The events before World War II
Several events happened after World War 1. The League of Nations was established after the World War 1 to maintain peace. It however failed since it was not able to resolve the economic crisis of Depression. It was also unable to prevent the Second World War. The League of Nations also had few countries. Germany was not allowed to join because it caused World War 1. Britain and France refused Russia to join due to fear of Communism. The Treaty of Versailles blamed Germany for causing World War 1. It was made to pay high financial reparations crippling the German economy. The Great depression made it worse. The country was stripped of its colonial territories. The country’s military as it was not allowed to have an air force army.
In Italy, the Fascist power with Benito Mussolini took power in 1922. They believed in a strong central government that controlled the people and the economy. They saw this economic style as better since they deemed the free market economy to have failed. In Northern Germany Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party embraced the fascist concepts. They further believed in the supremacy and racial purity of the German race. Hitler desired that Germans should rule the whole world. In 1933, he was appointed the Reich Chancellor by President Hindenburg. In 1935 he transformed Italy into a police state. He banned political parties that opposed the Nazi ideologies. He then began killing who he deemed to be the racial enemies of Germany. He stripped Jews of their citizenship and forbade interracial marriage between Jews and Germans. He killed many Jews while many were arrested and put in concentration camps where many died. In 1934 Hitler broke the Treaty of Versailles by resuscitating the Air force and expanding the military.
He further pushed for the reoccupation of Rhineland by the German army. Britain and Germany were aware of Hitler’s military plans but were more concerned with preventing the spread of communism. They thought a stronger German country would reduce the spread of communism. There were also sympathetic politicians in Great Britain and France who felt the conditions by the Treaty of Versailles that had been enforced on Germany were unfair. Furthermore, the countries wanted to avoid war seeing how the World War 1 had devastated the infrastructure and economy of European countries. Hitler wanted to regain all the territories that had been taken from Germany after World War 1. He pushed for the takeover of Austria by working with the Austrian Nazi party in 1938. He then started paramilitary and extremist violence in Sudetenland, Czech in order to take over the land. In a conference in 1938 in Munich, Sudetenland, Czech was given to Germany by Britain and France in exchange for them to cease fighting for more territories. Germany however broke the agreement and seized the remainder of the Czech Republic.
The World War II
It began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Poland was a colony of Britain and France and the two countries declared war on Germany. Britain and France gave an ultimatum to Germany to end fighting. With no reply war was declared. The Soviets also attacked Poland. Being a new country formed after World War 1 with a weak army it was defeated. Many polish activists, actors and cops were killed by the Germans and Soviets. The Soviet Union and Germany had signed a pact of non-aggression. They had also decided to take over the territory of Poland. The Soviet Union soon invaded Finland and defeated it2. The war lasted from 1939 to 1945.Hitler wanted to take over the land owned by what he deemed as the inferior races so as to provide land to the superior German race.
In 1940, Hitler invaded Denmark, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium. He later advanced against France and strategically defeated it. He attacked Britain but the British Army caused heavy losses on the German army so they retreated. Italy also announced war on Britain and France that year with Mussolini as their leader. It decided to take over territories in Northern Africa. Britain and Italy engaged in battles in Africa as Italy took over Somaliland which had been Britain’s colony. It tried to invade Egypt but was defeated by the British. Italy invaded Greece while Germany took over Yugoslavia and Crete. Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931which was a mineral rich part of China and quit the League of Nations on being questioned. The battles with China lasted for years.
In 1937, it declared its intention to take over Eastern Europe. In the 1930’s Britain and USA to protect their economies had put high protective trade tariffs which affected Japan’s economy negatively as their exports were greatly reduced. It also refused to renew the US-Japan treaty of Commerce and Navigation thus Japan’s access to oil and scrap metal. Japan felt humiliated. To retaliate, Japan joined forces with Italy and Germany. Japan attacked the U.S Naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941 using war planes. This caused America to participate fully in the war. Joining forces with Britain, it assisted greatly in defeating Germany and Japan. In addition Japan attacked the territories of Philippines and Guam which were territories of US. It also attacked Malaysia and Hong Kong which were under the control of Britain. In December 1940 Hitler decided to attack the USSR. In 1941 he advanced against USSR but the battle was too fierce.
During the year 1944, the Soviet forces forced Germany out of its country and pursued them across Eastern Europe and even into Germany itself in 1945. In 1944 Britain and U.S troops invaded Germany. Although they were wary of Communism they did not want Germany to take over the USSR. The two countries provided the USSR with military help in terms of aircraft, tanks, medical supplies and food. Germany was now being attacked from the West and East. The soviets reached Berlin first forcing Germany to surrender in May 1945 shortly after the suicide of Hitler. In 1942 Japan and America engaged in battles that lead to Japan’s defeat3. For the next three years the conquests of Japan were liberated by the Allied forces of US and Britain. The USA dropped an atomic bomb in Japan in August 1945 that led to Japan’s surrender in the war.
Effects of World War II
The countries that engaged in the war were affected in various ways. The Nazi regime was defeated. German and Japanese cities were in ruins due to the bombs. Adolf Hitler committed suicide. The country was divided into four parts and controlled by the countries that won the war. German and Japanese leaders went to trial for crimes against humanity. Japan was placed under the U.S military rule. Since it was occupied by western forces the economy developed as a capitalistic nation. The economy did so well and this has continued till now. England was highly devastated by the war. It depended on America for economic aid. Their industrial infrastructure was ruined and their economy had collapsed. France and Furthermore the two countries were no longer Super Powers. The countries with Super Power status were now America and Soviet Union. Russia territory had been affected by the war but in fighting the Germans they had a large and powerful army. This army combined with the country’s great population and resources made it attain a Super Power status. Russia extended its boundaries to Poland, Japan, Czech and Romania.
The economy of America picked up after the war. The Depression ended and industries were built all over the country. The country suffered no physical destruction therefore their economy led in the world market4. For the countries outside the European Union they fought and pushed for their national independence. This was due to the perceived weaknesses of France and Britain in the war. There were great technological innovations during the war in computers and electronics. This assisted in further development of the world. The radar developed by the British led to the invention of the television. There was also technology to fight disease that resulted in lower mortality rates even in Non-European countries leading to high population growth. The war caused the people to realize the utter devastating effects of the war.
The United Nations was formed in 1945 by 51 countries gathered in San Francisco to help maintain world peace. This body had the support of the United States and the Soviet Union and all other significant countries. In 1944 the major world powers also formed the International Monetary Fund to set up an international tariff known as GATT. This was to prevent the interwar factors that had accelerated the Depression. The countries entered into a period of international cooperation. Other international organizations that were formed were World Bank and World Trade organization.
The United Nations helped in the creation of the country of Israel due to the experience of the Holocaust. The defeated nations were expected to pay for the devastations of the war on the Soviet Union and other countries. This was paid through the transfer of capital goods. In 1951 the countries in Europe formed the European Community to help the economies of the countries to grow and foster unity to countries that had been enemies in the war. The World War 2 ushered in the era of nuclear weapons as nuclear bombs were unleashed on the Japanese grounds.
Paxton, R. Robert (2006). Europe in the 20th Century, 4th edition. New York, Wadsworth Publishing 2006, 126.
Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Chicago, MacGraw Hill, 1994, 214.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis. London, Oxford University Press, 2000, 112