In the early hours of the 1st September 1939 German forces invaded Poland. 21 years after the end of World War I, the world had to face the beginning of another world war that should last 6 years. World War II was one of the most disastrous events in human history causing approximately 60 million deaths and destruction almost all over the globe (msn Encarta 2008). Winston Churchill wrote in the preface of his book about World War II (The Gathering Storm):
“One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once "The Unnecessary War." There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle.” (RosettaBooks 2008)
This essay examines whether World War II has really been unnecessary and evitable or not in 1939 by looking at the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, Hitler’s objectives, his foreign policy and the reactions of the major Western European Powers.
Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which ended Word War I. Therewith, the country had to cede huge parts of its territory, had to give up most of its military forces and was forced to pay the enormous amount of 132 billion Goldmark as reparations. The so called war guilt Article 231 stated that:
“Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” (Harold B. Lee Library 2008)
Consequently, Germany had to suffer not only under the economic consequences, but now many Germans felt betrayed by their own politicians. Furthermore, the general public did not agree with the newly established government of the “Weimar Republic”. As a result of the “Dolchstosslegende” many blamed the politicians of the “Weimar Republic” for the loss of World War I. These circumstances caused hostility and dissatisfaction among nationalists. It was impossible to build a strong and stable democracy; consequently the foundations were laid for an extremist, nationalist power like the NSDAP with a strong leader like Hitler to rise. The Great Depression in 1929 further worsened the unstable political and social situation. It created serious shortages and an unemployment rate of about 40 percent(Lee 2000 p67). Hitler promised full employment and the abolition of all constraints of the Versailles Treaty. “He was able to offer something to almost every class and group in Germany”(Joll 1990 p334). National Socialism rose steadily in the country, so finally in 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor by Hindenburg. In the same year, Hitler managed to establish an Act which gave his government comprehensive legislative power and the ability to form a one-party state (Kershaw 1991 p210). Most foreign politicians viewed the Nazis as the lower of two evils compared to Bolshevism.
When Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933, he already had ambitious visions for Germany and the Aryan race. The revision of the Versailles Treaty and the reestablishment of the German great power position within Europe where just a disguise for his real aims which he had published in his book Mein Kampf (my struggle) in 1927. Inspired by Darwin he believed in the natural dominance of the superior Aryan race. His ultimate goal was the expansion of Lebensraum(territory) in the east, “at the expense of the inferior Slavic peoples”(Merriman 1996 p1184), and to establish a Reich that should last for 1000 years in the centre of Europe. He also believed that the Semitic race was inferior and should be destroyed, as well as Bolshevism. The campaign of conquest in the east and a war for Lebensraum were only the dream of a minority. The fact that these ideas had become the determining factors for German...