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This Timeline of events preceding World War II covers the events of the interwar period (1918-1939) after World War I that effected or led to World War II.

1918[edit | edit source]

November 11

The Armistice with Germany marks the end of World War I. German troops evacuate occupied territories and Allied troops subsequently move in and occupy the German Rhineland.

1919[edit | edit source]

January 4–15

The Spartacist uprising takes place and is crushed by the German government, marking the end of the German Revolution.

January 18

Opening of the Paris Peace Conference to negotiate peace treaties between the belligerents of World War I.


The Polish–Soviet War begins with border clashes between the two states.

March 2

Foundation of the Third International, or Comintern in Moscow. Comintern's stated aim is to create a global Soviet republic.

May 15

The Turkish War of Independence begins as Greek troops land in Smyrna.

June 28

Germany and the Allied powers sign the Treaty of Versailles after six months of negotiations. The German armed forces are limited in size to 100,000 personnel and Germany is ordered to pay large reparations for war damages. The United States signed the treaty but did not ratify it, later making a separate peace treaty with Germany.

September 10

German Austria signs the Treaty of Saint-Germain. The peace treaty with the Allies regulates the borders of Austria, forbids union with Germany and German Austria has to change its name to Austria. The United States did not ratify the treaty and later makes a separate peace treaty with Austria.

November 27

Bulgaria signs the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine. The peace treaty with the Allies regulates the borders of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian army is reduced to 20,000 men and Bulgaria is ordered to pay war reparations. Bulgaria and the United States did not declare war against each other, so no treaty was necessary.

1920[edit | edit source]

January 21

The Paris Peace Conference comes to an end with the inaugural General Assembly of the League of Nations. Although one of the victors of World War I, the United States never joins the League.


The failed Kapp Putsch takes place against the German government.

June 4

Hungary signs the Treaty of Trianon with the Allied powers. The treaty regulated the status of an independent Hungarian state and defined its borders. The United States did not ratify the treaty and later makes a separate peace treaty with Hungary.

August 10

Turkey signs the Treaty of Sèvres with the Allied powers. The treaty partitions the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish armed forces are reduced in size. Greece did not accept the borders as drawn up in the treaty and did not sign it. The Treaty of Sèvres was annulled in the course of the Turkish War of Independence and the parties signed and ratified the superseding Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Turkey and the United States did not declare war against each other, so no treaty was necessary.

1921[edit | edit source]


The Polish–Soviet War ends with the Peace of Riga.

August 25

The U.S.–German Peace Treaty and the U.S.–Austrian Peace Treaty are signed, marking the formal end of the state of war between the two states and the United States instead of the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Saint-Germain that were not ratified by the United States.

August 29

The U.S.–Hungarian Peace Treaty is signed, marking the formal end of the state of war between the two states instead of the Treaty of Trianon that was not ratified by the United States.

1922[edit | edit source]

February 6

The Washington Naval Conference ends with the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty by the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy. The signing parties agree to limit the size of their naval forces.

April 16

Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Treaty of Rapallo, re-establishing diplomatic relations, renouncing financial claims on each other and pledge future cooperation.


The Russian Civil War (ongoing since 7 November 1917) ends in Bolshevik victory with the defeat of the last White forces in Siberia.

October 29

Fascist leader Benito Mussolini is appointed prime minister of Italy by king Victor Emmanuel III after the March on Rome.

November 1

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey abolishes the Ottoman Sultanate.

1923[edit | edit source]

January 11

France occupies the Ruhr in an effort to compel Germany to step up its payments of war reparations.

July 24

The Treaty of Lausanne, settling the boundaries of modern Turkey, is signed in Switzerland by Turkey and the Entente powers. It marks the end of the Turkish War of Independence and replaces the earlier Treaty of Sèvres.

August 31

The Corfu incident: Italy bombards and occupies the Greek island of Corfu seeking to pressure Greece to pay reparations for the murder of an Italian general in Greece.

September 27

The Corfu incident ends; Italian troops withdraw after the Conference of Ambassadors rules in favor of Italian demands of reparations from Greece.

October 29

Turkey officially becomes a Republic following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

November 8

The Beer Hall Putsch takes place, in which Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully leads the Nazis in an attempt to overthrow the German government. It is crushed by police the next day.

1924[edit | edit source]

January 21

Leader of the Soviet Union Vladimir Lenin dies, and Joseph Stalin begins purging rivals to clear the way for his leadership.

June 10

Italian Fascists kidnap and kill socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti in Rome.

