The Road to War 1918-39

When the "Great War" ended, it was common interest that there would never again be such a horrible war. The war had been devastating - an estimated 10 million men died. Just look in any British village and you'll see memorials. Sadly, even as the war ended, the seeds were planted for the Second World War...

The End of the War

The armistage was called at the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918. (11th November). It was very sudden for Germans. In March, 1918, there had been a real chance for them to win with Russia's withdrawal from the War. America hadn't arrived yet, and German decided on a final gamble - push their combined forced together in one last attack on the Western Front.

At first, the attack seemed to go well. After years of stalement, they finally made significant progress. However, the British and French held out. With America's assistance, they were able to push the Germans back.

In Germany, things were getting desperate. The people were starving thanks to the British blockade, cold, and a wideswept sweep of influzia affected them badly. Morale on the Front Lines was broken by the American reinforcements, and many soliders were mutining.

The Kaiser stood down on 9th Novemember and fled to Holland. Two days later, Germany surrended.

Hitler’s Foreign Policy


Hitler’s Aims:

  • Hitler controlled German Foreign Policy from January 1933.
  • Hitler took Germany out of the League of Nations immediately. (They had been allowed to join in 1926).
  • He saw the Treaty of Versailles as one of the main causes of the problems that Germany faced. He promised the German’s that he would reverse the treaty and regain the territory that Germany had lost.
  • He planned to expand into the East of Europe so that he would gain Lebensraum (German for ‘Living Space’. Hitler wanted to create space for the growing population) for the people, which he believed they needed.

Hitler took these steps in order to achieve his aims:

  • When he was taking over the territory that had been lost due to the Treaty of Versailles he managed to convince many of the European leaders that once Germany had regained the territory lost, no further demands would be made.
  • Hitler had the benefit of seeing the Japanese successfully defy the League of Nations over the situation in Manchuria.
  • Hitler also developed close relations with the leader of Italy, Mussolini, who had withdrawn from the League as a result of the Abyssinian crisis.

The Saar

The Saar, with its rich coalfields was an industrial area that had been taken from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and put under the control of the League of Nations. A plebiscite (a vote by the people living in an area to decide the answer to an important question) was to be held after 15 years to decide if it was to be returned to the Germans. The plebiscite was held in January, 1935. The results of the plebiscite showed that over 90% of the population of the Saar wanted to reunite with Germany. Hitler regarded this as a great triumph because it was the first of the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles to be reversed.


Rearmament

One of the first things that Hitler chose to do when he came to power was to begin to increase the German Armed Forces. He did have to do this secretly at first due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.


The Disarmament Conference – 1932 – 1934

The conference first met in the February of 1932. The main problem that they were discussing was what to do with Germany. Germany had been involved in the League for 6 years and many people now accepted that Germany should be treated more fairly than it was said in the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The question was, should everyone disarm to the level that Germany had been forced to or should the Germans be allowed to rearm to the level of other countries? The Germans walked out of the conference in July 1932 when the other counties refused to disarm to the level that Germany had had to. In May 1933, Hitler returned to the conference and promised that he wouldn’t rearm if ‘in five years all other nations destroyed their arms’. They refused and Hitler withdrew from the conference in October and not much later, the League of Nations.

Non-Aggression Pact with Poland 1934

Germany signed a non-aggression pact with Poland in January 1934. Hitler signed this for various reasons, including:

  • He hoped to weaken the alliance that already existed between Poland and France.
  • He hoped to reduce the Polish fears of German aggression.
  • He wanted to show that he didn’t have a quarrel with Poland, merely the USSR.

Rearmament

Hitler staged a huge military rally celebrating the armed forces of Germany in 1935. He also reintroduced conscription and announced an army of 550,000 in the same year. An Air Ministry was set up to train pilots and build 1,000 aircraft. Hitler was breaking the terms of the Treaty of Versailles but he believed that he would get away with it due to the collapse of the Disarmament Conference. He was correct.

French, Italian and British representatives meet at the town of Stresa where they agreed to co-operate to preserve the peace in Europe. They condemned the rearmament of Germany. This was known as the Stresa Front against German aggression. But it didn’t last long. It collapsed due to the Abyssinian Crisis which destroyed the relations between France, Britain and Italy, and the Anglo-German Naval Treaty.

