World War II: Before the War


The years leading up to the declaration of war between the Axis and Allied powers in 1939 were tumultuous times for people across the globe. The Great Depression had started a decade before, leaving much of the world unemployed and desperate. Nationalism was sweeping through Germany, and it chafed against the punitive measures of the Versailles Treaty that had ended World War I. China and the Empire of Japan had been at war since Japanese troops invaded Manchuria in 1931. Germany, Italy, and Japan were testing the newly founded League of Nations with multiple invasions and occupations of nearby countries, and felt emboldened when they encountered no meaningful consequences. The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, becoming a rehearsal of sorts for the upcoming World War -- Germany and Italy supported the nationalist rebels led by General Francisco Franco, and some 40,000 foreign nationals traveled to Spain to fight in what they saw as the larger war against fascism. In the last few pre-war years, Nazi Germany blazed the path to conflict -- rearming, signing a non-aggression treaty with the USSR, annexing Austria, and invading Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, the United States passed several Neutrality Acts, trying to avoid foreign entanglements as it reeled from the Depression and the Dust Bowl years. Below is a glimpse of just some of these events leading up to World War II. (This entry is Part 1 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Ads are being blocked

For us to continue writing great stories, we need to display ads.

Un-block Learn more
Back

Whitelist

Please select the extension that is blocking ads.

Back

Please follow the steps below

Most Recent

  • Mark Burns

    An Explorer’s Ode to America’s National Parks

    A 160,000-mile quest to visit all 59 of the country's natural treasures

  • Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 8/20-8/26

    Lenin underwater, a penguin weigh-in, monsoon flooding in India, an earthquake in central Italy, a deep blue lake in El Salvador, and much more.

  • Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuter / REUTERS

    Animals Rescued From the 'Worst Zoo in the World' in Gaza

    Four Paws, an international animal welfare group, has just completed the removal of the surviving 15 animals from the Khan Younis Zoo—dubbed the “worst zoo in the world”—in the Gaza Strip

  • Gregorio Borgia / AP

    An Earthquake in Central Italy Topples Buildings, Killing Dozens

    Central Italy was struck by a powerful, shallow, 6.2-magnitude earthquake at 3:36 am local time, devastating several mountain villages, and resulting in at least 73 deaths so far.

Join the Discussion