Reviewing the Causes of World War II

Sharing the Blame
One War or Two
 Debated as to whether or not the Pacific was the same war as
the one in Europe
 Did the First World War make the Second World War
 ‘Thirty-Year Crisis’ Thesis
 Due to the settlements after Versailles
 Disagreements over how to achieve peace between all
 Evidence to counter this
 Brief success of the League in the 20s
 German relations with France did improve in the 20s
 German political stability improved in the 20s
 Was it just a ‘German Problem’?
 From weltpolitik on, had sought to become a world power
 Unification in 1871 certainly shifted Europe’s balance of power
Role of Hitler
 Responsibility undoubted, desire for expansion insatiable
 Master-planner or Opportunist
 Aggressive planner, were his aims fixed?
 Was it due to domestic pressures?
 Did he exploit the opportunities provided to him?
 Was there continuity in German foreign policy from 1871?
 Even had evidence of desire to redraw borders in the 20s
 Had been Pan-German League pre-1914 (Austria, Czech.)
 Counterargument is unique nature of Mein Kampf, wanted
to go further than revising Versailles
Hitler’s Foreign Policy
 Twenty-Five Points (1920) – the original Nazi Party
 Mein Kampf (1924) – Hitler’s autobiography
 Hitler’s Second Book (1928) – Further outline of
foreign policy
 Four Year Plan Memorandum (1936) – Laid out
Hitler’s thinking on the need to prepare the German
economy to support a war within 4 years
 Hossbach Memorandum (1937) – Notes of a meeting
with top chiefs in which Hitler announced his plans
Emphasis on
 Government spending in armaments increased by 20
times from 1932 to 1938
 1933: 100,000 men, no tanks, no warplanes, a navy of
limited tonnage
 1939: 1200 bombers, 98 army divisions, navy of 2
battleships, 2 cruisers, 17 destroyers, 47 U-boats
 1939: 66% of industrial investment in arms production
 Was he seeking Blitzkrieg or Total War?
 Will get trapped in a long war in Russia
 Perhaps thought Poland would not provoke European war
Foreign Policy Timeline
 November 1937 Hossbach Memorandum
 March 1938 Anschluss
 1938 Sudeten Crisis
 September 1938 Munich Agreement
 March 1939 Destruction of Czechoslovakia
 1939 Hitler’s Demands on Poland
 August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact
 September 1939 Hitler’s Invasion of Poland
Responsibility of Britain
and France
 To what extent are they to blame?
 Failed to stand up to Hitler throughout 30s
 Rearmament and Rhineland issues
 Were not the ones to challenge the status quo
 European war was inevitable, appeasement only postponed
 Appeasement logical
Economic problems of Depression
WWI memories, failure to rearm
Lack of support from USA
Contrasting views from France and Britain
Fears of communism
Failure of International
 League of Nations suffered from weaknesses
Lack of great power membership
Lack of peacekeeping force
Preoccupation with domestic issues
Highlighted in Manchuria, Abyssinia
 Great Depression
 Nazis had been a fringe party until unemployment rise
 Devastated Japan economically, exports halved, leading to
rise of militarism
 Contributed to Mussolini’s foreign policy changes, may
have sought to galvanize struggling state
 USA, Britain, France looked inward
Responsibility of
More limited than Hitler
Remained second-rate power
Had been focused on domestic situation
Favorable conditions prevailed though
 League undermined first with Manchuria and then by
 Had once been concerned about Hitler and expansion into
Austria/Balkans, gives green light for Anschluss in 1938
 Conclusion of Stresa Front 1935, Invades Abyssinia 35-36,
Spanish Civil War 36-39, Rome-Berlin Axis 36
 Did not enter World War II until June 1940, had brokered
Munich Agreement in 1938
Responsibility of the
 Stalin’s foreign policy had been passive in interwar period, result of the
Russian Civil War
 Had been ostracized by the world in terms of Versailles and League of Nations
 Had focused on Socialism in One Country
 Then sought collective security
Joined League, alliance with France, Spanish Civil War
 Early 1930s, Stalin anxious about possibility of two-front war
 Following Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, had signed Anti-Comintern
Pact in 1936
 Conflict in 1939, major Soviet victory, directs Japan south
 Non-Aggression Pact in 1941 with Japan
Led to Pearl Harbor, arguably
 Nazi-Soviet Pact had a significant impact on Hitler
 Faith in collective security shaken by Munich
Did he hope to set Hitler against the West, leaving himself strongest in the end
Responsibility of the
 USA little direct role, pursues isolationism
 Britain and France had to contend with Germany and Italy
 Great Depression strained relations
 Did little to confront Japanese aggression as well
 Toughened appreciably in 1940-41, key factor
 1940 on, Roosevelt drew USA closer to Britain
 Open to debate if USA enters without Pearl Harbor
 Had involved itself in some ways
 Dawes and Young Plans, Kellogg-Briand Pact, Naval
disarmament conferences
 1935 and 1937 Neutrality Acts
 Only began to rearm after invasion of France in mid-1940
One War or Many
 How far did the Manchurian Crisis of 1931 set Japan
don the road to full-scale war with China, USA and
 How far did the Japanese military take control of
Japanese politics and force an increasingly
aggressive and militaristic policy?
