In 1932, Charles Lindbergh's baby son was kidnapped from his bedroom. A $50,000 ransom was handed over to a man with a foreign accent, but the child was not returned - he was found dead a few days later. "Then after a laborious tracing of every ransom note until, in 1934, police arrested Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant. He was tried and found guilty; after lengthy appeals, Hauptmann went to the electric chair. By this time, the Lindberghs had gone to England to escape publicity."
The biggest story of 1936 was the abdication of Britain's Edward VIII. For months, foreign papers had carried stories of King Edward's friendship with Mrs. Willis Simpson, but the general public in Britain knew nothing. "In November, bishop chose to rebuke the King and the Press came out with the story. The King wished to marry a twice-divorced American; Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, the Cabinet, Dominions' governments and most influential people were against the match. The people were for the King but, on Dec. 10, Edward abdicated and left the country. He took the title of Duke of Windsor and married Mrs. Simpson in France in 1937. And, it was over the radio that, on Sept. 3, 1939, Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war with Germany."
Poverty and economic chaos caused many Europeans to lose faith in democracy - causing dictators to take control and power. "In a democracy, people possess freedoms which dictators nearly always deny. These include freedom to vote for any party, freedom to speak, to read, to join a union and to oppose the government. The democratic way of life is neither easy nor particularly efficient It calls for honest politicians and officials, and it requires a nation which trusts and understands the system." The fear of Communism caused a big part in bringing the dictatorships of Germany and Italy to power. The Depression had thrown economies into chaos, which caused democracy to fail in these countries. "Hitler and Mussolini stood on bases of mass popular support.
Mussolini was Europe's first Fascist; he extended a friendly hand to Hitler, though he feared the take-over of Austria. The Western democracies' hostility, however feeble, to the Ethiopian invasion drove the two dictators together."
"Many Japanese refer to the '30s as the 'dark valley,' the period when military fascists indulged in unchecked aggression abroad and murderous violence at home." After WWI, Japan's population and economics and exports had increased dramatically. With this prices had increased dramatically also. But there was still extreme poverty alongside great wealth, so that Japan experienced food riots, strikes, police persecution and political murders. Because Japan's economy had suffered during the Depression the solution by the officials seemed to be that of expansion into China, which would provide a vast market for goods.
"When the '30s opened, the party in power favored economic expansion without territorial conquest. This' soft' policy did not suit the extremists and, in November 1930, Prime Minister Hamaguchi was assassinated." Manchuria, a northern province of China, which was rich in coal and minerals, had long been dominated by the Japanese. By 1937, the Japanese, in their attempt to take over China, captured Peking and Tientsin and moved south to take Shanghai and Nanking. The League of Nations protested, but could not prevent further takeovers. By 1939 Japan controlled most of China's provinces and most of the coastline - as Europe's own war approached. Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese generalissimo, had retreated to Chungking, far to the west, and seemed certain to negotiate or surrender, but he did neither of these.
"Chiang still held western China and he rightly believed that Japan must come into conflict with the United States. Then his war would be as good as won."
(Continued next week)