Who inherited from the pre- World War II German states?

Who inherited from the pre- World War II German states?

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The German states (aka Länder) have been completely reshaped after WWII and I wonder: Which current German states inherited laws and state-owned property from the former pre-WWII states?

In states that were preserved across the war this should be straightforward, but what about:

  1. The states that merged after the war

    • Mecklenburg (Mecklenburg-Schwering & Mecklenburg-Strelitz)
    • Baden-Württemberg (Baden & Württemberg)
  2. The states that disappeared

    • Prussia
    • Lübeck
    • Lippe
    • Schaumburg-Lippe
    • Oldenburg
    • Brunswick

In the case of Prussia, there is a rather original institution that was created specifically to handle (a small part) of its “inheritance”: the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. Legally, it's a foundation created by a federal law, with funding from the federal state and the federated states.

Beyond that, property would not seem to be especially problematic. It could easily be divided between the newly created states based on a geographic basis. Also, the states that existed in the German Empire lost much of their power and significance during the Nazi era so that there would not be much left to inherit after WWII.

Instead, the allied powers created new states that correspond only roughly to earlier entities and got actively involved in their administration, at least for the first few years after the war. Even when the names refer back to historical entities, the borders and organization of the states therefore changed a lot.

For example, the modern state of Baden-Württemberg is not simply a merger of Baden and Württemberg but was created in 1957 from three different states that were only loosely connected to the pre-war entities of Württemberg, Baden and the Prussian “Hohenzollernsche Lande”. Even Bavaria, the state with the strongest claim to some form of continuity (the name Freistaat itself is intended to underline that) obviously got an entirely new constitution and saw many changes to its borders.

The regions that became part of the German Democratic Republic have a rather different history. The Soviet authorities did (re)create a few states and the German Democratic Republic maintained the fiction of a federal structure for some time but the states basically lost any significance and were finally simply abolished in 1958. They were recreated once again in 1990 to join the Federal Republic. For the most part, the East then took over the laws and structures of the West.

Incidentally, the merger between Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz dates from 1934. In fact, that's possibly the main turning point, not the end of WWII. Once the Nazis had reorganized and hollowed out the states of the German Empire and transferred their authority to the central government, formally ending them did not change much.


Blitzkrieg is a term used to describe a method of offensive warfare designed to strike a swift, focused blow at an enemy using mobile, maneuverable forces, including armored tanks and air support. Such an attack ideally leads to a quick victory, limiting the loss of soldiers and artillery. Most famously, blitzkrieg describes the successful tactics used by Nazi Germany in the early years of World War II, as German forces swept through Poland, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France with astonishing speed and force.

Alternate History: What If Hitler Didn't Survive World War I?

Key point: Hitler fought in World War I and could have been killed, but was spared by a merciful British soldier. Oh, how history could have changed if he had fired his weapon.

Legend has it that on September 28, 1918, a wounded Private Adolf Hitler lay in the sights of Henry Tandey, a British soldier who would receive the Victoria Cross for his daring actions in engagement in Marcoing, France.

Tandey supposedly took pity on the limping German soldier, who nodded in gratitude and made his escape.

While historians believe this incident was fabricated by Hitler himself, the apocryphal legend nonetheless poses a provocative question: how differently might world history have turned out with just one more pull of the trigger amidst the senseless slaughter of World War I?

In other words—was World War II bound to happen due to larger economic and political forces? Or was it uniquely a product of a monstrous yet charismatic leader bending the streams of history in his wake?

Would the Nazis have risen to power without Hitler?

The Nazi party’s earlier incarnation was the German Worker’s Party (DAP), founded by a locksmith named Anton Drexler. In fact, Hitler was originally assigned by German Army intelligence after World War I to infiltrate DAP, but ended up a convert and became party leader in 1921.

Therefore, a working-class far-right party was likely in the cards for Germany even without Hitler, carried by the same currents of economic distress and revanchist anger that the supposedly “undefeated” Imperial Germany had been “stabbed-in-the-back” by surrendering in World War I.

But on the other hand, there’s decent evidence that the Nazi’s rise to power came from unusual circumstances tied to Hitler himself. That’s because even with Hitler, the Nazis received only 37 percent of the vote in the 1932 election.

Most Germans (53 percent) reelected general and statesman Paul von Hindenburg, who was supported by German center-right- and center-left parties, into the presidency. Despite personally disliking Hitler, the 84-year-old Hindenburg struggled to form a coalition and was eventually convinced to appoint Hitler chancellor. Following a staged attack on the Reichstag, Hitler then persuaded Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag, allowing Hitler to rule by decree.

Thus, the Nazi accession to power grew not out of irresistible popular support, but peculiar political factors that might have played out differently without Hitler in the picture.

Without Nazis running the show, would Germany have begun its military campaigns in Europe?

Probably not on the short term.

Undoubtedly, there was a sentiment that Germany had been ill-treated by the treaty of Versailles (though Germany paid only one-eighth of the reparations owed before the rest were waived in 1932), and many of the old elite welcomed Hitler’s focus on rebuilding German military power.

The military especially believed Germany deserved to regain her status as a great power and advocated a more militarized and authoritarian society. Technocrats in the Germany Army secretly fostered the development of tanks, ships and warplanes restricted under the treaty of Versailles in the 1920s (ironically, with Soviet assistance)—years before Hitler’s rise to power.

However, the Wehrmacht’s senior leadership believed Hitler’s wars were impetuous and some even plotted coups against Hitler. It was not so much that they opposed foreign conquest principle, but rather believed Germany needed six to ten more years to build up its forces.

Germany, therefore, was likely to reemerge as a military power, but not necessarily at the breakneck pace the Nazis pushed it to.

A Germany without Nazis in charge might still have turned to militaristic nationalism. Contentious border territories—the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, and the geographically awkward Polish corridor—would have remained potential flashpoints.

But political winds might also have steered the Republic on some less destructive path.

World War II…started by Stalin?

France and the UK’s response to Hitler was muddled by their preoccupation with the threat posed by Stalin’s Soviet Union. Even during the Munich crisis of 1938, Paris and London turned down an offered alliance from Moscow—fearing the Soviets more than the Nazis.

Indeed, some historians dubiously allege that the Soviet Union was bound to invade Germany instead.

Stalin undeniably was down for opportunistic invasions. He collaborated with Hitler in the occupation of Poland in 1939, went on to invade Finland that winter, and then seized the Baltic states and the Romanian province of Bessarabia.

But Stalin preferred to pick on vulnerable countries without backing from strong allies. There’s good reason to question whether the pre-World War II Red Army could have posed the same threat as the Nazi German war machine. In the 1939 Winter War, over a half-million Soviet troops backed up by thousands of tanks and warplanes struggled to defeat smaller, lightly-armed Finnish troops, suffering over 300,000 casualties. Given this underwhelming performance, it’s hard to believe that Stalin would perceive the Red Army as ready for a showdown with western Europe.

Still, Hitler’s aggression interrupted strategic competition between Western Europe and Moscow. In Hitler’s absence, it’s possible an earlier Cold War would have taken its place.

What about China and Japan?

For over one-sixth the planet, World War II began not in September 1939, but rather in July 1937, when Imperial Japan embarked on a second, larger-scale invasion of China following an earlier campaign in 1933.

The spirit of militaristic nationalism then prevalent in Tokyo had risen in reaction to European colonialism, not fascism. Therefore, Japan’s invasion of China would likely have still occurred. This might still have led to the imposition of a U.S. embargo on petroleum that led Tokyo to plan the Pearl Harbor attack.

But historically, the trigger for the U.S. embargo was Japan’s invasion of French Indochina—an incursion unlikely to have occurred had France not just been defeated by Germany.

Indeed, Japan’s strategic calculus in 1940–41 would have been very different without a war in Europe. The Pearl Harbor raid was meant to buy time for Japan’s capture of British and Dutch territories in Asia—particularly the oil fields in the Netherland East Indies.

