Top-Rated Free Essay

Causes of World War Ii

Powerful Essays
Causes of World War II World War I was one of the most destructive wars in modern history. Nearly ten million soldiers died as a result of hostilities. The enormous losses on all sides of the conflict resulted in part from the introduction of new weapons, like the machine gun and gas warfare, as well as the failure of military leaders to adjust their tactics to the increasingly mechanized nature of warfare. A policy of attrition, particularly on the Western Front, cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Alongside these statistics, was the fact that vast areas of north-eastern Europe had been reduced to rubble. The victors from World War I were in no mood to be charitable to the defeated nations and Germany in particular was held responsible for the war and its consequences. With failures in the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, and Britain and France 's appeasement to Hitler and his rise to Chancellor, these factors and more were the reasons that led the world into it 's second World War. In January 1918, some ten months before the end of World War I, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had written a list of proposed war aims which he called the “Fourteen Points.” Eight of these points dealt specifically with territorial and political settlements associated with the victory of the Entente Powers, including the idea of national self-determination for ethnic populations in Europe. The remainder of the principles focused on preventing war in the future, the last proposing a League of Nations to arbitrate international disputes. Wilson hoped his proposal would bring about a just and lasting peace: a “peace without victory.” When German leaders signed the armistice in the Compiègne Forest on November 11, 1918, many of them believed that the Fourteen Points would form the basis of the future peace treaty, but when the heads of the governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy met in Paris to discuss treaty terms, the European contingent of the “Big Four” rejected this approach. Viewing Germany as the chief instigator of the conflict, the European Allied Powers decided to impose particularly harsh treaty obligations upon the defeated Germany. The Treaty of Versailles, presented for German leaders to sign on May 7, 1919, forced Germany to concede territories to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, and Poland. Perhaps the most humiliating portion of the treaty for defeated Germany was the "War Guilt Clause," which forced the German nation to accept complete responsibility for initiating World War I. As such, Germany was liable for all material damages, and France 's premier Georges Clemenceau particularly insisted on imposing enormous reparation payments. The newly formed German democratic government saw the Versailles Treaty as a “dictated peace”. Although France, which had suffered more materially than the other parties in the “Big Four,” had insisted upon harsh terms, the peace treaty did not ultimately help to settle the international disputes which had initiated World War I. The combination of the war guilt clause, reparation payments and the limitations on the German military were particularly onerous in the minds of most Germans, represented one of the platforms that gave radical right wing parties in Germany, including Hitler 's Nazi Party, such credibility to mainstream voters in the 1920s and early 1930s. The League of Nations came into being after the end of World War One. The League of Nation 's task was simple - to ensure that war never broke out again. After the turmoil caused by the Versailles Treaty, many looked to the League to bring stability to the world. If a dispute did occur, the League, under its Covenant, could do three things - these were known as its sanctions. It could call on the states in dispute to sit down and discuss the problem in an orderly and peaceful manner. This would be done in the League’s Assembly - which was essentially the League’s parliament which would listen to disputes and come to a decision on how to proceed. If the states in dispute failed to listen to the Assembly’s decision, the League could introduce economic sanctions. This would be arranged by the League’s Council. The purpose of this sanction was to financially hit the aggressor nation so that she would have to do as the League required. If this failed, the League could introduce physical sanctions. This meant that military force would be used to put into place the League’s decision. However, the League did not have a military force at its disposal and no member of the League had to provide one under the terms of joining - unlike the current United Nations. Therefore, it could not carry out any threats and any country defying its authority would have been very aware of this weakness. After the Abyssinian crisis, the League gradually died. Italy left the League in 1937. Few other countries left the League, but all of them realized that it had failed - instead they began to re-arm as fast as possible. When war broke out in 1939, the League closed down; its headquarters in Geneva remained empty throughout the war. In 1943 - at a Conference in Tehran - America, Britain and Russia agreed to set up a new international organization (the 'United Nations ') when the war finished. On 12 April 1946, the League met in Geneva and formally abolished itself. The British delegate, Robert Cecil, said: 'The League is dead. Long live the United Nations '. Appeasement means giving in to someone provided their demands are seen as reasonable. During the 1930s, many politicians in both Britain and France came to see that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles had placed restrictions on Germany that were unfair. Hitler 's actions were seen as understandable and justifiable. When Germany began re-arming in 1934, many politicians felt that Germany had a right to re-arm in order to protect herself. It was also argued that a stronger Germany would prevent the spread of Communism to the west. In 1936, Hitler argued that because France had signed a new treaty with Russia, Germany was under threat from both countries and it was essential to German security that troops were stationed in the Rhineland. France was not strong enough to fight Germany without British help and Britain was not prepared to go to war at this point. Furthermore, many believed that since the Rhineland was a part of Germany it was reasonable that German troops should be stationed there. In May 1937, Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister of Britain. He believed that the Treaty of Versailles had treated Germany badly and that there were a number of issues associated with the Treaty that needed to be put right. He felt that giving in to Hitler 's demands would prevent another war. This policy, adopted by Chamberlain 's government became known as the policy of Appeasement. The most notable example of appeasement was the Munich Agreement of September 1938. The Munich Agreement, signed by the leaders of Germany, Britain, France and Italy, agreed that the Sudetenland would be returned to Germany and