August 28 - The German Armed Forces in August 1939

The German Army was a Prussian tradition with centuries long. Even with the limitations, the spirit of service to the cause lived on. However, the new Army, still based on those values, searched for new and brighter ideas, tactics and strategies. New leaders with disruptive conceptions were motivated and defended. The German soldier was strong and equipped with the best weapons at the time. But it was the way those weapons were to be used in the battlefield that revolutioned the war in 1939. The tank as a breakthrough weapon combined with the tactical aviation was the base of this “Blitzkrieg” or Lightning War. Large armored formations launched into the enemy lines, supported by tactical bombers (such as the Junkers Ju-87 “Stuka”) with the objective of breaking resistance and disrupt communication and organization behind those lines. Infantry would then follow to occupy the space and finish the job of destroying what was left.

After the severe limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty in 1919, the German Armed Forces were almost irrelevant:
- The Army had no more than 100000 soldiers for internal control purposes only;
- No heavy weapons such as tanks or large artillery were allowed;
- No Air Force was to exist;
- No submarines;
- No surface ships with over 10000 tons of displacement.

After arriving to power, Hitler's objective was to develop the Armed Forces into a fighting and conquering force. At first all actions taken were covert or within the limitations. The army grew from 100000 men to 400000 soldiers. For instance the number of planes grew but they were built for civilian purpuses and used to train pilots and give them hours of flight.

However, in March of 1936 Hitler openly defied the limitations and ordered the regular conscription. The covert Air Force was now public as one of the best in the world. Tanks and modern weapons were ordered to the main economic groups in Germany (Krupp, MAN, Mauser, etc).

The Wermacht (The German Army)

The German Army was a Prussian tradition with centuries long. Even with the limitations, the spirit of service to the cause lived on. However, the new Army, still based on those values, searched for new and brighter ideas, tactics and strategies. New leaders with disruptive conceptions were motivated and defended. The German soldier was strong and equipped with the best weapons at the time. But it was the way those weapons were to be used in the battlefield that revolutioned warfare in the early stages of Second World War.
In September 1939, there were:
- 6 Panzer (Armored) Divisions although more than half of those tanks are Pz Kw 1, a very outdated machine. Only a few of them are Pz Kw 4, the latest armored weapon.
- 4 Motorized Infantry Divisions
- 36 Infantry Divisions
- 3 Mountain Divisions
- 37 Reserve Divisions and 14 Ersatz (these just fresh out of training)

The Kriegsmarine (The German Navy)
The German Navy has probably the best ships of her time but in a very small number. Ships like:
Aircraft Carriers - Graf Zeppelin (never finished)

Battleships - Bismarck (1940) and Tirpitz (1941)
Battlecruisers - Scharnhorst (1939) and Gneisenau (1938)
Pocket Battleships - Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee
Heavy Cruisers - Admiral Hipper, Blucher and Prinz Eugen
Destroyers - 21 units
E-Boats (Torpedo Boats) and Auxiliary Cruisers (Armed Merchants) - several tens of units

And developed a submarine fleet that through the War caused severe problems in the North Atlantic when attacking the convoys that supplied the British Islands.

However, it was never a match against her conterparts, specially the Royal Navy.

The Luftwaffe (The Air Force)

Based on the thoughts of Ernst Udet and Albert Kesselring, it was perhaps the best prepared and equipped Air Force in the World when the War begun. Using civilian aircrafts, installations and companies (like Lufthansa), Germany prepared many pilots within the restrictions of 1919. From 1936 on the production of excellent models would strive. And with new strategic and tactical ideas based on the ground support to troops, civilian bombings, fast airplanes, the Germans had a huge Air Force, tested in combat in Spain and with the best planes in the world. The fighter Me-109 would be unmatched in the early stages of war. The dive bomber Ju-87 "Stuka" would cause panic in the enemy ranks and prove very useful in tactical support. And the medium bombers like the He-111 and the Do-17 surprised by combining speed and a good bomb payload.

In Poland, Luftwaffe will hve around 2300 modern airplanes against the 400 polish, most of the outdated.

The lack of a strategic bomber would be an error that, against Great Britain in 1940, was regretted but in 1939 no one could beat the Germans in the air.

August 26 - What if Hitler and Stalin hadn't signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement?

When asked, Winston Churchill said that he would call World War Two the "Unnecessary War" because there were so many chances to stop it before the beginning and only the inability of France and Great Britain led to the growing menace of Hitler’s Germany.

The possibility of an Alliance between Russia, France and Great Britain, in July/August of 1939 was the last chance of stopping Hitler from attacking Poland. Germany was far better prepared for war than the Allies. However it would be unable to deal with a two front war, one against USSR and another against France and Britain. In fact, the greatest fear in September of 1939 was that France would attack Germany when almost all forces were involved in Poland.

So if USSR was to align with the Western Democracies, probably Hitler would not have the courage to advance into Poland and the Second World War would have had a different timeframe and outcome. Most probably war would have begun a year or two later, when Germany would be far more stronger…

What do you think? Give us your opinion!

August 25 - Hitler delays invasion of Poland

The Fall Weiss, the Plan for the invasion of Poland, was scheduled to start on the 25th of August, right after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Hitler hoped that France and Great Britain would give up the guarantees given to Poland after the end of negotiations with Russia. Like one year before, concerning Czechoslovakia, he expected that the two democracies would show weakness again and give any possibility of war. Specially now that Soviet Union would not align with them on a two front alliance against Germany.

