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15.1 Causes of World War II

World War II was caused by a variety of factors and forces.

The Second World War can be traced to the Treaty of Versailles, which had been imposed on Germany. This treaty was a kind of dictated peace. It deprived Germany of every scrap of its colonial empire. Danzig was cut off from Germany and the country was forced to stand totally disarmed. Allied troops were stationed in Germany, in order to enforce the provisions of the Treaty. Germany was burdened with reparations. It alone was held guilty of the war. Thus it caused hatred in the minds of the Germans who were born and brought up in the cult of revenge.

The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 greatly disappointed victorious Italy. This resulted in the rise of Fascist dictatorship in Italy under Mussolini and the Nazi dictatorship in Germany after 1932, under Hitler. Both the dictators embarked upon a career of open aggression.

After World War I, victorious Japan followed the policy of imperialism, in the Far East. In 1931, Japan grabbed Manchuria from China. The League of Nations could do nothing, to prevent this aggression. Japan was party to the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis, which severely threatened world peace.

The Allied Powers were committed to the Wilsonian principle of ’self-determination.’ However, at the Paris Peace Conference, its application was conditioned by economic necessity, military defense, as well as religious and political traditions. These factors kindled the fire of nationalism and political liberty among national minorities. Germany spread the news that its nationality was being oppressed under the foreign rule in Austria, Sudetenland and Poland. For this reason, Hitler invaded and annexed these territories, thus sparking off World War II.

While disarming Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, the Allied Powers had pledged to apply the same measures to themselves. And Britain did disarm itself to a great extent. However France and the other European powers always upheld the slogan, "Security first, disarmament afterwards." This convinced Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Japan that rearmament was the only road to power and national achievement. Thus efforts at disarmament of the world failed miserably. In fact by 1930 most European nations had spent the maximum of their budget on rearmament. This practice eventually led to World War II.

The League of Nations had been formed to promote national security and international peace. However, owing to its weakness, the League failed to achieve its objectives. Britain used the League as an alternative to Bolshevism. France used it as an instrument for perpetuating the peace settlement. Germany condemned it as "a grouping of the victor imperialist powers." Russia regarded it as ’a forum of the imperialists.’ When the League failed, the only alternative left was that the parties could settle their disputes by resorting to war.

After World War I, there was a conflict of ideologies, created by totalitarian states like Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia on the one hand and democratic states like Britain, France and the U.S.A. on the other. Since co-existence soon grew impossible between these two opposite camps, war was inevitable.

Great Britain and France developed contrasting attitudes towards international problems in the post-war years. France made every effort to prevent German revival. This led her to search for security in and outside the League. On the other hand, Great Britain followed a policy of appeasement, that is of satisfying Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and militarist Japan, by making various concessions to them. Thus England ignored Hitler’s repudiation of Germany’s international covenants, Japan’s seizing of Manchuria, Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia and Germany’s seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Once Hitler was allowed to grab his small neighbor, he began to aim at devouring the whole of Europe.

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15.0 - Introduction
15.1 - Causes of World WarII
15.2 - Course of World WarII
15.3 - Consequences of World WarII
15.4 - Dates & Events
15.5 - Points to Remember

Chapter 16


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