After World War I, a majority of Europe was left in utter shambles. The physical and economic structures of a once industrial area had been reduced rubble. The people of the nations cried out for help, but to little avail. What was needed in these war torn areas was a strong government that could meet the needs of the people, and give them strength, power, and most inportantly, stability. Unfortunately, what emerged in Italy, Russia, and Germany were “totalitarian” regimes whose initial solutions to problems turned into oppression.
However, to strictly blame these cause on the general “malaise” of Europe at the time would be to look at only one part of the total picture. While Italy, Russia, and Germany experienced many of the same problems, they also experienced many diverse situational problems that facilitated the rise of these “totalitarian” regimes. Post-war Europe found itself firmly locked in a bad situation that was not going to resolve itself quickly. Industry and agriculture had been destroyed and inflation was running rampant. The economy was temporarily destroyed.
In Germany, money was so worthless that by 1923, “the mark was so virtually worthless…a whole suitcase of paper money was sometimes needed to pay off a small debt, but even this cumbersome fashion of payment proved impracticable as the value of money fell hour to hour. ” Russia found itself in the midst of a huge famine and a revolution. Lenin heralded “peace, land, and bread,” the three things the Russians wanted, but more importantly, needed. Italy’s economy found itself in the same boat. It was faced with massive food shortages and steep inflation.
Their situation was different in that they were on the “victor” side of the peace agreements. Unfortunatley for them it did not help the sorry state of their economy. The next “pervasive” trend in Europe was humiliation. Germany found itself stripped of everything that it once posessed. A strong army, industrial base and pride. The Treaty of Versailles left Germany with “Article 231,” the infamous war guilt clause, which stated that Germany was the responsible party in the war. On top of that, they found themselves paying exorbitant war reperations to the Allies, and their lands and colonies were stripped and divided.
The vast, powerful enpire that once existed was no more. Italy too, found itself empty handed by the Treaty of Versailles. The Italians had been a “waif” of an ally, and were not taken seriously at the negotiaton table. Mussolini called it a “mutilated victory,” and let it be known to his fellow countrymen that the Allies had stabbed them in the back, and that they deserved more reparations. Russia had been the first to bow out of war. The backwardness of the Romanov dynasty had shown through in its ineffective mobilization of the country to fight the war.
The people had enough and revolted, setting up a weak govenment which was toppled by Lenin and his Bolsheviks. Lenin’s first order of business was to take Russia out of the war. He surrendered to the Germans in the Treaty of Bresk-Litvosk, which left Russia in worse condition than the Germans of the treaty of Versailles. Most of their heavy industry had been ceded to the Germans along with “one quarter of its vast territory, one half of its population, and three-quarters of its coal and iron resources. ”