The Second World War began in September of 1939 and was between the Allies and the Axis. It began with Germany’s unprovoked attack and conquest of Poland, and involved Britain and France from the beginning. Its origins lay in German resentment at the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the economic crisis of 1929-30, which favored the rise to power of Fascist dictators, the failure of the League of Nations to gain international acceptance for disarmament, and the policy of imperialism adopted by Germany, Italy and Japan as a means of acquiring raw materials and markets. As a part of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to accept full responsibility for the First World War, which then led up to the outbreak of the Second. The reparations chapter of the Treaty of Versailles was universally condemned in Germany. Article 231, a proclamation of German guilt, had been inserted to establish Germany’s moral responsibility for the war and, therefore, her legal responsibility for all damage to property and persons and was disliked because of the War Guilt clause it contained. Germany, prepared for military conquest by Hitler, remilitarized the Rhineland in violation of the Locarno Pact. The League of Nations failed to react firmly either to this or to the conquest of Ethiopia by Italy under Mussolini. The Second World War was indeed one of the greatest conflicts in history. What started out as a European struggle, soon emerged to the level of worldwide warfare. The Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, American President, Franklin Roosevelt and Russian leader, Joseph Stalin were just a few of the leaderships that tried to bring their nations to victory. Although they all could not have “won” the war, these particular three men worked together to form an outstanding alliance system.
The causes of the Second World War truly are numerous. There were several steps to war, and according to various sources, most were associated with Germany. Hitler’s first attempt to gain worldly power was to rearm Germany. The German rearmament began after Hitler left the 1932-34 Geneva Disarmament Conference, where it was decided as a unanimous British option, that all nations should “disarm to the German level, as a first step to total disarmament.” By 1935, rearmament was well underway. This involved conscription and munitions factories. Rearmament alarmed the French, who, feeling insecure, reinforced the Maginot line (built between 1929 and 1934). It was expected that France would agree to revise the section of the Treaty of Versailles dealing with disarmament and recognize Germany’s right to rearm. However, France remained passive without Britain’s support. Britain was sympathetic towards Germany and even signed an Anglo-German naval Treaty (June 1935) allowing Germany’s navy to be 35% of the size of the Royal Navy.
In 1936, defying the Treaty of Versailles (1919), Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland. He marched 30,000 troops into Cologne on March 7, 1936. France, with 250,000 troops mobilized, remained passive because Britain would not support her. Britain took the view that Germany was marching into her own back yard.’ To show that his remilitarization was popular, Hitler held a plebiscite, which showed that 98% were in favor. He went on to build his own defensive fortification, the Siegfried Line.
Britain’s policy of Appeasement (May/June 1937 – March 1939) was also a cause of World War Two. Neville Chamberlain became the British Prime Minister on May 28, 1937, and followed the policy of appeasing Germany, believing that all Hitler wanted to do was unite German-speaking people. In doing so, Hitler would break the Treaty of Versailles but Chamberlain did not believe Hitler would cause war. Churchill disagreed, citing Mein Kampf (1924) where Hitler has written that Germany must regain lands in the East by the power of the sword.’ Little did Chamberlain know that he had misinterpreted Hitler’s aims. Britain and France remained passive when Germany annexed Austria, and they continued their policy of appeasement in the Munich Agreement, sacrificing the Sudetenland to Germany. The German seizure of the whole of Czechoslovakia and the Italian seizure of Albania put an end to appeasement.
The Anschluss with Austria (March 13, 1938) also played a role in the Second World War. Austrian fascists wanted to unite with Germany but Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, wanted Austria to be independent. He was unable to gain support from abroad (France and the Little Entente) so he agreed to meet Hitler in Berlin. He was persuaded to accept Hitler’s henchman Seyss-Inquart as Minister of the Interior. Rioting in Vienna increased under Syess-Inquarts’s leadership and Schuschnigg resigned. Seyss-Inquart invited Hitler to assist him and on March 13, 1938 troops from the Wermacht entered into Austria. In a plebiscite on the Anschluss, a vote of 99.75% in favor was recorded. This was rigged’ by biased questioning. Hitler made it seem that he had been invited to Austria, when in fact he had initiated the meeting.
On September 29, 1938 Hitler gained the Sudetenland. The Sudetenland had been lost by Austria in the Treaty of St. Germain (September 10, 1919) and Czechoslovakia gained 3 million German-speaking people. After the Anschluss, the Sudeten German leader, Konrad Henlein, demanded a union with Germany. Unable to receive help from France, the Czech Premier, Benes, mobilized alone. Fearing war, Chamberlain met Hitler on three occasions at Berchtedgaden, Godesburg and at Munich.
A final cause of the Second World War, and the event that caused the outbreak was the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. German tanks invaded West Prussia using blitzkrieg tactics. Chamberlain sent an ultimatum saying that if Hitler did not withdraw from Poland by 11am, September 3, 1939, Britain would declare war. On this day, Britain and France both declared war on Germany.
