Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Hungary and Czechoslovakia



Out of the remnants of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, the new states of Hungary and Czechoslovakia emerged in 1918. However, both became caught in the web of the expanding German Reich in the 1930s as a result of their geographical proximity to Germany. Under German pressure, Czechoslovakia was divided up in 1938 and dissolved as a nation before a part of it was annexed by the German Reich. Hungary's radical right-wing regime was sympathetic toward the Nazis and fought on the side of the Axis powers in World War II, following which the government crumbled with the end of World War II.


Hungary: From Republic to Right Wing Regime

Following the first postwar revolutionary years, an authoritarian regime established itself in the drastically reduced state of Hungary. It "was sympathetic toward Germany during World War II.


Following the collapse of the 1 Habsburg dual monarchy in 1918, Count Mihaly Karolyi used the middle class-democratic "Aster Revolution" in Hungary to take over the government, proclaiming a republic on November 16.

1 Elizabeth-Bridge in Budapest, Hungary,
built 1897-1903

From the beginning, it was burdened by party conflicts and territorial losses. Hungary was compelled to vacate areas in the south and east of the country as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The Czechs occupied Slovakia, the Romanians Transylvania, and the Serbs southern Hungary. The treaty also forced the reduction of the Hungarian army and obliged the nation to pay reparations.

Karolyi resigned in protest, and the Communists, led by 2 Bela Kun, proclaimed a Soviet republic in March 1919.


Bela Kun

2 Trotsky, Bela Kun, Alfred Rosmer, Frunze, Gusev

Hungarian communist leader

born Feb. 20, 1886, Szilágycseh, Transylvania, Austria-Hungary [now in Hungary]
died Nov. 30, 1939?, U.S.S.R.

communist leader and head of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919.

The son of a Jewish village clerk, Kun became active in Social Democratic politics early in life, working at first in Transylvania and later in Budapest. He was mobilized in the Austro-Hungarian army at the outbreak of World War I, became a prisoner of war in Russia in 1916, and joined the Bolsheviks. Attracting the attention of V.I. Lenin, Kun received training in revolutionary tactics and returned to Hungary after the collapse of the Central Powers in November 1918. He started a communist newspaper and founded the Hungarian Communist Party on Dec. 20, 1918. Though imprisoned in February 1919 by the government of Mihály Károlyi, Kun was allowed to continue directing Hungary’s Communist Party from his cell. His extensive propaganda combined social agitation with promises that, if given power, he would secure Soviet aid against the Romanian forces then occupying parts of Hungary.

On March 20, 1919, Kun was released by Károlyi, and the following day, as commissar for foreign affairs, he assumed the dominant position in a new Communist–Social Democratic coalition government. His regime took advantage of an upsurge of popular nationalism and created a Red Army that rapidly reconquered a considerable portion of the territory lost to Czechoslovaks and Romanians. Kun also quickly eliminated the moderate elements in the government through terroristic measures. Soviet help, however, failed to arrive, and Kun alienated the peasantry by nationalizing Hungary’s estates rather than dividing them among the peasants. As a consequence, food distribution broke down, and the army refused to fight. The regime collapsed on Aug. 1, 1919, and Kun fled to Vienna. As a leader of the Third International, he attempted to initiate revolutionary outbreaks several times in Germany and Austria during the 1920s. He was eventually accused of “Trotskyism” and fell victim to one of Joseph Stalin’s purges in the late 1930s.

Though possessing great energy and shrewdness, Kun was rigid in his communist views and was oblivious to the unpopularity of his policies during his brief rule in Hungary. Despite his organizational talents, he was unable to master the complexities of actual government or the tactics of power struggles within the international communist movement.

Encyclopaedia Britannca

Hungarian Communists Béla Kun, president of the Hungarian Soviet republic (in a hat, carrying papers in his left hand),
and Commissar for Military Affairs Tibor Számuelly (in leather jacket), May Day 1919.

Opposing pressure from the right and waging a war against Czechoslovakia and Romania over lost territory brought down the leftist regime.

At the end of the war, the 3 Treaty of Trianon in 1920—by which Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory—ushered in the peace.

Participants in the peace
conference of Trianon

Revisionist demands from then on determined Hungary's politics and encouraged nationalist movements.
In 1920 Hungary once again became a monarchy.

The parliament chose 4 Miklos Horthy as regent of the empire and established a right wing regime.

4 Hitler and Horthy

The central domestic problem was a financial crisis that was only temporarily relieved by a loan from the League of Nations in 1923. The economic depression of the 1930s brought a further shift to the right.

The national socialistic 5 "Arrow Cross" gained popularity, and internally and in foreign affairs the government sought to move closer to Hitler's Germany. Anti-Semitic laws restricted the rights of the Jews in public life.

Germany's and Italy's "Vienna Arbitrations" (1938 and 1940) satisfied some of Hungary's territorial demands: Part of Slovakia and the areas occupied by Romania were returned to Hungary. In alliance with Germany, Hungary marched into Yugoslavia in 1941 and participated in Hitler's Russian military campaign.

