Was World War Two inevitable?
The origins of the Second World War have been a contentious issue ever since the conflict ended in 1945. It is a topic which continues to provoke furious debate more than sixty years later. It was unquestionably Hitler’s war and was directly brought about by his actions in the 1930’s. However opinion is divided as to whether his actions were meticulously planned or was he simply an opportunist who pragmatically took each step as they arose naturally. Marshal Foch described the Treaty of Versailles “as a 20-year armistice, rather than an enduring peace” (www.timeshighereducation.co.uk). I will examine the events between the wars to determine if these events were preordained or if the horrors inflicted by the Nazis could have been avoided. Many historians believe that the Second World War was simply a continuation of the First World War. A.J.P. Taylor claimed that Germany fought to reverse the verdict, as did all German chancellors, which they were forced to accept in Versailles in 1919 and that her opponents less consciously fought to defend that settlement. The Treaty of Versailles was widely blamed for causing mortal damage to Germany and for being the main cause of the crises faced by the new Weimar Republic during its early years. The treaty stripped Germany of a large amount of territory in Europe and of all its overseas colonies, which in turn not only isolated a large amount of Germans from their home country but also removed a large amount of their access to valuable raw materials held within those territories. However this was based on the belief that as Germany had started the war they were a problem country and there was therefore a need to disable Germany in order to provide France with security and to prevent future conflict. Germans felt that as they were given no say in the details of the 1919 Treaty that is was a ‘diktat’ (dictated peace) and that it was not in line with their vision of what had been promised by Wilsons fourteen points blue print. They believed the propaganda that they had been stabbed in the back and treated with great suspicion the politicians now running their newly democratic country. Those who had signed the Armistice in 1918 were referred to as the ‘November Criminals’. Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty was The War Guilt Clause which caused great chagrin amongst Germans who found the notion of being entirely responsible for the War very unjust. This clause meant that they would have to pay a vast amount of reparations and this in turn was the cause of economic depression which led to hyper inflation in Germany in the early 1920’s. As a result the Weimar Republic in its early years was weak and politically unstable, changing governments regularly. It also led to an increase in support for extremist politics when times were bad. National Socialism flourished and Communism also had increased support. There were several attempts at overthrowing the government, most notably by Hitler in the Munich Putsch. This view of an unjust settlement caused widespread resentment and polarised public opinion. Germans yearned for the strong leadership that they had previously had before the war and believed that democracy was ineffective. It is a moot point as to whether it was actually a harsh settlement, the important thing is “that it was perceived by the German public to have been so”(Lee, 2003: p117). It is argued that the punitive terms of the agreement propelled the rise of Nazism and led to the outbreak of World War Two. However although I do believe that disparaging the treaty gave Hitler a mandate to increase his support base there were other factors which account for the rise of National Socialism, some avoidable and some not. Economic depression in Germany directly after the First World War and especially after the Wall Street crash in 1929 made ordinary people turn to right wing extremist Politics. This is not unusual in times of great hardship...
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