Place an order for a custom essay, research paper on this or related subject.
The basic causes of the Second World War are: tensions that existed from different countries, resentment and unresolved issues after the First World War. The interwar period in Germany and the reaction of the Roosevelt administration to the expansion of Japan in the Far East in the 1930s were also some of the cause of the Second World War. The results of events after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 and the incursion of the Republic of China by Japan in 1937 are also generally understood to have led to the outbreak of the war. These aggressive decisions were made by the ruling elites in the Nazi party and the Kwantung Army leaders in Japan. The Second World War begun after these aggressive actions were met with an official declaration of war or military resistance.
Imperialism: the expansion of territorial boundaries was mostly due to military aggression, at the onset of the Second World War, countries such as the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and France had acquired vast territories during the period of the colonial rule. Germany and Italy had not been very successful in acquiring territories as other powers. In Europe, Benito Mussolini in his quest to create a new Roman Empire attacked Albania (in 1939) at the beginning of the later Greece. Italy had earlier attacked Ethiopia as early as 1935; the League of Nations and some of the Allied Powers however did not pay much attention to this, a reaction that was not common during this period of empire building. Germany had always come to the aid of Italy during this period; the main reason that caused Italy to be bitter was the little gains she got from the support she offered to the Allies during the First World War. At the Treaty of Versailles, Italy had been promised a large portion of the Austrian territory, after the agreement however, she only got the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, and promises of the larger Asia Minor and Albania were not taken seriously by the major powers in this camp (Dutton, D, 120-104).
After the fist world war, Germany lost a great deal to Lithuania, France, Poland, and Denmark, other bigger losses were those of the Polish Corridor, the Memel Territory (to Lithuania, the Danzig, the Province of Posen was yet another loss to Germany as well as the French province of Alsace-Lorraine and apart from these, there was the most economically rich region of Upper Silesia. The other rich regions were Saarland and the Rhineland and these were placed under the authority of France even though they did not completely belong to France. As a result of the massive losses of land by Germany, what followed was bitterness, dislocation of the local populace, aggression and mistrust towards her neighboring countries. These feelings led to aggression, quest for expansion in Germany and as such, she started claiming the territories she believed would have been rightfully hers before the First World War; this led to the re-occupation of Rhineland and military action at the Polish Corridor. At this point in time, the provocation led to war with Poland as it seemed inevitable, Germany did not expect a reaction from the Allied camp due to their earlier inactivity and appeasement policy. This move Hitler believed would not spur war nor excite aggression from major powers in the Allied camp.
Another idea that German considered to be of importance was that of building a greater Germany, this involved uniting all the German speaking countries in this territory. One of the ambitions that mirror this objective was the Germany activities in Czechoslovakia and Austria; this was way before the beginning of the Second World War. At the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies did not permit the anticipated union between Austrian and Germany. The plan to unite in Germany’s case was meant to create the German State in 1871; this was however declared unnecessary because of the presence of many ethnic communities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as the rivalry that existed between Austria and Prussia for supremacy. When the First World War came to an end, most of the subjects of Austria supported this idea of unification (Feis, H, 85-88).
The Soviet Union had lost most of the territories she had earlier held to counties like Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania particularly in the First World War and in the Russian Civil War. During the Russo-Japanese war, the Soviet Union also lost some of her territories to Japan; as a result of this loss, she was interested in regaining back these territories. Hungary was one of the closest allies to Germany in the First World War, she lost hugely in the Austria-Hungarian partition, despite these losses, she also had an interest in getting back what she lost, in that hope, and she became an ally of Germany. Despite the fact that Romania seemed to be on the winning team in the First World War, this was not so in the earlier stages on the Second World War, she did not maintain this win. Due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Bessarabia and the Northern Bukovina were given up to the Soviet Union, the Northern Transylvania was also given up to the Hungary and this was as a result of the Second Vienna Award. When the Treaty of Craiova fell in place, Southern Dobruja once again went to the ownership of Bulgaria, consequently, the need to build a greater Romania led to the nation moving towards an alliance with the Nazis more and more.