that no further territorial claims would be made by Germany. The, the Munich Agreement was generally viewed as a triumph and an excellent example of securing peace through negotiation rather than war. When Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, he broke the terms of the Munich Agreement. Although it was realized that the policy of appeasement had failed, Chamberlain was still not prepared to take the country to war. Instead, he made a guarantee to come to Poland 's aid if Hitler invaded Poland. Upon the death of Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler was the consensus successor. With an improving economy, Hitler claimed credit and consolidated his position as a dictator, having succeeded in eliminating challenges from other political parties and government institutions. The German industrial machine was built up in preparation for war. In November 1937, he was comfortable enough to call his top military aides together at the "Fuhrer Conference," when he outlined his plans for a war of aggression in Europe. Those who objected to the plan were dismissed. Hitler now depended on the Triple Alliance of Germany, Japan and Italy to be against Britain, America and Soviet Union. But Japan was not in favor of this Alliance because it was not ready for any confrontation from American and the British Navy. Since Japan was reluctant to be in the Alliance, Hitler looked to Mussolini in Italy. On May 22nd 1939, Hitler and Mussolini signed the "Pact of Steel" in Berlin which "bound each country to come to the others aid immediately.” Now, the only country left standing without a commitment was the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1939 the focus of European diplomatic activity became Moscow; with the British and French competing with the Germans for Stalin 's favor. The Non- Aggression Pact of 1939 was signed in August with a secret agenda between Stalin and Hitler. In the public 's eye, it was a shock to see two old enemies shake hands, but the secret agenda consisted of Eastern Europe. Soviet Union would have the Baltic states of Eastern Europe as long as she remained true to the Pact whereas Germany would have Western Europe. Now a war was inevitable with Russia in a neutral corner as it seen from a public 's point of view. The German-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which stated that Poland was to be partitioned between the two powers, enabled Germany to attack Poland without the fear of Soviet intervention. Hitler had always regarded the German-Soviet nonaggression pact as a tactical and temporary maneuver. On December 18, 1940, he signed Directive 21, the first operational order for the invasion of the Soviet Union. From the beginning of operational planning, German military and police authorities intended to wage a war of annihilation against the Communist state as well as the Jews of the Soviet Union, whom they characterized as forming the "racial basis" for the Soviet state. German forces invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, less than two years after the German-Soviet Pact was signed. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Polish army was defeated within weeks of the invasion. In October 1939, Germany directly annexed those former Polish territories along German 's eastern border: West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia, and the former Free City of Danzig. The remainder of German-occupied Poland was organized as the so-called General Government under a civilian governor general, the Nazi party lawyer Hans Frank. Nazi Germany occupied the remainder of Poland when it invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. After the war began in Europe in 1939, people in the Americas were divided on whether their countries should take part or stay out. Most Americans hoped the Allies would win, but they also hoped to keep the United States out of war. The isolationists wanted the country to stay out of the war at almost any cost. Another group, the interventionists, wanted the United States to do all in its power to aid the Allies. Canada declared war on Germany almost at once, while the United States shifted its policy from neutrality to preparedness. It began to expand its armed forces, build defense plants, and give the Allies all-out aid short of war. On December 7, 1941, while German armies were freezing before Moscow, Japan suddenly pushed the United States into the struggle by attacking the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later Hitler declared war on the United States. President Roosevelt called on Congress for immediate and massive expansion of the armed forces. Allied strategy to end the war called for an invasion of Japan with the code name Operation Olympic. Throughout the summer of 1944, the U.S. Air Force raided Japan about once a week. In July 1945, the heads of government in Britain, Soviet Union and the United States conferred and were told that Japan was willing to negotiate a peace, but unwilling to accept unconditional surrender. An ultimatum was issued, calling for unconditional surrender and a just peace. When Japan ignored the ultimatum, the United States decided to use the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb helped to make an invasion of Japan unnecessary. The Japanese realized that they were helpless if one atomic bomb could cause so much damage. On August 10, the Japanese government asked the Allies if unconditional surrender meant that Emperor Hirohito would have to give up his throne. World War II brought an end to the Depression everywhere. Industries had been ignited for the production of arms and resources to equip fighting forces. Scientists also made it possible to produce large quantities of penicillin to fight a wide range of diseases, as well as DDT to fight jungle diseases caused by insects. The war solved some problems, but created many others. Germany had been the dominant power on the European continent, while Japan had held that role in Asia. Their defeat in World War II left open positions of leadership. The Soviet Union moved in quickly to replace Germany as the most powerful country in Europe and also aimed at taking Japan 's place as the dominant power in Asia. The Allies were determined not to repeat the mistakes of World War I, in which Allies had failed to set up an organization to enforce the peace until after World War I ended. In June 1941, nine European governments-in-exile joined with Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries in signing the Inter-Allied Declaration, which called for nations to cooperate and work for lasting peace. The United States formally ended hostilities with Germany on October 19, 1951. West Germany would accept neither the division of Germany nor East Germany 's frontiers. Thus, Germany was the only Axis power that did not become a member of the United Nations.
A cold war between the Soviets and the democracies ensued. In Asia, victory resulted in the takeover of China and Manchuria by the People 's Republic of China, chaos in Southeast Asia, and a division of Korea, with the Soviets in the North and American 's in the South. Another war already lay on the horizon.

