The Inevitability of World War II
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The causes of World War II have been traced back by many historians and figures as the unresolved problems from World War I. Economical and political problems left most countries in strife after the war, with many leaders wanting to fix their countries by any means possible. Shortly after, peace treaties were signed after the end of World War I but many predicted the inevitable subsequent world war. They feared that the victors would demand too much out of Germany and Austria, causing these countries to eventually retaliate. World War II did not begin overnight; there were multiple reasons and signs that it was foreseeable. After being forced to officially assume full responsibility for the damages of the First World War, Germany felt humiliated and resentful. Germany signed the Versailles Treaty, which demanded Germany to pay reparations due to the costs of the war. During the worldwide depression, Germany induced hyperinflation as a way to pay the forced costs of the war, thus impoverishing the middle class and increasing resentment over the Treaty. Germany, which was accustomed to a military monarchy, did not believe that the new government, the Weimar Republic, was strong enough to improve Germany. The people perceived the form of
government as a weak democracy, causing the government to lose major support from the citizens. Desperate times evoke for desperate responses and the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy and his philosophy of fascism is a prime example of this. Fascism, a political philosophy, movement, or government that exalts the nation over democracy and advocates a centralized, autocratic government led by a disciplined party and headed by a dictatorial, charismatic leader, was Mussolini’s ideology. Fascism exalted the nation over the individual and governed with tight control of the economy and social life of the nation. It suppressed all opposition and glorified warfare. Although it is somewhat unclear why he had so many supporters, it is clear that Mussolini offered something that citizens desired: a more prosperous economy. When he began his rule, he abolished all other parties and prohibited the right to strike, and shattered labor unions.
He also censored the press, and established organizations to create his own propaganda. When Mussolini conquered Ethiopia in 1936, the League of Nations began to crumble and lose power and it would eventually fall. Mussolini’s rule greatly inspired Adolf Hitler. Hitler launched his political career by transforming the anti-communist German workers party to the National Socialist German worker (NAZI). In 1923, Hitler attempted a revolt in Munich to overthrow the government, but instead, he was sent to prison for nine months. He gained greater attention in prison and wrote what would later become the Nazi bible, Mein Kampf. After years of government disappointments, Hitler became the
strongest candidate to lead the nation. Once in power, Hitler established a totalitarian administration similar to Mussolini’s. Both leaders had very similar administrations, for instance, both had no opposition and glorified war. In 1936, the two nations proclaimed an “axis” (because the world would revolve around them) and pledged mutually against possible attacks from the USSR with Japan. In the Obersalzberg Speech, Hitler expressed to his chief military commanders and generals his concerns regarding the leaders of his allied nations. He recognized that Japan is not behind Germany unconditionally and only considered himself, Stalin, and Mussolini as the only great statesmen in the world at the time. Because of this, Hitler began to consider Stalin as his new ally in his plan to overtake the world. After being ignored by the British, Russia signed a non-aggression pact with Germany that would eventually not last long.
This surprised the rest of the world since Russia and Germany had been rivals until this point. On July 7, 1937, Japan invaded China and continued to fight until the war ended. Hitler declared a union between Germany and Austria a few years after having killed their prime minister. Next, Hitler focused on annexing Czechoslovakia, and achieved it in March 1939. By May 10, Germany had invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and France. After the French surrendered to the Germans, Britain stood alone against Germany. On June 22, 1941, the non-aggression treaty was broken when Germany unexpectedly invaded a 2,000-mile front in Russia with 3 million of its troops. Although Britain was standing on its own, it defeated the Germans and the Italians. The British knew that while they won some battles, they could not win the war by themselves; they needed the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had assisted Britain and the Allies since the beginning of the war.
He could only help so much since the United States wished to maintain its state of isolation. In 1940, Roosevelt’s concerns over the war grew after France fell under Germany, making the ruling of Hitler’s empire over the New World a possibility if Britain fell as well. Although at the time the United States was technically neutral, Roosevelt urged the passage of the Lend-Lease Act to provide war material to the Allied without committing his country to war. Japan kept its efforts to overtake China, which became known as the War in the Pacific. After capturing the Nanjing, Japanese troops committed atrocities that would later become know as “the Rape on Nanjing.” The United States responded to the Japanese aggression in the Pacific by placing an embargo on trade with Japan in 1941. Trading-dependent Japan was forced to chose to either pull back from China or to declare war on the United States.
On December 7, 1941, Japan decided to confront the USA by bombing the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. America declared war the following day. Since World War II not only involved the nation’s military, but its entire population and economy, it became known as a “total war”. There was no distinction between civilians and military. It was estimated that 50 million people were killed, which 30 million were civilians. This war shows how power-hungry men, such as Hitler and Mussolini, fall when they begin to lose sense of reality. Men like these show the extent that one person can go to achieve anything. The outbreak of World War II confirmed many bitter and tragic predictions of what would occur after the First World War, though they probably did not imagine to the extent the atrocities occurred. Power and control are addicting for most people, especially high ranked. Anyone can take it by any means necessary if they so choose, therefor making war inevitable.