When in 1944 Hungary sought a cease-fire, German troops occupied the country, but quickly lost it again to the advancing 6 Red Army.

By April 4, 1945, the Soviets had conquered Hungary completely.

5 Tragedy following the pogroms of the
national socialistic "Arrow Cross," 1944

6 Russian soldier on the lookout, 1945




With the proclamation of March 23, 1920, Hungary became a monarchy without a monarch. The Hungarian people rejected the claims to the throne of the former Austrian emperor and Hungarian king, Charles IV.

When Charles attempted to seize the crown on his own authority, he was arrested in October 1921 and sent into exile on Madeira.

The former emperor Charles in exile
with his family, 1921




The Republic of Czechoslovakia 1918-1938

The Czechoslovakian republic, founded in 1918, was broken up in 1938 and added to the German Reich as the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia."


During World War I, Czech and Slovak emigrants sympathetic to the Allies and escaping military service in the Austrian forces formed governments in exile in the United States; in the Pittsburgh Treaty of 1918, they resolved to unite the two nations in one state after the war.

In 1920, the National Assembly chose the Czech 8 Tomas Masaryk, who had formed Czech regiments in the Allied service, as president of the new parliamentary democratic republic.

8 State President Tomas Masaryk,1926

He remained in power, together with the long-standing foreign minister Edvard Benes, until 1935 but failed to form a common national identity among the assorted ethnicities of the different states. The population of the new multinational state was only about 60 percent Czechs and Slovaks; alongside Hungarians, Ukrainians, and Poles, the Sudeten Germans were the largest minority with almost 25 percent. Encouraged by the Nazis' takeover of power in Germany, the Sudeten Germans increasingly aspired to autonomy.

Together with 7 Konrad Henlein's Sudeten German Homeland Front (from 1935, the Sudeten German party), Hitler precipitated the Sudeten Crisis in 1938.

7 Konrad Henlein, nationalist gymnastics teacher

Neither the 1920-1921 alliance with France and Poland nor the 9 "Little Entente" with Yugoslavia and Romania were able to withstand the territorial claims of the Nazi regime.

9 Meeting of the "Little Entente," founded
in 1920, Kamil Krofta (right), foreign
minister of Czechoslovakia

In the Munich Agreement between the Great Powers, Czechoslovakia had to relinquish the 10, 11 Sudetenland to Germany.

The breakup of the state could no longer be prevented. Poland and Hungary were granted territories in the border regions. The day after Slovakia proclaimed its independence under German protection on March 14,1939, German troops marched into the remains of Czechoslovakia and placed it under the rule of the German Reich as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Czechoslovakia was dissolved. There was hardly any rebellion against the German occupation.
The first 12 revolt did not take place until May 1945 in Prague.

Benes, now president, worked on rebuilding a Czechoslovakian state from his exile in London. The government in exile concluded an agreement in 1943 on the occupation of the territory by the Red Army. On September 10, 1945, Czechoslovakia reconstituted itself under the protection of the Soviets.

10 Wehrmacht soldiers take
down the border sign to the
Sudetenland, 1938

11 Sudetenland 1938: Evacuation of
Czech citizens

12 Corpses following the Prague revolt, 1945




Following Slovakia's declaration of independence, a fascist satellite state of the German Reich was created there.

It participated in the German invasion of Poland in 1939, joined the Tripartite Pact in 1940, and from 1941 was involved in the extermination policies against the Jews.

Following its occupation by the Red Army in April 1945, Slovakian president Jozef Tiso and three ministers were hanged.

Father Jozef Tiso is congratulated
following his election



Munich agreement



Munich agreement

Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Ciano pictured before signing the Munich Agreement.

Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini; Daladier and Hitler

Chamberlain and Hitler

Hitler and Mussolini

Europe [1938]

(Sept. 30, 1938), settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. After his success in absorbing Austria into Germany proper in March 1938, Adolf Hitler looked covetously at Czechoslovakia, where about 3,000,000 people in the Sudeten area were of German origin. It became known in May 1938 that Hitler and his generals were drawing up a plan for the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovaks were relying on military assistance from France, with which they had an alliance. The Soviet Union also had a treaty with Czechoslovakia, and it indicated willingness to cooperate with France and Great Britain if they decided to come to Czechoslovakia’s defense, but the Soviet Union and its potential services were ignored throughout the crisis.

As Hitler continued to make inflammatory speeches demanding that Germans in Czechoslovakia be reunited with their homeland, war seemed imminent. Neither France nor Britain felt prepared to defend Czechoslovakia, however, and both were anxious to avoid a military confrontation with Germany at almost any cost. In mid-September, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, offered to go to Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden to discuss the situation personally with the Führer. Hitler agreed to take no military action without further discussion, and Chamberlain agreed to try to persuade his Cabinet and the French to accept the results of a plebiscite in the Sudetenland. The French premier, Édouard Daladier, and his foreign minister, Georges Bonnet, then went to London, where a joint proposal was prepared stipulating that all areas with a population that was more than 50 percent Sudeten German be returned to Germany. The Czechoslovaks were not consulted. The Czechoslovak government initially rejected the proposal but was forced to accept it reluctantly on September 21.