Bibliography

• Trueman, Chris. "The Treaty of Versailles." History Learning Site. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• Meier, David A. "Hitler 's Rise to Power." DSU Computer Services. 2000. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• "History on the Net Copyright Statement." History on the Net Main Page. Historyonthenet, 5 July 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• "Treaty of Versailles, 1919." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• "Invasion of Poland, Fall 1939." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• Segura, Yedlin. "Hitler/Stalin Pact: 1939." Then Again. . . Ed. Tariq Farooqui. World History Chronology, 2 May 1997. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• "World War II." United States History. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

• "United States Enters World War II: Brief History." World War II History Library. A Brief History of the U.S. Army in World War II. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

Bibliography: • Trueman, Chris. "The Treaty of Versailles." History Learning Site. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • Meier, David A. "Hitler 's Rise to Power." DSU Computer Services. 2000. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • "History on the Net Copyright Statement." History on the Net Main Page. Historyonthenet, 5 July 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • "Treaty of Versailles, 1919." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • "Invasion of Poland, Fall 1939." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • Segura, Yedlin. "Hitler/Stalin Pact: 1939." Then Again. . . Ed. Tariq Farooqui. World History Chronology, 2 May 1997. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • "World War II." United States History. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. . • "United States Enters World War II: Brief History." World War II History Library. A Brief History of the U.S. Army in World War II. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. .

