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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.
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.