Anglo-German Naval treaty 1935

Hitler was aware that Britain had some sympathy towards Germany regarding rearmament. Britain did believe that the terms of the treaty had been too harsh on Germany and that a strong Germany would be a buffer against Communism. In 1935, Britain signed a naval agreement with Germany. This allowed the Germans to have navy fleet up to 35% of the size of the British fleet and have the same number of submarines. The British were accepting Hitler’s breach of the Treaty.

The Remilitarisation of the Rhineland 1936

On the 7th of March, 1936 Hitler moved German troops back into the demilitarised area of the Rhineland. This was a risk for Hitler as it was clearly a breach of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Also, the German army consisted of only 22,000 men and if the French army had reacted then they would have been no opposition. The men were also under strict orders to withdraw if they were faced with any opposition). But, neither the French nor British did anything. The troops remained in the Rhineland.

Anschluss with Austria 1938

Hitler was Austrian born and he wished to see Germany and Austria united as one country. In 1938 he felt ready to attempt this.

  • He bullied Schuschnigg, who was the Austrian Chancellor, into accepting Seyss-Inquart, who was a Nazi, as Austrian Minister of the Interior.
  • Schuschnigg ordered for a plebiscite to take place in order to find out if the Austrians really wanted to unite with Germany.
  • Hitler worried that the people would vote against the unification. He moved German troops to the Austrian border and threatened to invade if Schuschnigg didn’t resign.
  • Seyss-Inquart then became Chancellor of Austria. He invited the German troops into the country. On the 12th of March 1938, the Germany army entered Vienna. They were welcomed with cheers and salutes. The Anschluss was complete.
  • The Nazis also held their own votes regarding the unification with Germany and 99% of those who voted were in favour of the union. (But it was believed that people opposed the unification were taken away and locked up or killed.) Austria became a province of the new German Reich.

The Anschluss was another breach of the Treaty of Versailles. The French and British governments did complain about it but they didn’t take any action.

Appeasement

Britain followed a Policy of Appeasement from 1935 to 1938. This meant giving in to the demands that Hitler made when they believed the demands to be reasonable. The policy is mainly associated with Neville Chamberlain who was the Prime Minister of Britain from 1937 to 1940.

Arguments for Appeasement

• Nobody wished to repeat the horrors of the First World War, they wanted to avoid another war at all costs.
• A lot of people believed that Germany had been unfairly treated by the Treaty of Versailles.
• To some people, Communism was seen as the biggest threat. They believed that Germany could act as a buffer because Hitler was anti-communist.
• Britain wasn’t ready to go to war. Rearmament had only started slowly in 1936 and the British forces were no match of the Germans.
• Britain was also preoccupied with problems that had been caused by the Depression e.g Unemployment and they wanted to stay out of foreign involvement.
• The Spanish Civil War had shown how powerful Germany was. The events showed how horrific another war might be.

Arguments against Appeasement

• Hitler was given an advantage. He was growing stronger. If war came it would be against a strong Germany.
• It wasn’t right that Britain and France were allowing Germany to break the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
• Chamberlain misjudged Hitler. He had believed that he was simply a normal leader. Appeasement encouraged Hitler that he could do anything he wanted.
• They missed opportunities to stop Hitler e.g the reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936.
• It didn’t prevent a war.


The Sudeten Crisis

German speakers who lived in Czechoslovakia lived in an area called the Sudetenland. Hitler wanted these people back.
• He ordered Konrad Henlein (who was the leader of the Sudetenland Germans) to cause trouble in the Sudetenland.
• German newspapers printed allegations of crimes which had apparently been committed by the Czechs towards the Sudeten Germans.
• Hitler threatened to go to war if a solution wasn’t reached.

Chamberlain, the British Prime-Minister, believed that a peaceful solution could be reached. He attempted to convince the Czech President to accept self-government for the Sudetenland. Beneš did agree but Hitler then produced new demands and claimed that the Sudetenland should become part of the German Reich.

At a meeting at Godesburg on the 22nd of September Beneš refused to accept the demands. War seemed like it was going to be a real possibility but Chamberlain appealed to Hitler to give him more time to try and find a solution.

The Munich Agreement

Neville Chamberlain made one last attempt to maintain peace on the 29th of September at the Munich Conference.

• Chamberlain met with Daladier (the French leader), Hitler and Mussolini at Munich in a bid to resolve the Sudeten Crisis.
• The Czech representatives weren’t actually invited to this meeting.
• The Czechs were made to hand over the Sudetenland to Germany. A commission was set up to decide precisely which territory would be lost.

