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As time passes, World War 2 becomes less and less prominent in our minds. It was one of the biggest world conflicts and one of the bloodiest, with 40 to 50 million deaths that occurred. Virtually every part of the world was involved in this war. The prominent combatants were the Axis powers, consisting of Germany, Italy, and Japan, and the Allies, consisting of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, France, and China.
In many respects, World War 2 was a continuation of the settles disputes of World War 1, with a twenty year break in between. This war being so gruesome and long, lasting from 1939 to 1945, begs the question: What caused such violence between these countries?
A large part of the global aggression was due to the Great Depression. In the United States, the nation was in shambles. The stock market crash sent all of Wall Street into panic mode. Then, in turn, spending and investing decreased and ceased. Banks began failing. At the lowest point during the Depression, around 15 million people were unemployed. Not only did the depression have an immense effect on the United States’ economy, but it spread on a global scale. Germany was extremely reliant on the loans they received from the United States, without them they would not be able to pay off their debts. Germany’s economy was not strong enough on its own to allow large withdrawals of money. Banks could not provide enough money and credit, causing the customers to lose faith in the banks. The ones who suffered the most were children. Thousands of kids died from hunger.
One major contribution to Germany’s debt and more importantly, their anger, was the Treaty of Versailles. In order to punish Germany for all the damage of World War 1, Lloyd George, Orlando, Woodrow Wilson, and Clemenceau met and drafted this treaty in 1919. The main terms of the treaty were; the War Guilt clause, Reparations, Disarmament, and Territorial clauses. The War Guilt clause said that Germany should accept full blame for starting the First World War The Reparations clause stated that 6,600 million pounds had to be paid by Germany for the damage that, during the war, was caused. The Disarmament clause allowed Germany to have only six naval ships and a minute army. In addition, the German military had to move out of the Rhineland. Lastly, the Territorial clauses took land away from Germany and gave it to other, neighboring countries. These clauses caused a lot of unsettlement within the German republic. The general consensus was that they treaty was too harsh.
The 1920s were a hard time for the people of Germany, the economy was in ruins. There were few jobs, food prices were high, and money lacked value. Dissatisfied, the people voted Hitler into power.
Hitler’s action, in turn, was another cause of World War 2. In 1933, Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany. He immediately began building weapons and increasing the army. He built battleships and created the German air force. Britain and France were aware of these developments but followed their beliefs of a stronger Germany spreading communism. Hitler ordered the invasion of Rhineland in 1936.
The German army was not at its strongest but no efforts were made to thwart the invasion. Hitler also formed two strong alliances, in the same year, with Italy and Japan. He made sure to have support should any of his upcoming invasions go wrong. He invaded Austria and demanded control of Czechoslovakia only to eventually invade it as well and followed that with Poland. This fostered anger and uneasiness amongst the rest of the world. It was decided that Germany had gone too far and that measures had to be taken. These three events combined were enough to push the word over the edge. Conflicts arose between every country involved and the fighting began.
The Great Depression spiraled out of control, reached Germany, which allowed Hitler the opportunity to step up and take control. His actions then angered the rest of the world enough to send the globe into another gruesome war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt summed up the war perfectly, “On this day…the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.”
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