The Second World War

The failure of peace

From the catastrophic outcome of the First World War to 1939, this first section shows the chain of causes and events that precipitated the Second World War. How the ideal of peace of the "war to end all wars" gradually disintegrated.

The historical journey within the Caen Mémorial museum begins in the wake of the First World War. In a spiral sucking you helplessly into an abyss, you can witness the gradual unhinging of a world that has just found peace. Restored by the Treaty of Versailles and guaranteed by the League of Nations, this peace is swiftly challenged and threatened by the rise of totalitarian governments.

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Totalitarian powers

Through increasingly gloomy exhibits, documents and photographs attest to the arrival of these regimes at the very heart of Europe:

In Italy, where leader Benito Mussolini introduced fascism in 1922 ; in the USSR, where the Communist ideology brought to power by the Bolshevik Revolution turned into a form of totalitarian government under Stalin ; and finally in Germany where Adolf Hitler, Nazi Party leader, succeeded in legally taking over as the Reich Chancellor in 1933.

Unlike the long descent taking you ever closer to war, the rise of Nazism, boosted by the increase in video screens and larger photographs, seemed completely unstoppable at the time. Reactions from democracies were too weak to counter the unprecedented ideological and economic mobilizations, provocations of rearmament and territorial conquests. The Munich Agreement of September 1938, authorizing Hitler to occupy Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, confirmed this “abdication” of democracies. The final act: by signing a non-aggression pact with Stalin’s USSR on 23 August 1939, to the astonishment of the whole world, Hitler was finally ready to take his revenge.

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The war

The bottom of the spiral takes you into a vast, dark sphere

The bottom of the spiral takes you into a vast, dark sphere resonating with the distorted voice of Hitler accompanied by the sound of marching boots. As Hitler climbs the ranks of power, we plunge ever further into the void. A new war is now inevitable. Freedom of expression, the voice of democracies as well as our own are stifled by the Nazi war machine.

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