Had Tokyo balked at taking on the full might of the UK as well as the United States, it might have instead entrenched itself more deeply in China and developed the economic strength of its planned multinational empire, the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. This might have prolonged Japan’s occupation of Korea and parts of China, and fostered closer Japanese ties with nationalists in Thailand and India.

A Different World

At the start of World War II, there were six great powers with multinational spheres of influence: the United Kingdom and France with their vast colonial empires in Africa and Asia Germany, dominant in Central Europe Japan and its growing Asian/Pacific empire the Soviet Union, with influence on Europe and Central Asia and the United States, then withdrawing from colonial adventures in Latin America and the Philippines.

World War II destroyed Germany and Japan as great powers. The UK and France were left a shadow of their former selves. The USSR and the United States both emerged as formidable military powers with footholds in Europe and Asia.

From this titanic reshuffling of global order eventually arose the United Nations, the state of Israel, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the conversion of European colonial empires into independent nation-states, and the sundering North and South Korea.

Without the Second World War, numerous world-changing technologies from chemotherapy and rocketry to the nuclear bomb would have developed at different times and places. Movements affected by social changes wrought by the conflict, such as the Civil Rights movement or Indian independence, would have taken different turns.

Without Hitler implementing his genocidal theories, its possible the massacre of millions of Jews and other minorities in the Holocaust would have been averted, even if anti-Semitism itself would still have persisted. Perhaps the Weimar Republic might have avoided Nazi Germany’s descent into militarism and authoritarianism.

But the world would still have been bound to experience massive conflicts, arriving at different places and times but resolving familiar tensions between capitalism and communism, colonialism and national independence, and nationalism and internationalism.

How those conflicts might have played out differently we can only guess—but it’s safe to say that the alternate history version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” still would not have lacked for lyrical content.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in 2019.


The first armored tanks and vehicles in Czechoslovakia were like most countries based on others designs and eventually evolved into their own tank designs. The Czech Army bought three Carden Loyd tankettes and a production license for them in 1930, Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk building four copies that same year as prototypes for future orders. The Carden Loyds were evaluated during the Fall maneuvers and revealed numerous problems: the crews had very poor vision through the narrow slits, the machine gun had a very narrow field of fire, and the crewmen had a difficult time communicating. Furthermore, they were slow, underpowered and often broke down. One of the P-1 prototypes was rebuilt to address these issues with additional vision ports in all directions, internal ammunition storage and the machine gun's field of fire increased to 60°. It was extensively tested during 1931—2 and a few other changes were made as a result. The armor was increased from 6 to 8 mm (0.24 to 0.31 in) and from 9 to 12 mm (0.35 to 0.47 in) and a fixed machine gun was added for the driver. Two of the other prototypes were rebuilt to the same standard all three were officially accepted by the Army on 17 October 1933. The other prototype was eventually given to the Shah of Iran. The order for seventy was placed on 19 April 1933, all being delivered by October 1934. [1]

After the first World War, Slovakia and the regions of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Carpathian Ruthenia formed a common state, Czechoslovakia, with the borders confirmed by the Treaty of Saint Germain and Treaty of Trianon. In 1919, during the chaos following the breakup of Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia was formed with numerous Germans and Hungarians within the newly set borders. A Slovak patriot Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880–1919), who helped organize Czechoslovak regiments against Austria-Hungary during the First World War, died in a plane crash. In the peace following the World War, Czechoslovakia emerged as a sovereign European state. It provided what were at the time rather extensive rights to its minorities and remained the only democracy in this part of Europe in the interwar period.

During the Interwar period, democratic Czechoslovakia was allied with France, and also with Romania and Yugoslavia (Little Entente) however, the Locarno Treaties of 1925 left East European security open. Both Czechs and Slovaks enjoyed a period of relative prosperity. There was progress not only in the development of the country's economy, but also in culture and educational opportunities. The German minority came to accept their role in the new country and relations with Austria were good. Yet the Great Depression caused a sharp economic downturn, followed by political disruption and insecurity in Europe. [2]

Thereafter, Czechoslovakia came under continuous pressure from the revisionist governments of Germany and Hungary. Eventually, this led to the Munich Agreement of September 1938, which allowed Nazi Germany to partially dismember the country by occupying what was called the Sudetenland, a region with a German-speaking majority bordering Germany and Austria. The Germans seized a large amount of the Czechoslovakian designed tanks and armored vehicles when they occupied Bohemia-Moravia in March 1939. The remainder of "rump" Czechoslovakia was renamed Czecho-Slovakia and included a greater degree of Slovak political autonomy.

After the Munich Agreement and its Vienna Award, Nazi Germany threatened to annex part of Slovakia and allow the remaining regions to be partitioned by Hungary or Poland unless independence was declared. Thus, Slovakia seceded from Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939 and allied itself, as demanded by Germany, with Hitler's coalition. [3] The government of the First Slovak Republic, led by Jozef Tiso and Vojtech Tuka, was strongly influenced by Germany and gradually became a puppet regime in many respects.

After it became clear that the Soviet Red Army was going to push the Nazis out of eastern and central Europe, an anti-Nazi resistance movement launched a fierce armed insurrection, known as the Slovak National Uprising, near the end of summer 1944. A bloody German occupation and a guerilla war followed. The territory of Slovakia was liberated by Soviet and Romanian forces by the end of April 1945.

Pre-World War II Edit

After World War I, the Polish army began designing tankettes, light tanks, and armored vehicles, many by Škoda. The German engineer Joseph Vollmer joined Škoda and designed a wheel/track light tank, the KH-50 (Kolo-Housenka). This design had roadwheels mounted on the drive sprockets and jockey wheels behind them to support the tracks. During World War I, Vollmer was chief designer for the German War Department's motor vehicle section, and he had designed the World War I German tanks A7V, K-Wagen, LK I and LK II. Despite the design for the KH-50 (Kolo-Housenka) having impressive specifications for the period - 13 mm armour, 37 mm turret-mounted armament, and a 50 hp engine capable of driving the tank at 8 miles per hour (13 km/h) (on tracks) and 22 miles per hour (35 km/h) (on wheels) - it was rejected by the Czech army.

The army was, however, impressed by the hybrid wheel/track concept and commissioned further studies, which resulted in the KH-60 (1928–29) and the KH-70 (1930). In these two designs the engine power was increased to 60 hp and 70 hp respectively and a better system was developed for switching between track and wheel use which allowed a change in less than 10 minutes. [2]

Two KH-50 prototypes were built, one of which was later converted to a KH-60 the other was scrapped. Actual production included two KH-60s to the USSR and a KH-70 to Italy. The wheel-on-track concept was finally abandoned in 1934. The Škoda T-21 (original designation was Škoda Š-IIc) was Škoda’s contribution to the IIc army category (medium tanks for general use) and a direct competitor to the Praga V-8-H.

Basically, what happened: in the early thirties, both Praga and Škoda (main competitors for the Czechoslovak army contracts, but also when it came to export) had several unsuccessful designs when it came to infantry support tanks. While the light tanks (LT-35 and the later LT-38) were generally good, they just couldn’t get infantry support right. The unsuccessful attempts where the Praga P-IIb and Škoda Š-IIb. After that, both companies basically sat together and made a joint infantry tank project, designated ŠP-IIb. It was unsuccessful for various reasons, mostly because neither company was that eager to cooperate with their main competitor. Also, both companies worked on their own private attempts to build IIb/IIc category prototypes. These private attempts would later become the Praga V-8-H and the Škoda T-21.

The main design works on the T-21 began as early as September 1936. The first prototype was finished in May 1937 – and so began the long journey of this vehicle and its versions and derivates, that ended only after the war.

