Grade 8 History Lesson 58

The Spanish Civil War and the Rise of Francisco Franco

April 1, 1939

     While the Holocaust was spreading in Europe, Spain was suffering over it’s own problems. You see when Ferdinand and Isabella married in 1496, they united Argon and Castile, the largest kingdoms of Spain, they also started a long line of kings and queens. Now the eventual breakdown of of the monarchy was slow and painful, and it lasted 462 years. After losing the monarchy under Isabella II, it was restored under her son, only to lose it again under her grandson, King Alfonso XIII. Under great pressure from Spain’s growing movement for democracy, Alfonso allowed for free elections. When the people voted for a republican style government, Alfonso fled the country, and in his place, republican leaders took control.

The republican leaders wrote a constitution and elected Spain’s first president, however the people wanted their king back. Why? It was about this time that the Great Depression had hit, and many of the citizens were suffering. This cause a great division in Spain, those who supported the new republican government on the left, and those who wanted a king on the right (In Spain the republicans are on the liberal left, to those in America). Each side grew and attracted other various groups. With the left attracting, liberals, socialists, and communists it became the Popular Front. And the right attracting conservatives, army leaders and generals, the Roman Catholic Church, and Fascists it became the National Front. The beginning of the Spanish Civil War occurred when the right-wing Spanish army declared war on the Popular front, on July 17, 1936. The National Front chose Francisco Franco as their leader, he was a general in the Spanish army.

Francisco Franco was born into a military family,so when he joined the military he quickly rose up in ranks. In honor of his high rank, the best man at his wedding was none other than King Alfonso. So when Alfonso fled Spain, the republicans who had seen Franco’s growing power, ordered him off the mainland to a post on the Canary Islands. As mentioned, this didn’t stop the Spanish army from turning to him and naming him their “Generalissimo.” Though he was not a Fascist throughout his entire career, he was a member of a Fascist party called the Falange. Franco was as persuasive, and full of promises as Hitler, and own his own concentration camps. Speaking of Hitler, he admired Francisco, and offered Nazi assistance to the right-wing.

One main reason he did this was to test out new weapons. Hitler chose the small town of Guernica, to test out his weapons, and as most men were out fighting in the civil war, the bulk of the victims were women and children. On the fateful day of April 26, 1927, German warplanes bombed Guernica killing 1,600, and those not killed by the bomb were shot. In memorial Pablo Picasso expressed his feelings in a black, white, and blue painting simply titled Guernica.

After three years, many battles, thousands of political executions, and the loss of half a million lives, the republican leaders surrendered to Franco on April 1, 1939. After this Franco’s power was unshakable, he abolished the constitution, and allowed only one party which was an extension of Falange. When it came to WWII Hitler and Mussolini happily invited Spain to join them, however it was to spent from it’s own civil war. Franco’s regime lasted 36 years until his death, and really it was both oppressive and successful. Oppressive in that 100,000 to 200,000 of Franco’s political enemies were killed. However it was successful for being the only fascist-style government to survive WWII, and restoring prosperity to Spain. Before his death in 1975, he appointed the grandson of Alfonso XIII, Juan Carlos. Carlos ironically reversed all of Franco’s policies, restoring the Spanish parliament. It remains a democratic monarchy today under their son, Felipe VI who inherited the throne in 2014.

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Grade 8 History Lesson 57

The Holocaust: Up Close

1933-1945

     Now often times we determine how bad the Holocaust was by numbers, but we cannot forget that each digit was a person that had a life. Today we will be going over the stories of four people by the names of, Anne Frank, Gerda Wiessmann Klein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Corrie ten Boom. Unfortunately only two of these people survived the Holocaust.