Chamberlain and Hitler also had a further meeting in Munich in which they both agreed that Britain and Germany would not go to war with each other. Hitler promised that he didn’t want the rest of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain was treated as a hero when he returned back to Britain as he had, supposedly, saved Europe from going to war.

The results of the Munich Agreement also had quite a serious effect on the Czechoslovakians as well as Europe.

• The Czech Government had been completely humiliated.
• The vital area of the Sudetenland was lost and, later on, in October and November, both Poland and Hungary occupied further areas of Czech territory.
• Once again, Britain and France had given in to the demands of Hitler.

Even though the Munich Agreement had been seen as a success, both Britain and France increased the speed of their rearmament.
The collapse of Czechoslovakia, March 1939 Hitler invaded and occupied the remains of Czechoslovakia in the March of 1939. Bohemia and Moravia were now controlled by Germany. Slovakia was independent in theory; however it was largely dominated by Germany. Ruthenia was given to Hungary.

The end of appeasement

When Hitler occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia it suggested that war was eventually going to come. The occupation of Czechoslovakia proved that the promises that Hitler had made at the Munich Agreement were not going to be upheld. Britain and France were also now rapidly rearming and they accepted that the Policy of Appeasement had obviously failed.

The Pact of Steel, May 1939

Events in the Spring of 1939 seemed to be favouring the countries with dictatorships. Hitler had forced to hand over the Baltic town of Memel as well as an area of land that was along their south-west border in March. In May, Mussolini also followed the example that Hitler had set in Czechoslovakia by invading Albania.

The Pact of Steel was signed between Hitler and Mussolini in May 1939. They promised to act together regarding future events that may take place. It was clear that Europe was now divided into two sections. Britain and Germany both began looking to the USSR as a possible source of support.

Poland

Hitler’s next target then became Poland. The Treaty of Versailles had taken away German territory and given it to the Polish, giving them access to a sea port (this was the Polish Corridor) and Danzig (which had been a German city) had also been put under League of Nations control. After Hitler’s success in Czechoslovakia, he demanded the return of the Polish Corridor and Danzig.

The French and British Governments had both been greatly humiliated by Munich and the events that had followed the conference. They decided to act decisively. They gave guarantees of support to the Poles, Greeks and Rumanians that they would support them in the case of German Aggression. They also increased their production of arms and equipment.

The role of the USSR

Britain and France had made promises that they would help to protect Poland however there was no way that they would be able to actually help Poland because of its distance from the West of Europe. The only country that would be able to prevent a German attack on Poland was the USSR. The British and French did begin talks with the USSR to try and reach an agreement.

The USSR was suspicious of the Western motives. Stalin felt that throughout the 1930s that Britain had been trying to send Hitler over to the East. Many British people did actually fear communism more than fascism. The USSR’s exclusion from the Munich Conference was evidence to prove this when the future of Czechoslovakia was also important to them. Britain and France didn’t really show any urgency in relation to making an agreement with the USSR in 1939. That made Stalin even more suspicious and contributed to him signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact. He didn’t believe that the British and French could be trusted.

The Nazi-Soviet Pact

The German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, and the Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov, signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact on the 23rd of August 1939.

• In this pact the Soviets and Germans agreed not to fight each other if a war in Europe took place.
• The powers secretly agreed to divide up Polish territory between them.
• Hitler also let Stalin occupy part of Romania as well as the Baltic states; Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia,

The world was shocked when the two enemies agreed not to attack each other. Hitler and Stalin represented two political systems which totally opposed each other. Although, despite their differences of beliefs on policy, Hitler and Stalin had a lot to offer each other.
• The Pact removed the possibility of war on two fronts for Hitler. He was given the opportunity to deal with Poland as well, regardless of the threats given by France and Britain.
• Stalin had already been suspicious about the motives of the British and French who had not shown much friendship to the USSR before Hitler rose to power. Hitler had more to offer to Stalin e.g territory in the East of Europe.

Poland and the outbreak of the war

Hitler decided to invade Poland soon after Germany had signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact. He did this because:
• Because of the pact he didn’t have to worry about the possibility of a Soviet reaction.
• The guarantees that Britain and France had made with Poland in the April of 1939 were made too late for Hitler to believe that they would really go to war.
• Because of the Policy of Appeasement, Hitler believed that he could get away with almost anything. He thought that the British and French would do almost anything to avoid a war.
• He knew that Poland was too far away for the British and French to provide support and decided that even if war came then it would be over very quickly.

