5.4 The Second Great War
At the end of the first Great War, the European nations
assembled together and created the 'League of Nations' to preserve
World peace. However, as the ill luck could have it, all the efforts
of these high diplomats failed. They could not prevent the outbreak
of the Second World War just few years after the first.
5.4a The Origin of the Second World War
Many important factors contributed to the outbreak
of this war. Some are stated under:
i. Severity of the Treaty of Versailles
The treaty of Versailles was made when the First
World War ended. This treaty flagrantly insulted Germany. She had
lost a considerable part of her dominions both within Europe and out
of it. Germany lost seven million people, rich iron mines, one fourth
of her coal resources and nearly 15% of her cereal and vegetable crops.
Germans of the Soar Basin were separated from Germany for at least
15 years, and due to the Polish Corridor, Eastern Prussia was separated
from the rest of the Germany. Germany also had to pay compensation
for the damage done to the allies. A Reparation commission was established
to determine the amount to be collected from her. France occupied
Ruhr when Germany could not keep up the time schedule in protest.
The worldwide economic Depression made Germany helpless, and it was
then that she declared that she would not be able to make any further
payments. She also suffered diplomatically when she was left out of
the League of Nations. Besides the special rights that she enjoyed
in Egypt, China and Morocco were also lost. All these factors combined
to destroy the self-respect of the Germans and embittered their feelings
towards the allies. It was but natural that the reactionary conspiracy
raised its hood against the Treaty of Versailles.
ii. The Rise of Hitler and Mussolini
The dictators of Germany and Italy believed in aggressive
wars as a means to end the ills that affected the state. They undermined
the edifice of peace. The main reason for the Second World War was
the establishment of Nazism and Fascism in Germany and Italy respectively.
Modern historians hold the opinion that the conditions that existed
in these countries (Germany and Italy) between the two Great Wars
were responsible for the rise of dictatorship.
iii. Race for arms: Failure to limit armaments
The other European nations also started strengthening
their forces seeing the rising German power. In 1935 Germany turned
out as many as 1500 airplanes per year. All the countries started
spending huge amounts of their total revenue over defense. France
constructed the Maginot line i.e. a row of forts and fortresses, with
the intention of providing shelter and food for their soldiers. Germany
also constructed a row of forts. Britain and Belgium also constructed
forts. The readiness and the high preparations of these nations showed
that war was now inevitable. They made all the chances of maintaining
peace very remote.
iv. The Failure of the League of Nations
The failure of the League of Nations became an important
reason for the Second Great War. Japan captured Manchuria, Germany
annexed Austria and Italy acquired Abyssinia. The very purpose of
establishing the League was to maintain peace, which it could not
do. For the League could not do much when the weaker nations appealed
to it to prevent such aggressions.
As weaker nations also started feeling insecure,
they began with the military preparations. Due to the rise of aggressive
countries in Europe like Germany, Italy etc. individual kingdoms started
forming blocks and groups to ensure their security.
| Block 1
|| Block 2
In this manner the entire globe was once again divided
into two as in the First World War. However, Great Britain and America
joined the war very late. Britain sided with France for her own
safety. By then Germany had captured Czechoslovakia. Germany took
advantage of the relations of Russia with Britain at that time and
became a friend of Russia. Just as in First World War, these two
groups were suspicious of each other.
v. The Immediate Cause of the War
The invasion of Poland was the immediate cause of
the Second World War. Germany had raised the question of the treatment
meted out to the German minority in Poland. To counter the protestations
of the Polish, Hitler put forth a demand that Poland cede Danzig to
Germany. Poland resisted Hitlerís attempts at bullying them. Hitler
invaded Poland as his demands were not met with. This was followed
by Britain declaring war on Germany to fulfill the obligations imposed
on her by her treaty with Poland. On 1st September 1939, at 5.30 a.m.
Germany attacked Poland. The different kingdoms of the world sided
with their blocks and entered war.