Anne Frank

At thirteen years old, Anne Frank hoped to become a journalist and have the world remember her. Little did she know that her dream would come true. As of then, her Jewish family had moved from Germany to the Netherlands in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution. Her father Otto Frank owned a company that prospered in Amsterdam, but was forced to sign it over to his non-Jewish partner. After Anne’s sister was given a notice to report to a work camp, the family opted to retreat. They had thought of fleeing to the United States or Cuba, however visas were hard to come by and they resorted to hiding. Their hiding place, a makeshift dwelling above Otto’s business building. They left their house on July 6, 1942, leaving it disheveled so that it might appear that they left the country in a hurry. Relying on Otto’s work associates to bring in groceries and other necessities, and four more resident joined them. However after two years of hiding, they were exposed on August 4, 1944. They were sent to Auschwitz, where Otto was separated from his family. Anne and her sister were assigned to the infirmary, where their mother smuggled her own food to them in hopes to keep them alive. However in October 1944, Anne and her sister were shipped to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, while their mother was kept behind at Auschwitz where she died of starvation. In March 1945 a typhus epidemic swept through Bergen-Belsen, sadly killing Anne and her sister, just weeks before Bergen-Belsen was liberated on April 15, 1945. Otto was the only surviving member of the family, and in his daughter’s honor he published her diary, which was the very thing she had dreamt of.

Gerda Weissmann Klein

Gerda Weissmann was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded in 1939. She and her family were Jewish and Polish, a double negative in Hitler’s eyes. Slowly the Nazis took away their normal lives, prohibiting visits to the theater, rationing food, and taking jobs. Soon the family of four were herded into a crowded ghetto, split up, with Gerda being taken to a work camp. Though it was warm her father insisted she wear snow boots, which would one day save her life. Being relatively healthy, she was tossed between concentration camps, not knowing if she would survive. Weeks before the war ended the Nazis started to clear out their concentration camps, lest they be caught committing horrific crimes against humanity. Forcing thousands on death marches towards Germany, many died however Gerda survived, in part to her snow boots. In May 1945, Gerda woke up in an abandoned factory, as the Nazis had fled the day before. Upon hearing that the war was over, she cried. Going outside she met a soldier who had come to liberate the prisoners, and as she showed him the way to the factory entrance, he opened the door for her. The soldier’s name was Kurt Klein, who Gerda later married. Kurt died in 2002, however Gerda continues to share her story.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not persecuted for being a Jew, instead he was a Christian German. Born in 1906, Bonhoeffer pursued the study of theology in 1923, and in ten years became a Lutheran minister. He gained early fame for writing numerous publications including The Cost of Discipleship which warned Christians against “cheap grace. When the Nazis took over the church, Dietrich and some other pastors had already caught on to Hitler’s evil intentions. Believing that it was his duty to help plot the death of Hitler, he once pretended to join the Nazi ranks. In a bizarre twist of events Bonhoeffer was arrested and detained for minor offense. In prison, he was treated far better as he was related to a high ranking Nazi, and he gathered prisoners for Bible study. He was also engaged to be married after leaving prison. Unfortunately Bonhoeffer was identified to be one of the men involved in a plan to assassinate Hitler. At 39 years old Dietrich died by hanging on April 9, 1945.

Corrie ten Boom

Born in the Netherlands, Corrie found great joy in serving others and helper her father with the family business. When the Nazis invaded in 1940, her father who was a deeply religious man in the Christian faith, protested against the oppression of Jews. Looking for creative ways to help their Jewish friends the ten Booms slowly built a hiding place for the persecuted. They put themselves in danger to hide Jews. However on February 28, 1944 they were betrayed, and Corrie’s whole family was arrested. Miraculously, during the raid on the ten Boom’s home six Jews remained hidden and the hiding spot was never found. Corrie, then 52 years old, her sister, and her father were thrown into the local jail. And in time the ten Boom sisters were shipped by train to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she was released on New Years Eve in 1944, due to a clerical error. According to her it was all the Lord’s work. Living to the age of 91, Corrie wrote several books about her life and faith.

 

Grade 8 History Lesson 56

The Holocaust: From Afar

1933-1945

    There’s no easy way to look at the Holocaust, even from afar. Up to 11-17 million died in the Holocaust. Though those mainly persecuted were Jews, however Hitler destroyed anyone else he even considered to be a threat. Hitler didn’t do it alone, with the help of Heinrich Himmler, the SS, the Gestapo, Nazi loyalists, and gas chamber engineers. Hitler built his first concentration camp in March of 1933, it was named Dachau. Built to house five thousand of his opponents, they also served as labor camps. At Hitler’s career went on, 16,000 more camps were built to house Hitlers enemies. For identification, each prisoner had a badge on their sleeves or garments. Jehovah’s witnesses were given purple triangle badges; Communists, red; homosexuals, pink; Romani, black; common criminals, green; and Jews, yellow. Conditions were harsh, the survival rate was 50%, and if you did survive you could be used in one of the ludicrous experiments performed by Nazi physicians.

