To what extent was Germany responsible for the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939?

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                SHARON ADEWUSI 12I

To what extent was Germany responsible for the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939?

Following the invasion of Poland by Germany on 1st September, Britain and France formally declared war on Germany 2 days later. Although war was declared by Britain and France, the plans, policies and actions of Hitler in the road to war could be blamed for the outbreak of war, making Germany, to some extent, responsible for causing WWII.

Hitler’s policies came as a clear retaliation to the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919. As mentioned in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler laid out his foreign policy aims which were: the destruction of the Treaty, Lebensraum (living space), unification of all German speaking people in the ‘Third Reich’ and creation of a racially pure German state that would become the most dominant power in Europe and later the World. The first 3 aims, directly violated the terms of the treaty as Hitler intended to rearm and expand through lost territory. It is clear that Hitler sought to expansion into Eastern Europe in order to unite all German speakers. Historian, Richard Overy states that Hitler had planned for a large scale war to begin during the mid 1940s rather than 1939. It could be argued that Hitler’s intentions for war, if he could not achieve his ambition for Lebensraum, were announced at the Hossbach Conference in 1937. At the conference Hitler outlined the necessary steps that were to be taken in order to achieve Lebensraum in East Europe. As a result of the conference the Hossbach Memorandum was written as a record of Hitler’s plans that had been discussed at the conference. Overy argues that this and the Four Year Plan of 1936 are examples of evidence of Hitler’s intentions. The Four Year plan, which had four ‘priorities’ or aims – the increase of agricultural production, retraining key sectors of the work force, government regulation of imports and exports and achieving self sufficiency in production of raw materials – focused largely on rearmament and autarky. The aim of autarky (self sufficiency) suggests that Hitler was preparing for a long term war and against sanctions that would affect Germany’s chances of victory. In addition to this Hitler’s military plans, for example, the naval Z plan to increase naval numbers, plans for fortification, like the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, strongly suggest Hitler was preparing for war. The Z plan particularly suggested that Hitler was seeking war beyond the quest for Lebensraum, as a navy was not necessary for this. Hitler’s plans indicate that he expected war and was prepared for a war greater than that for land in the East, implying he may have had plans to expand further into Europe.

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After the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were implemented in 1919, there was a general feeling of resentment amongst the German public towards the treaty and those involved in it as it was believed that the terms were too harsh. As a result there was a rise in nationalism and nationalist parties playing a large role in allowing for Hitler and the Nazi Party to get into power in 1933. Hitler’s promises of reversing the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and restoring the German economy following the damaging effects of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ...

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