To what extent, and in what ways, could World War II be considered a continuation of World War I
In 1918, the French population referred to a certain war as La der des der, which in English was translated as “the war to end all wars”. This event was the First World War, the most widespread and casualty-filled conflict the world had witnessed to date. Unfortunately, they were wrong in saying this, for 21 years later, global bloodshed was about to begin anew in the Second World War. In both wars, Germany was a major player, even more so in WW2 as they started the conflict, Hitler was operating with vengeful expansionism, a vengeance which will have been brought about by various factors, but the most important being the Versailles Treaty. Of course, both wars were not fought by the same ‘teams’, albeit the fact that there was always clearly a Franco-British alliance against Germany, players like Russia and Italy fought on both sides. The theatre of war was also geographically similar but considerably different. After the Versailles treaty in 1919, Marechal Foch would qualify prophetically pronounce these words “This is not peace, this is an armistice for twenty years”, a sentiment that, in 1944, would be echoed by Churchill himself in a letter to Stalin, he would tell the Russian dictator, that from 1914 onwards, the events that had followed had been more of a “second thirty year war” than two separate conflicts. The continuity that Churchill’s words suggests concerning WW1 and WW2 is what I will be investigating in this essay.
I will start by introducing the Versailles Treaty and its surrounding context and controversy, I will then follow by explaining how this treaty ensured the existence of a second World War. This essay will mainly be entertaining the idea that the Second World War is indeed, due to the treaty, a continuation of the First World War but arguments proving the contrary will be interspersed in this essay when the contrary can be observed.
If asked this question, one would probably say that the Second World War is surely a continuation of the First World War, but as Taylor puts it “If one asks the rather crude question, “what was the war about”, the answer for the first is : “to decide how Europe should be remade”, but for the second merely: “to decide whether this remade Europe should continue” but Taylor also states that “The Second World War was, in large part, a repeat performance of the first” . The causes and incentives behind WW1 are not easy to discern and this war can easily be dismissed as a considerably pointless conflict which merely served to waste human lives. WW2, on the other hand, served a clear moral purpose; that of eliminating fascism and stopping Hitler from spreading his Nazi ideals and the massacre of thousands of Jews. Taylor also clearly illustrates the situation with WW1 “The combatants sought to ‘impose their will on the enemy’ [...] without any clear idea what that will would be. Both sides found it difficult to define their war aims”
A detail which, as trivial as it may sound, can nonetheless be observed is the nomenclature of the conflicts themselves, World War One and World War Two. They are numbered, not unlike a succession of numbers in mathematics, or maybe like monarchs in a line of succession or an original film and its sequel. This suggests that one could not exist without the other, that one picks up where the story left off in the other. This is a borderline comical detail but that should not be ignored.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on the 28 June 1919, following the Armistice from November 1918. The general consensus concerning the Versailles Treaty is that it is the main event which ultimately instigated Germany’s “revenge”. Germany “denounced the treaty of Versailles as an affront to Germany and a prime source of its economic ills” . The whole german population, regardless of their...
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