In 1942 Hitler allowed Heinrich Himmler to begin construction on extermination camps. So Himmler built six in Poland. By the names of Aushwitz II, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. The most common method for the killings were gas chambers. Prisoners were handed bars of soap, stripped, and herded into rooms with the signs “bath” and “sauna” to soothe the fear of the unknown. The Nazi Ideology is hard to explain. It’s basically a bizarre mesh of ideas thrown together, mainly evolution, that led some Germans to believe that they were the highest examples of the Aryan race. And that Jews were of a lesser offshoot that were to be considered animals. Though Hitler sought to destroy Christianity, he boasted that it was “God’s will” that the Aryan race survive. The way Hitler spread his twisted ideologies, was when he established himself as the Führer, he took control of the courts, the media, the church, and education. He infiltrated the schools with the German Youth Movement, a club that brainwashed children. So much so that those children grew up to defend National Socialism with their lives in WWII.

Sadly many well-meaning citizens fell for Hitler’s propaganda. Many did not know that Hitler killed or worked 5 to 11 million non-Jews to death. Many did not even know that 6 to 9 million Jews were to be killed. The destruction of 2/3 of Europe’s Jews happened without the vote of the average European.

Grade 8 History Lesson 55

The Rise of Adolf Hitler

1933

     Hitler was born on April 20, 1889. His father,  52 year-old Alois was a customs official who had a very strict personality and was on his third marriage at the time of Adolf’s birth. Hitler as a baby was nicknamed “Adi” and was spoiled by his mother Klara as he was her first child to live past the age of two. After retiring, Alois moved his family around seven times and Adolf was put through five schools. One of those was a Catholic school, in which he joined the choir and took voice lessons. However he was hard to handle, was described as a ringleader, and took to violent arguments with his classmates. Out of all the subjects, Adolf enjoyed world history, mostly because he had an interesting teacher, and he hated pretty much all the other teachers. One of his few friends described Adolf as “He saw everywhere only obstacles and hostility.”

He also argued with his father over whether Austria should be part of Germany. His father was pure Austrian and didn’t want Austria to became part of Germany, however Adolf did. His father also wanted him to be a civil servant, like himself while Adolf wanted to be an artist. He wanted to be an artist and painter so bad that he sabotaged his own education. You see he thought that if he did bad enough in technical school his father would put him in art school. However his father died when he was 13 and his poor marks in middle school gave him an even harder time in high school. As a high school dropout, and the head of the household at age 16, he did as he pleased rather than support his family.

Adolf blew his inheritance on the entrance exam to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. However his ego took a huge blow when in 1907 he was rejected twice and his mother died of cancer. Hitler was sincerely devastated. For five years Hitler found himself poverty-stricken, hardening him. He also believed that the Jewish people were a menace to society. He blamed economic problems on Jews who were prosperous. He also associated all Jews with Marxism, which he hated and considered a growing threat to Germany.

At age 24 he tried to join the army, but failed his physical exam, so he volunteered as a messenger. Hitler saw first hand the Battle of the Some and the Third Battle of Ypres. He was wounded twice, decorated twice for bravery and promoted to corporal. However when the war ended, he buried his head in his hands. With no family, no career, and no friends, there was nothing to live for but the love of war and German power. After WWI Germany was forced to regroup. And so Germany did by setting up the Weimar Republic, which gave Germany a constitution, a president, and a two house parliament. The parliament consisted of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. Though it looked good on paper, the Weimar Republic was weak and inefficient.

Germany was ripe for revolution and the door was open for new political parties. One such party was the German Worker’s Party, which was started by Anton Drexler. It met in a beer hall in Munich, and was looking for someone to blame for Germany’s defeat in WWI. Adolf Hitler was sent to spy on Drexler and the German Worker’s Party, however as fate had it, Hitler resigned from the army and joined it. He found out that he had a “knack” for politics along with a talent for public speaking, and that people would listen to him. It was around this time also that Hitler decided to trim his mustache down to what is known most commonly as the “Hitler Mustache.”

