A favorite historical hypothetical question we often hear tossed around is what should the world have done differently to halt the rise of Nazi Germany and prevent World War II from taking place. But the truth is, the number of signals and signs of this approaching threat were numerous and often rather clear, and so were the opportunities to take action. But instead, Western liberal democracies hesitated and blinked.
Paul Jankowski, a Professor of History at Brandeis University and the author of the excellent book, “All Against All: The Long Winter of 1933 and the Origins of the Second World War,” believes it would be reckless for us to ignore these lessons from history in our consideration of current geopolitical challenges.
In this podcast interview with Robert Amsterdam, Jankowski discusses many of the lesser-known developments in the winter of 1933, from Japan’s consolidation of power in China, Mussolini’s expansion into Africa, and how disputes over debts and trade broke the alliance structures of 1918. As all these disparate events were taking place, Nazi ideology was quickly devolving into racialist extremism, while attitudes of isolationism and pacificism in France, the UK, and US were preventing any sort of intervention or containment.
Given the current spread of far-right nationalism and populism taking place now, have we managed to learn anything from 1933?