Bulgaria also lost a great deal of territories to Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia; this was in the First World War and the second Balkan War. In the course of the Winter War and at the beginning of the Second World War, Finland lost many territories to the Soviet Union, when the Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941; Finland took advantage of this to participate in the war for the sole reason of regaining her lost territories. In Asia, Japan wanted to expand mostly so due to the minimum gains she had gotten after the First World War. Even though Japan had taken one of the German colonies in Germany as well as the Pacific Island, others were swaths in Siberia and the port of Vladivostok that belonged to the Soviet Union, Japan was forced to give up all she had gained in the course of the First World War. At the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century, Thailand lost most of her colonies to France and the United Kingdom, like the rest of the countries; she wanted to gain back what she had lost. In many of these cases, the roots of the Second World War can be found in the aggressions between nations due to the results of the First World War, unification of different nations, the pursuit towards acquisition of lost territories and such like factors (Hildebrand, K, 105-107).
Militarism: this was another attitude that fueled the start of the Second World War, after the First World War, leaders in Germany, Japan and Italy professed militarism and very aggressive stances, the three counties had track records of aggression, when this was disregarded, it led to invasions of different countries especially to consolidate their positions. An example is when Germany decided to undertake a mobilization policy in 1935 especially in arms, another instance is when she repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and as a result, started to acquire more arms as was prohibited by the very treaty. Nationalism was so far another ideology that hugely led to the emergence of the Second World War; this is basically the belief that a people are linked by their territorial and ethnic connections. This idea was mostly used in Germany (by the political leaders) to gunner support from the masses; it was also popular in Italy in the pursuit of building the larger Roman Empire, this idea was very attractive to the Italians. In the same way in Japan, the idea of nationalism was common especially to the emperor. This ideology further led to conflict with other countries due to invasion of their territories hence leading to the outbreak of the Second World War.
The ambiguity of the Treaty of Versailles was another reason that contributed to the outbreak of the Second World War, this treaty did not clearly stipulate the consequences of a country dishonoring its provision nor was it harsh enough in its contents. Instead of embarking on ensuring that peace would be guaranteed during the war and in the future, the treaty put blame solely at the feet of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Apart from these problems (with the treaty), it led to deep financial crisis among nations, it also led to bitterness, issues related to territories and ethnic resentments just to mention but a few. Germany went into inflation just because of the treaty; she had earlier borrowed heavily from the United States (and failed to pay the debts) to compensate France and the Great Britain. These two countries carried their debts even after the First World War. There was also bitterness towards the victors of the First World War; the United States had promised Germany that they would ensure peace. The president of the United States Woodrow Wilson was not able to convince the Allies to adopt this plan neither was he able to talk the United States national assembly to join the league of nations. Germany felt cheated and this led to the German Revolution as well as the acts of aggression that followed.
The events that followed was the Allied forces invading Rhineland and Cologne, this included the United States army. The year 1919 still saw the forces in Rhineland, the treaty stipulated that the Allied forces were to leave the area five; ten or even fifteen years from the year the treaty was signed (Strang, G. B, 32-35). Since the ratification of the treaty was in 1920, this invasion was to last up until 1935. The last troops of the Allied camp left Germany in 1930 (this was five years before the expiry of this period) due to the agreement of the Weimar Republic to embrace reconciliation and because of the Locarno Pact. The war ended in the huge loss of German territories, Italy also took the larger part of the Southern Tyrol. The other effect of the conflict was the collapse of the Russian Empire, the German troops also took big chunks of the Eastern and Central Europe, and the Kaiserliche Marine remained in the port for the most part of the war and turned to the side of the Allies. Lack of defeat of the German troops put a negotiating tool at her disposal.
The Franco-Prussian War: this war was initiated by Napoleon III of France, having been alarmed at the rate at which the German people were united and their population growth, he was forced to declare war. This period marked the beginning of decline in France strength which continued in the twentieth century. This war ended with a victory on the side of Prussia, Germany soon unified. Alsace-Lorraine was later transferred from France to Germany, the disruption in power later led to France seeking alliances with the United Kingdom and Russia.
The Weimar Republic: from 1919 to 1933, Germany was governed by the Weimar Republic; this republic was named after the City of Weimar. The German Empire collapsed after she was defeated in the First World War; the national assembly therefore convened to enact a new constitution. As a result of this, it was democracy in the style of the United States and France. The abortive coup of 3rd November 1923 (the Beer Hall Putsch) was a result of Hitler using the First World War militant Erich Ludendorff to put an end to the Weimar Republic.