1925[edit | edit source]

February 1

The Soviet Union recognizes the United Kingdom.

April 1

Adolf Hitler is sentenced to 5 years in jail for his participation in the Beer Hall Putsch (he serves only 9 months).

April 6

Fascists win elections in Italy with a 2/3 majority.

August 18

France begins withdrawing its troops from the Ruhr in Germany.

December 3

The Locarno Treaties are signed in London (they are ratified 14 September 1926). The treaties settle the borders of western Europe and normalizes relations between Germany and the Allied powers of western Europe.

1926[edit | edit source]

January 3

Theodoros Pangalos declares himself dictator of Greece.

January 31

British and Belgian troops leave Cologne, Germany.

April 4

Greek dictator Theodoros Pangalos is elected president.

April 24

The Treaty of Berlin is signed by Germany and the Soviet Union, which declares neutrality if either country is attacked within the next five years.

December 25

Emperor Taishō dies and his son Hirohito becomes the Emperor of Japan.

1927[edit | edit source]

April 12

The Chinese Civil War begins between nationalists and communists.

May 20

Saudi Arabia becomes independent from the United Kingdom.

June 7

Peter Voikov, Soviet ambassador to Warsaw, is assassinated by a White movement activist.

November 12

Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, leaving Joseph Stalin with undisputed control of the Soviet Union.

1928[edit | edit source]

The Soviet Union launches the First Five-Year Plan, an economic effort to increase industrialization.

May 3

The Jinan Incident begins, a limited armed conflict between the Republic of China and Japan.

June 4

Huanggutun Incident: Japanese agents assassinate the Chinese warlord Zhang Zuolin.

August 2

Italy and Ethiopia sign the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty, pledging cooperation and friendship.

August 27

The Kellogg-Briand Pact is signed in Paris by the major powers of the world. The treaty outlaws aggressive warfare.

1929[edit | edit source]

February 9

Litvinov's Pact is signed in Moscow by the Soviet Union, Poland, Estonia, Romania and Latvia. The Pact outlaws aggressive warfare along the lines of the Kellog-Briand Pact.

February 11

Italy and Vatican City sign the Lateran Treaty, normalizing relations between the Vatican and Italy.

March 28

Japan withdraws troops from China, ending the Jinan Incident.

April 3

Persia signs Litvinov's Pact.

June 7

The Lateran Treaty is ratified, making the Vatican a sovereign state.

July 24

The Kellogg-Briand Pact goes into effect.

October 29

The Great Depression begins with the Wall Street Crash.

1930[edit | edit source]

April 22

The United Kingdom, United States, Italy and Japan sign the London Naval Treaty regulating submarine warfare and limiting naval shipbuilding.

June 30

France withdraws its remaining troops from the Rhineland ending the occupation of the Rhineland.

1931[edit | edit source]

September 18

Mukden Incident: the Japanese stage a false flag bombing against a Japanese-owned railroad in the Chinese region of Manchuria, blaming Chinese dissidents for the attack.

September 19

Using the Mukden Incident as a pretext, the Japanese invade Manchuria.

1932[edit | edit source]

The Soviet famine of 1932–33 begins, caused in part by the collectivization of agriculture of the First Five Year Plan.

January 7

The Stimson Doctrine is proclaimed by United States Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson in response to Japan invading Manchuria. The Doctrine holds that the United States government will not recognize border changes that are made by force.

January 28

January 28 Incident: using a flare-up of anti-Japanese violence as a pretext, the Japanese attack Shanghai, China. Fighting ends on March 6, and on May 5 a ceasefire agreement is signed wherein Shanghai is made a demilitarized zone.

February 27

Fighting between China and Japan in Manchuria ends with Japan in control of Manchuria.

March 1

Japan creates the puppet state Manchukuo out of occupied Manchuria.

April 10

Paul von Hindenburg is reelected President of Germany, defeating Adolf Hitler in a run-off.

May 30

Chancellor of Germany Heinrich Brüning resigns. President von Hindenburg asks Franz von Papen to form a new government.

August 30

Hermann Göring is elected chairman of the German Senate.

November 21

Paul von Hindenburg begins talking to Adolf Hitler about forming a new government.

December 3

von Hindenburg names Kurt von Schleicher Chancellor of Germany.

1933[edit | edit source]

January 1

Defense of the Great Wall: Japan attacks the fortified eastern end of the Great Wall of China in Rehe Province in Inner Mongolia.

January 30

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg.

February 27

Germany's parliament building the Reichstag is set on fire.

