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WORLD WAR II - WORLD HISTORY

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WORLD WAR II (1939-1945)
Introduction
World War I had made the world ’safe for democracy’. Since Germany had been
humbled, there was hardly any chance of war-mongering nations rising again.
However what was desired did not turn out to be true. Germany and her defeated
partners were filled with thoughts of revenge. The victorious powers of World
War I, as Italy and Japan, did not secure enough. General discontent spread
everywhere. While great democratic states were being shattered on one side,
other nations like Germany were arming themselves rapidly. The statesmen of
the big nations failed to nip aggressive Germany, Italy and Japan in the bud. Thus
Germany, Italy and Japan not only ruined themselves, but also brought the whole
world to the brink of ruin.
Causes of World War II
World War II was caused by a variety of factors and forces.
The Second World War can be traced to the Treaty of Versailles, which had been
imposed on Germany. This treaty was a kind of dictated peace. It deprived
Germany of every scrap of its colonial empire. Danzig was cut off from Germany
and the country was forced to stand totally disarmed. Allied troops were
stationed in Germany, in order to enforce the provisions of the Treaty. Germany
was burdened with reparations. It alone was held guilty of the war. Thus it
caused hatred in the minds of the Germans who were born and brought up in the
cult of revenge.
The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 greatly disappointed victorious Italy. This
resulted in the rise of Fascist dictatorship in Italy under Mussolini and the Nazi
dictatorship in Germany after 1932, under Hitler. Both the dictators embarked
upon a career of open aggression.
After World War I, victorious Japan followed the policy of imperialism, in the Far
East. In 1931, Japan grabbed Manchuria from China. The League of Nations could
do nothing, to prevent this aggression. Japan was party to the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo
Axis, which severely threatened world peace.
The Allied Powers were committed to the Wilsonian principle of ’self-
determination.’ However, at the Paris Peace Conference, its application was
conditioned by economic necessity, military defense, as well as religious and
political traditions. These factors kindled the fire of nationalism and political
liberty among national minorities. Germany spread the news that its nationality
was being oppressed under the foreign rule in Austria, Sudetenland and Poland.
For this reason, Hitler invaded and annexed these territories, thus sparking off
World War II.
While disarming Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, the Allied Powers had
pledged to apply the same measures to them. And Britain did disarm itself to a

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great extent. However France and the other European powers always upheld the
slogan, "Security first, disarmament afterwards." This convinced Nazi Germany,
Fascist Italy and Japan that rearmament was the only road to power and national
achievement. Thus efforts at disarmament of the world failed miserably. In fact
by 1930 most European nations had spent the maximum of their budget on
rearmament. This practice eventually led to World War II.
The League of Nations had been formed to promote national security and
international peace. However, owing to its weakness, the League failed to achieve
its objectives. Britain used the League as an alternative to Bolshevism. France
used it as an instrument for perpetuating the peace settlement. Germany
condemned it as "a grouping of the victor imperialist powers." Russia regarded it
as ’a forum of the imperialists.’ When the League failed, the only alternative left
was that the parties could settle their disputes by resorting to war.
After World War I, there was a conflict of ideologies, created by totalitarian states
like Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia on the one hand and democratic states like
Britain, France and the U.S.A. on the other. Since co-existence soon grew
impossible between these two opposite camps, war was inevitable.
Great Britain and France developed contrasting attitudes towards international
problems in the post-war years. France made every effort to prevent German
revival. This led her to search for security in and outside the League. On the other
hand, Great Britain followed a policy of appeasement that is of satisfying Nazi
Germany, Fascist Italy and militarist Japan, by making various concessions to
them. Thus England ignored Hitler’s repudiation of Germany’s international
covenants, Japan’s seizing of Manchuria, Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia and
Germany’s seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Once Hitler was allowed to
grab his small neighbor, he began to aim at devouring the whole of Europe.
Course of World War II
World War II began with Hitler’s attack on Poland on September 1, 1939. As both
Britain and France had entered into an alliance with Poland in April 1939, they
declared war upon Germany. The Germans occupied Western Poland. The Soviet
Union annexed Eastern Poland. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and a part of Rumania,
were invaded and annexed by Russia, soon after.
In April 1940, Denmark and Norway were attacked and annexed by Germany. In
May 1940, German bombers raided Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland. All these
three states surrendered within a week. Following this, the Germans invaded
France in June 1940. Paris fell to the Nazis on June 14, 1940. Germany soon
occupied the whole of northern and western France, while Italy seized Nice and
other French districts that were adjacent to Italy.

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