

The Treaty of Versailles also resulted in a weak League of Nations, an international peacemaking body. The United States never signed the covenant, making the League of Nations relatively weak and unable to prevent future wars. 

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The three most important dictators to arise in Europe in the decade or so after the First World War were Benito Mussolini in Italy, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and Adolf Hitler in Germany.  These men rose to power essentially because their countries had in some way been made unhappy by the outcome of that war.

Mussolini came to power first.  His rise was connected in part to the war.  In the Treaty of Versailles, the Italians had not gotten what they had been promised when they entered the war.  This upset them greatly and led to nationalist sentiment.  The war also helped to disrupt the economy and society, opening the way for conflict that led to the rise of the fascists.

Hitler’s rise was much more clearly connected to WWI.  The Treaty of Versailles had punished Germany harshly.  Hitler’s rise was predicated on rousing German anger at this treatment and at the alleged “stab in the back” that caused Germany to lose WWI.  His Nazi ideology was able to capitalize on those emotions.

Stalin’s rise was also connected to WWI.  The ineptitude of the Russian war effort had helped to overthrow the old regime.  The Bolsheviks were able to take power in part because the war had discredited the monarchy.

WWI contributed to the rise of dictatorship, then, because it caused some countries to be unhappy with the world order that came out of the war.

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