Causes of World War II
Overview
 
The main causes of World War II were nationalistic tensions, unresolved issues, and resentments resulting from the World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

 in Europe, plus the effects of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 in the 1930s.

The culmination of events that led to the outbreak of war are generally understood to be the 1939 invasion
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 of Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 by Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and Soviet Russia
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

 and the 1937 invasion
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 of the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 by the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

.

These military aggressions were the result of decisions made by the authoritarian ruling Nazi elite in Germany and by the leadership of the Kwantung Army in Japan.
Encyclopedia
The main causes of World War II were nationalistic tensions, unresolved issues, and resentments resulting from the World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

 in Europe, plus the effects of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 in the 1930s.

The culmination of events that led to the outbreak of war are generally understood to be the 1939 invasion
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 of Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 by Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and Soviet Russia
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

 and the 1937 invasion
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 of the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 by the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

.

These military aggressions were the result of decisions made by the authoritarian ruling Nazi elite in Germany and by the leadership of the Kwantung Army in Japan. World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 started after these aggressive actions were met with an official declaration of war
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

 and/or armed resistance
Defense (military)
Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

.

Anti-communism

The internationalist minded, radical Bolsheviks seized power
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 in Russia in November 1917 and subsequently supported attempts to set up similar regimes elsewhere, with brief success in Hungary
Hungarian Soviet Republic
The Hungarian Soviet Republic or Soviet Republic of Hungary was a short-lived Communist state established in Hungary in the aftermath of World War I....

 and Bavaria
Bavarian Soviet Republic
The Bavarian Soviet Republic, also known as the Munich Soviet Republic was, as part of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in form of a council republic in the Free State of Bavaria. It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed...

. This caused many central and western Europeans (and Americans
Red Scare
Durrell Blackwell Durrell Blackwell The term Red Scare denotes two distinct periods of strong Anti-Communism in the United States: the First Red Scare, from 1919 to 1920, and the Second Red Scare, from 1947 to 1957. The First Red Scare was about worker revolution and...

) to fear that a violent Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 revolution would overwhelm their own countries. Beginning in 1919 the victorious Entente Powers established a cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire — or quarantine line — is a French phrase that, literally translated, means "sanitary cordon". Though in French it originally denoted a barrier implemented to stop the spread of disease, it has often been used in English in a metaphorical sense to refer to attempts to prevent the...

 of border states
Border states
Border states is a term referring to the European nations that won their independence from the Russian Empire after the Russian Revolution, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and ultimately the defeat of the German Empire in World War I...

 on Russia’s western frontier in the hope of quarantining Communism in Russia. Both Italian and German national socialist fascism were in part a reaction to international communist socialist uprisings, in conjunction with nationalist fears of the Slavic empire. A further factor in Germany was the success of Freikorps
Freikorps
Freikorps are German volunteer military or paramilitary units. The term was originally applied to voluntary armies formed in German lands from the middle of the 18th century onwards. Between World War I and World War II the term was also used for the paramilitary organizations that arose during...

 (voluntary paramilitary groups of discharged soldiers) in crushing the Bolshevik Bavarian Soviet Republic
Bavarian Soviet Republic
The Bavarian Soviet Republic, also known as the Munich Soviet Republic was, as part of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in form of a council republic in the Free State of Bavaria. It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed...

 in Munich in 1919. Many of these veterans became early components of the Nazi party’s SA
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 which would be the party’s troops in the street warfare with the Communist armed militia in the decade before 1933. The street violence would help shift moderate opinion towards the need for Germany to find an anti-Communist authoritarian leader
Strongman (politics)
A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an authoritarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator," but differs from a "warlord".A strongman is not necessarily always a formal head of government, however...

 to restore stability to German life.

Expansionism (imperialism)

Expansionism
Expansionism
In general, expansionism consists of expansionist policies of governments and states. While some have linked the term to promoting economic growth , more commonly expansionism refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base usually, though not necessarily, by means of military...

 is the doctrine of expanding the territorial base (or economic influence) of a country, usually by means of military aggression. At the time of World War II, various European powers (such as France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

/the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

) had long held large amounts of territory under imperial
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 or colonial
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 rule. Germany and Italy had not been as successful as the other Great Powers in gaining and holding territory.

In Europe, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

’s Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 sought to create a New Roman Empire based around the Mediterranean and invaded Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 in early 1939, at the start of the war, and later invaded Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. Italy had also invaded Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 as early as 1935. This provoked little response from the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 and the former Allied powers
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

, a reaction to empire-building that was common throughout the war-weary and depressed economy of the 1930s. Germany came to Mussolini's aid on several occasions. Italy’s expansionist desires can be tied to bitterness over minimal gains after helping the Allies achieve victory in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. By the Treaty of London, Italy had been promised large chunks of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n territory but received only Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, and promises believed to have been made about Albania and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 were ignored by the more powerful nations' leaders.

After World War I, the German state had lost land to Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, France, Poland, and Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

. Notable losses included the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

, Danzig, the Memel Territory
Klaipeda
Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania situated at the mouth of the Nemunas River where it flows into the Baltic Sea. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County....

 (to Lithuania), the Province of Posen
Province of Posen
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848–1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The area was about 29,000 km2....

, the French province of Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

, and the most economically valuable eastern portion of Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

. The economically valuable regions of the Saarland
Saarland
Saarland is one of the sixteen states of Germany. The capital is Saarbrücken. It has an area of 2570 km² and 1,045,000 inhabitants. In both area and population, it is the smallest state in Germany other than the city-states...

 and the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 were placed under the authority (but not jurisdiction) of France.

The result of this loss of land was population relocation, bitterness among Germans, and also difficult relations with those in these neighboring countries, contributing to feelings of revanchism
Revanchism
Revanchism is a term used since the 1870s to describe a political manifestation of the will to reverse territorial losses incurred by a country, often following a war or social movement. Revanchism draws its strength from patriotic and retributionist thought and is often motivated by economic or...

 which inspired irredentism
Irredentism
Irredentism is any position advocating annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged. Some of these movements are also called pan-nationalist movements. It is a feature of identity politics and cultural...

. Under the Nazi regime, Germany began its own program of expansion, seeking to restore the "rightful" boundaries of pre–World War I Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

, resulting in the reoccupation of the Rhineland and action in the Polish Corridor, leading to a perhaps inevitable war with Poland. However, because of Allied appeasement and prior inaction, Hitler estimated that he could invade Poland, and Russia without provoking a general war or, at the worst, only spark weak Allied intervention after the result was already decided.

Also of importance was the idea of a Greater Germany, supporters hoped to unite the German people under one nation, which included all territories where Germans lived, disregarding the fact of them being minority in this territory. Germany's pre–World War II ambitions in both Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 mirror this goal. After the Treaty of Versailles, an Anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

, or union, between Germany and a newly reformed Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 was prohibited by the Allies. Such a plan of unification, predating the creation of the German State of 1871, had been discarded because of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

's multiethnic composition as well as competition between Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 and Austria for hegemony
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

. At the end of World War I, the majority of Austria's population supported such a union.

