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Buildup to World War II: January 1931-August 1939


World War II Timeline: September 15, 1938-January 5, 1939

On October 1, 1938, Adolf Hitler's army marched into the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, continuing Nazi Germany's aggressive World War II offensive. The World War II timeline below highlights this event as well as other important events that took place from September 15, 1938, to January 5, 1939.

World War II Timeline: September 15, 1938-January 5, 1939

September 15, 1938: Adolf Hitler meets with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and states his demand that Czechoslovakia yield the Sudetenland, a region of Czechoslovakia with a large German population, to Nazi Germany.

September 29-30, 1938: Leaders of Britain, France, Nazi Germany, and Italy meet at the Munich Convention. In a profound act of capitulation, the delegates deliver the Sudetenland into Adolf Hitler's hands. Neither Russia nor Czechoslovakia are invited to Munich. Bristish Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returns to England following his role in the disastrous Munich Agreement claiming to have achieved "peace in our time."

October 1, 1938: Nazi German troops march into the Sudetenland. Without the support of their alleged allies, France and Britain, the Czechoslovakians are powerless against Adolf Hitler's army.

November 9-10, 1938: Nazi-led mobs engage in a night of terror against Nazi Germany's and Austria's Jewish population, destroying more than 1,000 shops and synagogues, arresting 30,000, and killing nearly 40. The action will become known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).

December 1938-September 1939: The British Cabinet allows 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children into Britain in an action called the Kindertransport.

January 1, 1939: Nearly 320,000 of a total population of 500,000 German Jews have fled the nation in the face of Nazi hostility.

January 5, 1939: Adolf Hitler pressures Poland to return its principal port of Gdansk (called Danzig in German), a free state run by the Nazis under the auspices of the League of Nations, to Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler insists that the city will "sooner or later return to Germany."

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the Adolf Hitler-Benito Mussolini alliance, as well as Japan's war with China in the late 1930s.

Nazi pageantry brings excitement to Germans' drab lives: In parades in Nuremberg and other cities, the Nazis mesmerized their audiences with well-organized rituals, operatic staging, brightly colored flags, and other elements chosen for their nationalistic, mystical, and religious connotations. The settings were often illuminated by giant kleig lights and accompanied by classical music or military marches. This nighttime march features torchlight. William L. Shirer, foreign correspondent for CBS during the 1930s, wrote in his Berlin Diary that he was beginning to comprehend some of the reasons for Adolf Hitler's astounding success: "He is restoring pageantry and colour and mysticism to the drab lives of twentieth-century Germans."

The Adolf Hitler-Benito Mussolini alliance: In 1937, a year after the emergence of the Berlin-Rome axis, Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini together attended Wehrmacht maneuvers. Although Italy had frustrated Adolf Hitler's ambitions in Austria in 1934, and Adolf Hitler generally regarded Benito Mussolini as a lesser leader, the Führer still needed a like-minded European ally to offset the two-front threat to Nazi Germany. He also needed Italian acquiescence for the Anschluss in 1938 as well as Benito Mussolini's support for his expansionist plans for Eastern Europe. However, despite their shared Fascist ideologies, the later inadequacies and unreliability of Italy's military forces eventually all but negated Benito Mussolini's value as Adolf Hitler's ally.

War with Japan erupts in Peiping, China: A minor skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge near Peiping, China, on July 7, 1937, quickly escalated into the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Unprepared for a sustained conflict, the Chinese army could do little to stop the Japanese advance. In less than a year, the invaders destroyed China's best fighting units and controlled northern China, the industrial center of the country. Initially, Japan's objective was the overthrow of the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, but its advance stalled as China's resistance stiffened.

Nazi Germany's occupation of Czechoslovakia continued, while tension between Nazi Germany and Poland increased. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred from January 12, 1939, to April 7, 1939.

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