However the patience of France and, more important, Great Britain had run thin and this time Herr Hitler would not get away. Though France is relutant to go to war becuse of Poland, Britain is not! Chamberlain will put between the doomed Poland and Germany all the might of the British Empire. And that will not be negotiable...

Checking that reaction to the pact with USSR was very determined and by a special request from Mussolini, the German Fuhrer postponed the plan to invade Poland for one week, still hoping to avoid confrontation with the Allied Nations…


August 24 - Great Britain puts the Royal Navy on alert and readies for War...

As the details of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact come into public (except the Secret Clauses) the Western Democracies react. Neville Chamberlain recalls the Parliament from vacation absence to approve the War Powers Act. At the same time, the Royal Navy is put in alert, all leaves of military and civil personal are cancelled. Naval and Costal Defenses are also called up. Though not as vigorously, preparations for war are also taken in France.

Britain and France are taken by surprise by the Pact between Russians and Germans and they face the inevitability of war now.

According to the initial planning, military operations in Poland are to begin on the 25th of August…


August 24 - 1939 The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Named after the two Foreign Ministers involved, this pact stated a Non-Aggression agreement between the Third Reich and the USSR. Both countries would not join other alliances against each other and would remain neutral if the other was to be attacked by a third party.

There were secret clauses that divided the Eastern and Central Europe into spheres of influence. USSR would have influence over Finland, Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania would stay in German areas. Poland was divided into two parts, the West to Germany and the East to the Russians.

Many defend that this was the Pact that allowed Hitler to avoid a two front war and therefore start the aggression on Poland that led to World War Two. Once again, Germany will be able to concentrate their resources against one enemy at the time. Fact is that without the peace with USSR, and possibly the alliance between Stalin and the Western Democracies, Hitler would be able to move against Poland and survive the internal pressure.

To the political agreement future and broad economic agreements allowed the Nazi Germany to survive the naval and trade blockade established by the Allies after the beginning of hostilities.

To know more:
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact


The Road to War - August 1939

The last month of peace begins in a dark and dense mood. The key to all action is Soviet Union though few believe that war is still avoidable. Hitler terminates preparations for the “Fall Weiss” (Case White), the plan for invasion of Poland. But for that to happen he has to void at all costs a double front war. On the other hand, failing to carry a policy of Appeasement with Hitler, France and Great Britain know that they are ill prepared for war in 1939. They need to contain Hitler and since the United States are unwilling to even discuss any intervention in Europe, a pact with USSR is badly needed… As negotiations between France, Great Britain and Soviet Union stall in the discussion of military details, the Germans leap from a successfully economic negotiation to an extended political agreement on the division of East Europe…

2 – Albert Einstein sends a letter to President Roosevelt concerning the possibility to develop some kind of bomb using Uraniun. Some consider this the beginning of The Manhattan Project.

15 – The movie Wizard of Oz, based in the famous novel by L. Frank Baum, premieres in the United States.

19 – Hitler, still unsure of the outcome of the talks with the Russians but certain of the outcome, orders the move forward on the Fall Weiss, the plan for the invasion of Poland. Several naval units such as the Graf Spee, the Deutschland and several submarines leave their bases to position in several locations.

20 – In the inner Mongolia, the soviets under General Zhukov’s command, defeat the Japanese ending the border confrontations in that location


The Road to War - July 1939

6 – The last Jewish businesses are closed in Germany as the persecution of several minorities moves forward.

10 – British Prime Minister reaffirms total support to the Polish and that all matters concerning the free city of Dantzig are not limited to the relations between Germany and Poland. If hostilities begin, Britain will intervene.

In late July German and Russian officials end the terms of an extended economic agreement with the objective of supplying badly need raw materials to the Nazi’s war industry. In an event of a total war with Britain and France, Germany knows that sea routes will be impossible to maintain and the USSR is the best way to get those supplies. Since the beginning of the talks, German representatives always tried to achieve, at the same time, a political agreement.


The Road to War - June 1939

3 – The negotiations between France, Great Britain and Soviet Union come to a halt as the definition of aggression defended by the Russians (including indirect aggression concept) is considered too broad by the English. There is fear that it can be used as an excuse for expansionism of the soviets in Eastern Europe. This will be considered by the Soviets as weakness and will help Stalin to make the decision to negotite with Hitler instead.

4 – The ship St. Louis, carrying 907 Jewish refugees from Europe is prohibited to make landfall in Florida and turns back. Many of the passengers will die in nazi concentration camps.

14 – Japan blockades Tientsin’s British concession in China, almost bringing both countries into confrontation. Natural allies from the previous World War, many differences lay now between Japan and Great Britain.

24 – Siam becomes Thailand.


The Road to War - May 1939

Great Britain is secretly warned by a high ranking Hitler’s opponent (Carl Friedrich Goerdeler) that Germany and the Soviet Union are negotiating the division of East Europe together with a non aggression pact. Knowing that USSR is playing both ways will damage the efforts of a deterrence based on a double front against Hitler’s Germany.

3 – The Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov is replaced by Vyacheslav Molotov. This will give Stalin more control over Russian foreign policy and allow a different approach to Germany. From now on no reserves will be put to a close relation with Hitler. This move was determinant to the agreements reached 3 months latter that led to the Polish division between Stalin and Hitler since Molotov had a more close position to Germany.

9 – Spain leaves League of Nations

11 - Japan (together with puppet state Manchukuo) and Soviet Union (together with Mongolia) wage war in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. The reasons are mainly border disputes.

17 – Jewish immigration to Palestine is severely limited by British authorities.
The Nordic states (Sweden, Norway and Finland) refuse Germany’s offer of a Non-Aggression pact.