On the 1st of September 1939, Hitler sent German troops into Poland. War was declared soon after this but both Britain and France. The USSR also invaded Poland on the 15th of September and took the territory which had been agreed in the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Poland was defeated in 6 weeks.

Who was responsible for the war?

Hitler does have to take most of the blame for the war but it wasn’t just his fault. The other countries that were involved also held some responsibility.

The USSR had made the deal with Germany which led to the invasion of Poland as the German forces wouldn’t have to face the risk of a Soviet attack.

Poland had signed the alliance with France and Britain which then led to it trying to resist the German demands.

Britain and France’s Policy of Appeasement had led Hitler to believe that he could get away with anything (including the invasion of Poland). The alliance that they had signed with Poland had also encouraged the Poles to refuse German demands.

The Treaty of Versailles

In June, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. It was over 200 pages long, yet dealt only with Germany. Only victorious countries (32 of them) were allowed a say in the terms and the treaty, and Germany had no choice but to accept it.

The main three characters in the ruling of the Treaty were:

  • French Prime Minister, George Clemenceau
  • British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George
  • American President, Woodrow Wilson.

(David Lloyd George, Clamenceau, and Wilson)

Wilson's aims were to:

  1. Punish Germany, but not too harshly. This is easy to understand, as America didn't have a huge involvement in the war.
  2. Achieve world peace. Wilson thought he could do this by creating a 'League of Nations' where nations would co-operate. The ruling of this League would be based on 14 points.

Clemenceau's aims were to:

  1. Take back Alsac and Lorraine. (Which had been taken when Germany invaded France in 1870).
  2. Make sure Germany could never invade France again.
  3. Make Germany pay for all the suffering they had caused. This wasn't surprising, as most of the fighting had took place inside France, leaving land destroyed, dangerous undetonated mines, etc... Germany should lose land to the French on the France/Germany border to make France feel more secure.

Lloyd Geroge's aims were to:

  1. Punish Germany, but contary to popular British belief, he didn't agree with punishing them too harshly, as that would make the Germans resentful.
  2. Protect Britain's dominion over the sea. Therefore, he disliked Woodrow's idea of freedom of seas.

Already, we see differences. Add in the small contribuations other nations added, and it's easy to imagine how difficult reaching an agreement was. However, after much discussion, the Treaty was formed.

Some of the main points of the Treaty of Versailles were:

  • Germany had to pay £6,600 million in reparations.
  • Germany lost all its colonies to the victorious countries as mandates.
  • She lost a large amount of land, much of which was used to reform countries, such as Poland.
  • All the land gained from the USSR was taken back.
  • The Saar was to be controlled by this new League of Nations for 15 years.
  • The Rhineland was dematillerised (no millitary was allowed in it).
  • The army was reduced to 100,000 men; conscription was banned; the navy was reduced to 6 war ships; tanks, submarines and aircrafts were not allowed.
  • Alsac and Lorraine were returned to France.
  • Germany was forbidden from Anschluss (forming an alliance with Austria).
  • Germany was blamed for the War (War guilt clause).

Consequences: Germans were horrified when they discovered the terms of Versailles. They had hoped, with Woodrow's 14 points, to have a fair deal. This didn't happen. The points were exploited to the Allies' advantages, and many of them were clearly broken when dealing with Germany.

They thought the policticians who had called the armistance and then signed the treaty had stabbed Germany in the back. In reality, these November Criminals had had no choice. Many Germans still didn't understand why they had lost the war - as the gamble had been well publicised, but not the defeat - and were willing to blame old hates such as the Jews. The Weimar Repubic did not get off to a good start.

The War Guilt Clause was an extra bitter pill for Germany to swallow. They didn't believe that they had started the war, and many Germans were furious that they had had no say in the events. Hilter, of course, played off all these hatreds of Versailles, when he later took power...

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The League of Nations

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League of Nations

The League of Nations was set up in 1920. Originally, there were 42 members of the League but this number increased to nearly 60 in the 1930s. Although, at any one time, at least one of the more powerful superpowers were absent from the League.

  • The USA had refused to join. Many Americans had hated the idea of the League and Woodrow Wilson was unable to convince them otherwise. This was a major blow to the power and influence of the League. Plus, the whole thing had been Woodrow Wilson’s idea.
  • The defeated nations from the First World War, such as Germany, who were not allowed to join.
  • Russia, who wasn’t allowed to join up because of its Communist style of governing.

