Causes of World War II

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Causes of World War II

Post by DIESEL on Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:51 am

In the aftermath of World War I, a defeated Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles.[7] This caused Germany to lose a significant portion of its territory, prohibited the annexation of other states, limited the size of the German armed forces and imposed massive reparations. In August 1919, the Polish government started to expel Germans from former German territories. In the next ten years more than one million Germans were driven from their homes.[8] Gustav Stresemann therefore refused to conclude a Locarno Treaty with Poland; he never excluded the use of force to regain the lost territories in the east.[9] Russia's civil war led to the creation of the Soviet Union which soon was under the control of Joseph Stalin. In Italy, Benito Mussolini seized power as a fascist dictator promising to create a "New Roman Empire."[10] The Kuomintang (KMT) party in China launched a unification campaign against regional warlords and nominally unified China in the mid-1920s, but was soon embroiled in a civil war against its former Chinese communist allies. In 1931, an increasingly militaristic Japanese Empire, which had long sought influence in China[11] as the first step of its right to rule Asia, used the Mukden Incident as justification to invade Manchuria; the two nations then fought several small conflicts, in Shanghai, Rehe and Hebei until the Tanggu Truce in 1933. Afterwards Chinese volunteer forces continued the resistance to Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan.
German troops at the 1935 Nuremberg Rally.

Adolf Hitler, after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government in 1923, became the leader of Germany in 1933. He abolished democracy, espousing a radical racially motivated revision of the world order, and soon began a massive rearming campaign.[12] This worried France and the United Kingdom, who had lost much in the previous war, as well as Italy, which saw its territorial ambitions threatened by those of Germany.[13] To secure its alliance, the French allowed Italy a free hand in Ethiopia, which Italy desired to conquer. The situation was aggravated in early 1935 when the Saarland was legally reunited with Germany and Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles, speeding up remilitarisation and introducing conscription. Hoping to contain Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy formed the Stresa Front. The Soviet Union, concerned due to Germany's goals of capturing vast areas of eastern Europe, concluded a treaty of mutual assistance with France.

Before taking effect though, the Franco-Soviet pact was required to go through the bureaucracy of the League of Nations, rendering it essentially toothless.[14][15] In June 1935, the United Kingdom made an independent naval agreement with Germany easing prior restrictions. The United States, concerned with events in Europe and Asia, passed the Neutrality Act in August.[16] In October, Italy invaded Ethiopia, with Germany the only major European nation supporting her invasion. Italy then revoked objections to Germany's goal of making Austria a satellite state.[17]

In direct violation of the Versailles and Locarno treaties, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in March 1936. He received little response from other European powers.[18] When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July, Hitler and Mussolini supported fascist Generalísimo Francisco Franco's nationalist forces in his civil war against the Soviet-supported Spanish Republic. Both sides used the conflict to test new weapons and methods of warfare[19] and the nationalists would prove victorious in early 1939.

With tensions mounting, efforts to strengthen or consolidate power were made. In October, Germany and Italy formed the Rome-Berlin Axis and a month later Germany and Japan, each believing communism and the Soviet Union in particular to be a threat, signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy would join in the following year. In China, the Kuomintang and communist forces agreed on a ceasefire to present a united front to oppose Japan.[20]
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