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 idea of peace after 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. The spiral descent drags you helplessly down into an abyss to 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 fragile peace was swiftly challenged and threatened by the rise of totalitarian governments.

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.

Like the long descent taking you ever closer to war, the rise of Nazism, emphasised here by the higher number of 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, or the provocation caused by 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.


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 was now inevitable. As then, the Nazi war machine strangled freedom of expression, stifling the voice of democracies, as it blocks our ability to speak now.


Share this page


Civilians in wartime Mémorial

In Falaise, a new museum dedicated to both the life and survival of the civilians during WWII.

Mémorial de falaise

Arromanches 360 circular cinema

Don't miss! - The film "Normandy's 100 days". Archive images projected in HD on 9 screens.

Mémorial d'Arromanches

1944 radar museum

Discover the daily life of the German soldiers in charge of the air reconnaissance inside the bunkers

Mémorial de Douvres