The Covenant of the League

The Covenant was a set of 26 articles that all member states had to agree to. They encouraged the countries to co-operate with trade, improve social, living and working conditions and work towards international disarmament. The most important article out of all of these was Article 10, this stated that the member of the League of Nations would act together to ensure any member who was threatened with war was protected by the other members. This was known as Collective Security which was what the whole League was built upon the idea of.

The Organisation of the League

The League was spilt up into different sections which dealt with different things.

The Council – They met up to 3 times a year and also in times when an emergency arose. There were five permanent members as well as four temporary members. The five permanent members were the main powers; Britain, France, Italy, Japan and from 1926, Germany. The four temporary members were elected every three years.

The main duty of the Council was to keep the peace and solve any disputes that might arise between states. The members hoped that this could be done by negotiating. If a country was deemed to have started war through an act of aggression, then this would become the concern of all the members of the League who would act against the aggressor. Action would be taken in three stages:

Moral Condemnation – All member countries would put pressure on the aggressor to make them feel guilty and shame them into stopping the war and accepting the decisions of the League.
Economic Sanctions – This meant that all member countries involved in the League would stop trading with the aggressor.
Military Force – The member countries of the League would all contribute to an armed force which would then act against the aggressor.

The Assembly – This was the debating chamber. It was located at the headquarters of the League in Geneva, Switzerland. The Assembly met once a year and each country that was involved each had a vote (this was the veto which meant that one country would be able to completely stop a decision if they disagreed with it). The Assembly had the powers to; admit new members, elect permanent member on to the Council and also to suggest changes to peace treaties that already existed.

The Secretariat – This was the civil service and it carried out the administration and work of the League. It kept records of meetings and prepared reports for the different organisations in the League.

Commissions – The Commissions were set up to carry out specialist work. Some of the commissions only existed for a short time e.g the Refugees Commission, which helped First World War refugees to return home. Others were more permanent e.g those that were set up to deal with slavery and health.

The Permanent Court of International Justice – This was based at The Hague in the Netherlands. Judges of different legal systems made it up who represented the member countries. It gave decisions on disputes if asked but had no way of enforcing the decisions that were made.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) – This was set up to bring around the idea of improving working conditions around the world. Representatives of governments, workers and employers would meet once a year to set minimum standards and persuade other members to use these standards.

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Manchuria

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The Manchurian Crisis – 1931 – 1933

This was the first major crisis that the League of Nations had to face.

Japan had been a rising power and had been developing very quickly into a trading nation. However, the Wall Street Crash proved to have a major impact on Japan and its economy. Countries such as the USA as well as other countries had adopted protectionist policies (the economic theory of using the tax system to protect home industries in the face of foreign competition). This led to a loss of trade in Japan because their products were too expensive to buy. They began to look for other ways to expand.

In September 1931 there was an explosion at the Japanese owned South Manchurian Railway. The Japanese used this as an excuse to invade Manchuria. The area was rich in natural resources and this provided a market for the Japanese goods. The invasion was successful. A puppet government was set up under Pu Yi and the area was renamed Manchukuo.

At the time, China had been in the middle of a civil war, meaning they had been unable to defend Manchuria. The Chinese appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League sent Lord Lytton to conduct a Commission to investigate. The Commission took a long time to investigate – over a year – by the time it was finished the invasion and occupation had already been completed. The League asked the Japanese to withdraw from the area. The Japanese simple ignored the commands; they left the League and remained in Manchuria.

This crisis highlighted weaknesses in the League. It had showed that Britain and France were unwilling to support the League in taking action. The League had also failed to prevent the aggression. This later encouraged aggression from Germany and Italy.

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Abyssinia

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The Abyssinian Crisis

Mussolini was the leader of Italy and had been since 1922. He wanted to increase Italy’s prominence as a world power by increasing its territories located in Africa. Abyssinia was one of the countries that was not under European control and Mussolini wished to invade. He also wanted revenge for a defeat by the Abyssinians in 1896 at the Battle of Adowa.

In 1935 the Italian troops invaded Abyssinia. Haile Selassie, who was the Emperor of Abyssinia, appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League condemned the aggression but Italy and imposed economic sanctions on them. However, the Italians were still able to trade with non-members of the League, such as the USA. France and Britain were worried that if they took action against Mussolini then they would drive him closer to Hitler (who they were also worried about). The British Foreign Secretary made a secret deal with the French, in which they would offer most of Abyssinia to Mussolini. This was known as the Hoare-Laval Pact but the plan had to be withdrawn when it was leaked to the public.

