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What Were the Reasons For the Outbreak of the Second World War?

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Introduction

What were the reasons for the outbreak of the Second World War? One of the most important reasons for the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 was the Treaty of Versailles. This was because the Germans felt humiliated by the conditions placed on them. The German people saw their country as a powerful state, which demanded respect. The military restrictions placed upon them by the Treaty cut their army and navy and abolished their air force. This effectively removed the power they thought they commanded. The shock of this was magnified by the German leaders pretending that their forces were winning, right up to the last few weeks. This was easy because news was almost non-existent from the front line, and any that did leak through was heavily censored. The Treaty also cut the German territory by 13%, losing with that 10% of the population. On top of all this, the Germans were forced to accept full responsibility for the outbreak of war, and to pay �6600 million in reparations. The Germans were absolutely furious with the constraints placed upon them because they had agreed to the armistice, thinking that the Treaty would be based on Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points, which the Germans felt were more reasonable. Opponents to the Treaty were to argue that as the German people had not had a say in the composition of the Treaty, they were under no obligation to abide by it. So, when Hitler and the Nazi Party appeared on the scene, promising the abolition of the Treaty of Versailles, support was widespread and huge. ...read more.

Middle

But when no resistance was forthcoming, Hitler saw he had used force, and no one had tried to stop him. The second short term cause the policy of appeasement. This was the slightly odd ideal that meeting their demands could pacify the dictators. This was, looking back on it, a very serious mistake and it merely encouraged them to make even more demands. Appeasement is often linked to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. However, it was widely agreed in British political circles by as early as 1930 that the Treaty of Versailles could not be totally upheld, therefore it was imperative that an agreement with Hitler was made to pacify Germany for the foreseeable future. There were arguments for appeasement. For example, the British public accepted that the Treaty was too harsh. They also wanted to find peaceful solutions to Germanys problems, but the most important argument for appeasement was the simple fact that Britain could not fight Germany. They were just not ready. The re-armament program was not introduced until 1936, and was not expected to be completed until 1940. When the Czechoslovakian Crisis arose in 1938 (explained as the next major short term cause in the next paragraph), Britain needed more time to rearm, and by giving into Hitler at Munich, they bought themselves another year before war broke out, and they were (just) ready for Germany. However well appeasement worked as a quick fix solution, it did not work even in the short term. To start with, the leaders at Munich in 1938 totally misjudged Hitler. ...read more.

Conclusion

On the face of it, the pact seemed like a simple non-aggression pact, but it contained several hidden clauses. The Soviet Union agreed not to interfere when Hitler invaded Poland, and to let him have a free hand in Western Europe. In return, Hitler would allow Stalin to occupy eastern Poland and would not interfere if he wanted to occupy the Baltic States and Finland. The pact had left Britain and France initially on their own. Hitler couldn't believe they would go to war over Poland, but his resolve was definitely shaken by the signing of the Protection Agreement between Poland and Britain on August 25th 1939. Britain and France would not be able to back out of this as they had done with Czechoslovakia. If they did so, they would no longer be considered major world powers. This alliance did not really change a lot though, and Hitler had recomposed himself after a couple of days, and on September 01st he ordered the invasion of Poland. Britain and France ordered Hitler to call off the attack. Of course Hitler refused and the Allies declared war on September 03rd 1939. It took only 3 weeks for Hitler's armies to claim Poland as their own, and two weeks into the offensive, the Soviets invaded Poland from the East, as well as occupying Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. This was the single most important cause for the Second World War. Britain and France did not want to fight, they wanted to negotiate. Poland had seen what had happened to Czechoslovakia through negotiating and didn't want to go the same way. Britain and France had to honour the agreement with Poland, for their own benefit as much as anything else, so war had become inevitable. 1 ...read more.

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