From 1920-1921, Hitler gained control of the German Worker’s Party and renamed it to the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. “National Socialist” in German is Nationalsozialistische which abbreviated is “Nazi.” Adolf Hitler was masterful at promoting the cause of National Socialism and in 1921 the cause had grown to have 6,000 members. Hitler’s most daring rally was held on November 8-9, 1923. It was more of a revolt than a rally and was so called the Beer Hall Putsh, or Munich Putsh (Putsch means revolt.) Hitler, armed with a gun entered a Munich beer hall along with 600 hoodlums took three Bavarian officials at gunpoint to try and get them to join the Nazi ranks. They didn’t, however Hitler said they did.

For this the Bavarian government sentenced Hitler to prison for five years. However the trial backfired, and brought Hitler positive attention rather than negative. The sentence was reduced to nine months, time which Hitler used to write the first volume of Mein Kampf a mixture in his autobiography and is mission. Upon his release, Hitler finished the second volume of Mein Kampf, and recruited more men into his private army. Originally called the “Brownshirts” they  would become the Shutzstaffel or “SS” for short. By 1932 his Brownshirts numbered 500,000. Hitler continued to use propaganda to sway the crowds to his ideas, and adopted the swastika to be sewn on every banner and uniform.

In 1932, opting for a legal way to rule the nation he ran for president. However he lost to Paul Von Hindenburg, the popular military leader who lead Germany through WWI. In 1933 he maneuvered himself into the position of chancellor, the head of the Reichstag. Still Hitler continued to press on for more Nazi authority by creating an imaginary crisis. Hitler and a the SS burned the Reichstag to the ground and blamed it on the communists. Though this swayed many voters to vote Nazi, the Nazis still fell short of the majority vote. So they passed an emergency act giving Hitler four years of special power. While the Nazis were in power many died of “natural causes” and “suicide” but in reality concentration camps were popping up for anyone who opposed the Nazis. In 1934 Paul Von Hindenburg died, and one day before the Nazis passed a law meshing the position of president and chancellor into one. Which meant that Germany’s chancellor, Hitler was now president. Upon becoming the head of the state, Hitler also became the commander in chief of the army. Soldiers under him were asked to swear personal allegiance to Hitler and chant “Heil Hitler!” with an extension of their right arm towards him.

If you are wondering where the term Third Reich came from, here you go. Reich means empire or realm. The first Reich was under Otto I who formed the Holy Roman Empire in 962, The second Reich was formed under Otto von Bismarck who unified the loosely organized German states. This leads us to the Third Reich which refers to the Nazi empire.

Grade 8 History Lesson 54

Mohandas K. Gandhi

1930

     Today we will be taking a look at someone who didn’t use brute force to get what he wanted, instead Gandhi used peaceful methods to create change. Gandhi was born in 1869 in the city of Porbandar in British India. His parents were middle-class merchants of the Vaishya. Mohandas married at 13, as was Hindu custom, his bride’s name was Kasturba who Mohandas affectionately named “Ba.” In 1888, Mohandas moved to Great Britain to study law for three years. While he upheld most of the Hindu traditions he was raised to he did take dance lessons and study Buddhism and Christianity. Upon graduating from law school he headed home to India, however he found it hard to find a job.

So in 1893 he accepted a one year law position in South Africa. However he found that a steep racism for Indians existed there, after being beaten up, tossed off trains and harassed by white British South Africans. However instead of leaving he stayed, for twenty years to organize Indians in defending their own civil rights. There he also experimented with his famous non violent methods. Instead of organizing militias, he organized strikes and protests, and instead of fighting with weapons, he fought with words. Gandhi named his non-violent movement Satyagraha, which translates as “To seize truth with determination.” Strikes and protests had been done been done before but most were short lived, Gandhi’s protests lasted years at a time. He drew public attention to the British injustice and a compromise was reached to lessen the negative affect of registration cards. Gandhi also encouraged his fellow Indians to fight for the British, as he hoped that their eager participation would raise the status of the Indians among the British. He was rewarded for his roles in the Boer Wars and Zulu Rebellion. In the Zulu Rebellion the British utilized Indians to carry wounded soldiers away from the battlefield. It was while Gandhi was in charge of the “Indian Ambulance Corps” that he would reinforce his aversion to war and violence.

In 1915 Gandhi returned to India. One of the first things he did was set up the Satyagraha movement. One of Gandhi’s biggest issues with India was the inhumane status of “untouchables”, those born into one of the lowest strata of the Hindu caste system. He made it a point to hire untouchables and gave them the positive sounding name of Harijans which means “children of God.” In 1917-1918 Gandhi focused on the poor districts of Champaran and Kheda. They were already under the oppression of wealthy British land-owners when the British raised taxes on them in the middle of a crippling famine. So Gandhi stepped in and rallied the villagers to build schools and hospitals. However, of course the British government felt “threatened” and locked him up. However this proved to be a bad move as hundreds of thousands protested against Gandhi’s imprisonment, and the British government was forced to release him. Once free Gandhi pressured the British government to lift the taxes on poor Indian farmers, and he succeeded.

In 1919 Gandhi led a bigger campaign, this one against the Rowlatt Act, which the British imposed on the Indians to prevent independence. Gandhi successfully fought the Rowlatt Act using peaceful means, however not all Indians were willing to apply his peaceful methods. Because of this Gandhi abandoned his campaign to regroup and hold an extended fast. However the British took advantage of this and a ruthless general ordered his troops to open fire on a group of innocent Indians in Amritsar. About 400 innocent Indians were shot. In 1920 Gandhi pushed his people towards self sustaining industry and the boycott of British-made cloth. He did this by encouraging everyone to spin their own clothes. If you noticed from pictures of Gandhi that he didn’t wear much clothes, that’s because what he wore he spun himself. Like other countries there came a day when India declared its political freedom from Great Britain. India did so under Gandhi while he was a member of the Indian National congress. First on December 31, 1929 members of the congress raised the three color flag of India in the town of Lahore. Second on January 26, 1930 Gandhi and the congress issued a written document declaring India’s freedom from Great Britain. Third Indians, instead of fighting for their freedom with armed militias, boycotted salt in 1930.

You see, in 1882 the British controlled the salt industry in India. They made it Illegal to posses salt that was not British-made, and salt was highly taxed. So Gandhi planned to marched 241 miles to the coast of India and make their own salt. The good thing about salt is that Indians from any walk of life could relate to its essential value. So Gandhi started his journey with 79 men, however over time the crowd grew to stretch two miles. The walk from Ahmadabad to the seaside village of Dandi took 24 days. When Gandhi reached the seashore, he reached down and scooped up a lump of salty sea mud and said, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.” Now because it was illegal for an Indian to make his own salt, most expected Gandhi to be arrested on the spot. However Gandhi had gained worldwide coverage and the British would not dare arrest him in front of the cameras. However after a month of waiting, the British government arrested Gandhi again, this time also arresting 60,000 Indians.

Gandhi formed an even larger campaign called the Quit India Movement. The Quit India Movement was designed to free India from British rule during WWII. However as a result Gandhi and most members of the Indian National Congress were imprisoned by the British. While in prison, Gandhi’s wife died and he contracted malaria. Since the British government didn’t want Gandhi to die in prison, for fear of national backlash, they released him for medical reasons. By the end of WWII about 100,000 Indian political prisoners were released. The fight for freedom hit another roadblock when Muslims and Hindus were no longer willing to cooperate in fighting against Great Britain together. In 1947 the Muslim League formed the new nation of Pakistan, which was divided into two parts. Eastern Pakistan is known as Bangladesh and Western Pakistan is simply Pakistan. This caused millions of Hindus to flood out of the newly formed Pakistan, while millions of Indian Muslims flooded into Pakistan. Conflict was inevitable and possibly millions died. However one day after Pakistan was formed, August 15, 1947, Great Britain set India free. Finally! Sadly Gandhi was assassinated by an Indian Hindu in January 30, 1948 for negotiating peace with Muslims.

Grade 8 History Lesson 53

The Great Depression

1929

      Today we will be looking at the Great Depression. Many historians would say that it was started by the stock market crash on Wall Street in 1929, so I will begin there too. The first stock markets originated in Europe in the 1300. The stock market was a public venue for buying and selling pieces of businesses or corporations. Those pieces are called stock, and stock can be divided into equal, tradable units called shares. When you buy shares you are buying a part of a company, so when that company does well, you make money, and when it suffers, you lose money. However some people make profit by buying a share for a low price then selling it for a higher price.  However when the prices get low people try to sell their stock before it gets even lower. Some people, being people try to cheat the system. In this case people were hoping to get rich by inflating the market. However, what goes up must come down, and when the prices were superficially driven up, they came down drastically lower than before.

Bringing us to the stock market crash of 1929, again when prices go down people try to sell their stock before it goes down even further. So when the prices dropped drastically on October 24, 1929, people went to sell. That day was labeled “Black Thursday.” The days leading up to the next Monday were okay, but on Monday the prices dropped again. People literally camped out on Wall Street, trying to get into the stock exchange to sell. Tuesday was labeled “Black Tuesday” because millions of dollars were lost. And this was not a short term crisis, this lasted three years, yes you heard me right, the value of stock stayed down for three years. Investors couldn’t afford to invest, and without investors, many a small business went bankrupt. There were also problems in the agricultural field. With new technologies, like better tractors, supply began to outweigh demand, which caused prices of produce to go down. Farmers across America were struggling, and most couldn’t pay their mortgages. Without the money banks closed by the hundreds. When city folks went to pull out their money there wasn’t enough there. When money ran short people stopped spending. When people stopped spending, companies went broke. When companies went broke they fired their workers. And when workers lost their jobs they had to give up their homes. You can see how this started a chain reaction.

The Great Depression didn’t just affect the U.S. as the worldwide markets were dependent on the strength of the U.S. market. There are three main examples of how global economies were related to each other. First, the United States tried to gain money during the depression by raising tariffs. Tariffs are taxes paid by other countries on imports and exports. In 1930 the United States passed one of the highest tariffs acts in the world, it was called the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Tariffs while they provided financial revenue in the short term, they hurt trade in the long term. Because the depression spread to other countries, they also raised tariffs on their imports. Soon enough nobody could afford to buy or sell from any other country.

Second, since trade dwindled from the high price tariff, some countries turned to lowering the value of their currencies. Lowering the value of their currencies made their exports more affordable and desirable, in the short term. In the long term, the lower value of worldwide currencies damaged the global market. The United States was one of the nations to do this, lowering the gold value of a dollar by 40% in 1934.

Third, were the reparations that allies demanded from Germany. The United States was prosperous during the Great War so it had enough wealth to grant loans to it’s European allies. So when the war ended the Allies began to pay the loans back to the United States. However upon receiving these funds the United States immediately loaned them to Germany which was to broke to pay the Allies. Essentially no one was getting ahead as the funds were just being circled between the Allies, the United States, and Germany. And when the Depression hit, the Allies could no longer keep up with paying their debts. In time Germany also stopped paying its reparations.

In the United States, the years 1932-1933 were probably the worst. Millions were underclothed and underfed. Hundreds of thousands roamed the streets, some building makeshift homes. In agriculture, farmers were still suffering from an imbalance in supply and demand. Farmers were destroying their produce to keep prices from going even lower. In the mid-1930s a severe drought hit the Midwest and Southwest, turning wide open fields into dust. Farmers and their families moved west hoping to find migrant work picking fruit and vegetables. Now not all families suffered hardship, some continued to prosper. Though not all with plenty shared, many did. Soup kitchens, shelters, thrift stores, and bread lines were set up by individuals, churches and private charities to help alleviate the sufferings of the poor. When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1932, he pledged to make a “new deal for the American people.” This “new deal” tripled the size of the government and created social programs based off of the controversial theories of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes’ theory said that unemployment was the central problem in the depression. So programs were designed to provide jobs on a massive scale. The Great Depression did eventually go away but memories of the dreadful era lasted quite some time.

