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By the year 1939, peace in and among the countries of the world had lost next to all stability. Reasons for the outbreak of the Second World War include the actions of Adolf Hitler, the policy of appeasement, the vast number of problems caused by both the Treaty of Versailles and other peace treaties, the Nazi-Soviet pact, the failures of the League of Nations and maybe one of the problems in which many others were spawned: The Depression.
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In my opinion, the long term consequences of the peace treaties from 1919-1923 caused more problems, both social and economical, than they solved. In the 1920s the Germans called the Treaty of Versailles the ‘Diktat’, the ‘dictated peace’. They resented the loss of so much territory, the loss of resources, the unwanted foreign occupation of the Rhineland and Saar. They despised the guilt which put all responsibility of the war on to them, they resented the reparations they paid, they hated that Germany and Austria were forbidden to unite and (to Lord Clemenceau’s delight) the Germans were required to limit their weapons and armed forces. Not only, but other treaties also cut off other groups of German-speaking peoples such as the creation of Czechoslovakia with its inclusion of the Sudetenland Germans. It is to my belief that the resentment against these treaties was exploited by people like Adolf Hitler who, by appealing to this standing sense of national outrage, moved up the political ranks quickly and gained influence amongst the people of Germany.
Hitler’s beliefs and plans to build a better and stronger Germany were not secretive; they were laid in his book “Mein Kampf” released in 1924. This book outlined his plans in which consisted to abolish the treaty of Versailles, to develop a master race (known as the Aryan race), to expand German territory by re-uniting with Austria and carve his Empire out of Eastern Europe. He accused Communists of helping to bring the defeat of Germany in WWI; he thus wanted to defeat them.
The League of Nations failed countless times throughout the 1930s. However there were only really two main consequences which affected the outbreak of the Second World War. Most important was its ineffectiveness to put a stop to Hitler’s actions. In fact it is thought that the league encouraged leaders like Hitler to be bolder. This can be seen in the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, were Hitler took advantage of world attention to break a term of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler orders when entering the Rhineland were to pull out immediately if anyone opposed them. Hitler was risking a lot by moving his troops into the Rhineland, in my opinion his gamble paid off. The second consequence in which I deem, the League of Nations fault is the disillusion of its power. Once countries had started to lose their faith in the League they started to comprise their own policies of appeasement, for example in 1935 Germany and Britain signed the Anglo-German Naval agreement in which allowed Germany to rebuild its army. Another example could be the Hoare-Laval pact, (The Hoare-Laval Pact was a proposal by British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare and French Prime Minister Pierre Laval for ending the Italo-Abyssinian War. Italy had wanted to take Abyssinia as part of its empire and also to avenge previous defeats in the region. The Pact offered two-thirds of Abyssinia to Italy and thus achieve Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s goal of making the independent nation of Abyssinia into an Italian colony.) Once this agreement uncovered by the French press both Hoare and Laval were sacked, however the damage had already been done, the League was portrayed as weak, Italy continued to invade Abyssinia.
Britain’s policy of appeasement aimed to prevent aggressors from starting wars by finding out what they really wanted and then agreeing to those demands which seemed reasonable, both Britain and France for most of the 1930s where neither willing to risk another war with an aggressive power. The British Government was overwhelmed with national problems (including large debts, a huge population of the unemployed) they believed that their armed forces were out dated and not ready for a War against Hitler. They knew that if they went to war the USA would not support them. In addition most politicians thought it was in Britain’s interest to avoid becoming entangled in Europe’s affairs again. Most British people supported the policy of appeasement. Winston Churchill was one of the few politicians to speak out against it. On the other hand the constant appeasement of Hitler’s demands persuaded him to become more aggressive not to mention that if Germany was allowed to become such a European state it would soon become a major threat to both the British and French empire.
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August 1939, the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed. This came as a surprise agreement between two arched enemies. Stalin had joined the League of Nations in 1934 so as to win allies against the threat from anti-communist Hitler so for them to be signing a pact in which secretly agreed that, once Poland was overrun, the two powers would divide it between them. Thus the USSR would regain land lost to Poland in 1921.
There is no doubt that the Great Depression helped to bring the war, I do not think it was a critical factor but contributed greatly. I think it’s one of the underlying reasons for many of the actions people and organisations had made that caused the war. For example the mass unemployment (In Germany, Britain and France), the poverty (e.g. Japan silk workers) caused great anger in these societies. This led to dictatorial governments who told them their country was superior and it was OK for them to take what they wanted by force. It was the kind of thing they wanted to hear in their circumstances. It is not surprising that 25 countries became dictatorships from 1929-1939. Not to mention the USA calling in her loans to Germany. This contributed to the collapse of Germany industry which led directly to Hitler’s rise to power. It was in the interest for Political leaders at the time to compose aggressive and nationalistic foreign policies to direct people’s hatred to over countries rather than to their own government. At this time it was in the interest for many countries to build an Empire as this would secure their supplies of raw materials and natural resources. The Great Depression is what I believe to be the underlying reason for many causes of WWII. I think that essentially Hitler’s decision to invade Poland is what triggered both Britain and France to declare war; however the events that took place that led to this decision all revolved around The Great Depression.
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