There were several events that led up to the outbreak of the Second World War. On January 30, 1933 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. In March of 1935, he reintroduced compulsory military service and the following September at the Munich Conference, German acquisition of the Sudetenland was approved. Hitler then occupied the remainder the Czechoslovakia on March 13 or 1939, after already taking half, and in August, his country of Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the USSR.
Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier signed the Munich Agreement on September 29, 1938. The agreement stated that Hitler could not take the Sudetenland the following day without plebiscite, Hungary and Poland could take border districts from Czechoslovakia, and Britain and Germany would never go to war. Chamberlain’s reaction to this upon his return to England was that he had gained peace with honor, peace in out time.’ The majority rejoiced, except Churchill. Hitler’s reaction was quite different. In public, he seemed satisfied, but in private he exploded saying that fellow Chamberlain has spoiled my entry into Prague.’
The fall of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939 was another event pertaining to the Second World War. Hitler forced Lithuania to give him Memel where most people spoke German. So far Hitler had only taken German-speaking territory, so Chamberlain could still appease him. However, in March 1939, Hitler threatened to bomb Prague, so the Czechs surrendered. Chamberlain realized appeasement had failed, so he began to rearm Britain and guaranteed peace in Poland.
The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was another event that led to the outbreak of war. By the summer of 1939, Hitler’s plans to invade Poland were complete. It was during this season negotiations with the Soviet Union were to culminate in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which made the outbreak of war inevitable. He realized that invading Poland might cause Britain to attack him on the west but he was more concerned to avoid a Russian attack from the east. Therefore, to avoid a war on two fronts, he arranged this pact, which said that if either country went to war, the other would remain neutral. Hitler gained the chance to invade Poland with a war on one front, if Britain supported Poland. This Nazi-Soviet Pact sealed the fate and peace of Poland. Stalin, of the USSR, gained time to rearm in case Hitler attacked him later, and the chance to gain the eastern half of Poland. This would provide the Soviet Union with a buffer zone.
There were several leaderships involved in the Second World War. American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister, Winston S. Churchill, German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler and Russian leader, Joseph Stalin were quite involved in this conflict. Roosevelt and Churchill worked together to defeat Hitler and his goal to become ruler of the entire world. Italian fascist, Mussolini was not involved in the war because Churchill and Roosevelt has both asked him to stay out of it.
The Grand Alliance was formed during the Second World War and included Russia, the United States and Britain. The War Cabinet was at once surprised and thrilled by the scale on which the Grand Alliance was planned. This particular alliance was a solemn Declaration to be signed by all the nations at war with Germany and Italy, or with Japan. The American president accepted the idea from Churchill that he should focus on defeating Germany. The American strengths included its military resources, mighty industry, large population and national unity. The Grand Alliance involved three completely unrelated politics, but their first task was to overcome their mutual suspicions to build an outstanding alliance. The Grand Alliance was important during the Second World War because these Allies were brought together to fight the same problem – Hitler.
The United States of America was brought into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It will be a day that will forever live in history. In July of 1941, President Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the United States. Following this, on August 1, Japan became entitled to 450 000 gallons of “not so good” gasoline. Japan never got the oil it was entitled to purchase, therefore resulting in two choices: to fight, or to negotiate.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the American naval base. Eighty-five land-based Japanese naval bombers sank the battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse. Japan was one of the first naval powers to recognize the impact of aircraft. A total of 19 ships were destroyed or disabled, 150 planes were lost, and 2400 military personnel and civilians were killed. The American government and public did not have any interest in compromising peace with the nation that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Japan had made a mistake in going to war with the one power that could beat her.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the newly developed atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. 80 000 people died instantly, 100 000 people were injured and another 60 000 died within one year. When Japan failed to surrender, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, killing another 40 000 people. Finally, during August in 1945, Japan unconditionally surrendered, ending the Second World War.
The war, which cost more than 36 millions lives, was the most destructive and widespread in history. Germany lost about 6 millions lives, the U.S.S.R. about 17 million, Poland about 5,800,000, Yugoslavia about 1,600,000, Japan about 2 million, Italy about 450,000, Rumania about 460,000, France 570,000, the U.S.A. 400,000, Britain 400,000, Hungary about 430,000 and the Netherlands about 210,000. Millions were left homeless. Nazi Germany had attempted racial extermination, especially of the Jews (of whom 6 million died), and had practiced atrocities in its concentration camps on a vast scale. Both the Allies and the Axis had increased their destructive power, culminating in the atomic bomb. After the war there emerged a new balance of power between the Soviet Union, whose influence now spread out of Eastern Europe, and the U.S.A. Germany was divided into zones of occupation, leading to the deeper division between East and West Germany and preventing the signing of a full peace treaty with Germany, as Europe slowly recovered from economic exhaustion.
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