The Soviet Union had lost large parts of former Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 territories to Poland, Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, Lithuania and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 in World War I and the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 and was interested in regaining lost territories. Also during the Russo-Japanese war
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 some territories had been lost to Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

.

Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, an ally of Germany during World War I, had also been stripped of enormous territories after the partition of the Austria-Hungary empire and hoped to regain those lands by allying with Germany. Greater Hungary
Greater Hungary (political concept)
Greater Hungary is the informal name of the territory of Hungary before the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. After 1920, between the two World Wars, the official political goal of the Hungary was to restore those borders. After World War II, Hungary abandoned this policy, and today it only remains a...

 was a popular topic of discussion.

Romania
Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania was the Romanian state based on a form of parliamentary monarchy between 13 March 1881 and 30 December 1947, specified by the first three Constitutions of Romania...

, while on the winning side in World War I, found itself on the losing side in early stages of World War II. As result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

 and Northern Bukovina
Bukovina
Bukovina is a historical region on the northern slopes of the northeastern Carpathian Mountains and the adjoining plains.-Name:The name Bukovina came into official use in 1775 with the region's annexation from the Principality of Moldavia to the possessions of the Habsburg Monarchy, which became...

 were ceded to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

; the Second Vienna Award
Second Vienna Award
The Second Vienna Award was the second of two Vienna Awards arbitrated by the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Rendered on August 30, 1940, it re-assigned the territory of Northern Transylvania from Romania to Hungary.-Prelude and historical background :After the World War I, the multi-ethnic...

 resulted in the loss of Northern Transylvania
Northern Transylvania
Northern Transylvania is a region of Transylvania, situated within the territory of Romania. The population is largely composed of both ethnic Romanians and Hungarians, and the region has been part of Romania since 1918 . During World War II, as a consequence of the territorial agreement known as...

 to Hungary, and the Treaty of Craiova
Treaty of Craiova
The Treaty of Craiova was signed on 7 September 1940 between the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Romania. Under the terms of this treaty, Romania returned the southern part of Dobruja to Bulgaria and agreed to participate in organizing a population exchange...

 resulted in the return of Southern Dobruja
Southern Dobruja
Southern Dobruja is an area of north-eastern Bulgaria comprising the administrative districts named for its two principal cities of Dobrich and Silistra...

 to Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

. Greater Romania
Greater Romania
The Greater Romania generally refers to the territory of Romania in the years between the First World War and the Second World War, the largest geographical extent of Romania up to that time and its largest peacetime extent ever ; more precisely, it refers to the territory of the Kingdom of...

 was a concept that caused Romania to side more and more with Germany.

Bulgaria
Kingdom of Bulgaria
The Kingdom of Bulgaria was established as an independent state when the Principality of Bulgaria, an Ottoman vassal, officially proclaimed itself independent on October 5, 1908 . This move also formalised the annexation of the Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia, which had been under the control...

, also an ally of Germany during World War I, had lost territories to Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 in World War I and the Second Balkan War
Second Balkan War
The Second Balkan War was a conflict which broke out when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece, on 29 June 1913. Bulgaria had a prewar agreement about the division of region of Macedonia...

.

Finland lost territory to the Soviet Union during the early stages of World War II in the lop-sided Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Finland was drawn into what was called the Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

 to regain what it had lost.

In Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Japan harbored expansionist desires, fuelled at least partially by the minimal gains the Japanese saw after World War I. Despite having taken a German colony in China and a few other Pacific islands, as well as swaths of Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 and the Russian port of Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

, Japan was forced to give up all but the few islands it had gained during World War I.

Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 had lost territories to France, the United Kingdom and in Germany, in the end of 19th century and at the beginning of 20th century, and wanted to regain those areas.
In many of these cases, the roots of the expansionism leading to World War II can be found in perceived national slights resulting from previous involvement in World War I, nationalistic goals of re-unification of former territories or dreams of an expanded empire.

Fascism

Fascism is a philosophy of government that is marked by stringent social and economic control, a strong, centralized government usually headed by a dictator
Dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

, and often has a policy of belligerent nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 that gained power in many countries across Europe in the years leading up to World War II. In general, it believes that the government should control industry and people for the good of the country.

In many ways, fascism viewed the army as a model that a whole society should emulate. Fascist countries were highly militaristic
Militarism
Militarism is defined as: the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests....

, and the need for individual heroism was an important part of fascist ideology. In his book The Doctrine of Fascism
Doctrine of Fascism
"The Doctrine of Fascism" is an essay written by Giovanni Gentile, but credit is given to Benito Mussolini. It was first published in the Enciclopedia Italiana of 1932, as the first section of a lengthy entry on "Fascismo"...

, Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 declared that "fascism does not, generally speaking, believe in the possibility or utility of perpetual peace". Fascists believed that war was generally a positive force for improvement and were therefore eager at the prospect of a new European war. Fascism ultimately proved to be one of the beliefs that was universal with many invading Axis countries.

Militarism

A highly militaristic and aggressive attitude prevailed among the leaders of Germany, Japan and Italy. Compounding this fact was the traditional militant attitude of the three had a similar track record that is often underestimated. For example, Germany introduced permanent conscription in 1935, with a clear aim of rebuilding its army (and defying the Treaty of Versailles).

Nationalism

Nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 is the belief that groups of people are bound together by territorial, cultural and ethnic links. Nationalism was used by their leaders to generate public support in Germany, already a nation where fervent nationalism was prevalent. In Italy, the idea of restoring the Roman Empire was attractive to many Italians. In Japan, nationalism, in the sense of duty and honor, especially to the emperor, had been widespread for centuries.

Racism

Twentieth-century events marked the culmination of a millennium-long process of intermingling between Germans and Slavs
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

. Over the years, many Germans had settled to the east (the Volga German
Volga German
The Volga Germans were ethnic Germans living along the River Volga in the region of southern European Russia around Saratov and to the south. Recruited as immigrants to Russia in the 18th century, they were allowed to maintain German culture, language, traditions and churches: Lutherans, Reformed,...

s). Such migratory patterns
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

 created enclaves and blurred ethnic frontiers. By the 19th and 20th centuries, these migrations had acquired considerable political implications. The rise of the nation-state had given way to the politics of identity, including Pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism is a pan-nationalist political idea. Pan-Germanists originally sought to unify the German-speaking populations of Europe in a single nation-state known as Großdeutschland , where "German-speaking" was taken to include the Low German, Frisian and Dutch-speaking populations of the Low...

 and Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid-19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires, Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Venice...

