Why Did War Break Out in Europe in 1939
When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933; he had a lot of frustration against the Treaty which he thought was unfair.For example the enormous amount of reparation, it literally got Germany bankrupt.The restriction of army had also caused a lot of anger; Hitler and the Germans felt humiliated as the army used to be Germany’s pride and symbol before the First World War.
Moreover, Germany was not allowed self-determination and joining of the League of Nations. These further made the Germans feel humiliated and dishonoured.
The loss of colonies and territories had not only made Germany lost human resources, they were also important industrial areas which provide resources and markets. Therefore when Hitler came to power in 1933, he pledged that he would abolish the treaty to recover the Germany economy brings back German’s pride. Hitler also felt a strong necessity of increasing German territory, which came from the idea of ‘Lebensraum’, a German word for living space. His aimed was clearly to bring Germany back to where it was before the war, a proud and strong nation.
In the 1930s there were two incidents that really tested the League of Nations; they were the invasion of Manchuria and the Abyssinia crisis. During the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the league had done a bad job by delaying to solve their own local problems- it took them a year to produce a report to condemn the Japanese in1933 (when Hitler came to power). However, Japan intended to invade more of China to ‘defend their selves’, thus the powerless League voted to approve it when only Japanese voted against as an insult.
Witnessing the incident, Hitler could be almost certain that League was too useless and weak to stop his future actions. In 1936 he took a huge risk by sending German troops to remilitarise Rhineland; however he was confident due to the incident happened in Manchuria, as well as the Abyssinian crisis which was happening at the exact same time. The league was too weak by then as they were distracted by the Abyssinian crisis; they only condemned Hitler’s action but had no power to do anything else. Thus Hitler won; the remilitarisation of Rhineland as well as a huge gain in confidence.
In 1936 Hitler began his policy of reclaiming lost German territory. He wanted an “Anschluss with Austria”, that is to bring the two nations together even though they were banned to ally under the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler started to manipulate the Nazis to stir up trouble, to call for democratic plebiscite and eventually he sent his own troops into Austria to “defend democracy”, when the real intention was probably to make sure people vote for Anschluss under the watchful eyes of the army. British Prime Minister, Chamberlin, had also supported the idea of uniting Austrian with the Germans.
Britain and France had both followed the policy of Appeasement in the 1930s. Britain’s leaders may have felt they had no option but to appease Hitler, even when there were obvious risks to such a policy such as it would encourage Hitler to be aggressive, allowed Germany to grow too strong, etc. France was invaded by Germany a several times and thus feeling a need to make peace. However, the main reason could be that they felt too vulnerable to go on war that they were perhaps in denial of Hitler’s potential and danger with or without their own acknowledgement.
In 1938, Hitler had successfully took over Sudetenland very much due to the leaders of Britain and France’s naivety of trusting Hitler as well as their reluctance to go on war to stop Hitler’s action. In 1939 Hitler made an agreement with Stalin not to attack one another. They signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact and announced the terms to the world. While privately they also agreed to divide Poland between them. Stalin was very worried as Hitler had openly stated his interest in conquering the Russian land.
He signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact because he was not convinced that Britain and France would be strong and reliable enough as allies against Hitler. Another advantage was that he had planned to take over the Baltic states of eastern Poland, which had been part of Russia in the Tsar’s day. Although he did not believe Hitler would keep his word anymore, but he hoped the alliance with Germany could buy him time to build up his forces against the attack he knew would come. To Hitler’s advantage, he saw Russia as a good geographical ally in a sense hat he would have helpers up in the north if a war breaks out in the west. Hitler and the Soviet forces invaded Poland in 1939; one right after another. Poland was soon taken over by the two nations. However, it was not satisfying for Hitler, he demanded even more. He was certain that Britain and France would be weak as they always had been and would not risk going on war over Poland, and thus he planned an attack on his temporary ally, the USSR. However, this time the Britain and France kept their pledge and stood up for France, declaring a war against Germany.
Hitler was caught by surprise, the war broke out sooner than he had expected and it was against the wrong opponents. Hitler would have never predicted that the invasion of Poland would lead to war in Europe and eventually turned into a World War again. Despite the fact that it was Hitler’s actions which led to war, many other factors were important in making the war happen. As I have mentioned it was the League’s incapability in settling peace that had led to frustration of the Germans to tear up the treaty.
It was Britain and France’s weakness that had gained Hitler’s confidence and encouraged him to gamble more the next time. It was the various countries’ fear and reluctance to go on war to stop Hitler that had allowed him to take a bigger step each time. After all, Hitler was just taking advantage in every situation before the war and was responding to people’s weakness and naivety by demanding for more. When Britain and France finally stood up to declare war on Germany, Hitler was already stronger than before and it in the end it turned out to be another World War.