The first variant from May 1937 was the original Š-IIc. It was supposed to be fitted with a new engine, built especially for it by the automobile factory branch of Škoda in Mladá Boleslav, but the engine development got delayed and the prototype was (in order to save time) fitted with a 190 hp 13-liter V6, originally intended for the Š-III breakthrough tank prototype. The prototype was also fitted with a mock weaponry (representing a 47mm gun and two machineguns). But the engine was not powerful enough, overheated and used a lot of fuel. In September 1937, the V6 engine was removed and the original Škoda engine intended for it was installed. However, the vehicle still didn’t do too well (the engine actually seized and had to be scrapped) and the tests were stopped in November, marking the end of the first development stage of T-21. By that time, the Ministry of Defence committee was looking for a suitable Czechoslovak medium tank for the army, but the Š-IIc did not to make the June 1938 army tests deadline – and that was the end of the T-21 as a potential Czechoslovak army medium tank. From June to November 1938, the prototype was modified further in Pilsen, thus creating a third (and final) variant of the original Š-IIc design (not counting the further modifications, made by Hungarians – the Turán tank is basically a Š-IIc copy, with partial improvements). This third variant had (apart from the fixed engine of the same type the second variant had) better tracks, improved engine cooling, improved oil pump and modified steering mechanism.

However, by that time, the Munich agreement completely changed the Czechoslovak army’s priorities and selling the (improved) vehicle to the Czechoslovak army was no longer an option. Therefore, Škoda tred to sell the design abroad. During factory trials, the third prototype performed reasonably well and was basically ready for export.

After the occupation of Czechoslovakia, that was of course no longer possible – not without German consent at least. During the early months of occupation, German delegations did visit the Škoda factory and tests were performed with the Š-IIc prototype, which, at that point, on 22.5.1939, was – to fit the German nomenclature principles – renamed to Škoda T-21 (T = tank, 2 = medium, 1 = 1st variant). The Germans didn’t show too much interest in it they wanted to test it in Kummersdorf, but in the end, the Germans decided to produce an improved version, which was named T-22.

The British Carden-Lloyd Tankette's Czechoslovakia had acquired led to the Czechoslovakia designed tank, the Tančík vz. 33, which was assembled from a framework of steel "angle iron" beams, to which armor plates were riveted. The driver sat on the right side using a 300 mm × 125 mm (11.8 in × 4.9 in) observation port protected by 50 millimetres (2.0 in) of bulletproof glass and an armored shutter which had a 2 mm (0.079 in) slit. The gunner sat on the left and had a similar vision port half the size of the driver's. His ZB vz. 26 machine gun was mounted in a ball mount directly to his front. There were similar vision ports on the sides and the rear. The driver's machine gun was fixed and he fired it using a Bowden cable 2,600 rounds were stored for the machine guns. [4]

The front armor was 12 mm (0.47 in) thick, the sides had a thickness of 8 mm (0.31 in), the top was 6 mm (0.24 in) thick and the bottom plates were 6 mm (0.24 in) in thickness. This was deemed enough to deflect armor-piercing 7.92 mm (0.312 in) bullets fired from distances greater than 125 metres (137 yd) from the front and 185 metres (202 yd) from the sides. Both were supposed to withstand ordinary bullets from over 50 metres (55 yd). [4]

The 1.95 litres (119 cu in), water-cooled, 30 horsepower (22 kW), inline 4-cylinder Praga engine sat directly in the fighting compartment. It had a top speed on the road of 35 kilometres per hour (22 mph). One 50-litre (13 US gal) fuel tank was located to the left of the engine. The transmission had four forward gears and one reverse gear. It, the reduction, differential, driving shafts and brakes were taken from the Praga AN truck. [5] The suspension was a modified version of that used in the Carden-Loyd tankettes. The Tančík vz. 33 (literal translation Tankette model 33) was a Czechoslovak-designed tankette used mainly by Slovakia during World War II. Seventy-four were built. The Germans seized forty when they occupied Bohemia-Moravia in March 1939 there is no record of their use. The Slovaks captured 30 at the same time when they declared independence from Czechoslovakia. In Slovak service, it only saw combat during the Slovak National Uprising.

The AH-IV was another Czechoslovak-designed tankette. With this design, Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk was determined not to repeat the problems of its earlier Tančík vz. 33 tankette and gave the gunner a turret for better observation and all-around fields of fire. It was assembled from a framework of steel "angle iron" beams, to which armor plates between 12 and 6 mm (0.47 and 0.24 in) thick were riveted. The driver sat on the right side using an observation port protected by bulletproof glass and an armored shutter. To his right was a small vision slit. Also to his right, in all models except the Swedish Strv m/37, was a light Zbrojovka Brno ZB vz. 26 or vz. 30 machine gun that was usually locked in place and fired using a Bowden cable. The gunner sat on the left and manned a small turret fitted with a ZB vz. 35 or ZB vz. 37 heavy machine gun in a ball mount. Most of the machine gun's barrel protruded from the mount and was protected by an armored trough. He had a large vision port to the right of the machine gun mount in the turret and a small vision slit on the left side of the superstructure. 3700 rounds were carried for the two machine guns. No radio was fitted. [6]

The 3.468 litres (211.6 cu in), water-cooled, six-cylinder Praga engine produced 55 horsepower (41 kW) at 2500 rpm. It sat in the rear of the fighting compartment and drove the transmission via a drive shaft that ran forward between the driver and commander to the gearbox. Cooling air was designed to draw air in through the commander's and driver's hatches. This had the advantage of rapidly dispersing gun combustion gases when firing, but several disadvantages. The constant draft generated by the engine greatly affected the crew during cold weather, and the engine noise and heat increased crew fatigue. It had a top speed on the road of 45 kilometres per hour (28 mph) and a range between 150 and 170 kilometres (93 and 106 mi). The semi-automatic Praga-Wilson transmission had five forward gears and one reverse gear to drive the forward-mounted drive sprocket. The suspension was a smaller version of that used in the Panzerkampfwagen 38(t). It consisted of four large road wheels per side, each pair mounted on a wheel carrier and sprung by leaf springs. There were two wheel carriers per side. The idler wheel was at the rear and one return roller was fitted. It had a ground pressure of only 0.5 kg/cm 2 . It could cross a ditch 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) wide, climb an obstacle .5 to .6 metres (1.6 to 2.0 ft) high and ford a stream .8 metres (2.6 ft) deep. [6]

The next major tank develop in Czechoslovak service had the formal designation Lehký (Light) Tank vzor (Model) 35, but was commonly referred to as the LT vz. 35 or LT-35. In German use, it was called the Panzerkampfwagen 35(t), commonly shortened to Panzer 35(t) or abbreviated as Pz.Kpfw. 35(t), and this Czechoslovak-designed light tank ended up being used mainly by Nazi Germany during World War II. The letter (t) stood for tschechisch (German: "Czech"). Four hundred and thirty-four were built of these the Germans seized two hundred and forty-four when they occupied Bohemia-Moravia in March 1939 and the Slovaks acquired fifty-two when they declared independence from Czechoslovakia at the same time. Others were exported to Bulgaria and Romania. In German service it saw combat during the early years of World War II, notably the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France and the invasion of the Soviet Union before being retired by 1942.

The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was another Czech tank of pre-World War II design. After Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany, it was adopted by the German Army, seeing service in the invasions of Poland, France and Russia. Production ended in 1942, when its armament was deemed inadequate. It was a conventional pre-World War II tank design, with riveted armour and a rear engine. The riveted armour was mostly unsloped, and varied in thickness from 10 mm to 25 mm in most versions. Later models (Ausf. E on) increased this to 50 mm by bolting on an additional 25 mm armour to the front. Side armours received additional 15 mm armour from Ausf. E onward.

