- May 17, 2020
Direct and Indirect Causes of World War II
Directand Indirect Causes of World War II
WorldWar II was the worst conflict in the history of humankind lasting forsix years with an estimated 50 million casualties. The war pitted theAllied nations that consisted of Britain, the United States ofAmerica, and theSoviet Unionagainst the Axis Nations led by Germany in collaboration with Italyand Japan (Rosenberg 5). The conflict involved over 30 countries,each forming different alliances according to their shared interests.World War II is considered the most significant period of thetwentieth century with the consequences lasting for many more years.The war resulted in the shift of power from West Europe to the UnitedStates of America (Rosenberg, 7). The World War II cannot bepinpointed to one event because direct reasons such as Treaty ofVersailles and actions of the German leader Adolf Hitler intertwinedwith indirect causes including the failure of the League of Nationsand rise of fascism to contribute to the conflict.
Themost significant direct cause of the Second World War was the Treatyof Versailles and its effects (Shepley 5). The accord was signed toend World War 1 in 1919 after Georges Clemenceau, Lloyd George,Woodrow Wilson, and Vittorio Orlando of France, England, UnitedStates, and Italy respectively came with a 14 point plan they hopedwould contribute to peace in Europe (Shepley 5). However, the treatyseemed to put the blame of the First World War mainly on Germany andAustria-Hungary. As a result, Germany faced harsh financialreparations and territorial dismemberment (Shepley 12). Additionally,Germany was required to demilitarize Rhineland, trim the size of itsmilitary, and abolish its air force. The agreement also prohibitedthe invasion of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria thus, Germanyhad to cede all its colonies (Shepley 12). Germany was also expectedto compensate other countries for the causalities they sufferedduring the First World War.
Furthermore,political insatiability in Germany led to immense hyperinflation,which crumbled German’s economy. Then again, the onset of the GreatDepression in the 1930’s made the situation much worse (Shepley16). Hence, the Germans were disenfranchised by an unstablegovernment, and they were also experiencing difficult social andeconomic hardships. Consequently, the Germans thought that theconditions of the treaty were very harsh and they decided to vote outthe government and elect a leader who would free them from theagreement thus, they settled on Adolf Hitler.
Subsequently,the actions of the Adolf Hitler contributed to the onset of World War2. After assuming leadership in 1933, Hitler started increasing thesize of the military and developing weapons, which was in directcontradiction of the Versailles Treaty (Rosenberg 56). Hitler alsocommissioned the building of warships and resurrected the German airforce further contradicting the agreement. Additionally, heintroduced compulsory military service in Germany. On the other hand,Britain and France did not intervene despite being aware of Germany’sbreach of the Versailles treaty. The two countries believed that astronger Germany would help in the war against communism, which wasbecoming popular in other parts of Europe (Rosenberg 63).
Accordingly,it encouraged Hitler hence, he ordered his troops to reenterRhineland and made several pacts to create new allies. The formed analliance with the Rome-Berlin Axis pact with the then fascist primeminister of Italy Benito Mussolini and the Anti-Comintern Pact withJapan(Rosenberg 71). Hitler then embarked on a mission to take backthe land that Germany has surrendered. Hitler ordered German’stroops to enter Austria in 1938 and forced its citizens to vote anddecide if they wanted to join Germany (Rosenberg 76). The vote wasrigged, and the results favored Germany.
Nonetheless,Italy, France, and Britain intervened at the request of the Austrianleader, and Hitler promised not to continue with his expansion plans.However, Hitler broke his word and laid plans for invadingCzechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region (Rosenberg 79). Hitler agreedto halt the invasion of other countries with the signing of theMunich agreement. Likewise, he dishonored the agreement when hedecided to invade Poland (Rosenberg 79). Consequently, it forcedBritain and France to use military force against Germany and Hitler,which signaled the start of World War II.