22 – Germany and Italy come even more closer, signing the Pact of Steel. This economic and military cooperation pact underlined a further closeness and friendship between both countries that became obliged to help each other in case of aggression or war.


The Road to War - April 1939

In this month John Steinbeck’s bestseller novel “The Grapes of Wrath” is first published.

1 – The Spanish Civil War comes officially to the end as the last fighting forces of the Republic surrender. The persecutions will be common in the following years as revenge and ideology come together in order to crush any attempts to bring down Franco. The democratic change will only take place in 1978, after the “Caudillo’s” death.

3 – Adolf Hitler gives orders to his High Command to secretly plan for the operation “Fall Weiss”, codename for the invasion of Poland

4 – Slovakia loses the War with Hungary and cedes all territorial demands.

7 – Italy invades Albania and King Zog goes into exile. Albania will surrender in just five days.

11 – Hungary leaves the moribund League of Nations

13 – Britain, in the aftermath of the end of Czechoslovakia, offers total guarantees to Romania and Poland

14 – In a turn of events, the French Foreign Minister, Georges Bonnet, proposes to the Soviet Ambassador to Paris a unified front with Great Britain, Poland and Romania to deter Germany.

18 – Soviet Union, although hurt by the way France and Britain led the Czechoslovakia issue (leaving the Russians out and playing Hitler’s game) proposes a “peace front” against German aggression

28 – Hitler renounces both the Anglo-German Naval Limitation Treaty and the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact.


The Road to War - March 1939

3 – Mohandas Ghandi fasts against the British rule of India

13 – In Slovakia, Hitler advises his “puppet” Josef Tizlo to declare the independence of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia. Slovakia becomes independent the next day, breaking in pieces the debilitated Czech state.

15 – German troops, “in rescue of German peoples”, occupy Bohemia and Moravia and Czechoslovakia ceases to exist.

17 – Neville Chamberlain states that Britain will oppose any attempt by Germany to achieve World dominance.

18 – After 2days of military operations, Hungary annexes Carpatho-Ukraine, a region from Czechoslovakia that had declared independence a few days earlier.

20 – The Romanian War Scare urges after rumors that Germany is on the verge of invading Romania.

22 – Germany takes Memelland, a former German region, from Lithuania after an ultimatum was launched a couple of days earlier. This increases the territory contiguous to Prussia further more to East.

23 – Slovakia and Hungary begin to wage war over the region of Ruthenia. After a few days of operations, Hungary wins their territorial pretentions.

28 – Franco takes office in Madrid

31 – In a speech in the House of Commons, Neville Chamberlain states that Poland’s independence and borders are guaranteed by Great Britain.

The month sees the end of Czechoslovakia in a clear violation of the Munich Agreements. Little doubt remains that War is inevitable. From now on the patience of France and, specially, Great Britain is close to zero. There will be further attempts of appeasement but as Hitler puts pressure on the Polish, weeks go by approaching the inevitability of War...


The Road to War - February 1939

2 - Hungary joins the Anti-Comintern Pact.

6 – Prime Minister Chamberlain declares that any attack on France will be considered an attack on Great Britain, thus meaning war.

10 – Spanish Nationalists conquer Catalonia, thousands flee to France and are interned in “refugees camps”. The Civil War in Spain approaches the end...

27 – France and Great Britain recognize Franco’s regime


The Road to War - January 1939

As we enter the year that will see the beginning of the War, general feeling is that a conflict is now inevitable. The European powers rush to gain time in a rearmament effort as the Germans grow in demands and capacity.
The speech towards Poland grows in agressivness as demands grow stronger, specially concearning Danzig.

5 - By the time that the Hewlett-Packard Company was founded, Amelia Earhart was officially declared dead.

6 – Public reports show that German physicist Otto Hann and his team had managed to achieve the Nuclear Fission. Although a breakthrough in Nuclear Physics (only achieved by the Americans much latter), Germany was not yet interested in this scientific area.

23 – “Dutch War Scare” – Top ranked German officers leak that invasion of The Netherlands is eminent s a way to acquire airbases for strategic bombing towards Great Britain.

26 - Nationalist troops loyal to Franco conquered Barcelona on the final acts of the Spanish Civil War.

27 - Hitler aproves the Plan Z wich intended to supply the Kriegsmarine of the capacity to stand against her British and French counterparts. Kriegsmarine is given the top notch in receiving the resources to reach the goal of became as good as the Royal Navy in five years.


The Road to War - 1938

The Road to War – 1938

The German War Minister Werner Von Blomberg resigns after the revelation that his new wife had taken pornographic pictures a few years before.

General Werner Von Fritsch, Commander in Chief of the German Army, is forced to resign on the counts of homosexuality. Taking advantage of the called Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, Hitler removes several military and government leaders considered unsympathetic to his cause and objectives. At the same time War Ministry is replaced by the OKW (Oberkommando der Wermacht) which gave Adolf Hitler direct command over the German Army (Wermacht). The Foreign Affairs Minister, Konstantin Von Neurath ,is also replaced by Joachim von Ribbentrop.
On the 12th, the Chancellor of Austria, Kurt von Schuschnigg is forced (under the threat of invasion) in a meeting with Hitler to accept the release of all Austrian Nazi members and a considerable participation of them in the Government.
The British Naval base of Singapore becomes operational as a major strategic point of control between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.
Anthony Eden, disagreeing from Prime Minister on the way to act with Italy, resigns from the place of Foreign Secretary and is replaced by Lord Halifax.