February 28

The Reichstag Fire Decree is passed, nullifying many German civil liberties.

March 4

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as President of the United States.

March 20

Germany's first concentration camp, Dachau, is completed.

March 23

The Reichstag passes the Enabling Act, making Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany.

March 27

Japan leaves the League of Nations over the League of Nations' Lytton Report that found that Manchuria belongs to China and that Manchukuo was not a truly independent state.

April 26

The Gestapo secret police is established in Germany.

May 2

Hitler outlaws trade unions.

May 31

The Tanggu Truce is signed between China and Japan, setting the ceasefire conditions between the two states after the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. China accedes to all Japanese demands, creating a large demilitarized zone inside Chinese territory.

June 21

All non-Nazi parties are banned in Germany.

July 14

The Nazi party becomes the official party of Germany.

October 19

Germany leaves the League of Nations.

1934[edit | edit source]

January 26

Germany and Poland sign the 10 year German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact.

March 20

All German police forces come under the command of Heinrich Himmler.

June 30

Night of the Long Knives in Germany. Potential rivals to Hitler within the Nazi Party, including SA leader Ernst Röhm, and prominent anti-Nazi conservatives are killed by the SS and the Gestapo.

July 20

The SS becomes an organization independent of the Nazi Party, reporting directly to Adolf Hitler.[1]

July 25

Austrian Nazis assassinate Engelbert Dollfuss during the failed July Putsch against the Austrian government.

August 2

Upon the death of President Paul von Hindenburg, Adolf Hitler makes himself Führer of Germany, becoming Head of State as well as Chancellor.

August 8

Members of the Wehrmacht begin swearing a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler instead of to the German constitution.


The Soviet Union joins the League of Nations.

December 5

The Abyssinia Crisis begins with the Walwal incident, an armed clash between Italian and Ethiopian troops on the border of Ethiopia.

December 29

Japan renounces the Washington Naval Treaty and the London Naval Treaty.

1935[edit | edit source]

January 7

The League of Nations approves the results of the Saar plebiscite, which allows Saar to be incorporated into German borders.[2]

June 18

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement is signed by Germany and the United Kingdom. The agreement allows Germany to build a fleet that's 35% the size of the British fleet. In this way, the British hope to limit German naval re-armament.

October 2

Italy invades Ethiopia, beginning the Second Italo–Abyssinian War.

1936[edit | edit source]

In 1936, Adolf Hitler demanded to have a private meeting with Arnold J. Toynbee who was visiting Berlin the same year to address the Nazi Law Society, and Toynbee accepted.[3] In the meeting, Hitler emphasized his limited expansionist aim of building a greater German nation, and his desire for British understanding and cooperation. Toynbee was convinced of Hitler's sincerity, and endorsed Hitler's message in a confidential memorandum for the British prime minister and foreign secretary.[4]

March 7

In violation of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany remilitarizes the Rhineland.

May 5

Italian troops march into the Ethiopian capital, Addis Addeba, marking the end of the Second Italo–Abyssinian War.

July 17

The failed Spanish coup of July 1936 by Nationalist forces marks the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

October 18

Hermann Göring is made head of the German Four Year Plan, an effort to make Germany self-sufficient and increase armaments.


The Great Purge commences in the Soviet Union with widespread repression of suspected opponents of the regime. The purge leads to the imprisonment and death of many military officers, weakening the Soviet Armed Forces ahead of World War II.

November 14

Suiyuan Campaign begins as Japanese-backed Mongolian troops attack the Chinese garrison at Hongort.

November 15

The aerial German Condor Legion goes into action for the first time.

November 25

The Anti-Comintern Pact is signed by Japan and Germany. The signing parties agree to go to war with the Soviet Union if one of the signatories is attacked by the Soviet Union.

December 1

Hitler makes it mandatory for all males between the ages 10-18 to join the Hitler Youth.

December 12

The two sides in the Chinese Civil War temporarily suspend hostilities to fight the Japanese.

December 23

The first 3,000 men of the Italian expeditionary force (later named Corpo Truppe Volontarie) lands in Cadiz in support of the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War.

1937[edit | edit source]

July 7

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident occurs, beginning the Second Sino-Japanese War.

November 6

Italy joins the Anti-Comintern Pact.

December 8

Japan established the puppet state of Mengjiang in the Inner Mongolia region of Republic of China.[5]

December 11

Italy leaves the League of Nations.

1938[edit | edit source]

March 6

Japanese troops reaches the Yellow River in China.[6]

March 13

Austria is annexed by Nazi Germany.

