K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education
  Europe and North Africa The Pacific In the U.S. Media
1931 Spain becomes a republic. The Japanese invade Manchuria, in northeast Asia, and occupy it until the end of World War II.   map of the Far East and Pacific Ocean

Manchuria, today part of China and Russia. About the map

1932 The Nazis win the most seats of any party in the Reichstag (German legislature).   Franklin Roosevelt is elected President. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, ride in an open vehicle in his inauguration parade.

Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933. About the photograph

1933

Adolf Hitler is apppointed Chancellor of Germany. Through a combination of legal means and violence, his government makes the Nazi Party the only legal political party in Germany and establishes a dictatorship.

Germany begins legal discrimination against Jews.

    Adolph Hitler speaks to a crowd from a second-story window.

A German crowd cheers Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. About the photograph

1934 German President Paul von Hindenburg dies. Rather than holding new elections, Hitler assumes the role of Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). German soldiers and sailors are forced to swear personal loyalty to Hitler.      
1935

German Jews are stripped of citizenship and civil rights.

Italy invades Ethiopia.

  Most Americans remain strongly isolationist, opposed to U.S. intervention in foreign wars. The Neutrality Act of 1935 allows the President to impose an embargo (cut off exports) on all parties in a war. Roosevelt announces an embargo of both Italy and Ethiopia.  
1936

Germany and Italy declare an Axis, or alliance.

Germany reoccupies the Rhineland, on the border with France, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Spanish nationalists under General Francisco Franco attack the Republican army, beginning the Spanish Civil War. The war will last for three years. Franco is supported by Germany and Italy, while the Republican government receives support from the USSR. U.S. companies supply Franco’s army with trucks and oil.

Italian forces capture the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini proclaims an Italian Empire, and Ethiopia becomes part of Italian East Africa.

  Franklin Roosevelt is re-elected President. map of Italian Empire, 1939

Mussolini’s "Italian Empire" included territory in southeastern Europe and north and northeast Africa. About the map

1937  

Japan invades China, beginning the Second Sino-Japanese War, which will become part of World War II. Germany provides financial support to the Chinese Republic.

After the fall of Nanking, the capital of the Chinese Republic, Japanese troops kill hundreds of thousands of civilians and systematically rape some 20,000 women and girls. The incident becomes known as the "Rape of Nanking."

Roosevelt, supporting the Chinese resistance to Japan, declines to enforce the Neutrality Act and does not declare an embargo. The decision allows U.S. sales of arms and supplies to China on credit. map of Japanese occupation of China, 1940

By 1940, Japan controlled most of northeastern China. About the map

Japanese soldiers enter the walls of Nanking, China

Japanese soldiers entering Nanking, China. About the photograph

map of the Far East and Pacific, 1941

Areas of the Pacific Rim under the control of various imperial powers, including Japan and the United States, in 1941. About the map

1938

Austria is pressured into union with Germany (the "Anschluss").

Hitler threatens war with Czechoslovakia to annex the German-speaking district of the Sudetenland. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, desperate to avoid war with Germany, agrees to permit the annexation.

On Kristallnacht (the "night of broken glass"), November 7, more than 7,000 Jewish shops and 1,600 synagogues are damaged or destroyed.

Hitler withdraws support from China, seeking an alliance with Japan against the USSR. The USSR now supports the Chinese Republic against Japan, ending China’s cooperation with Germany and beginning a series of skirmishes between Japanese and Soviet forces. China also receives military support from the U.S., Britain, and France.   map of German expansion in 1930s

German aggression and expansion, 1936–39. About the map

Broken glass windows of a storefront after Kristallnacht.

The broken windows of a shop vandalized on Kristallnacht. About the photograph