The Causes of World War Two and the Course of the War
The unbalanced Treaty of Versailles (which forced a crippling peace on Germany to end the First World War) and the global depression that enveloped the world during the 1930s (which led to particularly desperate conditions in many European nations as well as the United States) usually emerge as two of the most crucial. Those conditions formed the background against which Adolf Hitler could ascend to the position of German Chancellor in the 1930s.
More than 50 nations took part in this war, which changed the world forever. For Americans, World War II had a clear-cut purpose; they were fighting to defeat tyranny. Most of Europe had been conquered by Nazi Germany, which was under the evil control of Adolf Hitler. The war in Europe began with Germany’s unprecedented invasion of Poland in 1939. It seemed that wherever the Nazi army went, they came down with a vengeance on the Jews of that area. They also went after anyone that didn’t fit in to their idea of the “Master Race”, Aryans. In Asia and the Pacific, the Japanese armies invaded countries and islands. On December 7, 1941, The Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Within hours the U.S. Congress declared war against Japan, plunging the U.S. headfirst into World War II. Germany and its allies had been defeated in World War I. Germany was ordered to hand over one sixth of its territory and forced to pay huge reparations (payments by a defeated country for the destruction it caused in a war). After World War I, Germany suffered from high unemployment and uncontrollable inflation which made the German money become almost worthless. A “League of Nations” was set up after World War I to help try to keep the peace, however, the United States did not join, and other countries were too busy with their own problems to concern themselves with Germany and other trouble spots. As the 1930s came about, the world was hit by an economic depression. Workers all over the world lost their jobs, world trade fell off, and times were extremely hard all around. The citizens of the world were looking for leaders that could bring them the change they so desperately wanted and needed. There were numerous causes to the War itself; however, the most important cause in my opinion was World War 1 in and of itself. After the First World War, the actively involved nations were divided into two groups; the Allied Powers, formed by France, British Empire, Russian Empire, United States of America etc. and the Central Powers, which consisted of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and others of the like that were not on the winning end of the war. The Treaty of Versailles; a peace treaty which followed the end of World War 1, held Germany responsible for the war and put many harsh penalties on Germany, including military restrictions and disarmament of their country. They were also to pay a rather large fine and make substantial territorial concessions to the Allied Powers. In the 1930s, the United States found itself largely concerned with the domestic economic troubles of the Great Depression, even as international crises loomed in Europe and Asia. Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, had begun waging a war in Ethiopia using chemical weapons, such as mustard gas, and slaughtering thousands of innocent people. A violent and brutal civil war raged in Spain, staging General Francisco Franco’s fascists against a variegated alliance of Communists and Democrats. Josef Stalin had risen to absolute power in Russia after imprisoning and executing several of his political enemies. Downtrodden Germans had rallied around Adolf Hitler, their new hero and leader, who called for Aryan deliverance after Germany’s humiliation in World War I and launched an aggressive campaign to “unify” the German race throughout Europe. Meanwhile, in the East, Japan had invaded Manchuria and was threatening to conquer China because they were, at the time, virtually unchecked by Western powers, who were preoccupied with problems closer to home.
Some heads of Europe like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman decided that any war would not be allowed to demolish the European nations. The best way to protect this promise was to unite all the European nations that they would not fight one another. The Cold war was established after World War Two and was intended to control global affairs for decades and several major crises happened such as Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile Crisis. Several people and nations were worried about the developments of mass destruction. Most theories claim that as the USSR and USA was in same position during Second World War (Nash and Graves 65), their association after the fight was predicted to be strong and sociable but this never actually occurred and any emergence that both were allies in the war seems misleading.
Civilians made up an estimated 50-55 million deaths from the war, while military comprised 21 to 25 million of those lost during the war. Millions more were injured, and still more lost their homes and property. The legacy of the war would include the spread of communism from the Soviet Union into eastern Europe as well as its eventual triumph in China, and the global shift in power from Europe to two rival superpowers–the United States and the Soviet Union–that would soon face off against each other in the Cold War.
Foner, Eric. Give me liberty!: an American history. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. Print.
Hill, Richard. Hitler Attacks. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003. Print.
Nash, Roderick and Gregory Graves. From these beginnings: a biographical approach to American history, Volume 2. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2005. Print.