Italian invasion of Ethiopia: Benito Mussolini was the Italian dictator who attempted to expand the Italian empire in Africa; this was by expanding the Ethiopian Empire (Goldstein, E & Lukes, I, 22-205). Ethiopia had successfully managed to resist European colonization up to that time when Italy invaded in 3rd October 1935 without an official declaration of the war, the League of Nations pointed out at the aggression of Italy but they failed to place sanctions on the country. The war did not progress well on the part of Italy in as much as she had a strong military arsenal. By the end of 1935, Mussolini approved the use of Mustard Gas, on 31st March 1936; the Italians won the Battle of Maychew. On May 2nd, Emperor Haile Selassie went into exile and as a result, the Ethiopians took over the capital of Addis Ababa on May 15th. Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somaliland were therefore merged and they formed a colony known as the Italian East Africa. Owing to the fact that the League of Nations condemned Italy’s aggressions, she withdrew from the institution. There was also the rise of Fascism in Italy, between October 27th and 29th 1922, Mussolini and the National Fascist Party continued to gain popularity, they staged a coup in Italy and as a result they continued to gain popularity in the Kingdom of Italy. Mussolini and the National Fascist Party continued to popularize fascism in different regions of Romania and Hungary as well as different parts of the world.
The Second Sino-Japanese War begun in 1937 and was as a result of Japan attacking the Republic of China from the area of Manchukuo. The latest invasions begun in the 22nd and 23rd in September 1937 by attacks in the cities of Shanghai, Nanjing and Guangzhou, the widespread protests led to formation of Far Eastern Advisory Committee of the League of Nations to quell the situation. Japans army took over the city of Nanjing in China, what followed were scores of atrocities in the Nanjing Massacre. The Spanish Civil war was yet another cause of the war, Germany and Italy resolved to support the general Francisco Franco of Spain in their capacities as nations. The Spanish republic also got support from the Soviet Union; at this point the Spanish Republic showed leftist inclinations (Hillgruber, A, 15-22).
The Anschluss was the merger of Austria and Germany, this idea had gained much support in Austria as well as Germany, this stemmed out of the first world war where there were resolutions to make German-Austria part of the larger Germany. This merger was however strongly prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles, on the other hand, the Hitler government because was authoritarian strongly advocated for Austrian Nazi Party’s legality. This assertion played a crucial role in the killing of Austrian chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, what followed was pressure on the other party leaders of the Austrian Nazi party to be incorporated into the Austrian administration. Hitler asserted his position that the country could be pushed no further, this was in the midst of pressure from Germany, and Hitler worked hard towards maintaining independence in Germany. Just days before the election, an attempted coup from the Austrian Nazi transferred power within the country; this takeover presented a chance for the German troops to get into Austria. Austrian ceased to be an independent state, countries such as Britain, France and Fascist Italy who had opposed such a union kept tight-lipped, this led to the continuation of the Stresa Front, Italy dropped her opposition to Germany and as a result joined the Nazis.
The Munich Agreement: Sudetenland was a land dominated by German speaking people; this was at the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia in the West. This region was larger that the Maginot line and had most of the defense systems, the terrain was favorable for war, it also held almost one third of Bohemia in terms of her economy, population and territorial boundary. Czechoslovakia had an army of more than thirty eight units as well as well trained militants and good arms; she had also established alliances with countries like France and the Soviet Union. Hitler having admired these potentials wanted this region to be part of the Reich and wanted an alliance with this region, the Czech were alleged to be brutal, these allegations as well as the pressure from the Nazi for an alliance continued to shape her national identity in the region. After the Anschluss, all the political parties in Germany merged with the Sudeten German Party (SdP); this was only with the exception of the German Social Democratic Party. There were a lot of military activities in the land as well as political unrest; this led to the Czechoslovakia administration implementing martial law to restore law and order in Sudetenland. This move by the government however just aggravated the situation, this mostly was out of suspicion due to the nation’s involvement in Prague and the German pressure on the country, nationalism was also at its peak in the country. Germans saw the need of protecting her nationals in Czechoslovakia, this led to the immediate takeover of Sudetenland by Germany (Goldstein, E & Lukes, I, 220-222).
In 30th September 1938, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the French leaders tried to appease Hitler. For the sake of making peace, Germany was given a free will into taking her troops into the land and making it part of the Reich, this was to ensure that Germany does not claim further any territories in Europe, Hitler declared his compliance officially. The Czech had already prepared over one million troops to enter into war; she was not however allowed to participate in the agreement. After the negotiations, France and Britain had talks with the Czech government on the grounds that should they engage in the war, they would be considered responsible for the war. Germany therefore took dominion of Sudetenland without any nation opposing. In March 1939, Germany broke the Munich Agreement and invaded the Prague, this was closely followed by the independence of the Slovaks, and this meant that the country named Czechoslovakia was no longer in existence. The French and British policy of pleasing Hitler also died and this gave him a free will to continued expanding her territory in Europe.