The British present to Hitler a plan of a summit about the division of Africa in exchange for extended guarantees that Germany will take no military actions to change the current borders. Hitler emphatically refuses this ideia.
On the 12th, German troops march into Austria following a well planned and executed coup by the Austrian Nazi Party. They are greeted by thousands of Austrians who see the unification with Germany as a way to escape to harsh economic conditions and political instability. France, Great Britain and, especially Italy react but in a moderate way, which fueled Hitler’s nest moves. On the following days the German army will control the whole territory, thousands of people will be arrested for belonging to other political parties or being a threat to the annexation. A plebiscite will also be held to ask the general public about this movement, the result will be over 99,00% favorable…
Two days after the French government will assure the Czech counterpart that France will respect all treaties in case of an invasion by the German.

Edouard Daladier becomes Prime-Minister of France and his Foreign Minister will be Georges Bonnet, a firm defender of the Appeasement Policies. He will, for instance, deny the assurances given to the Czechs the previous month…

The Vatican recognizes Franco’s government in Spain.
The Chief of Staff of the German Army, Ludwig Beck submits a memo to Hitler opposing the plan of war against Czechoslovakia (Fall Grun), stating that the Armed Forces are not prepared for the full war that will follow that action.
On the 20th, Czech government declares partial mobilization of its forces in the borders with Germany
Three days latter, Hitler will appease the Czechs reinforcing that Germany has no intentions over any parcel of their territory. This was caused by the international pressure and the mobilization declared in Czechoslovakia’s borderland
However, on the 28th, in a conference at the Reichstag, Hitler declares that Czechoslovakia will be destroyed, if necessary by the force of arms. 96 divisions will be mobilized for that purpose.

Italy beats Hungary in the World Cup Final by 4-2

The Mauthausen concentration camp is opened in Austria
Concerning the Spanish Civil War, the Non-Intervention Committee votes that all foreign volunteers and fighters will withdraw from the conflict. This will be respected mostly by the International Brigades fighting for the Republican side but will be ignored by the German and Italian combatants on the Franco’s side. This will cripple in a severe way the already beaten republican side and speed up the end of the war.

Hitler contests the arguments of Ludwig Beck over the operation against Czechoslovakia at a secret meeting. He will gather the majority of the senior officers to support Fall Grun.
General Ludwig Beck, convinced that Germany is walking towards the abyss, resigns from his post and is replaced by Franz Halder.
28 - The British ambassador to Germany is called to London and instructed by Neville Chamberlain to set up a meeting between him and Adolf Hitler as a premonition that the crisis in Czechoslovakia is about to break out.
31 - Before the end of the month, in a written memo, Winston Churchill will advise the Prime-Minister that Britain should form a broad international front (including the United States and USSR) against the Germans and their intentions towards their neighbors.

The month of all decisions in Czechoslovakia.
2 – The soviet ambassador to London states that USSR is prepared to go to war to guarantee the territorial integrity of Czechoslovakia.
5 – Czech President Edvard Bénes meets with Sudeten Germans and states that he will accept all their demands as long as the region stays under Czech territory.
7 – The Times publishes an important article advising the Czechs to give up the Sudetenland to the Germans
9 – F.D. Roosevelt confirms that in the event of a German invasion of Czechoslovakia and the probable conflict in Europe, United States will remain totally neutral. This statement disallows a biased interpretation of a speech by William Bullitt (American Ambassador to France), that affirmed that “France and America were united in war and in peace” .
10 – Hermann Goring in a speech at Nuremberg rallies, refers to the Czech as an under race (“a miserable pigmy race”). The Czech President, in a radio broadcast, appeals to calm on both sides
12 – Hitler makes the much anticipated speech at Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally attacking the Czechs and their President, Edvard Bénes.
13 – The Sudeten Germans, lead by Konrad Henlein, take arms against the Czech Governement and martial law is instaured. Order returns but not before severe confrontations. British Prime Minister sends a telegram to Adolf Hitler, requesting an immediate meeting with him
15 – Neville Chamberlain arrives at Berchtesgaden and begins negotiations with the German Fuhrer. Among other things, Hitler demands total and unconditional annexation of the Sudetenland.
17 – British Premier returns home for consultations over the German demands. Hitler confers with his inner circle that he feels extremely optimistic regarding the Czech situation
18 – French Prime Minister, Édouard Deladier and Neville Chamberlain conclude that neither France nor Great Britain are willing to go to war over Czechoslovakia and the Sudetenland question
21 – Edvard Bénes is informed by the Western Democracies that they will not fight Germany if Hitler moves forward on the Sudetenland demands. The Czechs, surprised and alone in this situation, will accept, latter that day, the demands posted by the Germans. On that same day, Winston Churchill makes a statement regarding the dangers, in a short term, that this capitulation poses to the security of Europe. The Soviet Union, left out of the discussion and caught by surprise by the impositions, will make a similar statement in the League of Nations.
22 – Milan Hodza, the Czech Prime-Minister, resigns, unable to cope with the capitulation to the German demands.
Neville Chamberlain arrives in Germany for another round of conversations with Adolf Hitler. The German requirements are now higher than before and the Fuhrer demands that the Sudetenland have to be annexed until the first day of October. The British Prime Minister, reversing the previous position, asks the Czechs to fully mobilize their army. Europe is at the brink of war…
23 – Czechoslovakia’s armed forces fully mobilize and prepare for invasion
24 – In the dawn, Chamberlain and Hitler conclude their talks. The German demands are passed to the Czech Government that totally rejects them. British and French Cabinets also reject them and a partial mobilization is started.
26 – In a speech to a large crowd in Berlin, Hitler states that war over Sudetenland will begin in a few days.
28 – As October 1 approaches, Hitler invites Benito Mussolini, Édouard Deladier and Neville Chamberlain for a last conference in Munich. The Czechs are deliberately left out
29 – The Munich Agreement is achieved between Italians, French, British and Germans. Most of Hitler’s demands are accepted and the agreement is presented to the Czechs, who were non-signatories of the document, as final.
30 – Neville Chamberlain, at the peak of its popularity, arrives at London with the Munich Agreement in his hand, stating that it meant “Peace in our Time”.