July 29

The Soviet–Japanese border conflicts begin with the Battle of Lake Khasan.


Soviet Union wins the Battle of Khasan against Japan.

September 30

The Munich Agreement is signed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy. The agreement allows Germany to annex the Czechoslovak Sudetenland area in exchange for peace in an attempt to appease Hitler.

November 7

Exiled German Jew Herschel Grynszpan assassinates German consular aide Ernst vom Rath in Paris.[6]

November 9

The Kristallnacht pogrom begins in Germany; Jewish shops and synagogues are smashed, looted, burned, and destroyed throughout the country.[6]

1939[edit | edit source]

January 25

An uranium atom is split for the first time at Columbia University in the United States.[7]

January 27

Adolf Hitler orders Plan Z, a 5-year naval expansion programme intended to provide for a huge German fleet capable of defeating the Royal Navy by 1944. The Kriegsmarine is given the first priority on the allotment of German economic resources. This is the first and only time the Kriegsmarine is given the first priority in the history of the Third Reich.

March 14

The pro-German Slovak Republic is created with Jozef Tiso as its first prime minister.

March 15

Germany occupies Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich Pact. The Czechs do not attempt to put up any organized resistance having lost their main defensive line with the annexation of the Sudetenland.
Germany establishes the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The protectorate includes those portions of Czechoslovakia not incorporated into Germany, Poland, Hungary, or the new Slovak Republic.

March 20

German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop delivers an oral ultimatum to Lithuania, demanding that it return the Klaipėda Region.

March 21

Adolf Hitler demands the return of the Free City of Danzig to Germany.

March 23

German–Romanian Treaty for the Development of Economic Relations between the Two Countries is signed.

March 31

The United Kingdom and France offer a guarantee of Polish independence.

April 1

The Spanish Civil War ends in Nationalist victory. Spain becomes a dictatorship with Francisco Franco as the head of the new government.

April 3

Adolf Hitler orders the German military to start planning for Fall Weiss, the codename for the attack on Poland, planned to be launched on August 25, 1939.

April 7–12

Italy invades Albania with little in the way of military resistance. Albania is later made part of Italy through a personal union of the Italian and Albanian crown.

April 18

The Soviet Union proposes a tripartite alliance with the United Kingdom and France. It is rejected.[8]

April 28

In a speech before the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler renounces the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact

May 11

Soviet–Japanese border conflicts: Battle of Khalkhin Gol begins with Japan and Manchukuo against the Soviet Union and Mongolia. The battle ends in Soviet victory on September 16, influencing the Japanese to not seek further conflict with the Soviets, but to turn towards the Pacific holdings of the Euro-American powers instead.

May 17

Sweden, Norway, and Finland reject Germany's offer of non-aggression pacts.

May 22

The Pact of Steel, known formally as the "Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy", is signed by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Pact declares further cooperation between the two powers, but in a secret supplement the Pact is detailed as a military alliance.

June 14

The Tientsin Incident occurs, in which the Japanese blockade the British concession in the North China Treaty Port of Tientsin.

July 10

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain reaffirms support for Poland and makes it clear that Britain did not view Free City of Danzig as being an internal German-Polish affair and would intervene on behalf of Poland if hostilities broke out between the two countries.

August 23

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, with secret provisions for the division of Eastern Europe - joint occupation of Poland and Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, Finland and Bessarabia. This protocol removes the threat of Soviet intervention during the German invasion of Poland.

August 25

In response to a message from Mussolini that Italy will not honor the Pact of Steel if Germany attacks Poland, Hitler delays the launch of the invasion by five days to provide more time to secure British and French neutrality.

September 1

Germany invades Poland, start of World War II.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "1934 Timeline". WW2DB. http://ww2db.com/event/timeline/1934/. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  2. "1935 Timeline". WW2DB. http://ww2db.com/event/timeline/1935/. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  3. The Avoidable War: Pierr Laval and the Politics of Reality, 1935-1936
  4. * William H. McNeill (1989). Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506335-X. , chapter 8, online from ACLS E-Books
  5. "1937 Timeline". WW2DB. http://ww2db.com/event/timeline/1937/. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "1938 Timeline". WW2DB. http://ww2db.com/event/timeline/1938/. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  7. "1939 Timeline". WW2DB. http://ww2db.com/event/timeline/1939/. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  8. Carley, Michael Jabara (1993). "End of the 'Low, Dishonest Decade': Failure of the Anglo–Franco–Soviet Alliance in 1939". pp. 303–341. Digital object identifier:10.1080/09668139308412091. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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