World War II inevitable?
JANUARY 8, 2008
STUDENT ID: 081404078
This essay analyses the origins of the Second World War by briefly summarizing the events from 1919-1939. However, most emphasis is put on the amount of responsibility the Treaty of Versailles deserves for the outbreak of war. Other than analysing the Treaty of Versailles on its own, it also analyses the effects of the 1929 Wall Street Crash on the world, the rise of Fascism and Nazism, as well as the rise of Adolf Hitler, the failure of the League of Nations and the appeasement of the Fascist and Nazi regimes by Britain and France throughout the 1930s. Hence the Treaty of Versailles plays a substantial but not definitive role in the outbreak of World Ward Two.
The First World War was the bloodiest and the most catastrophic war the human race had ever suffered prior to 1914. The Peace of Paris ended global warfare but the Treaty of Versailles created massive bitterness and resentment in Germany. It is therefore undeniable that this humiliation contributed substantially to the outbreak of the Second World War. Nevertheless it is crucial to take into account other factors such as the world economic crisis, the rise of Hitler in Germany, the failure of the League of Nations and the appeasement of the Nazi and Fascist regimes to evaluate the extent to which the treaty of Versailles caused World War Two.
The 439 articles in the Treaty of Versailles “mutilated and humiliated Germany (Khanna, 1996, pg.197).” First of all, according to Article 231, also known as the “War Guilt Clause,” the Germans were held accountable for the outbreak and the devastation of the war. This meant that they had to accept full responsibility and pay reparations which summed up to about 6.6 million pounds. Also, Germany’s military was reduced significantly. The size of the army was limited to about 100,000 soldiers, they were not allowed to have an air-force and their navy was considerably small in comparison to other European powers. In addition to this, the Rhineland had to be demilitarised, Anschluss was prohibited with Austria and the German colonies were shared between France and Britain. As historian V. N. Khanna mentions, “the Germans called it a diktat and could not digest the insult and humiliation. They vowed to take revenge (Khanna, 1996, pg.197).” The Germans did not accept full responsibility for it although they had no other choice but to sign the Treaty of Versailles. It was considered too harsh, not only by the Germans, but also by certain groups in Britain and the USA.
World War One had created economic devastation in Europe. Germany owed the Allies an incredible sum of 6,500 million pounds. In addition, “the massive currency devaluation which hit Germany in 1923 undermined social stability and caused widespread social and economic resentment. (Henig, 1985, pg. 9)” In order to pay the reparations without suffering further social or economic devastation, the USA and Britain came up with a few money lending schemes. The Dawes Plan was introduced in 1924 and seemed to succeed at the beginning; but Germany still could not cope up with the astronomical sum of reparations she owed to the Allies. Then, a few years later, in early 1929 the Young Plan was introduced. This reduced Germany’s debt burden considerably, but still failed. Also, in 1929 the Wall Street Crash plunged the whole world into economic depression and the USA was no longer able to economically aid Germany. Now instead of aiding Germany, the USA pressurized her to pay reparations on time. Germany was in a critical situation-unemployment in Germany was the highest in Europe with a large difference. With the benefit of hindsight, even Winston Churchill realized that “the economic clauses of the Treaty were malignant and silly to an extent that made them obviously...