1 – German troops march into Sudetenland and are received in glory by the population (over 90% is German).
2 – Duff Cooper, First Lord of the Admiralty, resigns with grave differences with the Prime Minister regarding the way the Czech situation was managed. A debate begins in the House of Commons but as Chamberlain is seen as a peacekeeper and savior of the country, nothing really comes from it. Only a few voices will continue to speak against the situation as time passes by.
5 – Edvard Bénes resigns. Amputated of a large portion of their territory, Czechoslovakia will slowly embrace obscurity and internal crisis (fueled by the Germans).
16 – Winston Churchill in a broadcast to the United States, considers the Munich Agreement as a defeat and warns that Europe and America that they should prepare for armed resistance against Germany.
18 – Over 12,000 Polish Jews are expelled from Germany but only half of them are accepted in Poland. The rest will remain in a borderland no-man’s-land in refugee’s camps
21 – In a direct disrespect with the Munich Agreement, Hitler posts a secret order with the objective of total liquidation of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The occupation of Prussian territory of Memel (in Lithuania) is also a target.
24 – German Foreign Minister states to the Polish Ambassador to Berlin that:
- Dantzig must be returned to Germany
- Poland must sign the Anti-Comintern Pact
- Special powers should be given in the Polish Corridor
These two events will prove that Hitler totally fouled France and Britain at Munich. At the same time, the next target is set: Poland
30 – Orson Welles’ radio broadcast adaptation of The War of The Worlds (H.G. Wells) causes panic in several parts of the United States.
Japanese forces overrun Canton in China.

9 – Kristallnacht takes place in Germany. Nazi supporters carry out a widespread pogrom against jews all over Germany. Over 7500 businesses are destroyed, more than 250 synagogues burned down and almost 100 Jews killed in that night. Numbers are confuse but at least 25.000 Jews are arrested. The event will be considered the point of no return against Jews and other minorities in Germany and other occupied territories.
12 – In France the Government takes several measures that go against the Trade Unions and Popular Front’s previous initiatives. Civil unrest begins all over France.
25 – French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet, after removing several “anti-appeasement” officials from his Quay d’Orsay (French Foreign Office), asks the Ambassador to Poland (Léon Noel) that excuses for the end of the alliance between both countries must be found.
30 – Emil Hacha is elected President of Czechoslovakia
Italy states several demands to France, including territories in Africa (Tunisia and French Somaliland), Nice and Corsica. This will open a profound crisis between Italy and France which will only benefit Germany.
General strike is called in France by the Communist Party against the Government measures taken on the 12th of November.

1 – President Roosevelt, in a clear move against Japan’s aggression in China, agrees to loan up to 25 million dollars to the Nationalist China of Chiang Kai-shek.
6 – In a visit to Paris, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, receives word from his counterpart, Georges Bonnet, that France accepts all of Eastern Europe as a sphere of influence of the III Reich. This will be latter denied by Bonnet but it is considered as a “carte blanche” to the German foreign policies in 1939.
13 – Neunengamme concentration camp opens in Hamburg, Germany.
Adolf Hitler is Time’s Man of the Year.
Following the victory in The Battle of the Ebro, Franco launches a major invasion into Catalonia as the Spanish Civil War approaches its final months. Most foreign combatants on the Republican side are now removed from the frontlines (as agreed by both parties in July) but the German and Italian volunteers still fight on the Nationalist’s trenches.


The Road to War - 1937

The year begins with another persecution in Soviet Union, this time 31 suspects of a Trotskyst plot against Stalin are executed.

20 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States.

Málaga falls to the nationalists side and the battle of Jarama takes place in the outskirts of Madrid. Though intense, the outcome will be a stalemate with heavy casualties on both sides. The League of Nations votes the ban of foreign fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

The Basque town of Guernica is attacked by military planes in an unprecedented bombing of civilians. Immediate reports state that a German participation (Condor Legion) took place helping the nationalist side.
It was the first ever continuous terror bombing over civilian populations, a strategy that would be thoroughly used by both sides in the Second World War.

France lives a severe general strike as the political struggle between left and right radicalizes as result of the support/no support of the Spanish factions in the Civil War.

In the United States the Zeppelin Hindenburg, a symbol of the German superiority, bursts into flames when arriving to New Jersey. It’s the end of the Age of the Zeppelin. On the same month, the Golden Gate Bridge is open.

On the 28th, Neville Chamberlain takes office as Prime-Minister, after having a not so quiet stay as Chancellor of the Exchequer. His office will endure through the difficult last years of peace and the first tumultuous year of the War.

Otherwise, the French coalition government of Léon Blum falls, opening a new crisis. One of the reasons for the ill preparation of France will be the constant change of Government and the lack of a strategic course of action.

The Marco Polo Bridge incident takes place and the invasion of China by the Japanese begins. For many this is the beginning of Second World War in the Far East. The incident would lead to full confrontation that would end only in 1945.

Joseph Stalin begins the largest purge before the war. In a year, more than 724.000 are killed with the excuse of carrying out “anti-soviet” activities. But most will be eliminated for a hole set of reasons such as ethnicity.

The first edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is published.

