In What Ways Did the Causes of the Second World War Differ?

Last Updated: 24 Mar 2020
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In what ways did the causes of the Second World War differ from the causes of the First World War? The causes of World War One and World War Two shared both differences and similarities, but overall there were more differences between the two. The social, political, and economic circumstances of the times varied, though at times correlated with each other, but there are extreme differences that help create a different atmosphere for each war.

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand, on the 28th June, 1914, set off World War One; Martel argues “The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the final straw in the struggle for mastery in the Balkans”. He was shot by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, a Serbian group set up to fight for the unification of all South Slav territories that had been annexed by Austria-Hungary. Two months after the shooting Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, setting off the next chain of events that brought into account the alliance system.

In 1938, a year before the start of World War Two, Hitler was growing ever more confident due to the lack of resistance he experienced from any other European country. He had annexed Austria with little or no consequences, and made a deal with France and Britain guaranteeing him the Sudetenland if he did not go after any other territories. In 1939 he broke this deal by occupying Czechoslovakia, and starting to advance on Danzig.

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At this point, the Allies realized that they must put an end to Hitler’s advance, as they could already see that Hitler had a lot more in mind than just the invasion of Poland. The Alliance system was present throughout both wars, although as countries surrendered and changed loyalties none of them remained permanent. The alliances system was originally created to help keep the peace in Europe, with the belief that they would act together as a defensive mechanism against any attack, as it was also in their own interest to keep Europe in peace.

Nevertheless the alliance system is now seen as a major cause of the war, as Schmit believes: “The alliances which had originally served as the cause of peace when put to the final test operated to convert a local quarrel into a general war”, as two small countries with a territorial dispute were able to set of a chain reaction in the alliances that brought the greatest powers in Europe to declare war on each other. The Wall St. Crash of 1929 is believed to have led to the Great Depression of the 1930s, and caused there to be 6 million unemployed in Germany.

This social unrest and resentment caused the Weimar Republic to become even more unpopular, and left Hitler with an opportunity to gain the public’s support. He set up soup kitchens across Germany to feed the unemployed, and during his election campaign of 1933 he promised to abolish unemployment if elected. The unpopularity of the Weimar government left the people looking for someone who could restore national pride to Germany and save her from her current depression, and it appeared as if Hitler could do exactly that, which led to an increase in popularity and votes.

Historians such as Fischer blame the German people for the out break of the Second World War as it was their support that gave Hitler power to pursue his plans. The Treaty of Versailles was felt to bring humiliation to Germany, and created a feeling of Diktat. It was eventually seen by other European countries as being to harsh. Germany and her allies had to agree to take all of the blame for the war; lost all its overseas colonies, the Saar and Rhineland, along with many more military, territorial and legal restrictions.

The Rhineland was demilitarized and was seen as a buffer zone between the borders of France and Germany. When Hitler ordered his troops to march into the Rhineland he said: “The 48 hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even moderate resistance. This shows the weakness of the League of Nations, because if the League of Nations had shown any resistance to Hitler’s expansion the expansion would of stopped and Hitler would of withdrawn from the Rhineland. “a credible achievement that eventually failed because of the reluctance of the victors to enforce it” -Ruth Henig The failure of other countries to check German ambition was also apparent in World War One, when Germany’s new foreign policy meant that they began to rely heavily on the military to force their way into the European powers and increase their overseas empire, long with other advantages for themselves. Hitler’s rearmament of Germany was necessary due to the fact that the Treaty of Versailles had left her unable to defend herself. Conscription was banned and troop numbers could be no more than 100,000. Weapons were no longer allowed to be manufactured, and importing and exporting weapons was also prohibited. The Navy was decreased to 15,000 men, 6 battleships, 6 cruisers, 12 destroyers and 12 torpedo boats. Submarines were banned, and so were aircrafts.

The rearmament of Germany was a lengthy task, and Hitler at first found loopholes in the treaty that allowed for aircraft clubs to be set up that allowed men to learn how to fly without it being considered as military preparation. Rearmament wasn’t an issue in the run up to World War One as no such restrictions had been placed on Germany, although they did start a naval arms race with Britain while they increased their fleet size. “[The German] bid for continental supremacy was certainly decisive in bringing on the European War” AJP Taylor.

Both World Wars seem to start from the same general situations, such as a the urge to increase the nations strength and image in front of the other nations, but when looked at closely, it is evident that there are many differences between the causes of the two Wars. Factors such as the Treaty of Versailles and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 play a big part in the start of the Second World War. Thus in conclusion the causes of World War Two differ from the causes of World War One.

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In What Ways Did the Causes of the Second World War Differ?. (2016, Dec 28). Retrieved from

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