Causes of World War II

German Anger

1       loss of territory

2       loss of resources (iron ore, coal)

3       Loss of Rhineland and Saar

4       War guilt clause

5       Reparations

6       Forbidden Anschluss

7       Only Germany had to reduce armed forces

Hitler’s plans:

  1. Abolish the Treaty of Versailles
  2. Rearmament
  3. Establishing the supremacy of the Germans as a Master Race.
  4. Territorial expansion –empire in Eastern Europe, lebensraum
  5. Defeat Communism

The failure of the League

  1. It encouraged Hitler to remilitarise the Rhineland.
  2. Britain and France began to rearm
  3. Allies adopted the policy of appeasement, rather than collective action
  4. Britain signed the Anglo-German Naval agreement, wherein Germany was allowed to rebuild its navy (up to 35% of Britain’s navy)

Hitler’s foreign policy

  1. In 1933, German withdrew from the Disarmament Conference of the League -rearmed.
  2. In 1935, the Saar plebiscite – in accordance to the Treaty of Versailles – 90% vote to join Germany
  3. In 1935, Conscription was announced – Compulsory military service à Britain, France and Italy condemned the action (Stresa Pact)
  4. In 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Treaty – German fleet was allowed to be strengthened to a third of the size of Britain’s + submarines allowed
  5. In 1936, the remilitarisation of the Rhineland – Hitler takes advantage of the League’s preoccupation with the Abyssinian Crisis – France and Britain protest, but no military response
  6. In 1936-1939, the Spanish Civil War – Hitler and Mussolini support the Nationalists, against the Republican government in Spain.
  7. In 1936, Rome-Berlin Axis – affects Italy’s relationship with France and Britain
  8. In 1936-1937, the Anti-Comintern Pact – German and Japan sign a pact to oppose Comintern (agency set up to spread Communism).  Italy joined the alliance in 1937.
  9. In 1938, the Anschluss – Hitler stirs trouble with the help of the Nazis in Austria and mobilises troops – plebiscite held, in which 99% of Austrians vote for the Anschluss.
  10. In 1938, Sudetenland – Annexation of the Sudetenland
  11. In 1939, the Nazi Soviet Pact – non-aggression pact between USSR and Germany – paved the way for the invasion of Poland
  12. In 1939, the invasion of Poland – Britain and France end appeasement – WWII begins.

Anschluss with Austria, 1938 

  • Anschluss means Political union
  • Austria had many Germans + Hitler’s homeland
  • Austria’s weak economic condition made the Anschluss an attractive option for the Austrians
  • 1934- Unsuccessful (alliance between Austria and Italy) à1938 àHitler & Mussolini were allies
  • Hitler instigated demonstrations and riots with the help of the local Nazi Party
  • Hitler pressurized the Austrian chancellor to agree to the Anschluss
  • Austrian Chancellor asked for help from the Allies à was refused
  • Nazis supervised a plebiscite
  • 99.7% voted for the Anschluss
  • Lord Halifax from Britain said Treaty of Versailles was unfair, and Britain would take no action against Germany if terms were negotiated or broken

The Sudetenland, 1938

  • After Anschluss, Benes, leader of Sudetenland felt threatened
  • Asks for British & French aid
  • France bound by a treaty to support Czechoslovakia
  • Britain bound by an alliance to help France
  • Sudetenland – Many Germans + civilians from the former Austrian Hungary Empire
  • Nazis instigated the Germans in the region
  • Hitler’s challenges – Allies backed Czechoslovakia + alert Czech army
  • September, 1938 Chamberlain met Hitler  – Hitler demanded part of Sudetenland + regions where Germans demanded to be part of Germany
  • Hitler accused the Czech government of ill-treating the Germans à said he wanted to ‘rescue’ them
  • British navy mobilized
  • Allied leaders met Hitler & Mussolini
  • Appeasement (Munich Agreement) – announcement that the Czechs were to lose the Sudetenland

Munich Agreement 

  • After Sudetenland, Hitler increased his demands
  • He demanded all of Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia
  • Neville Chamberlain met Hitler and at the Munich Agreement it was decided that Czechoslovakia would be annexed by Germany
  • The Czechs were not consulted, neither was USSR
  • Chamberlain returned as British hero, an advocator of peace
  • March, 1939 à Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia
  • Britain & France did nothing à Czechs did not resist


It was a policy of agreeing to Hitler’s demands, since neither Britain nor France were unwilling to risk another war.