Although defeated in the battle of Pingxingguan, the Japanese advance in Nanking in the following months. The atrocities committed by both sides and especially over civilian populations are numerous.

5 - F.D. Roosevelt makes the Quarantine Speech, an attempt to call the attention of the American public away from the Isolationist position, extremely popular at the time.

Hitler guarantees Belgium’s borders as long as this country opposes any military action against Germany.

In Spain, the whole northern coast of Spain comes under control of Franco’s forces.

Italy joins the Anti-Comintern Pact and withdraws from League of Nations in the following month.

Hitler holds secret meetings in order to establish plans for “acquiring space for the German People – Lebensraum”.

Japan conquers Shangai from the Chinese. In the midst of the confusion, the USS Panay gunboat is sunk by Japanese forces in an incident that will start deteriorate the relations between both countries

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from Walt Disney premieres.

The Battle of Najing ends after 3 months with over 300.000 casualties, most of them civilians. Beijing is occupied by the Japanese.

The Russian industry ends the year producing 4 times more capacity than it did in 1928.


The Road to War - 1936

1936 was a determinant year, marking the beginning of the separation of the waters between the European Powers.

King George V dies in January opening the way to the coronation of Edward VIII. The relationship of the new king with the American Wallis Simpson will open, in a few months, a serious constitutional crisis. He will have one of the shortest reigns in british history, conceading the throne to his brother Prince Albert before the end of the year.

In February Japan suffers a failed coup against the government by the Imperial Way Faction. Following this event, Emperor Hirohito orders the arrest of a large number of conspirators, 19 of them are executed until July. In March the radical militarist Koki Hirota becomes Prime-Minister.

On the 7th of March, the Rhineland is reoccupied and remilitarized by the Germans, in another clear violation of the Versailles Treaty. The German troops involved have specific orders to withdraw if a reaction from the French forces occurs. However with an electoral campaign going on, the thousands of French soldiers in the border will do nothing and the British will only react too late. Hitler, forcing the bar, gains another international victory that will give him more internal fame in a particularly difficult time.

On the same month, Hoover Dam in the Colorado River is completed and a severe heat wave hits all of North America.

In May, the Italians overrun the Ethiopians, forming the Italian East Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalilan)

On the 18th of July the Spanish Civil War begins! It will rage between the Nationalists, defying the weak and young democracy and the Republicans, a mixed union of democrats, communists, anarchists and far-left forces. Using this conflict as a test field, Germany and Italy strongly support the Nationalist side with resources, weapons and military personnel.

The Republican side, abandoned by the Western democracies, is internationally aided by the USSR and México. In the next three years, both sides will commit numerous atrocities as this war reaches levels of violence never before tested. New weapons, tactics and strategies will be used by both sides in a rehearsal of the world war.

In August the Games of the XI Olympiad begin in Berlin in an attempted demonstration of the National-Socialist organizational capacity and German racial superiority. It was a major sports event and the only disappointment for the Germans came from the tremendous display of the American athlete Jesse Owens, who won 4 Gold Medals.

Germany and Italy sign a Friendship Treaty in October, in a first step of mutual approach that will end, a few years later, in an Alliance. Upset by the sanctions decided by the League of Nations after the Ethiopian invasion, the Italians become closer to the Nazi regime that was hungry for international recognition and support.

The next month Japan and Germany sign the Anti-Comintern Pact

Finally in December the constitutional crisis in Great-Britain ends with the formal abdication of King Edward VIII. The Duke of York becomes King George VI.


The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War was a major conflict that devastated Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939. It began after an attempted coup d'état against the government of the Second Spanish Republic, then under the leadership of president Manuel Azaña, by a group of Spanish Army generals. The nationalist insurgency was supported by the conservative Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas, or C.E.D.A), Carlist groups, and the Fascistic Falange (Falange Española de las J.O.N.S.).[8] The war ended with the victory of the rebel forces, the overthrow of the Republican government, and the founding of a dictatorship led by General Francisco Franco. In the aftermath of the civil war, all right-wing parties were fused into the state party of the Franco regime.[8]

Republicans (republicanos) were supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico, while the followers of the rebellion, Nationalists (nacionales), received the support of Italy and Germany, as well as neighbouring Portugal. Although the United States was officially neutral, major American corporations such as Texaco, General Motors, Ford Motors and Firestone greatly assisted the Nationalist rebels with their constant supply of trucks, tires, machine tools and fuel.

The war increased international tensions in Europe in the lead-up to World War II, and was largely seen as a proxy war between the Communist Soviet Union, the Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In particular, new tank warfare tactics and the terror bombing of cities from the air were features of the Spanish war which played a significant part in the later general European war.

The Spanish Civil War has been dubbed as "the first media war", with the writers and journalists covering it wanting their work "to support the cause".[9] Foreign correspondents covering it included Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell and Robert Capa. Like most civil wars, it became notable for the passion and political division it inspired, and for atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict. The Spanish Civil War often pitted family members, neighbours, and friends against each other. Apart from the combatants, many civilians were killed for their political or religious views by both sides, and after the war ended in 1939, Republicans were at times persecuted by the victorious Nationalists.


The Road to War - 1935

In January, the population of the German province of Saarland votes for the full integration with Germany. As a consequence from the Versailles Treaty, this region was administrated and controlled by the British French since 1918. Coal and Mineral rich, this occupation was inadmissible to the nazi regime and as a result of the plebiscite, re-integration was started and finished in few months (June).

In February, France and Italy sign an agreement in which they state that neither will oppose each other’s colonial claims.

