In 1922 a political movement called fascism grew up in Italy. It took its name from the fasces, an ax emblem that symbolized state power in Ancient Rome. Fascists believed in the authority of the state. Extremely nationalistic, they opposed democracy and communism.
Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) marched on Rome in 1922 and became Italian dictator in 1925.
Fascism found supporters in many Western nations. It attracted people who were more worried about public order and unemployment than personal freedom. The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was founded in 1920. The Falange, a fascist movement founded in 1933, took part in the SPANISH CIVIL WAR.
Germany’s National Socialists were known as Nazis. Their leader was Adolf Hitler. During the 1930s he provided work for the unemployed and built up Germany’s forces illegally. Nazi thugs bullied, cheated, and murdered their way to power. They were extreme racists, consumed by hatred of the Jewish people.
Austrian-born Adolf Hitler served in a German regiment during World War I. Embittered by defeat, he organized the Nazis and their seizure of power in Germany. As dictator, Hitler persecuted Jews and crushed opposition. His invasions of neighboring lands led to World War II.
Civil war raged in Spain from 1936 to 1939. An alliance led by General Franco overthrew the elected government of the Spanish Republic. Franco’s supporters were Falangists, conservatives, monarchists, and Catholics. Fighting for the government were socialists, communists, and regionalists.
Franco was backed by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Government forces received help from the Soviet Union and were backed by antifascist volunteers from all over Europe and the Americas. Many of these young idealists died fighting for Republican International Brigades. But the Republic fell, and Franco ruled Spain as dictator until his death in 1975.