Appeasement – arguments for

The Japanese threatened British colonies in Asia, Britain did not want to fight Germany in the West.

  1. Britain needed time to rearm.
  2. USA wanted to stay out of European affairs, so would not support Britain.
  3. General public opinion opposed war and supported disarmament.
  4. Many British people sympathised with the idea of bringing German-speaking people together.

Appeasement – arguments against

Hitler kept gambling his way and becoming more aggressive.

  1. Germany was allowed to become powerful enough to threaten the British Empire.

Failure of Appeasement

Hitler wanted to annex Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia

  1. He encouraged the Nazi Sudeten German Party to protest and riot, thus encouraging Hitler to send German soldiers with the excuse of restoring order.
  2. Hitler went on to make the Sudetenland part of what he called ‘Greater Germany’.

Fall of Czechoslovakia

Britain and France promised to help the Czechs, but the British people wanted to avoid war, especially since Czechoslovakia was a distant country

  1. Britain needed time to mobilise troops and rearm; Chamberlain believed that Sudetenland would end Hitler’s territorial demands.
  2. At the Munich Conference, Hitler met with delegates from France, Britain, Italy and Germany
  3. Czechoslovakia or the USSR were not consulted
  4. Sudetenland was given to Germany
  5. Britain and Germany agree to non-aggression
  6. Europe was saved from war
  7. France and Britain got time to rearm
  8. Czechoslovakia lost resources and military defence.
  9. Stalin did not expect Britain and France to defend USSR, since they did not oppose his aggression against Czechoslovakia
  10. In March 1939, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia.

End of Appeasement

  1. The invasion of Czechoslovakia revealed that Hitler could not be trusted
  2. Britain and France rearmed
  3. Britain and France promised to defend Poland if Hitler attacked.

The Nazi-Soviet Pact

  • Stalin felt threatened by Hitler’s declaration that he would invade Russia
  • Communists were targeted in Germany
  • USSR did not expect support from Britain and/or France in the 1930s (communism vs. capitalism)
  • USSR observed the League’s helplessness during the Abyssinian Crisis & Spanish Civil War
  • USSR observed as Britain and France supported a stronger (buffer) Germany (communism vs. capitalism)
  • USSR did not count on French support despite a pact; remilitarization of Rhineland was a lesson
  • 1938 Munich Agreement (Neville Chamberlain & Hitler) was a threat
  • Stalin met with leaders of Britain & France in 1939, but Chamberlain was reluctant to get into an agreement
  • Chamberlain promised to aid Poland, if attacked
  • Ribbentrop (German Foreign Affairs Minister) visited USSR and suggested the Nazi-Soviet Pact
  • USSR and Germany agreed not to attack one another + share Poland
  • Why did Stalin sign? – to gain time, access to Poland and other regions in Easter Europe, no threat from Germany, militarization

Why did Stalin sign?

  1. Stalin realised that France and Britain would not resist Germany
  2. He wanted access to Poland

Why did Hitler sign?

  1. Hitler needed an ally in Russia to ward off aggression when he invaded Poland
  2. He wanted access to Poland

Hitler gambled because he did not believe that Britain and France would mobilise troops to some distant place – Poland

Suspicion and distrust between Britain, France and the USSR

  1. Stalin proposed an alliance with France and Britain.
  2. France and Britain were against Communism and suspected that Stalin wanted to ultimately control Eastern Europe
  3. Stalin did not think that the Red Army was strong enough to face opposition
  4. Poland opposed the presence of Soviet troops on the mainland
  5. Stalin did not expect help from Britain or France, because (1) they had not resisted German rearmament (2) they did nothing about the remilitarization of the Rhineland, Anschluss or Sudetenland (3) He was excluded from the Munich Conference.

How did the war become a World War?

  • To deal with the depression, Japan became aggressive with trade activity in the Far East
  • Fight for supremacy in the Pacific was fuelled by possible colonization, nuclear test sites, alliances
  • World Trade Depression in 1930s à led to Japan suffering à led to Manchurian Crisis
  • 6 years later in 1937, Japan launched full scale war on China
  • Tariffs put on Japanese goods (tax on commodities)
  • Bombing of the Pearl Harbour

Summing up the reasons for WW II

  1. German resentment over the Treaty of Versailles led to aggression.
  2. The League failed to stop aggression and allowed Britain and France to follow the policy in appeasement.
  3. Hitler’s aggressive foreign policy.
  4. Britain and France destabilised the League.
  5. Stalin’s alliance with Hitler.

Russian Revolution:Provisional Government