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Assess the Extent to Which Hitler Was Responsible to the Outbreak of World War II in September of 1939

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“Assess the extent to which Hitler was responsible to the outbreak of World War II in September of 1939.”

The outbreak of World War II and who caused it is debated amongst Historians. At the end of the both during the war and after it had ended in 1945, the Allied forces hammered home the idea that Hitler and the NSDAP were the sole reason for the war as it gave the Allied Forces the ‘moral high-ground’ in the eyes of the public, as well as damnating the ‘evil’ Germans which the public was happy to believe as there was still much resentment towards Germany post-World War II from the Allied Forces. This view is still widely believed to be true by both the general public as well as some historians such as Alan Bullock (1904-2004), who’s book “Hitler: A Study in Tyranny” (1952) portrays Hitler as an amoral devil who’s only goal was to conquer Europe and rule the world. However, in retrospect many historians disagree with this initial amassing of blame solely on Hitler’s shoulders, namely A.J.P. Taylor (1906-1990). Historians such as Taylor contribute the outbreak of the Second World War on the Failure of the League of Nations (1920-1946), the harsh conditions in the Treaty of Versailles, and the failure of Appeasement from 1935-39. This is not to say that Taylor and likeminded historians absolve Hitler’s aggressive expansionist ideals, as they acknowledge that without Hitler and the NSDAP, World War II would have most likely not happened.

The failure of the League of Nations as a whole is an obvious cause for World War II as the illusion of the axis powers such as Britain and France wanting collective security of Europe was shattered. Although the League of Nations was already weak since it’s inception in 1920 due to the fact that the economic powerhouse of the United States was absent from it’s members which made a majority of the League of Nations’ economic sanctions on Germany post-World War I almost completely ineffective. Furthermore, the League of Nations’ lack of military force and dependency on the axis powers of Britain and France’s military force led to the League of Nations becoming a mouthpiece of the demands of France and Britain as the League of Nations was dependant upon their military forces. The idea that the League of Nations’ simply worked to further the self-interest of both Britain and France can clearly be shown through the mandates of the League of Nations, which favoured France and Britain’s agendas and allowed them to maintain their large empires. The League of Nations’ inability to be self-sufficient and reliant on the militaries of Britain and France was their undoing, mostly through the Japanese invasion of China’s Manchuria region in 1931, and Italy’s subsequent invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. In both cases the League of Nation’s economic sanctions on Japan and Italy were ineffective due to the United States’ absence from the League of Nations, and the French and British were unwilling to act forcefully as attacking Japan would only serve to create problems in their trade throughout East Asia, as well as the fact that both British and French armies were recovering post-World War I and neither saw the need to volunteer troops in a conflict which did not involve them. Once again, the League of Nations’ inability to become self-sufficient was a cause of World War II as it worked only as a mouthpiece for France and Britain, which in turn led both Japan and Italy to leave the League of Nations in 1933 and 1937 respectively and join forces with Germany; brought together partially by a distrust of the League of Nations and resentment towards France and Britain for corrupting it. According to British historian Richard Overy (1947-) the abject failure of the League of Nations brought about the first thoughts of a second great war as both Japanese and Italian invasions of Manchuria and Ethiopia, while officially sanctioned by the League of Nations, led to no harsh economic sanctions or military conflicts for either country due to Britain and France’s ignorance to the conflicts in the world in acts of self-preservation.

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was crucial in the outbreak of World War II in 1939 as the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles had caused overwhelming resentment towards the British, French and Americans amongst the German people as it had crippled Germany financially to the point of hyperinflation, but the Treaty was also a reminder of the German loss in World War I which only acted as a motivator to go to war once the national ideals of nationalism and patriotism was restored in Germany during Hitler’s rule. In A.J.P. Taylor’s book “The History of the First World War” (1963) he notes that “The Treaty [of Versailles] seemed to [the German people] a wicked, unfair, dictation, a slave treaty. All Germans intended to repudiate it at some time in the future, if it did not fall to pieces of it’s own absurdity.”  The overwhelming resentment caused by the Treaty of Versailles was instrumental in the outbreak of World War II in 1939 as the harsh terms of the Treaty created a heavy anti-British, anti-French sentiment amongst both members of the public and members of the Reichstag. Hitler knew this and used this as a way to gain public support and votes so he could gain power.

As the League of Nations and it’s influence was disintegrating before the eyes of the British and French, and they were strongly against going back to war with Germany for the second time in a quarter decade. Both British and French governments decided on a policy of appeasement as to keep Hitler, the NSDAP and the German people contempt. A policy of appeasement essentially consists of the Allied forces giving Hitler what he wanted, as there was an unspoken understanding that what Hitler wanted was not unreasonable, and that when he was contempt with what Germany had, he would stop and Germany, France and Britain could forget the events of 1914-1918 and move on (rather idealistically). However, Hitler’s manipulation of the policy of appeasement came to fruition in the form of the Munich Agreement in 1938 after Hitler had threatened war if Czechoslovakia would not allow Germany to form a union with the Sutenland (the Sutenland was for the Union), as to appease Hitler and Germany, Britain and France simply gave the Sutenland to Germany as to diffuse tension in the region and avoid the possibility of war. Britain and France’s intentions behind appeasing Germany and Hitler was to create a strong ally in Germany as to act as a barrier for Britain and France against the expansion of Communist Russia as the Allied Forces knew Germany’s hatred for communism post-Reichstag Fire in 1933. Hitler constantly manipulated the situation as to benefit Germany as he was planning what would become the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939), which would essentially be a non-aggression pact between the Soviets and Nazi’s. Polish historian Isaac Deutscher stated “
The basis for a deal was obvious. In the long run war between Germany and Russia was inevitable, so long as Hitler persisted in looking for Germany’s living-space in the east. But in the short run, the last thing Hitler wanted was to become involved with Russia while he was still occupied with Poland.” This abject failure of appeasement on the part of the French and British allowed Germany to become more powerful in an attempt to be a blockade in a fight against Soviet Russia that the Germans never intended to fight. Making Germany powerful again gave the German populous more faith in Hitler and the NSDAP which would help motivate the public in invading Poland and starting World War II

While Hitler’s aggressive expansionist ideals played a large part in the outbreak of World War II in 1939, his intentions of war would not have been met with such acceptance by the German people had the Treaty of Versailles not metaphorically spat in the face of all German pride and ruined their economy, and The League of Nations’ not simply been a mouthpiece to spew British and French demands at the Germans. While what happened throughout World War II on behalf of Nazi Germany is utterly despicable; the war was brought about in part by the Allied Forces’ ideals of self-preservation and the resentment towards the Germans by the Allied Forces when signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

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