Hal Wert Looks Back at 1939, When the World Peered into the Abyss
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January 10, 2014
Seventy-five years ago, in 1939, the world faced what Winston Churchill memorably called "the gathering storm."
In September, Adolf Hitler ordered his German armies to invade Poland. Elsewhere across a troubled Europe, the Spanish Civil War ended with Franco's Fascists in power. Hitler ordered the breakup of Czechoslovakia into several states. The Soviet Union invaded Finland.
Despite all these grim omens that the world was at the eve of destruction, Americans were largely dead set against any involvement in another European war. But in short order, they and most of the civilized world were drawn into yet another great war.
Hal Wert, professor of history at the Kansas City Art Institute, examines the significance of that year in 1939: Into the Abyss on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Wert has authored several dozen scholarly articles, and written for the British magazine History Today and for Armchair General. Among his books are Hoover the Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and His Life Outdoors and Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints.
A look back at 1939 entails more than disquiet. There were signs of hope. New York City was gearing up for the opening of its much-anticipated World's Fair. The U.S. economy appeared to be emerging from the Great Depression.
Hollywood was in the midst of a banner year, having produced such films as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The list of best-selling books was dominated by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling.
Admission to the event is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.