The results of the Abyssinian Crisis effectively meant the end of the League of Nations as a peacekeeping organisation; it was seen as a joke. The crisis had shown that the members of the League weren’t willing to use force to stop aggression. The Hoare-Laval Pact also showed that Britain and France had been undermining the League.

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Collapse of the League

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Why did the League collapse?

Then lack of major powers was a real problem from the beginning of the League. Because powerful countries such as the USA weren’t members it meant that the League lacked influence and power.

Both France and Britain refused to really take a lead role and the League was dependant on their co-operation. Although. they did not always see eye to eye.

The way that the League was organised also made it difficult to act quickly. The right of member countries to Veto meant that decisions could easily be stopped.

When sanctions were applied they were only really applied half-heartedly and the League also had no standing army. The League lacked bite.

The World Depression caused problems for all countries. Money and attention wasn’t really available for the crises in Manchuria and Abyssinia.

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**The following information has been sent in by Ashish. Thanks so much!**

Causes of the Second World War?

There are five main reasons for the WW2 to start, which is referred as The HPLAN:

  • Hitler’s action during 1930
  • The League on Nations
  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • Appeasement Act
  • The Nazi Soviet Pact.

This all broke out when Hitler invaded Poland and led to the World War 2.

Hitler’s action during 1930s

Hitler had big plans of conquering whole of Europe. He wanted to make Germany bigger and stronger and he also had many other aims like reversing the Treaty of Versailles, Re-arming Germany etc. In order to be successful in his plans, he had to have a huge army, which was restricted under the Treaty. So Hitler started reaming in secret. This made Germany stronger and easier for Germany to invade.

Hitler also rearmed in public after quitting the League of Nations and the failure of the disarmament conference. He also tested his new weapons in the Spanish Civil war this was a major disaster. These weapons threatened other countries due to the disaster the weapons had caused and led to Appeasement act and agreeing to what Hitler did.

Hitler also started Remilitarizing Rhineland (1936) as he thought Germany was Defenseless when France and Russia signed the Mutual Alliance treaty, to protect each other. He claimed that Treaty of Versailles was being harsh on them. This was one of the reasons for the WW2 because Germany coming into the borders of France meant that Germany was free to attack France anytime and this led to tensions between the contraries leading to WW2.

Remilitarizing Rhineland was a small step to Hitler’s goals. Hitler also had to unite the Germans separated from the Reich in order to reverse the Treaty of Versailles he did this by this by taking over Sudetenland (1938) and the Czech. Britain, France and Russia had promised to protect the Czech from Germany but Britain did not want a World War so they ended up giving Sudetenland and rest of Czech to Hitler in the condition of the Munich agreement which said that Hitler will not invade any more. However he broke his promise and Britain and France lost trust on him, this was another reason causing the WW2. Another reason for Hitler to invade Sudetenland land was for its defenses which were the mountains and for the industries which would act like a source of income and also he thought these industries would be used in war times to provide food etc. Not inviting Russia in the Munich agreement and giving the Czech to Germany made Stalin think that Britain and France are against Russia and want Germany to be stronger and act like a barrier against communism this was another reason for the WW2.

Hitler also invaded Austria (1938), when Austrian prime minister asked Britain and France for help, they said no. They thought that it was unfair for Treaty of Versailles to divide these both countries, as their population was mostly German. Britain had warned Germany if they invaded Austria Britain would start a war. But later Germany held a vote at Austria and then Germany won. This led to Britain not going against Germany as they had won by the rules of democracy and Britain was a democratic country. Thus this made Britain angry and could have led to the WW2. Till this time everything was okay, as Hitler was only reversing the treaty which everyone thought was harsh.

Hitler now started making plans to invade Poland. By this time, everyone understood that Hitler was not only breaking the Munich agreement but also has plans to conquer the whole of Europe. Hitler made an alliance with Russia and conquered half of Poland and Russia got the other. By this time both Russia and Germany knew they would have a war against each other. Hitler taking over Poland made Britain and France angry and was one of the reasons to cause the WW2.

