The Aftermath of WWI: The Rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy

By Catherine Shen

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Fascist Italy


World War II was, no doubt, a ruthless war that lasted from 1939 to 1945 and extended across Europe, Eastern Asia, and the South Pacific Ocean. The causes of WWII are rooted in the aftermath of WWI and the effects of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War. One of the many provisions of the Treaty of Versailles was for Germany to accept responsibility for causing the Great War. This is now known as the War Guilt Clause, or Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles.

The harsh restrictions on Germany fueled a state of frustration, which was lead by Adolf Hitler when he rose to power as Führer and chancellor by the stepping down of the president of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg. Although Hitler is often seen as the face of fascism, he was actually the leader of the German Socialist Party, better known as the Nazi Party. It is Italy’s Benito Mussolini who founded the fascism ideology. Mussolini sought to re-create the Great Roman Empire by use of a totalitarian rule and feeding of the fear of communism. In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel forming an alliance which is known as the Axis powers during WWII. After the Axis powers lost the Second World War, many fascist groups disassembled and in some places it was banned; although there have been groups of neo-fascists.


The Cause

Treaty of Versailles (primary)

This is an online copy of the peace Treaty of Versailles in its entirety.

Treaty of Versailles: Article 231-247 “War Guilt Clause” (primary)

This is the section of the Treaty of Versailles in which the reparations are established. Article 231 is now known as the War Guilty Clause, as stated earlier in the introduction.

World War II Europe: The Road to War (secondary)

This site described the many causes and events that lead up to World War II. It provided basic background information on the Treaty of Versailles, the rise of Fascism and the Nazi party, the Munich conference, the invasion of Poland, etc.

“Causes of World War II – Causes of World War II in Europe.” Military History – Warfare through the Ages – Battles and Conflicts – Weapons of War – Military Leaders in History.

Holocaust History: Treaty of Versailles, 1919 (secondary)

This site from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website provided more information about the demands of the Treaty of Versailles; the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Trianon, and Sevres; and the impact of WWI.

“Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


The Rise

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy silk scarf as fascist propaganda.

The Rise of Hitler (primary)

This video gives a basic in-site to Hitler, Mussolini, and fascism’s rise to power in Germany and Italy.

Hitler, Adolf: rise of Hitler, Video, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online, accessed April 28, 2013,

Anti-Semitism: Hitler’s Rise to Power (primary)

This video from Encyclopedia Britannia’s YouTube channel provides more information on Hitler’s rise to power and control of the German Socialist Party.

Adolf Hitler (secondary)

The Encyclopedia Britannica provided information on Hitler’s dictatorship of Nazi Germany and his effects on WWII.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Adolf Hitler,” accessed April 29, 2013,

Benito Mussolini (secondary)

BBC History provides how Mussolini rose to power and how he controlled fascist Italy. It also says how he contributed to the causes of WWII by supporting Francisco Franco, a military dictator, in the Spanish Civil War.

“Benito Mussolini (1883-1945).” BBC – History. (accessed April 29, 2013).

Fascism (secondary)

Fascism is a political ideology that started with Mussolini and his hunger for Italy to be a great and powerful state like the ancient Roman Empire. Fascism is based on extreme nationalism focused on mainly military power to control the people. It is also based on militaristic ideals of “courage, unquestioning obedience to authority, discipline, and physical strength.” In countries like Germany, Hitler thrived for a Volksgemeinschaft, or a people’s community; and he achieved his goals by military control and dictatorship over the government. Many fascist movements also had imperialistic goals as seen with Mussolini when he sought to expand is empire into Northern Africa.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “fascism,” accessed April 29, 2013,

Pact of Steel (secondary)

Hitler and Mussolini Signing the Pact of Steel

On May 22, 1939, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel, which allied the two countries politically and militarily, to form the Axis powers.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Pact of Steel,” accessed April 29, 2013,