The two-man turret was centrally located, and housed the tank's main armament, a 37 mm Skoda A7 gun with 90 rounds stored on board. It was equipped with a 7.92 mm machine gun to the right of the main ordnance. This turret machine gun was in a separate ball mount rather than a fixed coaxial mount. This meant the machine gun could be trained on targets independently. Alternatively, the commander/gunner could couple the machine gun internally to the main gun and use it as a coaxial machine gun. In all, over 1,400 were manufactured. The chassis continued to be produced for Marder III (1942-1944) and Hetzer (1944-1945) tank destroyers, turretless assault guns, anti-tank guns and anti-aircraft guns.

The Tančík vz. 33 (literal translation Tankette model 33) was the first Czechoslovak-designed tankette of which seventy-four were built but it had many issues. The Czech Army bought three Carden-Loyd tankettes and a production license for them in 1930, Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk building four copies that same year as prototypes for future orders. The Carden-Loyds were evaluated during the Fall maneuvers and revealed numerous problems: the crews had very poor vision through the narrow slits, the machine gun had a very narrow field of fire, and the crewmen had a difficult time communicating. Furthermore, they were slow, underpowered and often broke down. One of the P-1 prototypes was rebuilt to address these issues with additional vision ports in all directions, internal ammunition storage and the machine gun's field of fire increased to 60°. It was extensively tested during 1931—2 and a few other changes were made as a result. The armor was increased from 6 to 8 mm (0.24 to 0.31 in) and from 9 to 12 mm (0.35 to 0.47 in) and a fixed machine gun was added for the driver. Two of the other prototypes were rebuilt to the same standard all three were officially accepted by the Army on 17 October 1933. The other prototype was eventually given to the Shah of Iran. The order for seventy was placed on 19 April 1933, all being delivered by October 1934. [1] Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk was determined not to repeat the problems of its earlier Tančík vz. 33 tankette for its new AH-IV tankette. The AH-IV tankette d appeared in 1936 and ČKD made improvements which gave the gunner a turret for better observation and all-around fields of fire. Agile and fast, the machine gun-armed combat tankette ended up in others hands as it was built mainly for export.

The LT vz. 34, formally designated as Lehký Tank vzor 34 ("Light Tank Model 34") Czechoslovak-designed light tank had been based on the three Carden-Loyd tankette's, the Czechs had purchased in 1930. Dissatisfied with the prototypes of the Tančík vz. 33 tankette, the Czech Army decided that it would be easier to design a light tank from scratch rather than modify a tankette's chassis to carry a fully rotating armored turret. 50 of the LT vz. 34 were built, the last of which was delivered during 1936.

One prototype was ordered from Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk in 1931, but development was slow and it was accepted only in November 1932. Its evaluations were very positive and an order for fifty was placed on 19 April 1933. The first six of these were to serve as pre-production models and were to be delivered by 30 September 1933. The delivery date for the next batch of twenty-four was a year after that and the final batch of twenty was due by 30 July 1935. Production was delayed by quality problems with the initial batch of armor plates from Poldi and delivery of the pre-production series did not occur until 23 April 1934. A bigger problem was that the Army had rejected ČKD's proposed armament of a 4.7 centimetres (1.9 in) Vickers 44/60 gun and two ZB vz. 26 machine guns so the contract was signed with no design work on the desired armament configuration. ČKD did not finalize its design until December 1933 and the first six tanks were delivered with only a pair of ZB vz. 26 machine guns. The last tanks were delivered on 14 January 1936, but the six pre-production models had to be returned to the factory to be upgraded with the proper armament and otherwise modified up to the latest standards. The last one was delivered on 17 August 1936. [7]

The Czech Army formulated a requirement in the II-a category of light cavalry tanks by the end of 1934. Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk proposed an improved version of its P-II light tank already in service as the LT vz. 34, but Škoda offered a new design that used the pneumatic system and engine earlier proved by its unsuccessful SU or S-II light tank prototype. One prototype was ordered from each company for delivery during the summer of 1935. [8] Both tanks had the same armament and three-man crew, but ČKD's P-II-a was much smaller at 8.5 tonnes (8.4 long tons 9.4 short tons) and had only a maximum 16 millimetres (0.63 in) of armor while Škoda's S-II-a weighed 10.5 tonnes (10.3 long tons 11.6 short tons) and had 25 millimetres (0.98 in) of armor. [9] The army thought that P-II-a was at the limit of its development while the S-II-a could be improved as needed. [10]

The first production order for 160 LT vz. 35s, as the S-II-a was designated in Army service, was placed on 30 October 1935 and deliveries began in December 1936. An additional order for 35 was made on 12 May 1936 and a follow-on order placed for 103 more a month later. [11] The total order for 298 tanks was split equally by Škoda Works and ČKD according to their cartel agreement. [12]

Development was rushed and there were many defects in the LT vz. 35s. Many tanks had to be returned to the factories to be repaired. Curiously, most of these repairs involved the electrical system, not the complicated pneumatic system. [11] Britain's Alvis-Staussler negotiated for a production license from September 1938 until March 1939 when the Nazi occupation made an agreement impossible. The Soviets were also interested so Škoda shipped the S-II-a prototype and one production LT vz. 35 to the proving grounds at Kubinka for evaluation. The Soviets were only interested in buying the prototype, but Škoda refused to sell unless a license was purchased as well, believing that the Soviets would simply copy the design and build it without paying any royalties. [13]

By 1935, the Czechoslovak tank manufacturer ČKD was looking for a replacement for the LT vz. 35 or as it came to be known the LT-35 tank, which they were jointly producing with Škoda Works. The LT-35 was complex and had shortcomings, and ČKD felt there would be orders both from the expanding Czechoslovak army and for export.

ČKD decided to use a suspension with four large wheels for their new tank. It resembled the Christie suspension outwardly, but was actually a conventional leaf spring unit. The resulting vehicle was reliable, and an export success: 50 were exported to Iran, 24 each to Peru and Switzerland. Lithuania also ordered some. The British Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) had one trial model delivered on 23 March 1939 to the Gunnery School at Lulworth. A report stated, the "(bow) gunner could not sit back comfortably as the wireless set was in the way of his left shoulder." The report also stated that due to the shudder while the vehicle was on the move, it was impossible to lay the gun. Even at the speed of 5 mph, accuracy was poor. As a result, the RAC did not purchase the tank and the trial model was returned.

On 1 July 1938, Czechoslovakia ordered 150 of the TNHPS model, which came to be known as the LT vz. 38. Although none had entered service by the time of the German occupation, those made were taken over and used by Germany. After the German takeover, Germany ordered continued production of the model, as it was considered an excellent tank, especially compared to the Panzer I and Panzer II tanks that were the Panzerwaffe's main tanks. It was first introduced into German service under the name LTM 38 this was changed on 16 January 1940 to Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) and came to be known as the Panzer 38(t). Production of tanks for Germany continued into 1942, and amounted to more than 1,400 examples. Examples were also sold to a number of German allies, including Hungary (102), Slovakia (69), Romania (50), and Bulgaria (10). In German service the 38(t) was used as a substitute for the Panzer III.

In December 1937, the Škoda workshops prepared a prototype of a medium tank based on the LT vz. 35 project. Two prototypes were started and designated S-IIc, but their construction was never finished. The tank weighed 16.5 tonnes (16.2 long tons 18.2 short tons), was armed with a 47 mm Škoda A9 vz. 38 gun, two 7.92 mm machine guns and its maximum armour was extended to 30 mm. Finally, the S-II-c was to have a better 13.8 liters engine giving 250 hp this increased the maximum speed to roughly 50 km/h. After Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, the prototypes were finished and Hungarian engineers turn it into the 40M Turán I.

In the fall of 1937, the Czechoslovak armed forces launched a contest for new medium tank Škoda, ČKD and Tatra competed. Most interesting was a tank ČKD V-8-H (later ST vz. 39). The V-8-H was the first completely independent construction of ČKD Praga. It was the result of the experience, gained by ČKD during the Šp-IIb cooperation in the mid 1930s (a prototype of Šp-IIb was built in 1937). Škoda, however, being the main competitor of ČKD wasn't really that much interested in cooperation and pushed its resources into what would become the T-2X line of vehicles (specifically the T-21 medium tank). The result was the V-8-H (the designation means V-8 engine, H - tracked) and it did inherit the best parts and experience of the Šp-IIb. Unfortunately, it did inherit some of its flaws too (namely an unreliable engine and weak final drive).