Problems caused by The Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was another major cause for the WW2 because the Treaty took 13 per cent of Germany's territory and ten per cent of her population; the border territories of Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France. Germany lost all of her colonies, 75 per cent of her iron ore deposits and 26 per cent of her coal. The size of the army and navy was also cut, and an air force and submarines were forbidden. The Germans also had to officially accept ‘war guilt’ and pay reparations to the tune of £6,000 million. This led to Germany becoming bankrupt and leading to high unemployment rate thus this led to the rise of Hitler as he promised to take care of the situation and bring back the Germany before. Taking away Germany’s army also led to Hitler rearming in secret.

Another reason for the world war was Germans felt that the Treaty of Versailles unfair and being too harsh on Germany this led to Hitler reversing the Treaty of Versailles and causing the WW2. The British views of the treaty also led to the WW2 as the British people began to see the Treaty as unfair so this led to Chamberlain not taking any action over Germany instead allowing Hitler to do whatever he wanted like: Rearm Germany, Remilitarize Rhineland etc.

This was one of the biggest faults of the British’s. One of the terms under the treaty of Versailles was the creation of Poland The creation of Poland separated east Prussia and Germany. Germany wanted the Polish Corridor back as it contained many Native German speakers. Upper Silesia was also given back to Poland and Germany wanted it back. This led to WW2 and Germany invading Poland with Russia. Russia also wanted Poland back as it was their land.

League of Nations

The League of Nations was another cause for the WW2 because the weaknesses of the league in the Manchurian crisis and Abyssinian crisis directly proved how weak and ineffective the League was.

In the Manchurian Crisis, Japan Invaded Manchuria as they though they needed to space and needed more resources and also they had a railway there, which made It easier for them to attack Manchuria. The League of Nations took one year to figure this out. By this time, it was too late and Japan had already invaded Manchuria.

When the League blamed Japan and told them to set Manchuria free, Japan just left the League and nothing was done about it. This was set as a clear example for Abyssinia Crisis and Disarmament conference where they followed the principles. Hitler in the Disarmament conference left the League of Nations because he thought it was unfair for only Germany to disarm and the League did not do anything about it. This is similar to the Manchurian crisis. Hitler used the weaknesses of the League as an intensive to get away with actions he wanted.

The League also had weaknesses like its lack of armed forces, NO major powers and ineffective sanctions. This helped to cause the WW2 because no armed forces means the League depended on countries for their forces and Britain and France were sometimes not willing to send their army for every little incident. Even countries like USA were not involved making the League look useless and powerless. Thus the league was one of the reasons for WW2, as it did nothing except showing how weak it was and how ineffective rules it had.

Appeasement Act

The appeasement act was an act allowing a person to do something with a condition. The appeasement caused the WW2 because this made Germany stronger and stronger, until a point in which a war had to be fought to bring Germany down. Appeasement also made Hitler aggressive and demanding. This led to WW2 because his aggression made him concur places like Poland causing the WW2. Agreeing to Hitler’s demands means making Germany more stronger making it difficult for them to defeat Germany later when it came to a war.

Nazi-Soviet Pact

The Nazi-Soviet Pact was an agreement between Germany and Russia for taking over Poland. It was also a key step in Hitler's plan to conquer Russia. Russia and Germany both knew there would be a war between them and thus were using the time to build up their forces. This pact also created tension between the both countries, as they were closer to each other. By this time, everyone knew that Hitler had aims to conquer Europe and not only reverse the treaty. Britain and France had promised to protect Poland from Germany. Germany taking Poland means there would be a war.


Thus all of these five reasons helped to cause the WW2. Hitler actions caused the WW2 as he got very confident by conquering many places and did not stop. This made France and Britain mad and caused the WW2 as Hitler had plans to conquer whole of Europe. The League of Nations caused the WW2 because of its weaknesses to deal with the Manchurian Crisis and the Abyssinian crisis and this made Hitler think that the League was weak and he ignored the League. The Treaty of Versailles caused the WW2 because it was too harsh on Germany and led to increase in unemployment rate, which led to rise of Hitler who promised to bring everything back to normal. The Appeasement cause the WW2 because it made Germany confident to do something bigger and this made Germany stronger and likely to have a war. The Nazi-Soviet pact caused the WW2 as it made Hitler ignore the warning of France and Britain and conquering Poland leading to the WW2. Thus all of these reasons combine to be one and have caused the WW2.

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All text copyright © 2006 to EJ Taylor. Page Template created by James Taylor. Site created: 10 April, 2006. Last revised: 2 August, 2015