What were the conditions in Europe after WWI?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There was a strong sense of forlornness and desolation that dominated Europe after WWI.  On one hand, the economic and human cost of the war was unimaginable.  Death and injury tolls into the tens of millions truly made the war something that cast a shadow of gloom over the entire continent.  The beliefs that dominated Europe about the "glory of war fighting" were dispelled by the end of the First World War.  The destruction wrought on the Continent made rebuilding a task that was almost impossible to undertake.  At the same time, millions of women lost husbands, children lost parents, and a sense of abandonment and loss enveloped the nation.  The ideals that many Europeans believed were the same that plunged the continent into destruction and futility.  These were dispelled after the war.  Nationalism, faith in government, belief in religion, as well as the idea of honor in war were all ruptured by the end of the conflict, contributing to a sense of nihilism throughout the Continent.  In the end, this lack of belief caused a vacuum into which the dictators of the 1930s such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Franco were more than willing to absorb.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the devastation of Germany, France, and England, especially London that sustained tremendous damage and 30,000 deaths from aerial attacks alone,  after the war German borders were reset.  Most of the Germans fled or were expelled from outside the territory of post-war Germany and post-war Austria.  Consequently, pre-war German provinces transferred to Poland and the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia was established as a country as were Hungary, Romania, and northern Yugoslavia. 

With nearly 12 million ethnic Germans involved, it was the largest movement of peoples in history, and the largest in post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe.  The policy that effected this movement was part of the geopolitical and ethnic reconfiguration of postwar Europe and in part retribution for Nazi Germany's initiation of the war and subsequent atrocities and ethic-cleansing in Nazi-occupied Europe.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Much of northern and eastern France was physically devastated by the war.  Germany's economy was shattered and Britain was nearly bankrupt.  Russia was in revolution and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were disintegrating.  This left widespread economic damage and hardship for the surviving peoples of Europe.

France began to speak of the "lost generation" - the 1.8 million Frenchman killed during the war, and the long term effect it had on their society.  Germans were humiliated at Versailles and shocked that they had signed it.  The veterans of the war were dazed - partly amazed at their survival, and forever wounded by what they had witnessed and lost.