. Furthermore, Social-Darwinist
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

 theories framed the coexistence as a "Teuton vs. Slav" struggle for domination, land and limited resources. Integrating these ideas into their own world-view, the Nazis believed that the Germans, the "Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

", were the master race
Master race
Master race was a phrase and concept originating in the slave-holding Southern US. The later phrase Herrenvolk , interpreted as 'master race', was a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic peoples, one of the branches of what in the late-19th and early-20th century was called the Aryan race,...

 and that the Slavs were inferior. During World War II, Hitler used racism against "Non-Aryan" peoples.

Problems with the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 was neither lenient enough to appease Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, nor harsh enough to prevent it from becoming the dominant continental power again. The treaty placed the blame, or "war guilt" on Germany and Austria-Hungary, and punished them for their "responsibility" rather than working out an agreement that would assure long-term peace. The treaty resulted in harsh monetary reparations
World War I reparations
World War I reparations refers to the payments and transfers of property and equipment that Germany was forced to make under the Treaty of Versailles following its defeat during World War I...

, separated millions of ethnic Germans into neighboring countries, territorial dismemberment
Territorial changes of Germany
The territorial changes of Germany refer to the changes in the borders and territory of Germany from its formation in 1871 to the present. Modern Germany was formed in 1871 when Otto von Bismarck unified most of the German-speaking states into the German Empire...

, caused mass ethnic resettlement and caused hyperinflation of the German currency - see inflation in the Weimar Republic
Inflation in the Weimar Republic
The hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic was a three year period of hyperinflation in Germany between June 1921 and July 1924.- Analysis :...

. The Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 printed trillions of marks and borrowed heavily from the United States (to later default
Default (finance)
In finance, default occurs when a debtor has not met his or her legal obligations according to the debt contract, e.g. has not made a scheduled payment, or has violated a loan covenant of the debt contract. A default is the failure to pay back a loan. Default may occur if the debtor is either...

) to pay war reparations to Britain and France, who still carried war debt from World War I.

The treaty created bitter resentment towards the victors of World War I, who had promised the people of Germany that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

's Fourteen Points would be a guideline for peace; however, the US played a minor role in World War I and Wilson could not convince the Allies to agree to adopt his Fourteen Points. Many Germans felt that the German government had agreed to an armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 based on this understanding, while others felt that the German Revolution of 1918–1919 had been orchestrated by the "November criminals" who later assumed office in the new Weimar Republic.

Contributing to this, following the Armistice of 1918, Allied forces, including those of the American Army, occupied the Rhineland
Occupation of the Rhineland
The Occupation of the Rhineland took place following the armistice and brought the fighting of World War I to a close on 11 November 1918. The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and French forces...

 as far east as the river with some small bridgeheads on the east bank at places like Cologne. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 the occupation was continued. The treaty specified three occupation Zones, which were due to be evacuated by Allied troops five, ten and finally 15 years after the formal ratification of the treaty, which took place in 1920, thus the occupation was intended to last until 1935. In fact, the last Allied troops left Germany five years prior to that date in 1930 in a good-will reaction to the Weimar Republic's policy of reconciliation in the era of Gustav Stresemann and the Locarno Pact. The German colonies were taken during the war, and Italy took the southern half of Tyrol
County of Tyrol
The County of Tyrol, Princely County from 1504, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1814 a province of the Austrian Empire and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary...

 after an armistice had been agreed upon. The war in the east ended with the collapse of Russian Empire, and German troops occupied (with varying degree of control) large parts of Eastern and Central Europe. After the destructive and indecisive battle of Jutland (1916) and the mutiny of its sailors in 1917, The Kaiserliche Marine
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

 spent most of the war in port, only to be turned over to the allies and scuttled at surrender by its own officers. The lack of an obvious military defeat was one of the pillars that held together the Dolchstosslegende
Dolchstosslegende
The stab-in-the-back legend is the notion, widely believed in right-wing circles in Germany after 1918, that the German Army did not lose World War I but was instead betrayed by the civilians on the home front, especially the republicans who overthrew the monarchy...

 and gave the Nazis another tool at their disposal.

An opposite view of the treaty held by some is that it did not go far enough in permanently neutering the capability of Germany to be a great power by dividing Germany into smaller, less powerful states. In effect, this would have undone Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

's work and would have accomplished what the French delegation at the Paris Peace Conference wanted. However, this could have had any number of unforeseeable consequences, especially amidst the rise of communism. Regardless, the Treaty of Versailles is generally agreed to have been a very poor treaty which helped the rise of the Nazi Party.

Issues after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary


One major issue after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 was that the self-determination
Self-determination
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

 principle proposed by President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 failed to achieve its goal. While some problems had been solved, a whole new set of issues emerged at the same time as a consequence of the treaties of Trianon and Saint Germain.

Former lands of Austria-Hungary were divided up arbitrarily after the war in order to suit the ambitions of the victorious powers, and large groups of national minorities remained trapped in other countries. For example, a significant portion of Hungarians and Germans ended up under foreign rule. Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 was held responsible for the war and stripped of two thirds of its territory and inhabitants; while Austria, which had been an equal partner in the Austro-Hungarian government, received Burgenland
Burgenland
Burgenland is the easternmost and least populous state or Land of Austria. It consists of two Statutarstädte and seven districts with in total 171 municipalities. It is 166 km long from north to south but much narrower from west to east...

 (formally part of Hungary), while losing the part of Tyrol
County of Tyrol
The County of Tyrol, Princely County from 1504, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1814 a province of the Austrian Empire and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary...

 that makes up Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. German-speaking areas of Bohemia (so-called Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

) remained part of it inside Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

. In addition, Yugoslavia (originally the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) was home of five major ethnic groups (Serbs, Croats, Macedons, Montenegrins, and the Slovenes), and was created after the war.

Protectionist nationalistic policies of the successor states created high regional political tension and economic cooperation of the formerly united regions of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 was a thing of the past, which in the end, led to struggling development. As a result, irredentist and extremist movements gained strength and support from the population in this area.

Competition for resources and markets

Other than a few coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 deposits, Japan lacks extensive natural resources
Natural Resources
Natural Resources is a soul album released by Motown girl group Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1970 on the Gordy label. The album is significant for the Vietnam War ballad "I Should Be Proud" and the slow jam, "Love Guess Who"...

. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Japan was a latecomer to the club of industrialized imperialist countries. By the time it had the ability to gain its own colonies, much of the Pacific and its resources had been carved up between the Western Great Powers: the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 included India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

; the French empire included French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

; and the Netherlands held the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

. In addition, the sphere of influence of the United States was expanding across the Pacific, annexing Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, the Philippines, and providing crucial assistance to China. (see Overseas expansion of the United States) At the turn of the century in the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, Japan had succeeded in pushing back the East Asian expansion of the Russian Empire in competition for Korea and Manchuria.