The prototype was built and tested from summer 1937 for roughly six months. The tests went rather fine and subsequently the project was offered to several countries, including the United Kingdom, China, Denmark, Egypt and many others. However, the interest in the vehicle wasn't high as its weight was 14 tons, while most bridges of that time could hold vehicles up to 10 tons. It was also considerably more expensive than the Czechoslovakia-produced light tanks. Only Italy, Sweden and Switzerland showed some sign of interest. However, in late 1937, the Czechoslovak army decided to run official tank trials both in infantry tank and cruiser tank categories. V-8-H took part in these trials and emerged as the clear victor of its category combined with the army's need for a medium tank. The Czechoslovak army, seeing Germany's new Panzer III vehicles, felt that the contemporary light tanks could not stand up to it. A competition was announced for the new Czechoslovak army medium tank and V-8-H took part. In April 1938, the vehicle was thoroughly tested and changes were made, leading to the tank's weight increasing by two tons. Almost all the parts were changed and improved, including the engine, armor and drivetrain.

Due to the worsening international situation, the army decided to order 300 V-8-H/ST vz. 39 tanks. An order for a further 150 was canceled after the Munich Agreement of 1938 gave the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia to Germany. After the occupation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, representatives of the German armaments office selected the V-8-H for testing by the Army at Eisenach. As a result of a fortnight's testing, an order was issued in November 1939 for the production of another prototype. Both prototypes survived the war, but were scrapped soon afterwards.

The main advantages of the Panzer 38(t), compared to other tanks of the day, were its very high reliability and sustained mobility. In one documented case, a regiment was supplied with tanks driven straight from the factory in 2.5 days instead of the anticipated week, without any mechanical breakdowns (in: History of the 25 Panzer Regiment of the 7 Panzerdivision). In the opinion of the crews, the drive components of the 38(t), engine, gear, steering, suspension, wheels and tracks were perfectly in tune with each other. The 38(t) was also considered to be very easy to maintain and repair. [14]

The Panzer 38(t) was manufactured until June 1942. The small turret was incapable of taking a weapon big enough to destroy late-war tanks, such as the T-34, and manufacturing of the tank version ceased. However, the chassis were used for Marder III tank destroyer from 1942-1944. About 1500 Marder III models were produced, which is more than 1400 Panzer 38(t) produced. After Marder III, Jagdpanzer 38(t) was produced based on altered Panzer 38(t) chassis with approximately 2800 produced. Chassis for Panzer 38(t) was the basis for small number of anti-aircraft guns as well.

The Czech Army realized that the 15 mm (0.59 in) armor on its LT vz. 34 or P-II light tank was too thin and a program to replace it was quickly mounted, which resulted in the LT vz. 35. In the meantime, they offered the Army an opportunity to train with more modern tanks than its few surviving World War I-era Renault FTs. Each of the three armored regiments received between nine and twenty-four until replaced by the LT vz. 35 from 1937. After the Munich Agreement in October 1938, the army tried to sell them, but could find no takers. In November 1938, it decided to concentrate all of them in the Third Armored Regiment in Slovakia, but only 18 had been transferred before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the Slovak declaration of independence in March 1939. [15]

The Germans captured twenty-three LT vz. 34s and the prototype when they occupied Czechoslovakia, but there is no record of their use so they were presumably quickly scrapped. Ten LT vz. 34s were captured after they were abandoned by the insurgents during the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. They were shipped to Skoda for repairs, but the local military representative ordered them scrapped because of their poor condition and obsolescence. The Waffen-SS tried to overturn this order as it planned to transfer them to Nazi puppet state of Croatia. Two were saved from the scrapyard, but by March 1945 the others had their turrets salvaged to be rearmed with two machine guns and mounted in fixed fortifications. [16]

In Slovakia, 27 LT vz. 34s formed one company in the Armored Battalion "Martin" formed by the Slovak Army in mid-1939, which was later expanded into the Armored Regiment, but they were relegated to training duties once the Slovaks began to receive more modern tanks from Germany in 1941. [17] Ten were abandoned by the insurgents when the Slovak National Uprising began in September 1944 and were quickly captured by the Germans. The others were dug in on the approaches to Zvolen. [16]

The 298 LT vz. 35 commonly known later as the Panzer 35(t) tanks were assigned to the armored regiments belonging to the four Mobile (Rychlá) Divisions between 1936—39. Each regiment was supposed to detach three-tank platoons to support the infantry divisions and border areas in times of crisis. These platoons were heavily used suppressing the protests and violence instigated by Konrad Henlein's Sudeten German Party (Sudetendeutsche Partei - SdP) and the Sudetendeutsche Freikorps (paramilitary groups trained in Germany by SS-instructors) between May and October 1938. [18]

After the Munich Agreement, two tank battalions were sent to reinforce the 3rd Mobile Division in Slovakia. They were used to repel Hungarian and Polish border-crossers, sometimes up to a battalion in strength. They screened the infantry when they had to evacuate southern Slovakia after the First Vienna Award on 2 November 1938. [19] The LT vz.35 light tanks also were used in the Slovak–Hungarian War or Little War (Hungarian: Kis háború, Slovak: Malá vojna), fought from 23 March to 31 March/4 April 1939 between the First Slovak Republic and Hungary in eastern Slovakia.

A company of nine LT vz. 35s was in Michalovce when Carpatho-Ukraine declared independence and Hungary invaded on 14 March 1939. They bolstered the Czech defenses in front of Svaliava before being forced to retreat into Slovakia by 17 March. They were turned over to Slovakia the next day. The S-II-a prototype and one LT vz. 35 tank were returning from testing in the Soviet Union when the fighting began. They detrained in Sevljus and participated in a counterattack at Fančíkovo, but the LT vz. 35 was damaged and captured by the Hungarians. The prototype was forced to retreat into Romania by 17 March, along with most of the other Czech troops in eastern Ruthenia. The Romanians returned it to Škoda six months later. [20]

In 1939, following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, 244 L.T.M.35 of the Czechoslovak Army were seized by the Germans [21] where they were known as the L.T.M.35 until January 1940 then designated Panzer 35(t) . [22] In German service, they were used as substitutes for the Panzerkampfwagen III medium tank. They were assigned to the Panzer Battalion (Panzerabteilung) 65 (39) of the 1st Light (leichte) Division and the independent Panzer-Regiment 11 (81) where they participated in the Invasion of Poland. [23] 77 of these were lost during the campaign, mostly due to mechanical breakdowns, but only 7 of these were irreparable. [24] From 1940 on there had not been any spare parts available and tanks had to be completely rebuilt to remain operational.

The LT vz. 38 which was designated by the Germans as the Panzer 38(t) performed well in the Polish Campaign in 1939 and the Battle of France in 1940. It was better armed than the Panzer I and Panzer II tanks. It was on par with most light tank designs of the era, although it was unable to effectively engage the frontal armour of medium, heavy and infantry tank designs.

It was also used in the German invasion of the Soviet Union from 1941 onwards in German and Hungarian units, but was outclassed by Soviet tanks such as the T-34. Some ex-German units were issued to the Romanians in 1943, after the loss of many of the Romanian R-2 tanks. By then, it had become largely obsolete, though the chassis was adapted to a variety of different roles with success. Notable variations include the Sd.Kfz. 138 Marder III mobile anti-tank gun, the Sd.Kfz. 138/1 Grille mobile howitzer, Flakpanzer 38(t) and the Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer" tank destroyer. Small numbers were also used for reconnaissance, training and security duties, such as deployment on armoured trains.

