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World War II Causes and Early Warfare. Causes. 1. Treaty of Versailles created a bitter peace 2. World-Wide Depression 3. Rise of Totalitarianism 4. Weakness of the League of Nations (Appeasement). Treaty of Versailles and the Bitter Peace.

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World War II Causes and Early Warfare

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  • 1. Treaty of Versailles created a bitter peace
  • 2. World-Wide Depression
  • 3. Rise of Totalitarianism
  • 4. Weakness of the League of Nations (Appeasement)
treaty of versailles and the bitter peace
Treaty of Versailles and the Bitter Peace
  • The Treaty of Versailles blamed the War on the Germans
  • The reparations payments to the Allies created severe economic problems Germany.
  • Rampant inflation and terrible unemployment left the German people completely dissatisfied with their democratic government.
world wide economic depression
World Wide Economic Depression
  • The World Wide Economic Depression caused democratic governments to fail and in their place totalitarian governments rose, promising to end the economic problems (or at least the totalitarians provided a scapegoat).
3. Rise of Totalitarian Regimes

In aTotalitariancountry, individual rights are not viewed as important as the needs of the nation


Fascist Dictatorship


Communist Dictatorship


Fascism:- military government based on racism & nationalism with strong support from the business community


Fascist Dictatorship


rise of totalitarianism
Rise of Totalitarianism
  • In Germany Hitler joined and manipulated the “National Socialist Workers’ Party” (which was not socialist), preaching a doctrine of German ethnic supremacy and victimization.
  • In Italy the depression bred civil unrest between fascists on one side and communists and socialists on the other. Mussolini was named leader by the king and ruled with an iron fist.
adolph hitler
Adolph Hitler
  • 1889 – 1945
  • Austrian; Did not become a German citizen until 1932
  • Failed artist and expelled from technical school…homeless or in “poor housing”
  • Went through a further negative personality change upon the death of this brother
  • Probably became an Anti-Semite somewhere in his early 20s, during his stay in Vienna.
  • Found success as an Army officer during WWI
  • He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany (“the Führer”) from 1934 to 1945

benito mussolini
Benito Mussolini
  • 1883-1945
  • Expelled from school for stabbing a fellow student
  • Not baptized (surprising in a catholic country)
  • Originally a socialist, but kicked out of the party for supporting WWI
  • Founded the fascist party and became, through manipulating legal means, the fascist leader of Italy (“Il Duce”) in 1926
joseph stalin
Joseph Stalin
  • 1878 - 1953
  • Had a damaged left arm; abused by father
  • Had tried to become a Russian Orthodox priest but was expelled from the Seminary
  • Turned to the Bolshevik party and raised money for (during)the Russian communist revolution through bank robbing, kidnapping and extortion
  • Stalin came to power in 1924 and proceeded to turn (force) his nation into a modern industrial economy
  • He was responsible for the deaths of more than 10 million of his own people.
  • in
so what did hitler want
So what did Hitler want?
  • To rebuild his army, navy, and airforce.
  • The return of all German-speaking lands (Anschluss) : Austria, The Sudentenland (Western Czechoslovakia).
  • Lebensraum (“living space”): The policy of Lebensraumassumed the superiority of Germans as members of an “Aryan master race” who , because of their superiority, had the right to displace people deemed to be part of inferior races. The Nazis insisted that Lebensraum needed to be developed as racially homogenous to avoid intermixing with peoples deemed to be part of inferior races. Peoples deemed to be part of inferior races living within territory selected to be Lebensraum, were subject to expulsion and/or destruction.
weakness of the league of nations
Weakness of the League of Nations

The League had no standing army, thus no way to enforce international will.

Because of WWI, and especially during the Depression, the member nations lacked the desire to go to war for any reason

Appeasement: The other nations tried to give Germany and Italy some of what they wanted so that the war would not happen.

