Paris, 1936. As clouds of war gather over Europe…

Scan 133Behind its elegant façades Europe was a violent battlefield. Warmongers harangued against pacifists, fascists attacked socialists, workers fought for their rights.

In March, Hitler defied all treaties, sending his troops into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. As the Luftwaffe swooped over Cologne, its citizens cheered, church bells rang, military bands played a song whose refrain was, “Today we own Germany, tomorrow the world.”

Paralyzed with surprise, the French did not oppose Hitler. Still devastated from the Great War, they dared not provoke a new war. And yet, historians agree, had the French stood up to Hitler at that decisive moment — had they negotiated or sent in forces to outnumber the meagre German troops — Hitler would have withdrawn, would have lost face. And perhaps there would have been no Second World War. But politicians — war-weary, cowardly, or nazi sympathizers — chose to appease Hitler.

Meanwhile, the dark stain of fascism spread across Europe. In Spain, Franco’s military attacked the democratic government, launching a horrific civil war. In Italy, Mussolini ranted on, terrorizing his own people with the bleak new order.

Who enabled the spread of fascism? And who could oppose it?

 

 

 

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