During the war, the first encounters with the Russian T-34's quickly led the German army to look for alternative solutions for a new medium tank. One of them was to commission occupied Czechoslovakia's Škoda company to design a new medium tank for the Wehrmacht. In Fall 1941, Germans contacted the Škoda engineers and designers and by the end of 1941, first drawings of the new vehicle (designated T-24) were ready. At the same time, another team was working on an even heavier vehicle, the T-25 and the T-24 project was cancelled in favour of the T-25. Technically, it was one of the most advanced drawings of the Škoda design bureau and just like the T-25, it was inspired by the sloped shapes of the T-34 Soviet tank. As the war came to a close, on 10 December 1945, 1st Department of the Czechoslovak High Command sent its ideas about the new tank to the VTU (Military Research Institute). It was supposed to be a 30-33ton machine, armed with an 85mm to 105mm cannon, with the armor of 20 to 65 millimeters. It was to be propelled by a diesel engine with maximum speed of 50 km/h and it was to have a 5-member crew. On December 3, 1946, VTU design bureau presented a miniature mock-up proposal, named "Tank všeobecného použití" (TVP). It was based on the best elements of studied German, British, Russian and Czechoslovak constructions. The VTU institute proposed to use the German 88mm-105mm guns as its armament. In the years 1947 and 1948, this project was worked on, the demands and construction elements of the vehicle were further refined. There was a parallel development in the other big company - ČKD (Pilsen and ČKD used to compete a lot before the war for military contracts), there is however no information on their involvement in these years.

The official request for the new tank from the High command was however given only in 1949 (all the previous army involvement was on an unofficial level). The Škoda project received thus an official designation - T-50, the ČKD project received the T-51 designation, but by 1950, both projects were unified under the designation of T-50/51. Forced by the Soviet Union and pressed into accepting the Soviet tanks into their army, the Czechoslovak High Command had to abandon the support of the project. Few months later, all the independent design and construction works in Czechoslovakia were ended and that marked the end of the last truly independent Czechoslovak tank project.

From now on for decades, all the Czechoslovak tanks would be derivatives of the Soviet models as seen below:

Jewish Life before World War II

Jewish life in Europe in the early twentieth century was comprised of diverse individuals and communities connected to each other by history, beliefs, and a vibrant culture. This lesson explores some of the richness that defined Jewish life in Europe during these years. It also looks briefly at how antisemitism in the early twentieth century distorted the richness and diversity of European Jewish life and used lies and stereotypes to marginalize Jews. The lesson touches on an important theme expressed in our pedagogy: the connection and conflict between an individual’s identity and the identities of (or stereotypes about) groups to which the individual belongs—a phenomenon commonly experienced in the lives of the adolescents we teach.

A variety of extension activities and resources are listed at the end of this lesson that teachers may use to extend their class’s exploration of religious identity, the history of race and antisemitism, and the role of music in pre-war Jewish identity. We highly recommend these activities if the necessary class time is available.


Teaching Strategies


Reflect on Groups and Belonging
Have students respond to and discuss the following journal prompts using the Think, Pair, Share strategy:

  • What groups do you belong to? How did you become a member of each of them?
  • Can you think of a time when someone made an assumption about you because of your membership in a particular group? Was it a positive or negative assumption? How did it affect you?

Analyze Photos of European Jews before World War II
Tell students that they will analyze a set of images of Jewish life during the time period between World War I and World War II. It is important to help students understand that although these photographs depict a variety of experiences, they do not begin to fully represent the richness and diversity of European Jewish life. Nevertheless, the photos will help students glimpse the everyday lives of some European Jews and get a sense of what life was like for them before World War II.

Ask students to independently view all of the photographs in the gallery Pre-war Jewish Life in Europe and then identify one photo that resonates with them for some reason. For instance, the photograph might remind them of a moment or experience in their own lives, or there might be something about it that surprises or captivates them. Have students reflect on and write about this photo for a few minutes. What draws them to it? What questions do they have about the photo? Then ask them to share their thoughts with a classmate.

After reflecting on one image, ask students to think about the entire set of photographs and write in their journals about what these images collectively suggest about the diverse life of European Jews living before World War II. What conclusions can students begin to draw? What questions do they have? Ask them to share their thoughts with a partner, small group, or as a class, if you have time.

Provide Background on European Jewish Life before World War II
Tell students that in the 1930s, the Nazis isolated Jews in German society, in part by spreading stereotypes, myths, and lies that ignored the diversity of Jewish life and portrayed Jews collectively as a fundamentally different and dangerous group that could not live among those the Nazis considered to be “true Germans.” But the Nazis did not invent antisemitism they drew upon centuries of hatred and backlash against Jews. Share the following background information with students:

Judaism, a religious faith that has existed for more than 3,000 years, is the oldest monotheistic religion. Throughout much of their faith’s history, Jews lived in territories ruled by other groups. They were often treated as “the Other” and made scapegoats for calamities and misfortunes suffered by the societies in which they lived. Continuous rumors, lies, myths, and misinformation about Jews have circulated throughout history, and many of them persist in the contemporary world.

Before World War II, Jews lived and thrived in varied communities, spanning eastern and western Europe, with diverse cultures and ways of life. Jews in Europe came from small towns as well as cities, and they were active in music, theater, politics, the military, business, and education. They viewed themselves as members of the nations in which they lived, not as outsiders. Being Jewish was just one aspect of their identity. But the Nazi Party exploited this part of their identity, not only insisting that a Jew could not be a “true German” but also spreading the lie that Jews were dangerous enemies of the German nation. When the Nazis took power in Germany, Jews made up less than 1% of the population. Despite the efforts of the Nazi Party to depict Jews as a homogenous and dangerous enemy, Jewish life before the rise of the Nazi Party was rich and diverse.

Provide an Overview of Antisemitism before World War II
At the beginning of the second day of the lesson, show the class the video Antisemitism from the Enlightenment to World War I. Ask them to consider the following questions as they watch:

After viewing the video, again use the Think, Pair, Share strategy to discuss students’ answers to the questions.

  • Why was there a backlash against Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?
  • What myths, lies, and stereotypes about Jews were spread during this period?
  • Compare and contrast the images of Jews from the time period shown in the video and the photographs you analyzed earlier. How do the antisemitic images attempt to distort the truth?

Consider the Effect of Antisemitism on Individual Identity
Explain to students that antisemitism took a toll on individual Jews and their communities in large part because the way that they defined their own identities was in conflict with the stereotypes and lies others used to define them.

Share the quotation below from composer Arnold Schoenberg with students. Schoenberg was born to a Jewish family in Austria. He emigrated to the United States in 1934, the year after the Nazis took control of Germany. In 1923, in response to pervasive antisemitism in Germany and Austria, he wrote:

I have at last learned the lesson that has been forced upon me during this year, and I shall not ever forget it. It is that I am not a German, not a European, indeed perhaps scarcely a human being (at least the Europeans prefer the worst of their race to me), but I am a Jew.

Have students journal their reflections to this quote and share with a partner, or have a few share with the class. Then tell students that Arnold Schoenberg saw himself as more German than Jewish, but he emigrated to the United States when the expression of his musical talent were overshadowed by antisemitism and the rise of Nazis. Ask students how his quote reflects this experience.

Remind students of the reflection they wrote at the beginning of this lesson about groups and belonging in their own lives. Have they ever experienced, like Schoenberg, a conflict between how they define themselves and the way others define them?


Learn More about Individual Jewish Musicians
Using the Biopoem strategy to create poems based on Jewish musicians in pre-war Europe can help students gain a deeper understanding of the impact that Nazi policies had on musicians during this time. This activity can also help students learn more about how group identity and membership shaped the way individuals from this period viewed themselves.

Assign each student a musician to research on the internet. Musicians you might assign include the following:

  • Arnold Schoenberg
  • Shmerke Kaczerginski
  • Viktor Ullmann
  • Gideon Klein
  • Paul Kling
  • Leo Strauss

Explore the Role of Religion in Identity
Share the reading Religion and Identity with students in order begin a deeper discussion about the role that religion plays in many people’s lives. Use the connection questions at the end of the reading to help guide the discussion.