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Causes of World War Ii

    • 451 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Causes of World War II The German people were very unhappy about the treaty and thought that it was too harsh. Germany could not afford to pay the money and during the 1920s the people in Germany were very poor. There were not many jobs and the price of food and basic goods was high. People were dissatisfied with the government and voted to power a man who promised to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. His name was Adolf Hitler. The causes of World War Two can be divided into long term causes and…

    • 451 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Causes Of World War II

    • 1283 Words
    • 6 Pages

    The beginning of World War II. The contestants in WWII were divided into two groups, the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers. The following countries were in the Allied Powers: Soviet Union,United States,Britain, China, France, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The Axis Powers consisted of the following: Germany, Japan,and Italy. The Allied Powers during WWII were those that opposed the Axis Powers. At the beginning of war, Britain and the Commonwealth Nations stood almost alone, but the United…

    • 1283 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Causes of World War II

    • 498 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Identify and explain at least two causes of World War II. Then analyze America’s foreign policy before the war, and describe how that policy changed as the war progressed. Be sure to include a discussion of how the Battle of Britain influenced American opinion. Make sure you use enough details to support your answer Two causes of World War II were the harsh provisions of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I and the rise of nationalist leader Adolf Hitler. Treaty of Versailles - The…

    • 498 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Cause Of World War II

    • 283 Words
    • 2 Pages

    When World War I ended it left behind agression that lead to the start of World War II. There are many reasons that caused World War II started. Some of the main reasons that caused World War II to start where the Treaty of Versailles, The Great Depression, Japanese Imperialism, and the Attack on Pearl Harbor. World War I ended when they signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Because the U.S. senate rejected the Versailles settlement it was very dangerous years that were going to start…

    • 283 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Causes of World War II

    • 662 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Causes of World War II The culmination of events that led to World War II are generally understood to be the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the 1937 invasion of the Republic of China by the Empire of Japan. These military aggressions were the decisions made by authoritarian ruling elites in Germany and Japan. World War II started after these aggressive actions were met with an official declaration of war and/or armed resistance. In the aftermath of World War I, a defeated Germany signed…

    • 662 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Causes of World War II

    • 1691 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Why did war erupt in 1939? War erupted in 1939 for many of reasons. There is long-term cause which is the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty of Versailles had a significant effect on why war erupted in 1939; however there are also many mid-term causes that also helped lead to World War Two. These are; the Failure of the League of Nations and The Wall Street Crash. The short-term causes are The Appeasement and Hitler’s actions. One of the short term causes of World War two was Hitler’s actions. Hitler…

    • 1691 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    In the history of the world there are many occurrences that have changed life and the world, as we know it. September 1, 1939, a day that would change the world forever. It was the start of World War II. The war lasted 6 years, it killed more people, destroyed more property than any other war in history. World war two is said to be the war to end all wars, because of the leaders, the technology, and the effects the war had on the world. This was the first war that had civilian death rates that exceeded…

    • 324 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    World War II was a horrific war, many guns and new strategies and weapons were created, for example the nuclear bombs. World War II started when dictators rose to power in some countries, for example Adolf Hitler (Germany´s dictator)Germany wasn´t satisfied because they were the only country that was being punished for taking part of World War I and paying for the Treaty of Versailles. Some of the main causes of World War II were when Great Britain and France declared war on Germany for invading…

    • 398 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    thought of another war was unthinkable because countries do not want to lost people a lot and lost money for countries. The first cause was treaty of Versailles. The second cause was Hitler breaking the Treaty of Versailles. The another cause was failure of the league of Nations. The final cause was invasion of Poland. The first cause was the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty was punish for Germany after war I lost. The people in Germany felt so embarrassed because Germany lost in war I. The people in…

    • 466 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    WORLD WAR II

    • 621 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Causes and Effects of World War II Name Institution Causes and Effects of World War II Two major events signifying global conflicts are the popular World War I and II that comprised of inhuman atrocities and destructions worldwide. World War I started out as a tug-of-war among the European states which all wanted to be the predominant superpower in Europe, especially Germany (Duignan & Gann, 1995). However Germany lost the battle and was imposed on the Treaty of Versailles which demanded…

    • 621 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays