The Common Factors that Led to the Establishment of Totalitarian Regimes in Italy and Germany in the Inter-War Period
Totalitarian regimes refer to the type of government in which the
State has total control over all aspects of people's life. Main
features include an infallible leader, planned economy, strict party
discipline, strong armament, an official doctrine that everyone has to
believe, and absolute obedience of individuals to the State, etc.
During the period 1919-39 there saw the rise of totalitarian regimes
in some European countries. The most important ones in Western Europe
were Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Their respective rise to power
shared many similarities but there were some differences.
The leaders of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were Benito Mussolini
and Adolf Hitler respectively. The aftermath of the First World War
provided both men with a hotbed to come to power. Both Italians and
Germans were dismayed and annoyed with the Paris Peace Settlement.
Italy joined the First World War in 1915 because the Allied Powers had
promised her territorial gains. Premier Orlando joined the Paris Peace
Conference as one of the "Big Four". Yet by the Settlement Italy did
not get all she wanted. Especially Fiume was given to Yugoslavia, the
Italian rival in Adriatic. Italians thought that their tremendous
losses and contribution during the war were not rewarded. In 1920 the
Italian government tried unsuccessfully to occupy Fiume. This was a
blow to the national pride. As the major defeated country, on the
other hand, Germany was heavily punished with the Treaty of
Versailles. She was never invited to join the Paris Peace Conference,
and thus regarded the treaty as the "Versailles Diktat". By the treaty
she lost all her overseas possessions, ceded many traditional
territories, carried out almost total disarmament, paid a huge
indemnity of ï¿¡6.6 billion, handed in the Saar Basin, and accepted the
"war guilt" clause. Naturally, a revengeful spirit took place among
Germans. Both Italians and Germans were dissatisfied with their
respective weak governments, and hoped that a strong leader could help
recover the national glory. "Lacking faith of any critical ability,
the masses saw in Hitler a saviour and a prophet", says G. Ritter.
Postwar economic hardship was also accountable for the rise of both
the Nazi and Fascist regimes. Both Italy and Germany had already been
exhausted in the war. Hyper-inflation, sharp decline of industrial
production, the wartime loss of huge manpower and massive
unemployment, etc. resulted immediately after the war. In 1921 there
were 2.5 million returned Italian soldiers waiting for re-employment.
Especially in Germany, the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 led
to terrible devaluation of the mark and paralyzed the industrial