Go Deeper into the History of Antisemitism
To learn more about the history of anti-Judaism, race science, and the emergence of antisemitism in the nineteenth century, share with the class the following resources:

Analyze Antisemitic Nazi Propaganda
For further analysis of the antisemitic stereotypes and images that the Nazis used to marginalize Jews in German society, consider showing students the Nazi propaganda image The Eternal Jew. Have students analyze this image using the Analyzing Visual Images teaching strategy. Then have them contrast the imagery spread by the Nazis with the photographs of pre-war Jewish life they studied earlier in the lesson.

Plan III: Variations on a Theme

From 1902 to 1903, German planners, including naval staff officer Wilhelm Büchsel, made minor changes to their tactics. But this time they took global politics into consideration. Seeking to gain a political advantage, they sought to establish a naval base in Culebra, Puerto Rico from where they could threaten the Panama Canal.

At the same time, however, Germany did not waiver from its initial strategy of seeking to immobilize the United States. As von Mantey noted in his diary, the "East Coast is the heart of the United States and this is where she is most vulnerable. New York will panic at the prospect of bombardment. By hitting her here we can force America to negotiate."


The AFC was established on September 4, 1940 by Yale Law School student R. Douglas Stuart, Jr. (son of R. Douglas Stuart, co-founder of Quaker Oats), along with other students including future president Gerald Ford, future Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, and future U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. [8] At its peak, America First claimed 800,000 dues-paying members in 450 chapters, located mostly in a 300-mile radius of Chicago, [6] and 135,000 members in 60 chapters throughout Illinois, its strongest state. [9]

Fundraising drives produced about $370,000 from some 25,000 contributors. Nearly half came from a few millionaires such as William H. Regnery, H. Smith Richardson of the Vick Chemical Company, General Robert E. Wood of Sears-Roebuck, publisher Joseph M. Patterson (New York Daily News) and his cousin, publisher Robert R. McCormick (Chicago Tribune). [10]

The AFC was never able to draw funding for its own public opinion poll. The New York chapter received slightly more than $190,000, most of it coming from its 47,000 contributors. As the AFC never had a national membership form or national dues, and local chapters were quite autonomous, historians point out that the organization's leaders had no idea how many "members" it had. [11]

Serious organization efforts took place in Chicago, the national headquarters of the committee, not long after the AFC's September 1940 establishment. America First chose General Robert E. Wood, the 61-year-old chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co., to preside over the committee. Wood remained in his post until the AFC was disbanded in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. [12]

The America First Committee contained its share of prominent businessmen and attracted the sympathies of political figures including Democratic senators Burton K. Wheeler of Montana and David I. Walsh of Massachusetts, and Republican senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota. Its most prominent spokesman was aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. Other celebrities supporting America First were actress Lillian Gish and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. [13]

Two future presidents, John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford, supported and contributed to the organization. When he donated $100 to the AFC, Kennedy attached a note that read simply: "What you are doing is vital." [14] Ford was one of the first members of the AFC when a chapter formed at Yale University. [15] Potter Stewart, a future Supreme Court justice, served on the original committee of the AFC. [16]

When the war began in September 1939, most Americans, including politicians, demanded neutrality regarding Europe. [17] Although most Americans supported strong measures against Japan, Europe was the focus of the America First Committee. The public mood was changing, however, especially after the fall of France in the spring of 1940. [18]

The America First Committee launched a petition aimed at enforcing the 1939 Neutrality Act and forcing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep his pledge to keep America out of the war. The committee profoundly distrusted Roosevelt and argued that he was lying to the American people.

On the day after Roosevelt's lend-lease bill was submitted to the United States Congress, Wood promised AFC opposition "with all the vigor it can exert." America First staunchly opposed the convoying of ships, the Atlantic Charter, and the placing of economic pressure on Japan. In order to achieve the defeat of lend-lease and the perpetuation of American neutrality, the AFC advocated four basic principles:

  • The United States must build an impregnable defense for America.
  • No foreign power, nor group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America.
  • American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European war.
  • "Aid short of war" weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad.

Charles Lindbergh was admired in Germany and was allowed to see the buildup of the German air force, the Luftwaffe, in 1937. He was impressed by its strength and secretly reported his findings to the General Staff of the United States Army, warning them that the U.S. had fallen behind and that it must urgently build up its aviation. [19] Lindbergh, who had feuded with the Roosevelt administration for years, delivered his first radio speech on September 15, 1939 through all three major radio networks. He urged listeners to look beyond the speeches and propaganda that they were being fed and instead look at who was writing the speeches and reports, who owned the papers and who influenced the speakers.

On June 20, 1941, Lindbergh spoke to 30,000 people in Los Angeles and billed it as a "Peace and Preparedness Mass Meeting". Lindbergh criticized the movements that he perceived were leading America into the war and proclaimed that the U.S. was in a position that made it virtually impregnable. He also claimed that the interventionists and the British who called for "the defense of England" really meant "the defeat of Germany." [20] [21]

A speech that Lindbergh delivered to a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on September 11, 1941 may have significantly raised tensions. He identified the forces pulling America into the war as the British, the Roosevelt administration, and American Jews. While he expressed sympathy for the plight of the Jews in Germany, he argued that America's entry into the war would serve them little better:

It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution the Jewish race suffered in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy, both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences. Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastation. A few farsighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government. [22]

Many condemned the speech as antisemitic. Journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote for the New York Herald an opinion that many shared [ citation needed ] : "I am absolutely certain that Lindbergh is pro-Nazi." Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie criticized the speech as "the most un-American talk made in my time by any person of national reputation." [12]

During the period after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop non-aggression pact, most American Communists were opposed to the United States entering World War II, and they tried to infiltrate or take over America First. [23] After June 1941, when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, they reversed positions and denounced the AFC as a Nazi front, a group infiltrated by German agents. [24] Nazis also tried to use the committee at the trial of the aviator and orator Laura Ingalls, [25] the prosecution revealed that her handler, German diplomat Ulrich Freiherr von Gienanth, had encouraged her to participate in committee activities.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, AFC canceled a rally with Lindbergh at Boston Garden "in view of recent critical developments," [26] and the organization's leaders announced their support of the war effort. Lindbergh gave this rationale: [27]

We have been stepping closer to war for many months. Now it has come and we must meet it as united Americans regardless of our attitude in the past toward the policy our government has followed. Whether or not that policy has been wise, our country has been attacked by force of arms and by force of arms we must retaliate. Our own defenses and our own military position have already been neglected too long. We must now turn every effort to building the greatest and most efficient Army, Navy and Air Force in the world. When American soldiers go to war it must be with the best equipment that modern skill can design and that modern industry can build.

With the formal declaration of war against Japan, the organization chose to disband. On December 11, the committee leaders met and voted for dissolution, the same day upon which Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. In a statement released to the press, the AFC wrote:

Our principles were right. Had they been followed, war could have been avoided. No good purpose can now be served by considering what might have been, had our objectives been attained. We are at war. Today, though there may be many important subsidiary considerations, the primary objective is not difficult to state. It can be completely defined in one word: Victory. [28]

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan has praised America First and used its name as a slogan. "The achievements of that organization are monumental," writes Buchanan. "By keeping America out of World War II until Hitler attacked Stalin in June 1941, Soviet Russia, not America, bore the brunt of the fighting, bleeding and dying to defeat Nazi Germany." [29]

In his 2004 novel The Plot Against America, writer Philip Roth imagines that Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential elections and signs treaties with Nazi Germany and Japan to restrict the parties from interfering with the others' foreign policies.

