Alex Davies 10ME Monday, 14 September 2009
Why did War break out in 1939?
At 11 o’clock on the third of September 1939 there was a famous speech broadcasted by Neville Chamberlain, over the wireless. From the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street it was officially declared that England was at war against Germany. This war lasted 6 long and painstaking years and throughout it there were over 50 million civilian and military Allied deaths. This war is mainly thought to have been one person’s fault, Adolf Hitler who became leader of the German nation and lead it to war. Still to this day historians discuss whether this was really the case, and in this essay I will talk about the other possible reasons for war to break out between England and Germany in 1939.
After five extensive years of slow and tedious fighting between the Allied forces and the Central Powers in World War I, the British and French public felt absolute hatred towards Germany. In the Peace conference in Versailles, the Treaty was finally signed by Emperor Wilhelm 11 on the 28th of June 1919. The Leaders of the three main super powers at the time created this peace settlement that was designed to prevent the return of the German race and ultimately bring an end to the War. These laws included demilitarisation of the Rhineland, and various stretches of German border were given to Poland and Czechoslovakia. Also the Union which Germany had with Austria was forbidden. After a few years of living under the rules of the Treaty the British public started to feel sorry for Germany as many people felt that the Treaty was far too harsh. This, I personally, think is the first factor towards a second world war, right after the first had finished. As the Treaty was too harsh on Hitler he thought that he could get away with breaking the rules, and then simply claim the sympathy vote, Hitler was right.
This is a preview of the whole essay
After the crash of the Wall Street Stock Exchange in 1929 there was the beginning of a second period of great economic depression. This corresponded with the rise of extremist groups in Germany. In 1933 the National Socialist German Workers Party managed to take control of the, the German parliament, The Reichstag. Hitler had stated that he would free Germany from the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles. This was done in a number of ways. Firstly, the Rhineland was reoccupied. There was little opposition to this movement by Hitler. French politicians brought this invasion up in many meetings, but nothing was done to prevent Hitler taking this land. Many politicians felt that this was an entirely reasonable thing for Germany to do as the Treaty was seen to be far too harsh however few felt that this move was a sign of more aggressive things to come from Hitler. The next few rule breaks by Hitler made it increasingly apparent that conflict might occur in Europe. Hitler deployed troops in the Spanish Civil War. He also formed a close alliance with the Italian dictator, Mussolini. Now there was a group of dictators in Europe all with the same expansionist aims.
The way in which these aims were dealt with by the League was incredibly poor. The League of Nations was supposed to step in and sort out any problems between two countries and decide who got what. The Dictators of Europe were encouraged by the lack of progression by the League to take action, however they weren’t certain. They looked to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1933 and noted the League's failure to prevent Japanese expansion. In 1936 Mussolini ordered Italian troops to invade Abyssinia. The League of Nations took two months to decide upon a response. They came up with The Hoare-Laval Plan, they decided that they would give Italy a small part of Abyssinia and then give Italy a larger part which they had economic rights over. They then gave a strip of land to the Abyssinians called The Corridor for Camels, this was so they had access to the Red Sea. However Britain and France came up with this plan behind the back of the League and then when it was found out by the media the whole plan was abandoned and Mussolini attacked any way.
This lack of aggression gave the dictators confidence that they would be able to go on with their aims to gain territory without facing real opposition from France or Britain. Therefore Hitler took opportunities to break the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. German armed forces were strengthened. Germany then looked to gain territory in the East and west, aiming to give the German people Lebensraum. In 1938 German troops marched into Austria, creating Anschluss. Unopposed Hitler then looked to the Sudetenland. This was an area of Czechoslovakia that was populated mainly by Germans. Hitler demanded a plebiscite to decide the governance of the land.
The Sudetenland crisis made the approach of Britain and France more inevitable. Both nations then started a policy of appeasement. In this policy Hitler was granted some of his wishes as they were considered to be reasonable, whilst others were considered to be going too far. Whether or not this policy was sensible or not is very arguable. Many people argued that decisive action had to be taken to prevent the start of a World War. Others at the time believed that appeasement may allow Germany to restore her national self esteem and be gradually welcomed back into the political community. A third view was that appeasement could be used to buy time to re-arm the allied forces in preparation for a conflict that was increasingly likely, military expenditure rose in Britain at the same time as the policy of Appeasement.
Hitler viewed this policy as a weakness. Britain and France were extremely unlikely, in his mind, to do anything to prevent him invading more land. The Sudetenland was given to Germany as a result of the plebiscite. Hitler then invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia. The response of the British and French was to make sure that Hitler had no further demands. And at the Munich Conference such assurance was made, and Hitler knew that any further actions of this nature would lead to war.
After the Munich Agreement there was an outbreak of meetings with representatives of the USSR. The British and French wanted an alliance with them as they believed that Hitler would be reluctant to invade Poland without the support of Stalin. Similarly, Hitler wanted support from the USSR as he did not want to engage in war with Russia at this time. In August 1939, the German and Soviet foreign ministers made an agreement that gave half of Poland to each nation, in the event of a war. Confident that Britain and France would not stop Hitler in a war with Poland, Hitler's troops were ordered to invade Poland on the First of September 1939. The British and French declared war on Germany as a result.
In conclusion I think that the five reasons for the outbreak of WWII are that the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh, Neville Chamberlin’s policy of appeasement, the collapse of the Wall Street stock exchange, The Weakness of the League of Nations and Hitler’s expansionist aims going too far. Out of the five I think that Britain and France should not have followed a policy of appeasement even though all the points link together and one mistake lead to another, if Britain and France had attacked Germany whilst the Nazi army was very week and low on resources they would have had stood their ground and not let Hitler break the rules they would have had no problems stopping Hitler. Also after the USSR saw that Britain and France were actually taking action for once they would ally with them and ultimately stop Hitler’s armies from causing havoc across Europe.