On September 22 Chamberlain again flew to Germany and met Hitler at Godesberg, where he was dismayed to learn that Hitler had stiffened his demands: he now wanted the Sudetenland occupied by the German army and the Czechoslovaks evacuated from the area by September 28. Chamberlain agreed to submit the new proposal to the Czechoslovaks, who rejected it, as did the British Cabinet and the French. On the 24th the French ordered a partial mobilization: the Czechoslovaks had ordered a general mobilization one day earlier.

In a last-minute effort to avoid war, Chamberlain then proposed that a four-power conference be convened immediately to settle the dispute. Hitler agreed, and on September 29, Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier, and the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met in Munich, where Mussolini introduced a written plan that was accepted by all as the Munich agreement. (Many years later it was discovered that the so-called Italian plan had been prepared in the German Foreign Office.) It was almost identical to the Godesberg proposal: the German army was to complete the occupation of the Sudetenland by October 10, and an international commission would decide the future of other disputed areas. Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could either resist Germany alone or submit to the prescribed annexations. The Czechoslovak government chose to submit.

Before leaving Munich, Chamberlain and Hitler signed a paper declaring their mutual desire to resolve differences through consultation to assure peace. Both Daladier and Chamberlain returned home to jubilant, welcoming crowds relieved that the threat of war had passed, and Chamberlain told the British public that he had achieved “peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time.” Chamberlain’s policies were discredited the following year, when Hitler annexed the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March and then precipitated World War II by invading Poland in September. The Munich agreement became a byword for the futility of appeasing expansionist totalitarian states, although it did buy time for the Allies to increase their military preparedness.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

“How horrible, fantastic it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here
because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.
I am myself a man of peace from the depths of my soul.”
– Neville Chamberlain

1. Germany occupies the Sudetenland (October 1938)
2. Poland occupies Zaolzie, an area with a Polish minority (October 1938).
3. Hungary occupies border areas (southern third of Slovakia and southern Carpathian Ruthenia)
with Hungarian minorities in accordance with the First Vienna Award (November 1938)
4. Carpathian Ruthenia receives autonomy.
5. In March 1939 the remaining Czech territories become the German satellite
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
6. From the remainder of Czechoslovakia Slovakia is created, becoming another German satellite.

Agreement concluded at Munich, September 29, 1938, between Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy

GERMANY, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, taking into consideration the agreement, which has been already reached in principle for the cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory, have agreed on the following terms and conditions governing the said cession and the measures consequent thereon, and by this agreement they each hold themselves responsible for the steps necessary to secure its fulfilment:

(1) The evacuation will begin on 1st October.

(2) The United Kingdom, France and Italy agree that the evacuation of the territory shall be completed by the 10th October, without any existing installations having been destroyed, and that the Czechoslovak Government will be held responsible for carrying out the evacuation without damage to the said installations.

(3) The conditions governing the evacuation will be laid down in detail by an international commission composed of representatives of Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Czechoslovakia.

(4) The occupation by stages of the predominantly German territory by German troops will begin on 1st October. The four territories marked on the attached map will be occupied by German troops in the following order:

The territory marked No. I on the 1st and 2nd of October; the territory marked No. II on the 2nd and 3rd of October; the territory marked No. III on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of October; the territory marked No. IV on the 6th and 7th of October. The remaining territory of preponderantly German character will be ascertained by the aforesaid international commission forthwith and be occupied by German troops by the 10th of October.

(5) The international commission referred to in paragraph 3 will determine the territories in which a plebiscite is to be held. These territories will be occupied by international bodies until the plebiscite has been completed. The same commission will fix the conditions in which the plebiscite is to be held, taking as a basis the conditions of the Saar plebiscite. The commission will also fix a date, not later than the end of November, on which the plebiscite will be held.

(6) The final determination of the frontiers will be carried out by the international commission. The commission will also be entitled to recommend to the four Powers, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, in certain exceptional cases, minor modifications in the strictly ethnographical determination of the zones which are to be transferred without plebiscite.

(7) There will be a right of option into and out of the transferred territories, the option to be exercised within six months from the date of this agreement. A German-Czechoslovak commission shall determine the details of the option, consider ways of facilitating the transfer of population and settle questions of principle arising out of the said transfer.

(8) The Czechoslovak Government will within a period of four weeks from the date of this agreement release from their military and police forces any Sudeten Germans who may wish to be released, and the Czechoslovak Government will within the same period release Sudeten German prisoners who are serving terms of imprisonment for political offences.

Munich, September 29, 1938.





Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy