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Fascism and Totalitarianism

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 month ago

Memorial for WWII bomb victims, Hamburg, Germany.Image by San Andreas

Image includes the words "The dead command us: never again totalitarianism, never again war." 



Topics on the page

Memorial for WWII bomb victims, Hamburg, Germany.Image by San Andreas 

Rise of Totalitarianism


Totalitarian vs Authoritarian


  • Tools of Totalitarian Leaders
  • Disney World War II Propaganda Films 


What is Fascism? 

Policies and Ideas of Totalitarian Leaders


Uses of Propaganda to Sway Public Opinion


 Influential Literature Page1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell


Women and LGBT People in Totalitarian Regimes


 The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood


Fighting Fascism at Home and Abroad


  • The African American Experience returning from the war 
  • The Double Victory Campaign 


Franklin Roosevelt Fireside Chat 29: On the Fall of Rome, June 5, 1944



This page defines totalitarianism as a form of government in which a single leader controls all aspects of social, economic, and political life.


It is commonly associated with Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany, and Lenin and Stalin in Russia. Although democracy dominated after World War I, eventually many democratic countries in Europe were taken over by a dictator. This included Italy, Germany, and Russia.


Totalitarian dictators use many tools to stay in power. This includes the use of propaganda, police terror and fear, religious and ethnic persecution, promises of progress and improvements, ideology indoctrination, and cult of personality.


Totalitarianism is different than authoritarianism. Totalitarianism involves the desire to control thought, while authoritarianism involves the desire to control behavior. Salazar’s Portugal, Shah’s Iran, and Pinochet’s Chile are examples of authoritarian governments. (Jenna Boyer, April 2022)



Focus Question: What is totalitarianism and how did it rise in Europe?


Rise of Totalitarianism


external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngTotalitarianism Time Line

1) Totalitarianism is a form of government where the state in the form of a single leader controls all aspects of social, economic and political life.


      • It is a 20th century development, typically associated with the rise of a series of dictators including Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin.


Totalitarian government theoretically permits no individual freedom and seeks to subordinate all aspects of the individual's life to the authority of the government.


  • As Mussolini said: "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." (quoted from Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956. Anne Applebaum (2012, p. xxi). 


    • As Applebaum further noted, "a totalitarian regime is one that bans all institutions apart from those it has officially approved. A totalitarian regime thus has one political party, one educational system, one artistic creed, one centrally planned economy, one unified media, and one moral code" (2012, p. xxi).

2) In the years immediately following the WWI (1914-1918), a promising new era of democracy seemed to be unfolding.


  • The autocratic regimes in Russia, Germany, and Austria were all overthrown and replaced by republics. 
    • These newly-created states in Europe all adopted a republican form of government, similar to that of the current U.S. government. 


  • Democracy seemed to win out in the post-war world. Within two decades, however, many democratic countries in Europe were taken over by some kind of dictatorship. 
    • Russia became a Communist state while Italy and Germany became Fascist states.

3) Between the two World Wars, Britain and France could be regarded as democratic-like states.


  • f two states, the individuals had freedom of speech and of the press, of petition and of assembly, and freedom from arrest for political opinions.


    • They could form political parties and elect the party or the parties they liked to rule. In short, the individual was an end in himself.  
      • The government helped to provide for the fullest development and security of all individuals.




Russia (1917-1939), Italy (1922-1939), and Germany (1933-1939) might be regarded as totalitarian states.


  • Within these states, individuals had no right of free speech, free publications, or free associations.


    • Individual citizens had no right to form political parties; there was only one governmental party which imposed its dictatorial rule on the people. 


    • This one-party regime was concerned with the 'total' activities of its people, including the peoples' work, leisure, religion, and even their private lives.[1]


Link to handout which provides overview of Totalitarianism and some Totalitarian leaders 


Hitler's Mein Kampf is an autobiographical manifesto of the Nazi Party. Here is a PDF of the resource. Here is an explanation of its significance.



Click here to view a collection of primary sources about Italian and German fascism. 


Click here for an app called European Fascist Movements developed by the University of Liverpool. It features an interactive map with descriptions of 76 different fascist movements throughout Europe from 1919-1941. 



Totalitarian vs. Authoritarian

Authoritarian: Desire to control behavior


For an overview of the Portuguese Authoritarian system under the Estado Novo click here.


To see how Portugal's dictatorship used propaganda watch this video.


To watch a speech by Antonio Salazar, the dictator of Portugal from 1932-1968, click here.

Totalitarian: Desire to control thought


Powerpoint on rise of Totalitarianism https://www.slideshare.net/cems7ss/the-rise-of-totalitarianism

During the Cold War, the United States distinguished between undemocratic regimes:


  • Authoritarian and U.S. supported: Pincohet's Chile; Shah's Iran)


    • Totalitarian and U.S. opposed: China, USSR

Source: Russia's Gay Demons, Robert Cottrell. The New York Review of Books (December 7, 2017)



What is Fascism?



  • Fascism is an ideology and type of totalitarian government that also incorporates elements of authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, and militarism + expansionism. 


    • Fascist regimes also relied on racism and myths of genetic superiority to maintain support for their militaristic agendas.  


    • Click here for an article summarizing totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and fascism.  



  • Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany are primary examples of fascist states.


    • Their expansionism made them more confrontational and aggressive than other totalitarian regimes. 


    • Nations invaded by Mussolini:
      •  Ethiopia
        • Click here to learn more. 
        • Click here for an animated map. 
      • Albania
      • Greece 
    • Nations invaded by Hitler:
      • Austria
      • Czechoslovakia
      • Poland
        • Any many more... 










                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "Map of Hitler's vision for "Greater Germany."









   Map of Mussolini's vision for "Greater Italy."



Tools of Totalitarian Leaders

Tools totalitarian leaders used to gain and maintain power:


  • Propaganda: One sided biased information intended to persuade the people.


  • Police Terror and Fear: Dictators create a police force that helps to keep them in power.


    • When people are afraid of the police, they cannot act out against the government.


  • Religious and Ethnic Persecution: Blaming and discriminating against a minority group for their religious beliefs and ethnicity.
    • Totalitarian rulers tend to blame minority groups for the country's problems to take away the attention from their mistakes and actions.


  • Progress and improvements: Sometimes dictators are able to improve peoples' daily lives, which makes people loyal to the dictator.


  • Ideology Indoctrination: Dictators put in place a new type of government or new ideas and then persuade people to believe in the new way of thinking by controlling the media and what is taught in schools.
    • Censorship: Controlling what people can say and what people can hear.


  • Cult of Personality: Dictators often have charismatic personalities. They are good at giving speeches and getting people to believe in them and follow them.





external image Polish_eagle_and_Soviet_soldier.JPG

Uses of Propaganda to sway the Public Opinion

Image to the right is a 1939 Soviet propaganda poster depicting the Red Army killing an oppressive Polish eagle

For background, see Propaganda 101: What You Need to Know and Why See also, Propaganda: What's the Message? from iCivics.

See Nazi Propaganda from the United States Holocaust Museum.

The Rise of Totalitarianism in Europe from the Core Knowledge Foundation.

external image Beautiful_red_apple.jpgWinning Over Hearts and Minds: Analyzing WWII Propaganda Posters.

Use of Propaganda During World War II from NebraskaStudies.org


A video summarizing George Orwell's 1984 and its relation to Totalitarianism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9JIKngJnCU


Disney World War II Propaganda Films


The United States created anti-fascist propaganda with Disney during World War II.


    • Here is a YouTube playlist of clips created by Disney to appeal to children and educate the public on the evils of Fascist power.  They are examples of how powerful propaganda can be used to communicate information to people.


 The Rise Of Totalitarian Technology, a Forbes article discussing present-day totalitarianism and technology's role in its rise.



 Women and LGBT People in Totalitarian Regimes


Women's auxiliaries of Hitler's Wehrmacht army in Paris in 1940 






The Handmaid's Tale




2022-2023 Protests for Women's Rights in Iran


The country of Iran is under an authoritarian regime governed under extremist principles of Shia Islam. This regime has imposed strict limitations on women’s rights, which has sparked large protests in the country and around the world.


As a current day example of authoritarianism, these links are included on this page to help students understand what is going on in the world around them, solidify their understanding of these topics, and conceptualize them in their world. Follow these links for videos and articles on the state of Iran and the protests ignited following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed at the hands of Iran’s so-called morality police in September 2022. Women have been cutting their hair, a sign of beauty that should be hidden as decreed by the Islamic republic, as a symbol of protest. 


​​Additional Sources: 

WATCH: Women and girls are still protesting in Iran. Here’s why- PBS NewsHour

     Full article: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/watch-women-and-girls-are-still-protesting-in-iran-heres-why

Protests in Iran: A turning point?- CBC News

Grief, protest and power: Why Iranian women are cutting their hair- CNN



​​Image Source: Why Iranian women are cutting their hair and burning their headscarves in protest”- Today Show 



Totalitarianism in Latin America 


When a Dictator becomes Part of Your Family Luis, resident of the Dominican Republic, tells his family's story of living under totalitarian rule.


 An article about an island off the coast of Italy with an often forgotten LGBT history https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22856586



Totalitarianism in Africa


The small African nation of Eritrea is a holdout of totalitarianism. Eritrea's government uses forced labor, does not follow a constitution, and has no legal or even symbolic opposition. 


  • Click here to read more.




Fight Fascism at Home and Abroad


Smithsonian exhibit on the African American experience returning home from fighting in the world wars.


The Double Victory Campaign

Hubert Harrison, pictured here in 1913


The Double V for Victory campaign was a slogan to defeat fascism both at home and abroad.


  • It was championed by Black activists such as Hubert Harrison, the great orator of the Harlem Renaissance who was one of the first to intellectualize the Double V campaign. 



Works Cited:
[1] Grobman, G (1990). Nazi Fascism and the Modern Totalitarian State. Retrieved March 7, 2007, Web site: http://www.remember.org/guide/Facts.root.nazi.html
[2] Smith, D Benito Mussolini. Retrieved March 7, 2007, Web site: http://www.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_mussolini.html
[3] Poon, HW (1979). Fascist Italy. Retrieved March 7, 2007, Web site: http://www.thecorner.org/hist/total/f-italy.htm
[4] Poon, HW (1979). Nazi Germany. Retrieved March 7, 2007, Web site: http://www.thecorner.org/hist/total/n-german.htm#hitler-president
[5] Adolf Hitler. Retrieved March 7, 2007, from Spartacus Educational Web site: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERhitler.htm
[6] Dunder, J Vladimir Lenin Biography. Retrieved March 7, 2007, from Free Info Society Web site: http://www.freeinfosociety.com/site.php?postnum=76
[7] (1999). Biography: Joseph Stalin. Retrieved March 7, 2007, from Red Files Web site:

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