World War 2 Origins

Topics: World War II, Adolf Hitler, Kingdom of Italy Pages: 5 (1358 words) Published: March 10, 2014
Origins of WWII

- understanding the outbreak of the Second World War requires keeping a perspective on interplay of and convergence of several factors…many historians are tempted to see WWII as a continuation of WWI, and call the period 1914-1945, the Thirty Years war

1) Legacy of WWI and its Peace Treaties - the “politics” of Versailles very nearly destroyed Weimar in the early 1920’s, contested territorial settlements and state power (especially for Germany and to a lesser extent for Italy) continued to be a weakness for regimes that lost the war or the peace, making for unstable peace foundations that undermined will for collective security (rather, ‘revising’ Versailles system was implicit foreign policy of those states)

2) International Economics During the Interwar Period – reparations and the “economic consequences” as Keynes warned in 1921, poisoned relations between states…the burden of reparations and maintaining debt payments developed into the “borrowed time” scenario of U.S financing the int’l system…also the 1920’s was marked by growing protectionism and barriers to trade and nations raised tariffs and Europe favoured trade within their Imperial blocs…the effects of the Great Depression were international and compromised the stability of U.S, then Germany, eventually Western Europe…nations were focused on national solutions to the economic collapse, catastrophic decline in production/buying and systemic unemployment

3) Rise of Fascism (Italy), Imperialism (Japan) and Nazism (Germany) – WWII was very much ideologically motivated…with the rise of Fascism in Italy in Oct. 1922, a Far Right/Militaristic regime in Japan in late 1920’s and Hitler’s Nazis in Jan. 1933, Totalitarianism served to a) combat spread of Communism b) extend national power as it removed weakness both “within and without” the country, through militarism and c) revolutionize society along principles of state power, race and national unity - in the west, the “democracies” with Empires and/or discrimination at home (i.e. Jim Crow) would face a) threat to balance of power and b) new extremism that could well go beyond their own practices

4) Failure of the League, Collective Security and Disarmament – Great Power interest, alliance systems and the conflict over borders/power did NOT give way to supranational discussion and diplomacy in League of Nations…between the U.S retreat in isolationism, Russian/German “parish status” in the world community (for Germany until 1926, for Russia until 1933, she didn’t belong), British focus on her Empire and new holdings in Middle East, France’s “Little Entente” with Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania (negotiated by 1923), the Rome-Berlin Axis of Nov. 1936, the Anti-Comintern Pact of Germany/Italy/Japan of Dec. 1937 and Hitler’s Alliance with Baltics in 1939, there was little effort to “resolve difference/conflicts” through the League - besides with its unanimous voting system and lack of an army, who might go to the League, when “power”, NOT principle still dictated

5) Impact of Hitler – his “race and space” ideology, great ambitions for a Third Reich in Europe, and his Machiavellian use of “Realpoltik”, proved a great challenge for British and French, the guarantors of the Versailles peace…historians debate Hitler’s impact on causing the war (certainly there is consensus on his raising tensions and the demand for revision of Versailles)…some, a Functionalist school, see that WWII was a ‘function’ of several forces at work in int’l politics/economy, the Nazi ‘platform” and how others responded…an Intentionalist school see that Hitler had every intention of pursuing the Nazi agenda to its completion even if it meant war

6) Politics of Appeasement - WWI victors took no concerted action to prevent Germany’s rearmament and unravelling of Versailles/Locarno treaties…accepting some of the fairness of revisionism”, their hesitation may be placed at the intersection of a) deep seated...
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