The natural resources in Asia were shipped to fuel the industries of the colonial powers at low prices, often in closed economic systems such as the British Commonwealth, and were denied the Japanese industry.
The markets for finished goods sent the colonies were also closed to the Japanese. According to Japanese diplomat Mamoru Shigemitsu, "The Japanese were completely shut out from the European colonies. In the Philippines, Indo-China, Borneo, Indonesia, Malaya, Burma, not only were Japanese activities forbidden, but even entry. Ordinary trade was hampered by unnatural discriminatory treatment.... In a sense the Manchurian outbreak was the result of the international closed economies that followed on the first World War. There was a feeling at the back of it that it provided the only escape from economic strangulation."

The largest source both of raw material and consumers in Asia was China. Japan was determined to dominate this market, which the U.S. and other European powers had been dominating. On October 19, 1939, the American Ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew, in a formal address to the America-Japan Society stated, ""What I shall say in Japan in the ensuing months 'comes straight from the horses mouth' in that it will accurately represent and interpret some of the current thoughts of the American government and people with regard to Japan and the Far East.....the American Government and people earnestly desire security, stability, and progress not only for themselves but for all other nations in every quarter of the world. But the new order in East Asia has appeared to include, among other things, depriving Americans of their long established rights in China, and to this the American people are opposed....American rights and interests in China are being impaired or destroyed by the policies and actions of the Japanese authorities in China."
In 1937 Japan invaded Manchuria and China proper. Under the guise of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was a concept created and promulgated during the Shōwa era by the government and military of the Empire of Japan. It represented the desire to create a self-sufficient "bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers"...

, with slogans as "Asia for the Asians!" Japan sought to remove the Western powers influence in China and replace it with Japanese domination.

The ongoing conflict in China led to a deepening conflict with the U.S., where public opinion was alarmed by events such as the Nanking Massacre
Nanking Massacre
The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder, genocide and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing , the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second...

 and growing Japanese power. Lengthy talks were held between the U.S. and Japan. When Japan moved into the southern part of French Indochina, President Roosevelt chose to freeze all Japanese assets in the U.S. The intended consequence of this was the halt of oil shipments from the U.S. to Japan, which had supplied 80 percent of Japanese oil imports. The Netherlands and UK followed suit. With oil reserves that would last only a year and a half during peace time (much less during wartime), Japan had two choices: comply with the U.S.-led demand to pull out of China, or seize the oilfields in the East Indies from the Netherlands. The Japan government deemed it unacceptable to retreat from China.

Hoping to knock out the United States for long enough to be able to achieve and consolidate their war-aims, the Japanese Navy attacked the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 on December 7, 1941. They mistakenly believed they would have a two year window to consolidate their conquests before the United States could effectively respond, and the United States would seek a compromise peace long before the tide of war could potentially turn to the Allies' superior production.

Problems with the League of Nations

The League of Nations was an international organization founded after World War I to prevent future wars. The League's methods included disarmament
Arms control
Arms control is an umbrella term for restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation, and usage of weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction...

; preventing war through collective security
Collective security
Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement, regional or global, in which each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all, and agrees to join in a collective response to threats to, and breaches of, the peace...

; settling disputes between countries through negotiation diplomacy; and improving global welfare
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

. The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift in thought from the preceding hundred years. The old philosophy, growing out of the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 (1815), saw Europe as a shifting map of alliances among nation-states, creating a balance of power maintained by strong armies and secret agreements. Under the new philosophy, the League was a government of governments, with the role of settling disputes between individual nations in an open and legalist forum. The impetus for the founding of the League came from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, though the United States never joined. This also lessened the power of the League—the addition of a burgeoning industrial and military world power would have added more force behind the League's demands and requests.

The League lacked an armed force of its own and so depended on the members to enforce its resolutions, keep to economic sanctions which the League ordered, or provide an army, when needed, for the League to use. However, they were often very reluctant to do so.

After numerous notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis Powers in the 1930s. The absence of the U.S., the reliance upon unanimous decisions, the lack of an armed force, and the continued self-interest of its leading members meant that this failure was arguably inevitable.

European Civil War

Some academics examine World War II as the final portion of a wider European Civil War
European Civil War
The European Civil War is a term that is used to characterise both World War I and World War II and the inter-war period as a protracted civil war taking place in Europe. It is used in referring to the repeated confrontations that occurred during the first-half of the 20th century...

 that began with the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 on July 19, 1870. The proposed period would include many (but not all) of the major European regime changes to occur during the period, including those during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 and Russian Civil War.

The Mason-Overy Debate: "The Flight into War" theory

In the late 1980s the British historian Richard Overy
Richard Overy
Richard Overy is a British historian who has published extensively on the history of World War II and the Third Reich. In 2007 as The Times editor of Complete History of the World he chose the 50 key dates of world history....

 was involved in a historical dispute with Timothy Mason
Timothy Mason
Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany.-Life and work:He was born in Birkenhead, the child of school-teachers and was educated at Birkenhead School and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford from 1971–1984 and was twice married. He helped to found the...

 that mostly played out over the pages of the Past and Present journal over the reasons for the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1939. Mason had contended that a "flight into war" had been imposed on Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 by a structural economic crisis, which confronted Hitler with the choice of making difficult economic decisions or aggression. Overy argued against Mason's thesis, maintaining that though Germany was faced with economic problems in 1939, the extent of these problems cannot explain aggression against Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and the reasons for the outbreak of war were due to the choices made by the Nazi leadership.

Mason had argued that the German working-class was always opposed to the Nazi dictatorship; that in the over-heated German economy of the late 1930s, German workers could force employers to grant higher wages by leaving for another firm that would grant the desired wage increases; that this was a form of political resistance and this resistance forced Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 to go to war in 1939. Thus, the outbreak of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was caused by structural economic problems, a "flight into war" imposed by a domestic crisis. The key aspects of the crisis were according to Mason, a shaky economic recovery was threatened by a rearmament program that was overwhelming the economy and in which the Nazi regime's nationalist bluster limited its options. In this way, Mason articulated a Primat der Innenpolitik ("primacy of domestic politics") view of World War II’s origins through the concept of social imperialism. Mason's Primat der Innenpolitik thesis was in marked contrast to the Primat der Außenpolitik ("primacy of foreign politics) usually used to explain World War II. In Mason’s opinion, German foreign policy was driven by domestic political considerations, and the launch of World War II in 1939 was best understood as a “barbaric variant of social imperialism”.

Mason argued that “Nazi Germany was always bent at some time upon a major war of expansion.” However, Mason argued that the timing of a such a war was determined by domestic political pressures, especially as relating to a failing economy, and had nothing to do with what Hitler wanted. In Mason's view in the period between 1936–41, it was the state of the German economy, and not Hitler's 'will' or 'intentions' that was the most important determinate on German decision-making on foreign policy. Mason argued that the Nazi leaders were deeply haunted by the November Revolution of 1918, and was most unwilling to see any fall in working class living standards out of the fear that it might provoke another November Revolution. According to Mason, by 1939, the “overheating” of the German economy caused by rearmament, the failure of various rearmament plans produced by the shortages of skilled workers, industrial unrest caused by the breakdown of German social policies, and the sharp drop in living standards for the German working class forced Hitler into going to war at a time and place not of his choosing. Mason contended that when faced with the deep socio-economic crisis the Nazi leadership had decided to embark upon a ruthless 'smash and grab' foreign policy of seizing territory in Eastern Europe which could be pitilessly plundered to support living standards in Germany. Mason described German foreign policy as driven by an opportunistic 'next victim' syndrome after the Anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

, in which the “promiscuity of aggressive intentions” was nurtured by every successful foreign policy move. In Mason’s opinion, the decision to sign the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union and to attack Poland and the running of the risk of a war with Britain and France were the abandonment by Hitler of his foreign policy programme outlined in Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

 forced on him by his need to stop a collapsing German economy by seizing territory abroad to be plundered.

For Overy, the problem with Mason's thesis was that it rested on the assumption that in a way not shown by records, information was passed on to Hitler about the Reichs economic problems. Overy argued that there was a difference between economic pressures induced by the problems of the Four Year Plan
Four year plan
The Four Year Plan was a series of economic reforms created by the Nazi Party. The main aim of the four year plan was to prepare Germany for war in four years...

 and economic motives to seize raw materials, industry and foreign reserves of neighboring states as a way of accelerating the Four Year Plan. Overy asserted that the repressive capacity of the German state as a way of dealing with domestic unhappiness was somewhat downplayed by Mason. Finally, Overy argued that there is considerable evidence that the German state felt they could master the economic problems of rearmament; as one civil servant put it in January 1940 "we have already mastered so many difficulties in the past, that here too, if one or other raw material became extremely scarce, ways and means will always yet be found to get out of a fix".

Specific events

Franco-Prussian War

The Franco-Prussian War was initiated by Napoleon III of France
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

, who was alarmed at the rapid growth in population and unity among the German people and eventually chose to declare war in the face of potential loss of French international prestige. This period marked a relative decline in the strength of France, which continued into the 20th century.

The war ended with a Prussian victory, and Germany unified
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

 soon after. Alsace-Lorraine, a border territory, was transferred from France to Germany. The resulting disruption in the balance of power led France to seek alliances with Russia and the United Kingdom.

World War I

World War I was a cataclysm in which nearly an entire generation of young men was killed or wounded. It was fought mainly as a preemptive war by Germany aimed at checking Russian power.

Many people view World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as a continuation of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Firstly, some believe that the Versailles Treaty, drafted at the conclusion of the World War I, failed to set up the parameters which may have prevented the Second.

World War I lacked a decisive conclusion. Allied troops had not entered Germany in large numbers and its people anticipated a treaty along the lines of the Fourteen Points
Fourteen Points
The Fourteen Points was a speech given by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The address was intended to assure the country that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe...

. This meant the German people argued that had the 'traitors' not gone and surrendered to the Allies, Germany could have gone on to win the war, however unlikely the reality. The Fourteen Points were largely abandoned in favor of punishing Germany for its alleged "war guilt", an ineffective compromise that left Germany smaller, weaker and embittered, but capable of rebounding and seeking revenge
Revanchism
Revanchism is a term used since the 1870s to describe a political manifestation of the will to reverse territorial losses incurred by a country, often following a war or social movement. Revanchism draws its strength from patriotic and retributionist thought and is often motivated by economic or...

.

Large groups of nationalistic minorities still remained trapped in other nations. For example, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 (originally the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) had 5 major ethnic groups (the Serbs, Croats, Macedons, Montenegrins, and the Slovenes), and it was created after the war.

The Germans had a difficult time accepting defeat. At the end of the war, the navy was in a state of mutiny, and the army was retreating (but not routing) in the face of an enemy with more men and material. Despite this reality, some people (including Hitler), advanced the idea that the army would somehow have triumphed if not for the German Revolution of 1918–1919 at home. This "Stab in the Back" theory
Dolchstosslegende
The stab-in-the-back legend is the notion, widely believed in right-wing circles in Germany after 1918, that the German Army did not lose World War I but was instead betrayed by the civilians on the home front, especially the republicans who overthrew the monarchy...

 was used to convince the people that a second world war would be winnable.

Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic governed Germany from 1919 to 1933. The republic was named after the city of Weimar
Weimar
Weimar is a city in Germany famous for its cultural heritage. It is located in the federal state of Thuringia , north of the Thüringer Wald, east of Erfurt, and southwest of Halle and Leipzig. Its current population is approximately 65,000. The oldest record of the city dates from the year 899...

, where a national assembly convened to produce a new constitution after the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 was abolished following the nation's defeat in World War I. It was a liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 in the style of France and the United States.

The Beer Hall Putsch
Beer Hall Putsch
The Beer Hall Putsch was a failed attempt at revolution that occurred between the evening of 8 November and the early afternoon of 9 November 1923, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff, and other heads of the Kampfbund unsuccessfully tried to seize power...

 was a failed Nazi coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 which occurred in the evening of Thursday, November 8 to the early afternoon of Friday, November 9, 1923. Adolf Hitler, using the popular World War I General Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

, unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the Weimar Republic.

The Great Depression

Fallout from the collapse of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 economy following the 1929 Stock Market Crash reverberated throughout the world. European countries were hit hard by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, which led to high rates of unemployment, poverty, civil unrest, and an overall feeling of despair.

The Great Depression resulted in a 25% unemployment rate in the United States and a 33% unemployment rate in Germany. The lure of a steady job and adequate food led many people to support dictatorships like those established by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

, and other totalitarians.

The Great Depression affected Germany tremendously, second only to the United States. Severe unemployment led a surge in Nazi Party membership, which had been losing favor. This contributed directly to the rise of Hitler in Germany. After World War I, many American banks invested their money in rebuilding Europe. However, the 1929 crash
Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 , also known as the Great Crash, and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout...

 caused a shortage in capital. Those investors who still had money to invest lost faith in the European market.

Rise of Fascism in Italy

From October 27 to October 29, 1922, Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 and his National Fascist Party
National Fascist Party
The National Fascist Party was an Italian political party, created by Benito Mussolini as the political expression of fascism...

 (Partito Nazionale Fascista, or PNF) staged a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 and seized political power in the Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

.

Mussolini and the PNF foreshadowed similar Fascist movements in Romania, Hungary, and other states throughout the world.

Nazi dictatorship

Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933. The arson of the parliament building
Reichstag fire
The Reichstag fire was an arson attack on the Reichstag building in Berlin on 27 February 1933. The event is seen as pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany....

 on February 27 (which some have claimed the Nazis had instigated) was used as an excuse for the cancellation of civil and political liberties, enacted by the aged President Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

 and the rightist coalition cabinet led by Hitler.

After new elections, a Nazi-led majority abolished parliamentarism, the Weimar constitution, and practically the parliament itself through the Enabling Act on March 23, whereby the Nazis' planned Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung , meaning "coordination", "making the same", "bringing into line", is a Nazi term for the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control and tight coordination over all aspects of society. The historian Richard J...

 ("bringing into line") of Germany was made formally legal, giving the Nazis totalitarian
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 control over German society. In the "Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

", Hitler's men murdered his main political rivals. After Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, the authority of the presidency fell into the hands of Adolf Hitler. Without much resistance from the army leadership, the Soldiers' Oath was modified into an oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler personally.

In violation of the Treaty of Versailles and the spirit of the Locarno Pact, Germany remilitarized the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army took place on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Locarno Treaties and was the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this...

 on Saturday, March 7, 1936. The occupation was done with very little military force; the troops entered on bicycles and could easily have been stopped had it not been for the appeasement mentality. France could not act because of political instability at the time. In addition, since the remilitarization occurred on a weekend, the British Government could not find out or discuss actions to be taken until the following Monday. As a result of this, the governments were inclined to see the remilitarization as a fait accompli
Fait Accompli
Fait accompli is a French phrase which means literally "an accomplished deed". It is commonly used to describe an action which is completed before those affected by it are in a position to query or reverse it...

.

Italian invasion of Ethiopia

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 attempted to expand the Italian Empire in Africa by invading the Ethiopian Empire
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 (also known as Abyssinia). To that time, Ethiopia had successfully resisted European colonization. With the pretext of the Walwal incident
Abyssinia Crisis
The Abyssinia Crisis was a diplomatic crisis during the interwar period originating in the "Walwal incident." This incident resulted from the ongoing conflict between the Kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Ethiopia...

 in late 1934, the Kingdom of Italy invaded on October 3, 1935. The Italians invaded without a formal declaration of war. The League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 declared Italy the aggressor but failed to impose effective sanctions. No sancions on oil were imposed which could have stopped Italy in her tracks. the Suez Canal was left open which allowed Italian ships to continue to Abyssinia.

Initially, the war progressed slowly for Italy despite its advantage in weaponry. By the end of 1935, Mussolini approved the use of mustard gas. On March 31, 1936, the Italians won the last major battle of the war, the Battle of Maychew
Battle of Maychew
The Battle of Maychew was the last major battle fought on the northern front during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The battle consisted of a failed counterattack by the Ethiopian forces under Emperor Haile Selassie making frontal assaults against prepared Italian defensive positions under the...

. Emperor
Emperor of Ethiopia
The Emperor of Ethiopia was the hereditary ruler of Ethiopia until the abolition of the monarchy in 1974. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive, judicial and legislative power in that country...

 Haile Selassie fled into exile on May 2. Italian forces took the capital, Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

, on May 5. Italy annexed the Ethiopia on May 7 and merged Ethiopia, Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

, and Somaliland
Somaliland
Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. The government of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland protectorate, which was independent for a few days in 1960 as the State of...

 into a single colony known as Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa was an Italian colonial administrative subdivision established in 1936, resulting from the merger of the Ethiopian Empire with the old colonies of Italian Somaliland and Italian Eritrea. In August 1940, British Somaliland was conquered and annexed to Italian East Africa...

.

On June 30, 1936, Emperor Haile Selassie gave a stirring speech before the League of Nations denouncing Italy's actions and criticizing the world community for standing by. He warned that "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow". As a result of the League's condemnation of Italy, Mussolini declared the country's withdrawal from the organization.

Spanish Civil War

Germany and Italy lent support to the Nationalist insurrection
Spanish State
Francoist Spain refers to a period of Spanish history between 1936 and 1975 when Spain was under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco....

 led by general Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 in Spain. The Soviet Union supported the existing government, the Spanish Republic
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

. Both sides used this war as an opportunity to test improved weapons and tactics. The Bombing of Guernica
Bombing of Guernica
The bombing of Guernica was an aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War...

 was a horrific attack on civilians which foreshadowed events that would occur throughout Europe.

Second Sino-Japanese War

The Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 began in 1937 when Japan attacked deep into China from its foothold in Manchukuo
Manchukuo
Manchukuo or Manshū-koku was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia, governed under a form of constitutional monarchy. The region was the historical homeland of the Manchus, who founded the Qing Empire in China...

.

The invasion was launched by the bombing of many cities such as Shanghai
Battle of Shanghai
The Battle of Shanghai, known in Chinese as Battle of Songhu, was the first of the twenty-two major engagements fought between the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China and the Imperial Japanese Army of the Empire of Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War...

, Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 and Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

. The latest, which began on 22 and 23 September 1937, called forth widespread protests culminating in a resolution by the Far Eastern Advisory Committee of the League of Nations.

The Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 captured the Chinese capital city of Nanjing, and committed brutal atrocities
Japanese war crimes
Japanese war crimes occurred during the period of Japanese imperialism, primarily during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. Some of the incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities...

 in the Nanjing massacre
Nanking Massacre
The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder, genocide and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing , the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second...

.

Anschluss

The Anschluss was the 1938 annexation of Austria into Germany. Historically, the idea of creating a Greater Germany through such a union had been popular in Austria as well as Germany, peaking just after World War I when both new constitutions declared German Austria
German Austria
Republic of German Austria was created following World War I as the initial rump state for areas with a predominantly German-speaking population within what had been the Austro-Hungarian Empire, without the Kingdom of Hungary, which in 1918 had become the Hungarian Democratic Republic.German...

 a part of Germany. Such an action was expressly forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles, though. Nevertheless, Germany pressed for the Austrian Nazi Party's legality, played a critical role in the assassination of Austrian chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss
Engelbert Dollfuss
Engelbert Dollfuss was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman. Serving previously as Minister for Forest and Agriculture, he ascended to Federal Chancellor in 1932 in the midst of a crisis for the conservative government...

, and applied pressure for several Austrian Nazi Party members to be incorporated into offices within the Austrian administration.

Following a Hitler speech at the Reichstag, Dollfuss' successor, Kurt Schuschnigg
Kurt Schuschnigg
Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg was Chancellor of the First Austrian Republic, following the assassination of his predecessor, Dr. Engelbert Dollfuss, in July 1934, until Germany’s invasion of Austria, , in March 1938...

, made it clear that he could be pushed "no further". Amidst mounting pressures from Germany, he elected to hold a plebiscite, hoping to retain autonomy. However, just days prior to the balloting, a successful Austrian Nazi Party coup
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 transferred power within the country. The takeover allowed German troops to enter Austria as "enforcers of the Anschluss", since the Party quickly transferred power to Hitler. Consequently, no fighting occurred as most Austrian were enthusiastic, and Austria ceased to exist as an independent state. Britain, France and Fascist Italy, who all had vehemently opposed such a union, did nothing. Just as importantly, the quarrelling amongst these powers doomed any continuation of a Stresa Front
Stresa Front
The Stresa Front was an agreement made in Stresa, a town on the banks of Lake Maggiore in Italy, between French foreign minister Pierre Laval, British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald, and Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini on April 14, 1935...

 and, with no choice but to accept the unfavorable Anschluss, Italy had little reason for continued opposition to Germany, and was if anything drawn in closer to the Nazis.

Munich Agreement

The so-called Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 was a predominantly German-speaking region along the borders of Czechoslovakia with Germany. Its more than 3 million ethnic Germans comprised almost a quarter of the population of Czechoslovakia. After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 created two new states: Austria and Czechoslovakia. At the request of the Czechs the areas that would be known as the Sudetenland remained within Bohemia and were incorporated into the new Czechoslovak state against the wishes of much of the local population. The decision to disregard their right to self determination was based on French intent to weaken Austria and Germany. Parts of the so-called Sudetenland were highly industrialized, in fact one of the most industrialized regions in Czechoslovakia, and keeping it out of German influence would weaken the war potential of the former enemy.

On October 31, 1918, the Future Czechoslovak President Tomáš G. Masaryk urged on October 31, 1918 his ally Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.- Youth :...

, to "[b]e very careful – no weakness, but rather uncompromisingly demand full independence from the Habsburgs...Our Germans will be downcast when Germany surrenders; insist on the historical-legal unity [of Bohemia]…It is more just to subjugate 3 million [Germans] than that 10 million [Czechs and Slovaks] be subjugated."

The Sudetenland contained most of the defensive system which ran across mountainous terrain and was larger than the Maginot line
Maginot Line
The Maginot Line , named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I,...

. The Sudetenland region also comprised about one third of Bohemia (western Czechoslovakia) in terms of territory, population, and economy. Czechoslovakia had a modern army of 38 divisions, backed by a well-noted armament industry (Škoda
Škoda Works
Škoda Works was the largest industrial enterprise in Austro-Hungary and later in Czechoslovakia, one of its successor states. It was also one of the largest industrial conglomerates in Europe in the 20th century...

) as well as military alliances with France and Soviet Union.

Hitler pressed for the Sudetenland's incorporation into the Reich, supporting German separatist groups within the Sudeten region. Alleged Czech brutality and persecution under Prague helped to stir up nationalist tendencies, as did the Nazi press. After the Anschluss, all German parties (except German Social-Democratic party) merged with the Sudeten German Party (SdP). Paramilitary activity and extremist violence peaked during this period and the Czechoslovakian government declared martial law in parts of the Sudetenland to maintain order. This only complicated the situation, especially now that Slovakian nationalism was rising, out of suspicion towards Prague and Nazi encouragement. Citing the need to protect the Germans in Czechoslovakia, Germany requested the immediate annexation of the Sudetenland.

In the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

 of September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 and French leaders appeased Hitler. The conferring powers allowed Germany to move troops into the region and incorporate it into the Reich "for the sake of peace." In exchange for this, Hitler gave his word that Germany would make no further territorial claims in Europe. Czechoslovakia, which had already mobilized over one million troops and was prepared to fight, was not allowed to participate in the conference. When the French and British negotiators informed the Czechoslovak representatives about the agreement, and that if Czechoslovakia would not accept it, France and Britain would consider Czechoslovakia to be responsible for war, President Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.- Youth :...

 capitulated. Germany took the Sudetenland unopposed.

German occupation and Slovak independence

In March 1939, breaking the Munich Agreement, German troops invaded Prague, and with the Slovaks declaring independence, the country of Czechoslovakia disappeared. The entire ordeal was the last show of the French and British policy of appeasement.

Italian invasion of Albania

After German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Italy saw itself becoming a second-rate member of the Axis. Rome delivered Tirana an ultimatum on March 25, 1939, demanding that it accede to Italy's occupation of Albania. King Zog refused to accept money in exchange for countenancing a full Italian takeover and colonization of Albania. On April 7, 1939, Mussolini's troops invaded Albania. Albania was occupied after short campaign despite stubborn resistance offered by the Albanian forces.

Soviet-Japanese Border War

In 1939, the Japanese attacked west from Manchuria into the Mongolian People's Republic, following the earlier Battle of Lake Khasan
Battle of Lake Khasan
The Battle of Lake Khasan and also known as the Changkufeng Incident in China and Japan, was an attempted military incursion of Manchukuo into the territory claimed by the Soviet Union...

 in 1938. They were decisively beaten by Soviet units under General Georgy Zhukov
Georgy Zhukov
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

. Following this battle, the Soviet Union and Japan were at peace until 1945. Japan looked south to expand its empire, leading to conflict with the United States over the Philippines and control of shipping lanes to the Dutch East Indies. The Soviet Union focused on her western border, but leaving 1 million to 1.5 million troops to guard the frontier with Japan.

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Nominally, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 was a non-aggression treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union. It was signed in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 on August 23, 1939, by the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

.

In 1939, neither Germany nor the Soviet Union were ready to go to war with each other. The Soviet Union had lost territory to Poland in 1920. Although officially labeled a "non-aggression treaty", the pact included a secret protocol, in which the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania were divided into spheres of interest of the parties. The secret protocol explicitly assumed "territorial and political rearrangements" in the areas of these countries.

Subsequently all the mentioned countries were invaded, occupied, or forced to cede part of their territory by either the Soviet Union, Germany, or both.

Invasion of Poland


Tensions had existed between Poland and Germany for some time in regards to the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....

 and the Polish Corridor, and there is some debate over a claim that Poland had, in 1933, tried to get France to join it in preventive attack after Nazis won in Germany. This had been settled in 1934 by a non-aggression pact but in spring of 1939, tensions rose again. Hitler used the issue of the status city as pretext for attacking Poland, while explaining during a high level meeting of German military officials in May 1933 that his real goal is obtaining Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

 for Germany, isolating Poles from their Allies in the West and afterwards attacking Poland, thus avoiding the repeat of Czech situation Shortly after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had been signed, Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain and France had previously warned that they would honor their alliances to Poland and issued an ultimatum to Germany: withdraw or war would be declared. Germany declined, and what became World War II was declared by the British and French, without entering the war effectively. The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east on September 17.

Final diplomatic strategy

In 1940, a trip to Italy was made by British amateur diplomat James Lonsdale-Bryans
James Lonsdale-Bryans
James Lonsdale-Bryans was a writer, British diplomat and Nazi sympathiser who was educated at Eton College.In 1940, Lonsdale-Bryans travelled to Italy to meet Ulrich von Hassell, the German ambassador to Italy. He believed von Hassell would be receptive to the idea of a pact between Britain and...