Similarly,the failure of the League of Nations indirectly contributed to theWorld War II. In 1919, League of Nations was set up to help maintainworld peace where the founders intended that all nations would bemembers to ensure that disputes were solved through negotiationsinstead of war (Wilson 332). Therefore, countries that wouldinstigate war instead of negotiations would face trade sanctions, andif that failed, the League of Nations would use their armies againstthe rogue nation (Wilson 333). The first few years of the league hadsome successes, but ultimately it faced various challenges, which ledto its collapse. First, the Depression that hit the world economiescaused a decline in trade, which was the primary motivating factor inthe League of Nations thus, the countries became less enthusiasticabout joining (Wilson 334).
Additionally, the League’s failed to stop Japan’s invasion of Manchuria inChina in 1931 and Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. Thus, theLeague’s threats of economic sanctions on Japan and Italy did notstop them invading other countries (Wilson 336). Another challengefacing the League of Nations was the lack of an army because itdepended on the member countries to supply the military personnel.Nevertheless, the members were reluctant due to the fear that thetargeted country might decide to attack them directly. Moreover,decision-making was also a long process since consensus had to bereached between all the members, and it resulted in delayed actions(Wilson, 338). Hence, the futile efforts of the League of Nationsmeant that when Hitler’s Germany decided to invade its neighbors,the only step of action was war.
Anotherindirect cause of the 2nd world war was the rise of fascism. In 1922,the fascist party came into power in Italy with Benito Mussolini whoestablished himself as a dictator in Italy. The fascist party wasbased on a central government that had complete control of its peopleand industry (Garau 47). Fascism was a response to the perceivedshortcomings of the free markets economic model and the fear ofcommunism. The system was highly militaristic with aggressivenationalism that promoted the use of conflict as a way of socialimprovement (Garau 47).
Asa result, The Nazis in Germany and their captivating leader AdolfHitler quickly embraced Fascism and advocated for the racial purityof the Aryan race in Germany. For example, Nazi Germany set out towipe out races it considered inferior such as Jews as well asconquering new territories (Garau 50). As such, Nazis became thestrongest party in Germany and Hitler proceeded to dissolveparliament and turn Germany into a fascist state (Garau 48). Hitleralso embarked on building up the most powerful army in Europe. Later,the invasion of countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia with theaim of spreading the fascist ideas resulted in unease in the rest ofEurope, which led to war.
WorldWar II was the most significant occurrence of the 20th century. Oneof the direct causes of the war was the Versailles Treaty. Germanyfelt that it was treated unfairly in the agreement and forced to bearthe responsibility of the First World War. Thus, the Germans pushedfor a change in governance and leadership by selecting Adolf Hitlerto lead them out of the problems caused by the Versailles treaty.Subsequently, Hitler’s actions provoked other European nations thatresulted in the war. Hitler started to strengthen German’smilitary, which clearly violated of the Versailles treaty. He alsoset out to invade other countries escalating the tensions with itsEuropean neighbors. Hitler made pacts with Italy and Japan creatingallies that would back him during conflicts. Then again, the failureof the League of Nations indirectly contributed to the war. TheLeague was formed as a dispute resolution mechanism to minimize armedconflict. Nonetheless, the League was faced with challenges thatrendered it ineffective leading to its total collapse, which meantthat war was the only option available to countries that feltaggrieved. Lastly, the rise of fascism encouraged aggressivenationalism, which was embraced by Nazi Germany, and they embarked onthe conquering the rest of Europe. Therefore, all these events forcedthe countries to form alliances with nations that shared theirinterests and eventually settling their disputes through armedconflicts.
Garau,Salvatore. “TheInternationalisation of ItalianFascisminthe face of German National Socialism, and its Impact on the BritishUnion of Fascists.”Politics,Religion & Ideology,Vol. 15, No. 1, 2014, pp 45-63.
Rosenberg,Aaron. WorldWar II: Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Franklin D.Roosevelt, Hirohito, Dwight D. Eisenhower.New York: Scholastic,2011. Print.
Shepley,Nick. Britain,France and Germany and the Treaty of Versailles.Luton:Andrews UK, 2011. Print.
Wilson,Peter. “Leonard Woolf, the Leagueof Nations andPeace between the Wars.” PoliticalQuarterly,Vol. 86, no. 4, 2015, pp. 532-539.