To what extent were the consequences of WWI the causes for WWII
At the end of World War One, Europe was left in a devastating state, four major empires disappeared and the economy was profoundly damaged. The first global war had taken place and fear of a second one was strongly felt across the continent. In order to bring political order to European politics and to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again, the Paris Peace Settlement took place. The outcomes were the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the foundation of the League of Nations in 1919. Despite the inherently weak attempts to prevent a repetition of WW1, twenty years later, WWII broke out upon the invasion of Poland by Germany. Although exploding from a seemingly unrelated motive, the origins of WWII can be traced back to the aftermath of the First World War. The harshness of the treaty of Versailles and the economic instability which WW1 was responsible for, lead to a series of events which heavily complemented by independent factors such as European foreign policy, accumulated and eventually exploded into The Second World War.
The agreements made at the Paris Peace Settlement were destined to fail as the Treaty of Versailles did not effectively manage to relief Europe from German threat. The orthodox historians view the settlement as being a failed compromise between the idealism of Wilson and the realism and selfishness of the European powers. Wilson had a subjective aim as he believed that peace was impeded by three elements: the selfishness of European Diplomacy, the tendency of larger powers to deny ethnic minorities self determination and autocratic regimes which ignored the wishes of the people. Wilson’s perspective was quite idealistic and encompassed high moral values, it was too unrealistic to follow through. His principles clashed Clemenceau as France felt that Germany must be demilitarized and he pleaded for home land security. Clemenceau wanted to eradicate any threat Germany could have over France. In addition to the clashing views of the USA and France, Britain also had a differing opinion on the settlement of Germany. Lloyd George took a conciliatory yet selfish approach to Germany as it was in his interest that Germany’s economy was restored. The economist John Maynard Keynes argued that German economic recovery was vital for the future prosperity of Britain's export trade. As a result to the diverging interests of the peace makers came the “rickety edifice which was unstable from the start” i.e. : the Treaty of Versailles. Despite its ruthless impositions on Germany, such as the stripping of 13% of their land, the harsh limitations on the army (limited to 100,000 men), reparations of 6 million pounds, the allies overlooked crucial details which allowed the treaty to become a new basis for future conflict. It was not taken into account that the collapse of the Russian, Ottoman and Hasburg Empire left Germany in a potentially stronger position than ever before. In addition, Germany was also in a superior position to that of the newly established and weak Eastern European countries. The Treaty of Versailles was indisputably harsh as the reparations and loss of territory deeply affected Germany’s position. There was a profound sentiment of bitterness and rancor among the Germans which in the long run gave rise to the Nazi Party. In the 1920’s, Germany seemed to be reconciling to accept the terms of the treaty of Versailles, however independent factors deviated Germany’s path to resurgence back to the arduous situation it was facing immediately after WW1. The current government (Weimar Republic) was innately weak as coalition governments created too many incompatible parties, article 48 of the constitution gave the president power to rule without parliamentary support and it was highly dependent on the army. The government was clearly not going to last as ongoing riots like kept the country politically unstable. The...
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