Italian invasion of Albania: after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, Italy saw herself becoming a second member state of the Axis (Dallek, 89-94). Rome gave Tirana an ultimatum on March 1939; this was that she was to consent to Italy’s invasion of Albania; King Zog would not comply with pressure to give her consent to the occupation and further colonization of Albania by Italy. Despite the resistance of the Albanian forces to Italy’s occupation, Albania was taken over by Italy on April 7 1939. The Soviet-Japan border war was another pre-war event, in 1939, the Japan military invaded from the west into the Mongolian People’s Republic. Japanese army was defeated by the Soviet Union forces, following the war, the Soviet Union forces and Japan remained at peace up until 1945. In her quest to expand her empire, Japan looked south and this later led her into conflict with the United States over Philippines and the shipping lanes in Dutch East Indian. The Soviet Union also focused on the West as a result of the threat presented by Japan; she left behind one million to 1.5 million troops to guard over Japan.
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: initially, this was signed as a non-aggression act between Germany and the Soviet Union. This pact was signed in Moscow in August 23rd 1939; this was between the foreign minister of the Soviet Union and Germans foreign minister. Despite the fact that the Soviet Union had lost a territory to Poland in 1920, neither Germany nor the Soviet Union was ready to go to war, this was based on the fact that the treaty they signed was non-aggressive in nature. The parties to the treaty had a secret protocol in the agreement that had countries such as Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania divided into spheres of influence of the parties to the pact. This part of the agreement did not foresee territorial and political interests of the countries that formed part of the concession; consequently, all these countries were involved in war in one way or the other. They were invaded, occupied and forced to take sides either with the Soviet Union, Germany or both (Carley, M. J. 45-48).
Tension continued to exist between Germany and Poland over the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig, Poland had earlier sought France assistance to prevent an attack after the Nazi party joined in Germany. In 1934, this was settled by the treaty signed, however, it came to the fore again in 1939, after several proposals, Germany decided against diplomatic interventions and instead invaded Poland in 1st September 1939. The Great Britain and France had earlier vowed to honor their treaties with Poland, this made them make an ultimatum on German either to withdraw her forces or they would declare war to her land. When Germany declined to comply, what followed was the declaration of war by both France and the Great Britain; this was the birth of the Second World War, the two countries did not participate effectively at the very beginning. On September the 17th, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the West.
In 1940, British general and diplomat James Lonsdale-Bryans made a trip to Italy as the last effort of diplomacy; this was done with the support of Lord Halifax to meet the German ambassador Ulrich von Hassell. As a result of the diplomatic visit, a deal was struck where Germany would have a free hand in Europe, the British Empire was to control the rest of the world, it is however not clear if the British foreign affairs office ratified this proposal. Halifax himself had earlier met Hitler in 1937. Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Hitler was of the opinion that since Soviet Union was not prepared for the war, she would easily be defeated due to poor defense and as a result, she would go to the negotiation table and this would finally end the war (Wandycz, P. 12-15).
On the 7th of September 1941, the Japanese army attacked the Pearl Harbor; this was geared towards defeating the United States pacific fleet at anchor. Despite the fact that the Japanese knew that the United States had the arsenal and as such could build more ships, she still hoped that she could seek reinforcement and as such, was going to defeat them in detail. During the Battle of Wake Island, this almost became a reality within days after which, Germany officially declared war on the United States and this broke ground for her to get involved in the war in as much as she was reluctant to do so in the first place.
The second world war as much as had positive effects also led to some negative effects: this period marked the beginning of airpower, the use of air craft and missiles became popular in the course of the war. Weapons that were used originally such as the coastal artillery became obsolete in the light of more sophisticated weapons. While the war used huge armies, recent wars have used smaller armies which are highly trained and with good equipment. The Second World War brought to existence the nuclear era; this was marked by the dropping of bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Apart from the military effects, there were also social effects of the war: women replaced men in the workforce, this role however changed when the war ended and most people went back home to their families and relations. There were so many women and girls who were molested by the militants in the course of the war, besides, over two million women were victims of rape. This resulted to change of attitude towards sex especially in East Germany, what followed were social problems more so between men and women (Weinberg, G. 100-103). The post war period saw the change in demographics, in the German state of Bavaria, the sex ratio dropped to less than sixty percent. The same case applied to the number of children born out of wedlock, this was from ten to fifteen during the war to more than twenty two percent after the war.