chapter  4
20 Pages

WAR, REVOLUTION, FASCISM, 1914–33

It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of World War I for the origins of Nazism and the Holocaust. The titanic clash of Europe’s major powers and the seemingly endless slaughter at the front resulted in a staggering toll of death and destruction, giving rise by 1917 to mutinies and revolution. The intervention of the Americans in the same year allowed a final victory for the Entente powers, France and Britain, a victory that contributed to a collapse of those empires (Austro-Hungarian, German, and Turkish) that had been allied against the Entente. But the year 1917 witnessed an even more portentous collapse of the Russian Empire, until then allied with France and Britain. Many believed the rise of the Bolsheviks to power in Russia would be short-lived; Lenin and his followers were believed to be wild-eyed fanatics who, even if capable of exploiting the chaos of the summer and fall of 1917, could never retain power. But they did, with finally vast implications.