Who inherited from the pre- World War II German states? - History

Invasion of Ethiopia

The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a brief colonial war that began in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia) and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia). The war resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia and its annexation into the newly created colony of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI) in addition, it exposed the weakness of the League of Nations as a force to preserve peace. Both Italy and Ethiopia were member nations, but the League did nothing when the former clearly violated the League's own Article X.

Japanese invasion of China

In June 1938, Chinese forces stalled the Japanese advance by flooding the Yellow River although this manoeuvre bought time for the Chinese to prepare their defences at Wuhan, the city was taken by October. However, Japanese military victories did not bring about the collapse of Chinese resistance that Japan had hoped to achieve, instead the Chinese government relocated inland to Chongqing to continue their resistance.

Japanese invasion of the USSR and Mongolia

These clashes convinced the Japanese government that they should focus on conciliating the Soviet government to avoid interference in the war against China and instead turn their military attention southward, towards the US and European holdings in the Pacific. They also prevented the sacking of experienced Soviet military leaders such as Zhukov, who would later play a vital role in the defence of Moscow.

European occupations and agreements

In Europe, Germany and Italy were becoming bolder. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, again provoking little response from other European powers. Encouraged, Hitler began pressing German claims on the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia with a predominantly ethnic German population and soon France and Britain conceded this territory to him, against the wishes of the Czechoslovak government, in exchange for a promise of no further territorial demands. Soon after that, however, Germany and Italy forced Czechoslovakia to cede additional territory to Hungary and Poland. In March 1939, Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia and subsequently split it into the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the pro-German client state, the Slovak Republic.

Alarmed, and with Hitler making further demands on Danzig, France and Britain guaranteed their support for Polish independence when Italy conquered Albania in April 1939, the same guarantee was extended to Romania and Greece. Shortly after the Franco -British pledge to Poland, Germany and Italy formalised their own alliance with the Pact of Steel.

In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression treaty with a secret protocol. The parties gave each other rights, “in the event of a territorial and political rearrangement,” to “spheres of influence” (western Poland and Lithuania for Germany, and eastern Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Bessarabia for the USSR). It also raised the question of continuing Polish independence.

Bliss-Leavitt 21" (53.3 cm) Mark 2

Ship Class Used On Surface Ships
Date Of Design about 1904
Date In Service 1905
Weight 1,900 lbs. (862 kg)
Overall Length 197 in (5.004 m)
Explosive Charge Mod 0: 207 lbs. (94 kg) wet gun-cotton
Mod 1: 183 lbs. (83 kg) wet gun-cotton
Range / Speed 3,500 yards (3,200 m) / 26 knots
Power Two-stage turbine engine, alcohol fired dry heaters
Guidance Mark 5 gyro

Introduced two countra-rotating turbine wheels which drove contra-rotating propellers to overcome the unbalanced torque of the Mark 1. This propulsion system eliminated the rolling problem at a slight cost in range and speed. This propulsion arrangement was used on all subsequent USA torpedoes until after World War II. Designated as Torpedo Mark 2 in 1913.

Torpedo at the Newport Torpedo Station, Rhode Island circa 1908-1919. Photograph from National Photo Company. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-F81-2684.

World War II

On September 9, 1939, eight days after Germany’s invasion of Poland, Canada’s Parliament voted to declare war on Germany, which the country did the next day. (Its separate declaration of war was a measure of the independence granted it in the 1931 Statute of Westminster in 1914 there had been no such independence and no separate declaration of war.) The vote was nearly unanimous, a result that rested on the assumption that there was to be a “limited liability” war effort that would consist primarily of supplying raw materials, foodstuffs, and munitions and the training of Commonwealth air crews, mainly for the Royal Air Force. Canadian men were to be actively discouraged from serving in the infantry, which was expected to take high casualties, and it was anticipated that few infantry units would be formed. If this plan were followed, King and other government leaders reasoned, conscription would be unnecessary. King and the leader of the Conservative opposition had both pledged themselves to a “no conscription” policy even before the war began.

The expulsion of the British from the Continent and the fall of France in the spring of 1940 totally changed the circumstances. Canada’s overseas allies had fallen or were in danger of doing so, and the country immediately concluded an agreement at Ogdensburg, New York, with the United States for the defense of North America. Moreover, Canada now stood in the forefront of the war. After Britain, it was (prior to the U.S. entry into the war in December 1941) the second most powerful of Germany’s adversaries. The emphasis on supply gave way to a focus on combat forces. King’s “no conscription” policy had been modified in 1940 when the government introduced conscription for home defense, but at the same time King renewed his pledge not to send conscripts overseas for “active” duty. In 1942 the King government called a national plebiscite asking Canadian voters to release it from that pledge nearly two-thirds of Canadian voters supported conscription, though in Quebec three-fourths opposed it. Thereafter the government enforced compulsory service for home defense, but King, fearing an Anglo-French cleavage, did not send conscripts overseas during the early years of the war, preferring to avoid such a move unless absolutely necessary.

Still, Canadians were deeply enmeshed in the war. Under increased pressure from military leaders to move Canadian troops into battle, two battalions were sent to help defend Hong Kong (then a British colony), but the results were disastrous, as the Japanese imperial forces swept to victory. An ill-planned and poorly executed raid on the German-occupied French port of Dieppe was attempted, largely by Canadian troops, in August 1942, with significant casualties. Lessons learned from the disaster, however, later proved useful during the planning for the Normandy (France) Invasion in 1944. What became known as the Battle of the Atlantic marked one of Canada’s largest commitments. Canadian escorts helped protect the convoys that traversed the Atlantic bringing supplies to Britain. Again Canada suffered many casualties, both in the naval service and in the merchant marine. Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, Canadians flew in both Royal Canadian Air Force and combined Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons from the Battle of Britain through the bombing campaigns over Germany to eventual victory. Aircrew losses were particularly heavy in the RAF Bomber Command.

At Normandy in June 1944, Canada was assigned one of the five invasion beaches. Casualties began to mount quickly as the offensive in France dragged on, and the Canadian army became strapped for infantry reinforcements. The Canadian army, which had been fighting in Sicily and Italy since July 1943, was crippled by particularly high infantry casualties in late summer and early fall 1944. King’s minister of national defense, J.L. Ralston, supported sending conscripts overseas and was forced to resign as a result. Ralston’s resignation precipitated a cabinet crisis, which was resolved in November 1944 when King relented and agreed to send conscripts to the front to reinforce the army’s infantry units.

Not only was Canada’s war effort in World War II far more extensive than that in World War I, but it also had a much more lasting impact on Canadian society. By the end of the war, more than 1,000,000 Canadians (about 50,000 of whom were women) had served in the three services. Although total casualties were lower than in the previous war, still some 42,000 were killed or died in service, and 54,400 were wounded. The domestic war effort was no less significant. Canada hosted, and paid much of the cost of, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which trained more than 100,000 Commonwealth airmen. Canadian factories turned out everything from rifles to Lancaster heavy bombers, and Canadian scientists, technicians, and engineers worked on advanced weapons technology, including the atomic bomb (for which Canada supplied the uranium ore). Canadian foods, direct cash contributions to Britain, and munitions for the Allies, including the Soviet Union, contributed to the overall war effort.

The government intervened in almost all aspects of Canadian life to regulate the war effort, ensure a smooth flow of troops and supplies, and curtail inflation. Agencies such as the Wartime Prices and Trade Board and the National War Labour Board represented a massive growth in the federal government, bringing a surge of government spending and a vast increase in the civil service. Toward the end of the war, the King government launched even further social welfare policies, introducing a major veterans’ benefits program, family allowances, farm price supports, compulsory collective bargaining, and a national housing program. It would undoubtedly have gone even further than it did in 1945 and 1946—a national health insurance plan was under consideration—but for the opposition of provincial governments, particularly Ontario and Quebec. Despite that opposition, however, the war produced a significant shift of power toward Ottawa. World War II had been a watershed in Canadian history, as the role of the federal government in engineering national economic growth had been considerably strengthened.