Japanese Aggression
 Long-term policy development
 1853 Commodore Perry visits Japan
 1868 Meiji Restoration
 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance
 1904 Russo-Japanese War
 1915 Twenty-One Demands
 1919 Treaty of Versailles a victory and defeat
 1921 Washington Conference
Japanese Aggression
 Increased after 1931
 Began with Depression, unemployment rocketed
 Foreign expansion seen as the way out
 May have been a response to political situation in China
 Nationalists under Jiang Jieshi sought to end all foreign incursions
 1931 invaded Manchuria, following Mukden Incident
 Key moment in shift of power from civilian politicians to military
in Japan
 Decision made by army officers, not the government
 Many politicians wanted to respect China’s sovereignty
 May 1932, nationalist officers assassinated PM Inukai
 Encouraged by lack of resistance, felt ostracized by League’s
 May have also included other interest groups in Japan
 Not seen as a direct threat by the West
Japanese Aggression
 London Naval Conference (1935)
 Followed Washington Naval Treaty (1922) and
London Naval Treaty (1930)
 Japan walked out
 Sino-Japanese War (1937-45)
 This and Manchurian incident may or may not be
 But in July 1937, not really seeking full-scale war with
 Escalated by Second United Front
 Became trapped in a long war of attrition
Road to Pearl Harbor
 Long standing tensions between the two nations
 Tension even amongst the Japanese though
North wanted to attack USSR, South wanted South-East Asia
Decision made in 1939 at Khalkin-Gol on Mongolian-Manchurian border, major
Soviet victory
Non-Aggression Pact with USSR in April 1941
 U.S. had wanted German possessions after WWI
 Had avoided confrontation in Manchurian Crisis
1937 invasion of China had not invoked response either
 1938 though, Japan announced ‘New Order’ in East Asia
Alarmed the American government
 Key moment was invasion of Indo-China in 1940
Response was embargo of scrap metals, same month as Tripartite Pact
Japan announced Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere
 Economic sanctions increased again in 1941, July, all fuel
Demands were tough, must leave all of Asia including China
Japan had two years left of oil
Why Attack Pearl
 Japan faced with two options; 1) humiliating loss of
resources or 2) going to war with the USA to take
control of the resources it needed in Asia
 Realized they could not defeat the U.S. in a long war,
calculated a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would
give them 9 months to secure their goals
 Would give them time to dig in, America would not
have the stomach for such a war, would settle for
Who’s Who?
A Game
Emperor Hirohito
Prime Minister
Hideki Tojo
Francisco Franco
Mao Zedong
Victor Emmanuel III
Vladimir Lenin
Gustav Stresemann
Manuel Azana
Jiang Jieshi
Benito Mussolini
Leon Trotsky
Paul von Hindenburg
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Neville Chamberlain
Winston Churchill
Franz Ferdinand
Woodrow Wilson
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Herbert Hoover