A series of posts shall emerge throughout September, following the events that unfolded after Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939. It cannot be denied that World War Two has changed the world in so many ways and will have an everlasting effect on our society for as long as current generations may live. I am personally intrigued by war history, particularly the second world war which involves so much politics, strategy and brutalities which have impacted the whole world to a huge extent.
As I have mentioned, September 1st was an incredibly vital day in the causing of World War Two. However, Hitler’s invasion of Poland was only the initiator of war, for there had been tension brewing years previously which I will breakdown now in a brief summary. Credit to my super history teacher who fed me all this lovely information back in the good old days of high school, much love.
Most historians conclusively believe that the so-called ‘resolution’ of world war one was the founding cause of the second world war. For those of you who are unaware how world war one ended, a treaty was drawn up to bring peace to Europe, decided by Britain and France and presented to the American senate for a third signature. Despite France (the main sufferers of the war) believing the treaty to be much too soft a punishment for the offending Germany, America believed the treaty to be way too harsh. So much so, the senate refused to agree to it. However, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were eventually agreed on. Without going into too much detail, the treaty aimed to strip Germany of any power it had, preventing her from beginning anymore conflict in the near future. Lloyd George (British PM) predicted that due to the harsh terms, another world war would be faced sooner rather than later- he wasn’t wrong.
So, as you can imagine, Germany was not impressed. They were struck by poverty after the war slurped every resource they had, war reparations were at an all-time high and an unexpected armistice left soldiers on the front disgruntled, believing they had been stabbed in the back by the new Weimar government, replacing the abdicated Kaiser. This brewing anger arguably never ended, and only seemed to be satisfied by the rise of a new answer to a growing list of problems- Adolf Hitler. It is often debated that the only reason Hitler was able to grow such popularity in Germany was due to the Wall Street Crash; I wrote a whole essay on this possibility at school and I agree with this idea. The Wall Street Crash meant loans from America to repair the state of Germany were recalled, leaving Germany practically penniless. Without this opportunity to appeal to the population’s desperation, Hitler would never have gained so much support (in my opinion.)
So, Hitler rises to power, ruling Germany with an unstoppable dictatorship by 1934.The reasons why I mentioned the Treaty of Versailles will now become very clear. Whilst the German people were furious about their misfortune, supposedly caused by this harsh treaty unfairly imposed upon them, Hitler promised everything they wanted. Hitler promised to smash the Treaty of Versailles, to stop obeying it, and to make Germany great again. The steps he took in his pursuit to destroy this treaty is what supposedly led to a second world war.
Some steps to war:
One of the first steps Hitler took towards taking apart the treaty was regaining the resources and territory Germany once had access to. Despite being a fairly small part of this, the industrial Saar lands were rich in coalfields and resources. The Treaty stripped Germany of its Saar control and gave it to the League of Nations and France for 15 years. It was decided that, at the end of the 15 years, a vote would be held to decide who took the Saar once more. As a result of a plebiscite, 90% of the Saar population urged for reunification with Germany. This was a vital moment in history because it was Hitler’s first triumph against the Treaty and his first step towards reuniting German-speaking territory.
Another term of the treaty was that Germany be disarmed so that she was unable to cause any future conflict. As soon as Hitler came to power however, he immediately began rearmament. This included building a huge air force (Luftwaffe) and an army of newly trained, ruthless German soldiers. Although this began in secret, by 1935 it was public knowledge that Hitler was rearming and it was a clear breach of the treaty. Why did he go unpunished? Maybe he was feared. Maybe it was an attempt at appeasement. Or maybe everyone thought the treaty was so harsh, it was okay for him to ignore it.
I’m not going to talk about every step to war because there is a lot to cover, and this blog post is probably way too long already. Also, you can find all this information online anyway by reading a simple timeline. After initiating his pursuit of Lebensraum- regaining territory belonging to Germany, and beginning a process of rearmament, Hitler continued to push further into the terms of the treaty. He annexed Austria (Anschluss) and took control of the Sudetenland (German speaking parts of Czechoslovakia). To historians looking back on these actions, it seems to be clear what intentions Hitler had. Along with his plans outlined in Mein Kampf, it is easy for us to predict this and criticise Western leaders for failing to act against him. However, a policy of appeasement seemed a better option for a world who would do anything to avoid another war after such tragedy brought by the first.
The best documentary I have seen on Hitler’s road to war. It is fairly biased against Hitler (although that is understandable). Give it a watch if you’re interested.