Following Hitler’s announcement that Germany will no longer follow the Versailles Treaty’s limitations on armament and armed forces growth, the conscription is re-introduced on the 16th of March. Though the number of 100 000 soldiers in not to be surpassed, an equal number of reservists will receive military training each year with the objective to have an available force of 400 000 men. This marks the beginning of the III Reich’s Wermacht (German Armed Forces). It was also stressed the will to create a fully operational Air Force.

Following that announcement, France, Britain and Italy sign the Stresa Front or The Final Declaration of the Stresa Conference. Although vague in the final statements it was seen as an attempt of a united trio to press Germany not to continue the violations to the Versailles Treaty. However it was used by Italy as an instrument to gain power and projection in exchange for very little against the German growth.

In June, Great Britain and Germany sign a naval agreement which allows the Kriegsmarine to achieve a total tonnage of 35% of the total tonnage of the Royal Navy. Although controversial the British objective was to limit the German future naval threat in a scenario of full rearmament.

In August, President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, establishing several measures to increase the support of the elder and unemployed.

At the annual Nazi Party rally, the Nuremberg Laws are introduced. These anti-Semitic principles stated that were only considered German Citizens those who had four “pure blood” grandparents. Those who had 3 or 4 Jewish grandparents where to be classified of Jews and deprived of citizenship rights. These laws marked the official beginning of the segregation of the Jewish minority although, since 1933 nazi’s rise to power, it was already common. And these laws were the principle that stated the persecution of several minorities throughout occupied territories until 1945.

Italy invades independent Ethiopia in October and though this was condemned in the League of Nations (after a heartbroken speech by Haile Selassie), France and Britain, more interested in bringing Mussolini to their side, made no effort to thwart the action. This conflict was also seen as the beginning of the end of the League of Nations as it showed powerless to cope with several situations of continued aggression and rearmament. The disproportion of means and capacity would bring down the Ethiopians in a few months, and the war was finished by June of 1936 as Haile Selassie went to exile in Great Britain.

In November Stanley Baldwin returns as Prime-Minister of Great Britain, leading a national government and a parliamentary majority. Anthony Eden will become Foreign Secretary the next month.

Finally in December, Communist leader Mao Zedong posts the Wayaopao Manifest, defending a wide national coalition against the fast growing Japanese invasion of continental China.

In this year, Frank Capra “It happened one night” swept the Oscars and Amelia Earhart flew solo from Hawai and California.


The Road to War - 1934

In 1934, Hitler builds up his internal powers. All police forces come under command of Heirich Himmler and several political opponents disappear into jail or concentration camps… This reinforcement of power also goes deep inside the Nazi Party when The Night of the Long Knives (30 of June) and the purge of the SA faction.

In August, Adolf Hitler becomes Fuhrer, the Wermacht swears personnal oath to him and 90% of the german electorate approves the increase of his powers.

France lives a troubled year with an attempted far-right coup d’état.

In the United States, Roosevelt signs the Securities Exchange Act as the New Deal moves forward and the regulation of the Financial Sector takes place.

Great Britain discusses pacifism as a result of the Great War and few look into Germany’s rise as a threat. Almost isolated, Winston Churchill stressed in several speeches the need for a stronger Air Force, Army and a more assertive League of Nations.

The Japanese build up their force in Manchuria, creating the Manchukuo puppet state led by the former Chinese emperor Pu Yi. By the end of the year, Japan will also renounce the naval treaties of Washington (1922) and London (1930) that limited the potential capacity of the Imperial Navy.

In Italy, the Abyssinian crisis begins with a series of skirmishes.

The World slowly crawls out of the huge economic and financial crisis caused by the 1929 crash. However the way some countries do it,will put them in the path of war and confrontation…


The Road to War - 1933

On January 30, after several attempts to reach power through illegal actions Hitler, supported by a racially biased ideology and a strong nationalist speech, gains the nomination for Chancellor. In the coming months, democracy is abolished and control of power by the National Socialist party becomes a reality. At the same time, strong and centralized economic measures are taken to insure that the profound crisis is tamed.

In February, the fire consumes The Reichstag (German Parliament Building). Taking advantage ot that, Hitler passes the Reichstag Fire Decree, severely damaging german civil liberties.

On the 4th of March, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States. In his inauguration and referring to The Great Depression, he states: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself". In the coming months a huge package of laws, including the famous "New Deal", are approved in order to, once and for all, defeat the Great Depression.

On that same month, the first Nazi concentration camp, Dachau, is inaugurated and Hitler became a Dictator of Germany through a legislative maneuver (The Enabling Act). In parallel the first anti-Jewish measures are taken and large fires consume thousands of banned books. In June, all non Nazi parties are made illegal. Trade Unions follow the same path.
Until the end of the year several other events occur:
- Germany announces the intention of leave the League of Nations
- United States and USSR begin formal diplomatic relations
- Finally the Prohibition end in the USA.


Adolf Hitler's Rise to Power

Though Austrian born, Hitler had served in the German army from 1914 to 1918, endured many difficulties in the war of the trenches, lost many comrades, was injured several times (including nerve gas injuries) and gained military experience and was decorated for bravery. He was stunned by the surrender of Germany who had won (with her allies) the Eastern Front against Russia and held a large portion of enemy terrain in 1918. He considered it treason by those in the “Home Front”, mainly the Bolsheviks and the Jews. He only gained German citizenship in 1932 but he considered himself one and dreamed of a Great Germany.

In 1919, Hitler, still in the Army as a police spy, joined the DAP (the Germans Workers Party) who’s founder appealed to a anti-Semitic, anti-Capitalist, anti-Marxist and nationalistic arguments for the German crisis.