Thus, at The Munich Conference, (Sept, 1938), Germany, GB and Italy allowed Germany to take the Sudetenland…annexation of Austria had happened in March, 1938, with no objection by the League.

nazi soviet non aggression pact
Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
  • August 23, 1939: A Non-Aggression Pactwas signed between Germany and the USSR. It assured a non-involvement of the Soviet Union in a European War (for 10 years – will be broken by Germany in June, 1941).
  • Secretly, the USSR and Germany also agreed to split Poland .
  • What did each side stand to gain?
  • Germany invaded Poland on
  • September 1, 1939.
  • Soviets Stood by and watched, then moved into its sphere of influence on Sept. 17.
  • Great Britain and France declared War on Germany on Sept. 3, and World War II had begun.
hitler on the offensive 1940
Hitler On the Offensive, 1940:
  • Denmark and Norway – April 9 (less than a week)
  • (Winston Churchill Replaces Chamberlain as British Prime Minister on May 10)
  • The Netherlands and Belgium – May 10 (5 days)

(Miracle At Dunkirk: May 26- June 4: 338,000 British troops evacuated;

June 10 – Italy enters the War)

  • France- June 5 (11 days)
  • Blitzkrieg(“Lightning War”)
  • New form of fighting that allowed Germany to capture lots of territory quickly
  • Combined arms tactic…all-motorized force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed.


By mid-1940, the only Allied power remaining was Great Britain…and the Battle of Britain began with a fury in July, 1940.

winston churchill
Winston Churchill
  • Prime Minister of Great Britain
  • Leader of the UK during WW2, starting May, 1940
  • Soldier, Politician, Orator, and Artist
  • Won the Nobel Prize for literature
  • Honorary American citizen

Why We Fight – US propaganda Film by Frank Capra:

meanwhile in the united states after wwi america was all about isolation
Meanwhile, in the United States….After WWI, America was all about Isolation
  • We did not want to get in other countries’ conflicts – The experiences of World War I had taught us to avoid war, and the Great Depression had turned our attention to domestic matters.
  • Adding to the Isolationist stance: Beliefs about “Merchants of Death”:
  • Question: Why did we really go to war during WWI?
  • New Theory: Arms manufacturers, big business, and banks had wanted war and made it happen so that they could make a fortune selling weapons or loaning money to foreign nations like Great Britain and France
fdr s october 1937 quarantine speech
FDR’s October, 1937 Quarantine Speech
  • It seems to be unfortunately true that the epidemic of world lawlessness is spreading.
  • When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease.
  • War is a contagion, whether it be declared or undeclared. It can engulf states and peoples remote from the original scene of hostilities .... We are adopting such measures as will minimize our risk of involvement, but we cannot have complete protection in a world of disorder in which confidence and security have broken down.
  • If civilization is to survive the principles of the Prince of Peace must be restored. Shattered trust between nations must be revived.
  • Most important of all, the will for peace on the part of peace loving nations must express itself to the end that nations that may be tempted to violate their agreements and the rights of others will desist from such a cause. There must be positive endeavors to preserve peace.
  • America hates war. America hopes for peace. Therefore, America actively engages in the search for peace.
  • What was the main idea?
lend lease
  • By late 1940, the debate between isolationists and interventionists was raging.
  • When France fell to Germany, leaving the British on their own against the Axis powers, many Americans were worried about staying (isolationist) neutral.
  • After Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact in September, 1940, America had even more reason to worry.
  • Congress passed a Civil Service Act (9/1940)– a peacetime draft of 1.2 million active soldiers (& 800,000 reserves) a year.
  • Lend- Lease Act (March, 1941 )
  • An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States
  • The US to supply (lend, lease, sell, exchange) Great Britain, the USSR, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with weapons and defense materials between 1941 and 1945…they would pay us back later.
  • A decisive step away from non-interventionist US policy, as was the Atlantic Charter (8/1941), where FDR and Churchill agreed upon post-war peace objectives.
so what was up with japan
So what was up with Japan?
  • Tensions had been heating up between the Japanese and the Americans in the Pacific region in the decades since WWI. Japanese expansion into Asia, especially China, and the US presence in Guam, the Philippines and China created this conflict.
  • When Japan continued to expand as war broke out in Europe, the US stopped selling oil and other necessary industrial goods to Japan. We turned up the embargo after Tripartite Pact of 1940.(One needs oil to run a navy)
  • In the meantime, General Hideki Tojo, an aggressive military expansionist became Japanese Prime Minister in 1941… The US and Japan spent the summer and fall trying to negotiate a settlement…

Hideki Tojo

1884 – 1948

pearl harbor
Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941

“ A day that will live in infamy”

Under the orders of prime minister Tojo, Japanese forces bombed American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

2,500 people killed; US also suffered heavy losses in ships and planes

Luckily, US aircraft carriers (and 7 destroyers) were out at sea on maneuvers, and the American Fleet and submarine bases, and fuel facilities survived the attack.

The United States declared war on Japan on December 8...Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy declared war on the US on December 11.

Photograph from a Japanese plane of Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS Oklahoma.