. The trip, which was arranged with the support of Lord Halifax, was to meet with German ambassador Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

. Lonsdale-Bryans proposed a deal whereby Germany would be given a free hand in Europe, while the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 would control the rest of the world. It is unclear to what extent this proposal enjoyed the official backing of the British Foreign Office. Halifax himself had met with Hitler in 1937.

Invasion of the Soviet Union

Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. Hitler believed that the Soviet Union could be defeated in a fast-paced and relentless assault that capitalized on the Soviet Union's ill-prepared state, and hoped that success there would bring Britain to the negotiation table, ending the war altogether. Hitler further wanted to preempt an attack by the Soviet Union, and in doing so catch the Soviets off-guard.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

The Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, hoping to destroy the United States Pacific Fleet
United States Pacific Fleet
The United States Pacific Fleet is a Pacific Ocean theater-level component command of the United States Navy that provides naval resources under the operational control of the United States Pacific Command. Its home port is at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii. It is commanded by Admiral Patrick M...

 at anchor. Even though the Japanese knew that the U.S. had the potential to build more ships, they hoped that they would feed reinforcements in piecemeal and thus the Japanese Navy would be able to defeat them in detail. This nearly happened during the Battle of Wake Island
Battle of Wake Island
The Battle of Wake Island began simultaneously with the Attack on Pearl Harbor and ended on 23 December 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan...

 shortly after.

Japan's attack on the US, resulted in an immediate declaration of a state of war between the two nations. Although the Tripartite Pact
Tripartite Pact
The Tripartite Pact, also the Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was a pact signed in Berlin, Germany on September 27, 1940, which established the Axis Powers of World War II...

 with Germany and Italy did not mandate declaration of war if a signatory initiated an attack, Hitler chose to declare that the Pact required that Germany follow Japan's declaration of war. Germany and Italy did not have to declare war on the USA in order to fulfill their treaty obligations, but eagerly did so.

Within days, Germany declared war on the United States, effectively ending isolationist sentiment in the U.S. which had so far prevented it from entering the war.

Further reading

  • Carley, Michael Jabara 1939 : the Alliance that never was and the coming of World War II, Chicago : I.R. Dee, 1999 ISBN 1-56663-252-8.
  • Dallek, Robert. Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 (1995).
  • Dutton, David Neville Chamberlain, London : Arnold ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-340-70627-9.
  • Feis, Herbert. The Road to Pearl Harbor: The coming of the war between the United States and Japan. classic history by senior American official.
  • Goldstein, Erik & Lukes, Igor (editors) The Munich crisis, 1938: Prelude to World War II, London ; Portland, OR : Frank Cass, 1999 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7.
  • Hildebrand, Klaus
    Klaus Hildebrand
    Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

     The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich, translated by Anthony Fothergill, London, Batsford 1973.
  • Hillgruber, Andreas
    Andreas Hillgruber
    Andreas Fritz Hillgruber was a conservative German historian. Hillgruber was influential as a military and diplomatic historian.At his death in 1989, the American historian Francis L...

     Germany and the Two World Wars, translated by William C. Kirby, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1981 ISBN 0-674-35321-8.
  • Kuliabin A. Semin S.Russia - a counterbalancing agent to the Asia. “Zavtra Rossii”, #28, 17 July 1997
  • Seki, Eiji. (2006). Mrs. Ferguson's Tea-Set, Japan and the Second World War: The Global Consequences Following Germany's Sinking of the SS Automedon in 1940. London: Global Oriental
    Global Oriental
    Global Oriental is an imprint of the Dutch publishing house Brill . It used to be trade publishing company based in Kent, United Kingdom. It is the publisher of scholarly books on Japan and East Asia in fields such as History, Martial Arts, Arts and Literature...

    . 10-ISBN 1-905-24628-5; 13- ISBN 978-1-905-24628-1 (cloth) [reprinted by University of Hawaii Press
    University of Hawaii Press
    The University of Hawaii Press is a university press that is part of the University of Hawaii.The University of Hawaii Press was founded in 1947, with the mission of advancing and disseminating scholarship by publishing current research in all disciplines of the humanities and natural and social...

    , Honolulu, 2007 -- previously announced as Sinking of the SS Automedon and the Role of the Japanese Navy: A New Interpretation.]
  • Overy, Richard
    Richard Overy
    Richard Overy is a British historian who has published extensively on the history of World War II and the Third Reich. In 2007 as The Times editor of Complete History of the World he chose the 50 key dates of world history....

     & Mason, Timothy
    Timothy Mason
    Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany.-Life and work:He was born in Birkenhead, the child of school-teachers and was educated at Birkenhead School and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford from 1971–1984 and was twice married. He helped to found the...

     "Debate: Germany, “Domestic Crisis” and War in 1939" pages 200-240 from Past and Present, Number 122, February 1989.
  • Strang, G. Bruce On The Fiery March : Mussolini Prepares For War, Westport, Conn. : Praeger Publishers, 2003 ISBN 0-275-97937-7.
  • Thorne, Christopher G. The Issue of War: States, Societies, and the Coming of the Far Eastern Conflict of 1941-1945 (1985) sophisticated analysis of each major power.
  • Tohmatsu, Haruo and H. P. Willmott. A Gathering Darkness: The Coming of War to the Far East and the Pacific (2004), short overview.
  • Wandycz, Piotr Stefan
    Piotr S. Wandycz
    Piotr Stefan Wandycz is a Polish-American historian, President of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, and professor emeritus at Yale University, specializing in Eastern and Central European history.-Life:...

     The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances, 1926-1936 : French-Czechoslovak-Polish relations from Locarno to the remilitarization of the Rhineland, Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1988 ISBN 0-691-05528-9.
  • Watt, Donald Cameron How war came : the immediate origins of the Second World War, 1938-1939, New York : Pantheon, 1989 ISBN 0-394-57916-X.
  • Weinberg, Gerhard
    Gerhard Weinberg
    Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the...

     The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany : Diplomatic Revolution in Europe, 1933-36, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1970 ISBN 0-226-88509-7.
  • Weinberg, Gerhard The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Starting World War II, 1937-1939, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1980 ISBN 0-226-88511-9.
  • Turner, Henry Ashby
    Henry Ashby Turner
    Henry Ashby Turner, Jr. was an American historian of Germany who was a professor at Yale University for over forty years...

     German big business and the rise of Hitler, New York : Oxford University Press, 1985 ISBN 0-19-503492-9.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, John
    John Wheeler-Bennett
    Sir John Wheeler Wheeler-Bennett , GCVO, CMG, OBE, FBA, FRSL was a conservative English historian of German and diplomatic history, and the official biographer of King George VI.-Early career:...

    Munich : Prologue to Tragedy, New York : Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948.- Review of this book:

  • Young, Robert France and the Origins of the Second World War, New York : St. Martin's Press, 1996 ISBN 0-312-16185-9.


External links

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