Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Totalitarianism found the perfect ground to find root in right after World War I ended. Europe had changed. Gone were the romantic ideals of the Victorian age and beyond. Gone were the nations as the world once knew them. There was a loss of security and identity flowing through the nations. Totalitarianism governments were the answer to the need as most countries desired to “avoid revolution” and to “avoid another world war.” (1) It also helped that because of the way, the people were used to sacrificing for the government and having it be involved in all aspects of their lives: “the economy, politics, religion, culture, philosophy, science, history, and sport.” (2) It was a severely controlling government that normally would have been avoided, but the collapse of Victorian Europe shoved all suspicion aside.
In Italy and Germany, the economy collapsed leaving the people wanting stability and something to hold them up. Chaos erupted in the workplace and among the various social classes. Fear plagued the citizens who had just witnessed the horrors of war. Their entire society was crumbling down around them. Any time fear feeds on the people, opportunity arises for systems of government to step in that can go the extreme as in totalitarianism. All of Europe was open to these political movements, and all were susceptible. Mussolini in Italy saw a chance to use that chaos to get somewhere politically. In office, he began “censoring the press, organizing a secret police, and banning any criticism of the government” as he “controlled the army and the schools.”(3) He gave the people organization and ‘peace’ at a very high price. Hitler also preyed upon the fears of the people as he gave the German people someone to blame for all their problems and “for their defeat in the war.” (4)
(1) Steven Kreis, “Lecture 10: The Age of Totalitarianism: Stalin and Hitler,” The History Guide: Lectures on Twentieth Century Europe, 2000, http://www.historyguide.org/europe/lecture10.html.
(3) “The Rise of Totalitarianism,” Fresno United School District, http://fresno.k12.ca.us/divdept/sscience/history/totalitarianism.htm.