THE INTER-WAR PERIOD 1932
The Soviet famine of 1932-33 was a catastrophe that killed millions of people in the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union. The main reasons for the famine were caused by several bad droughts, coupled with rapid industrialisation and a decreasing agricultural workforce. The famine has been seen by some historians as a deliberate act of genocide against class enemies of the Bolsheviks, after Josef Stalin had ordered they were to be liquidated as enemies of the state. The famine of 1932-33 was officially denied, so any discourse was classified as “anti-Soviet propaganda”.
The Stimson Doctrine was a policy note issued to the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China on the 7th January 1933. Named after Henry Stimpson, United States Secretary of State, the policy drew attention to the non-recognition of international territorial changes that were executed by force. Japan’s seizure of Manchuria in late 1931 contravened the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1929, and placed Stimson in a difficult position. President Herbert Hoover would not support economic sanctions as a means to bring peace in the Far East, which hindered Stimson even further. The declaration had few material effects on the Western world, which was burdened by the Great Depression. Japan went on to bomb Shanghai. The declaration was criticised on the grounds that it did no more than alienate Japan.
Japanese forces attacked Shanghai on the 28th January 1932, on the pretext of Chinese resistance in Manchuria. Finding stiff Chinese resistance in Shanghai, the Japanese waged an undeclared war before a truce was reached on the 1st March 1932. Several days later, Manchukuo was established. Manchukuo was a Japanese puppet state headed by the last Chinese emperor, Puyl. The civilian government in Tokyo was powerless to prevent these military adventures. However, instead of being condemned, the Japanese Army’s actions enjoyed popular support back home. Meanwhile, international reactions were extremely negative. The following year Japan withdrew from the League of Nations and the United States became increasingly hostile.
The 1932 German presidential elections were held on the 13th March 1932. They were the second and final direct elections to the office of President of the Reich (Reichspräsident), Germany’s head of state under the Weimar Republic. The incumbent President, Paul von Hindenburg, was first elected in 1925 and was re-elected to a second seven-year term of office. His major opponent in the election was Adolf Hitler of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Under the Weimar system the presidency was a powerful office. Hindenburg was 84 years old, in poor health, and not enthusiastic about another term in office. He deeply distrusted and personally detested Hitler, which motivated him to run for a second term primarily by a desire to stop Hitler from winning the presidency. Nevertheless, following his re-election, Hindenburg failed to prevent the Nazis from assuming power.
Heinrich Brüning resigned from the post of Chancellor of Germany on the 30th May 1932. He was a politician and academic who had entered politics in the 1920’s and was elected to the Reichstag in 1924. Brüning took office as Chancellor on the 30th March 1930 and shortly after he was confronted by an economic crisis caused by the Great Depression. He responded by tightening credit and wage increases which increased unemployment and making him unpopular with the Reichstag. Brüning tried to alleviate the burden of reparation payments and his successors reaped the benefit when the final payment was reduced to 3 billion marks. He vigorously campaigned for Hindenburg’s re-election as President but gradually lost Hindenburg’s support. There was conflict between Hindenburg and Brüning over economic policies and Brüning resigned on the 30th May 1932. Franz von Papen was appointed as the new Chancellor, and was greeted with astonishment in Germany, as he did not have any experience in government.
On the 30th August 1932, Hermann Göring (or Goering) was elected President of the German Reichstag. Göring was a German political and military leader, who became one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party. He had joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1922 after hearing a speech given by Adolf Hitler and was one of those wounded in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Göring was named as Minister without Portfolio in the new government. One of his first acts as a cabinet minister was to oversee the creation of the Gestapo.
President Hindenburg began talks with Hitler on the 21st November 1932, about forming a new government. After the July election Hitler was asked whether he would prepared to enter the government under the Chancellorship of von Papen. Hitler refused and demand that Hindenburg made him Chancellor instead. Hindenburg, who was a snob and disliked Hitler’s lowly social origins, was unwilling to agree. Hitler was angry at being snubbed and took revenge by ordering the Nazi members of the Reichstag to join other political parties in passing a vote of no-confidence in von Papen’s government. This resulted in another election. Following the elections in November 1932, the Nazi party lost almost two million votes from the previous elections of July 1932. With only 33% of the vote Hitler agreed to a coalition with the conservatives as it became clear the Nazi Party would not gain a majority in democratic elections.
On the 3rd December 1932 President Hindenburg named Kurt von Schleicher as the new Chancellor of Germany. Although Hindenburg favoured von Papen as Chancellor, Schleicher told him that the army wanted von Papen out of office.