Grade 8 History Lesson 52

Joseph Stalin: “Man of Steel”

1924

     Certainly this section of history just keeps getting darker. This will only be continued today. Joseph Stalin was born into poverty in 1878 in Georgia. As an only child, his father was an alcoholic and worked as a shoemaker when he was sober, and his mother worked as a laundress. However he managed to get into a private church school and do quite well, however he held grudges and seldom forgave people. At 14 he received a scholarship to attend a Russian Orthodox seminary, while he wasn’t interested in the priesthood, an education was an education. The seminary proved to be a breeding ground for revolutionaries, and soon enough Stalin was studying you guessed it, the Communist Manifesto.

He was expelled from his seminary in 1899 at 20 years old. For employment he eventually began to write for a socialist newspaper. And by 1901 he was an official member of the Social Democratic Labor Party. Like Vladimir Lenin he was arrested a couple times and like Lenin he was eventually exiled to Siberia. However Stalin escaped from Siberia in 1904 with his blood boiling for revolution. So much so that he changed his last name from Dzuhgashvili to Stalin, which literally means “man of steel” When Lenin led the Bolsheviks in the Bolshevik revolution, Stalin played only a minor role, however he was rewarded by Lenin for it anyways. Lenin after taking power made Stalin the “Commissar of Nationalities” which gave him power to manage all non-Russians in the Soviet Union. The population of non-Russians in the Soviet Union at the time was 65 million people. Stalin quickly learned that people of different ethnicities were hard to manage under one roof. Small nations that were now part of the Soviet Union resisted, but that only made Stalin want to control them more.

In 1922 Lenin created the position of General Secretary for Stalin to ease his workload as he was recovering from a bullet wound. There had been an attempt at his assassination. Being the General Secretary made him a spokesman for Lenin, who could hardly speak because of partial paralysis from the strokes he suffered. As recalled from the previous lesson Lenin warned the Russians of Stalin’s overzealous rise to leadership. However he was too late. When he died in 1924 Stalin quickly rose to fill his shoes, he ran off Leon Trotsky and later arranged for his assassination. He also saw to the poisoning of Lenin’s widow, who he considered to be a threat. With his power secure, Stalin forged ahead to make Russia into a industrial and military giant. To do this he immediately undid what Lenin had created, the NEP. After dissolving it he created a Five-Year Plan.

In the first Five-Year Plan (There were three) he demanded that all of the farmers produce be handed over to the state for redistribution. This didn’t go well with the farmers who had barely had enough to feed their own families. Some farmers hid their produce, other outright destroyed it. The farmers who revolted? They were rounded up one by one in the middle of the night and put to work in a Gulag, a prison labor camp. So farmers were either to give up their food and starve or not give up their food and get worked like an animal. By the end of the first Five-Year Plan six million Russians died of starvation. In 1935-1936 Stalin conducted a purge which executed or sentenced anyone of the Bolsheviks who “appeared” to oppose him, to a Gulag. Between 1927-1938 the Purge worsened as it grew to arrest and sentence the general public to a Gulag. Anyone who made a joke about Stalin or poked fun at him? Jail. Now just imagine what would happen to someone who was seriously speaking out against Stalin. Over time 18 million people would be subjected to the Gulag prisons. People could serve five to twenty years of forced labor in the Gulags, building airports, generating electricity, digging railways, mining gold and so on. To the Soviet Union this was an economic success, free labor for the state. However under the conditions many workers were too famished to be productive.

Stalin would change history in 1938, when he rewrote history books to say that he played a major role in the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1939 he joined ranks with Hitler and they decided to divide Poland between them. However Russia had set out to “communize” Europe, and one thing that stood between Russia and the rest of Europe was Hitler. The friendship between Stalin and Hitler would end abruptly when Nazis invaded Russia in 1941 during WWII. However I will again try not to get in depth with WWII yet, so here’s the rest of Stalin’s story. At the end of WWII Stalin was working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill to defeat Germany. Yes Russia, the United States, and Great Britain, nicknamed the “Big Three” would work together to dismantle Nazi Germany. In the late 1940s Stalin would manipulate his power to set up as many communist governments as he could across Europe. In the early 1950s Stalin gave aid to North Korea, who was trying to communize South Korea. And then he died in 1953. Well why you ask? Well in 1953 Stalin was planning yet another purge, one directed towards his own top staff. Nobody really can tell you what happened, while it was stated the Stalin died of brain hemorrhage, many believe that Stalin was killed by his own staff.