The party, latter called the Nationalist and Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) became more active and adopted the swastika as a symbol. Hitler rose mostly because of his public speaking skills and became Fuhrer of the NSDAP. His speeches attracted many followers, including Rudolph Hess, Hermann Goering and Ernst Rohm, a former army captain that would form the infamous SA (Sturmabteilung or Storm Division) which protected the party meetings and harassed political opponents. Some things were copied from Mussolini’s fascist party such as uniforms and policies.

In 1923, as the support grew, the NSDAP attempt to cease the Bavarian government and march over Berlin as a way to take power. In the Beer Hall Putsch the NSDAP failed completely. Hitler was arrested but also gained national projection. In his trial he managed to turn tables, putting the Weimar Republic and the democracy as the traitors to Germany. Nevertheless he was convicted to 5 years in prison.

He spent this time writing “Mein Kampf”, the book were he explains his political views and the project for a Greater Germany. Though controversial and somehow unclear, this autobiography and description of his political ideology gave a big picture on what he thought, in 1924, should be the road for Germany.

One year later the NSDAP, banned from its hometown Munich, managed to elect representatives in the Reichstag and Hitler was released with the promise never to raise arms against government. He reorganized the party but as economic and political crisis eased and the NSDAP was unable to gain more than a small support in the following years.

In the general election of 1928 the NSDAP had 2,8% of the national votes (12 seats). The violence between the SA and other paramilitary groups (mainly the Rotfront from the German Communist Party) increased in scale and the number of victims jumped. As a consequence, the NSDAP became a target to regional and national government control.

This gave more visibility to the movement and more funds were given for the political movement. In September 1930, with the effects of the Great Depression already being felt in Germany, the NSDAP gained 107 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the second political force. As Chancellor’s Heinrich Brunning measures were unable to cope with the effects of economic crisis, Hitler makes a more broad speech appealing to farmers, war veterans and middle class.

This gave him more national projection and, after acquiring German citizenship, Hitler decided to run for President against Field Marshal Hindenburg in the 1932 election. Although coming in second, with 35% of the votes against 53% of the 84 years old Hindenburg, Hitler was now unavoidable in German politics. The winner imposed a weak Chancellor, Franz von Papen, who had no support in the parliament.

With two more general elections in 1932 that confirmed the representation of the NSDAP and getting the support of leading German businessmen (along with some military leaders), Hitler was appointed by Hindenburg as Chancellor in January 30, 1933.

General elections were again scheduled to take place in March. But in February, the Reichstag was set on fire, presumably by the communists. This was used by the Nazis to summarily approve the Reichstag Fire Decree that suspended basic rights. Shortly after the German Communist Party was suppressed and the leaders and officials persecuted.

NSDAP gained 43, 9 % of the votes on the March 6 election. Not enough to get a majority to form government, the Nazi party presented the Enabling Act. With the support of the Centre Party, third largest political force, Hitler’s government was transformed into a legal dictatorship. The remaining political organizations were banned until the Nazi party became the only legal one. Trade and Labor Unions were merged with employers in a Nazi controlled organization. Finally the autonomy of states and regions was abolished.

After using the SA to do his “dirty work” in the rise to power, Hitler was aware that this armed branch of the Nazi party was a menace to the reached balance between him, the military and the economic groups. So, in the Night of the Long Knives, the SA structure and leadership was eliminated.

Finally, when President Paul von Hindenburg died in August of 1934, Hitler did not scheduled an election and became himself Fuhrer of Germany, thus ending the rise to power that was his long lasting objective since the early 1920’s.


The Weimar Republic

In 1918, after accepting defeat in the First World War, Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles. This imposed extreme territorial limitations (creation of Czechoslovakia, a greater Poland, demilitarization of the Rhineland, occupation of the Saarland) and military restrictions:
- No Air Force was allowed;
- No Heavy Weapons like tanks or artillery were allowed;
- The army was limited to no more than 100.000 soldiers for internal control purposes only;
- The navy was forbidden to have submarines and ships with more than 10 000 tons;
- No compulsory military service and a reduced officers’ professional structure.

Huge financial war compensations were also imposed (to be paid through future international heavier loans) to the winners and millions in assets were confiscated.

All these would create a strong resentment even in the more moderate Germans and fueled several radical movements that explored the weakness of the Weimar Republic.

The Weimar Republic, with a democratic and constitutional political system, was imposed with the forced abdication of the Kaiser and the Versailles Peace. It moved Germany from a paternal and imperialist Monarchy to a multipartisan liberal democracy. With the end of the secular German/Prussian Army and with no patriarchal and leadership references, Germany, defeated, sliced and humiliated but mostly intact, was left to drift in the middle of a harsh economic and financial swamp. As leaders with no stature were elected one after another Germans felt orphans in a system imposed by the “enemies”.

Even the Field Marshal Foch, military leader of the Allies in the victory of 1918, expressed his total disagreement with the Versailles Peace, stating “This is not Peace, it’s an Armistice for 20 years”. How more prophetic could he be?

The German economy never managed to grow out of the political instability and war compensations. Inflation became huge and, together with chronic unemployment eroded the middle-class savings. Governments that lasted months or even weeks followed each other with no success. This threw large masses of the population into the hand of extremist movements that exploited the foreign humiliation and fueled people with dreams of past greatness.

For a while, after 1925, they turned to the Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, one of the few references left. He was elected President with 77 years old. Re-elected in 1932 he was unable to stop the rise of Adolph Hitler. And after the death of the old Field Marshal, with no one else to father Germany, the path was open for someone who would promise Germany the return to its right place...

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