War is one of the most tragic things in our world today. It is even sadder that usually it
comes around at least once in our lifetime. In the 20th century alone we have already had two
huge wars. These wars were call the World Wars simply because they involved most of the big
countries of the world. Many people have died in these wars, especially the second World
War. That is my focus for this essay.
The leader of Germany at the time of WW2 and the person who most think started
World War II was a man named Adolf Hitler. Although there are many other reasons, he was
definitely one of them. Another reason was the Treaty of Versailles. This was the treaty that was
signed at the end of World War 1. This treaty outlined the rules that Germany must follow
because of their defeat by Britain and France. Many Germans were angered by the treaty, for
most of the rules in the treaty were unfair and Germany lost a great amount of wealth. However,
One of the cruelest reasons for the war was Hitler’s racist hate for Jews. He would actually be the cause of
one of the greatest injustices done againest human-kind in the history of the world.
As the war progressed many countries became involved in the war. British forces, which consisted
of troops both from England and Canada, along with France, originally declared war on Germany. Germany
allied themselves with Italy and Japan, known as the Axis powers, hoped to defeat the Allies. As the war
progressed though, and more countries allied themselves with the Allied Forces, such as the United States
and the Soviet Union, resistance became futile and in August, 1945, the allies had successfully defeated the
TREATY OF VERSAILLES
When World War I came to a close in mid-November of 1918, many ideas were
circulating in Europe as to what the peace settlement should entail. In Britain, leaders were
thinking about how to increase British colonial power. In France, many wanted to permanently
punish the Germans, partly in revenge for Germany’s aggression in World War I, but also,
perhaps for the Franco-Prussian war in 1871. In Germany, citizens were worried about how
radical changes after the war could affect their daily lives. All these biases, worries, plans, and
ideas came together in Paris on the 28th of June 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles, establishing
the post-war peace in Europe. Yet just twenty years later, war would once again break out in
Europe. So why were the peace settlements of World War I unable to prevent the outbreak of
war twenty years later in World War II? To understand this, one must first have a detailed
understanding of the World War I peace settlement at Versailles
Germany was also punished in regard to its colonial and imperial power. During the
war, Germany had control of many small islands and archipelagos in the South Pacific. The
Treaty of Versailles gave these islands to Britain and Japan. In Africa, France gained the
Cameroon from Germany and Britain was given German East Africa and German West Africa.
All German assets in other colonies were to be immediately dissolved into the current
government of those colonies. Finally, Germany’s military was to be greatly reduced in size. The
Treaty mandated that Germany’s standing army could be no larger than 100,000 men. In
addition, their Navy was reduced, and according to Article 198, The armed forces of Germany
must not include any military or naval air forces. (2) Germany’s army was, in effect, useless,
and without an air force, the Allies hoped that Germany would be unable ever to wage war.
The Treaty of Versailles also charged Germany with the task of paying heavy
reparations. The treaty set up a reparations committee that would meet sometime in 1921 to
determine reparations for Germany to pay. Until then, Germany would pay $5,000,000,000
due May 1, 1921. The Germans would have to wait to see what reparations they would really
pay. Until then, though, they started on the $5,000,000,000, already a very daunting task for
The economic strain put on Germany was probably the single most important factor in
increasing hostility of the Germans towards Britain and France. Then the reparations committee
finally met and determined that Germany should pay another $25,000,000,000, plus other
costs, bringing the total up to $32,500,000,000 to be paid by 1963! (3) This demand,
however, was ridiculous. Germany had hardly enough money to pay the entire original fee. This
demand would crush the German economy, and many experts predicted it could even cause the
starvation of the German people.
Not only were Britain and France overly vindictive in assessing these reparations, but
they were also short-sighted in thinking they would derive anything beneficial out of it. Basically,
Britain and France demanded all of Germany’s money, yet they also took away all territory from
Germany that could produce this money. By taking away Germany’s colonies, they, in effect,
eliminated all of Germany’s investments and assets in their Colonial power. Future income and
industry generated from these colonies would not be there for Germany. With German industry
completely destroyed, there was no practical way for them to pay Britain and France.
Germany realized that there was no way they could pay the reparations if their industrial
territories, such as the Saar Basin, and their colonies were taken away. Unfortunately, the Allies
did not see this. With numerous counter-proposals denied, Germany’s only other option was to
resort to printing more money. This would cause massive inflation, further devastating the
German economy. In 1918, there were seven German Marks to the United States Dollar. In
1923, 4,210,500,000,000 Marks equaled the dollar! (8) Germany’s last economic resort had
German aggression was greatly aroused by the ridiculous and often mistaken territorial
adjustments made by Britain and France. One such incident was in the transfer of German
territory to Poland. The allies had determined that the territory of Allenstein, in the eastern part
of Germany should be given to Poland. The German delegation sent a counter-proposal stating
that Allenstein had a large German population, and the Polish population was miniscule. When a
vote was actually held there, 97.9% of the population voted to be part of Germany, with the
remaining 2.1% wanting to join with Poland. (9)
Although Allenstein was eventually granted to Germany, the main problem is obvious.
The Allies postponed other votes in Upper Silesia, most likely to prevent a similar setback from
occurring. Germany had a significantly greater population than Poland in almost every territory
taken away from them, and the allies probably knew this. What greater way of creating
animosity is there than taking masses of people from their country? The Allies were very
ignorant in this case, ignoring the fact that they were brewing hatred all throughout Germany by
taking territories that were almost 100% German away from Germany.
Britain and France had now completed one of the most devastating peace treaties in
history. Mistakes had been made that would increase German aggression, and would drive
Germany to desperate options. The economic impacts and the territorial changes worked
together to do this. Germany had no way to pay the reparations, without having their territories
and colonies. If Germany refused to pay the reparations, even more territory would be
occupied. This gave Germany reason to rearm and aggressively retake their territories such as
the Saar Basin and the Rhineland. In addition, the political situation in Germany easily allowed
the rise of radical ideas. With the inflation, the Weimar Republic, which was governing Germany
in the early 20s, collapsed and socialist revolts and strikes in cities like Kiel caused total political
upheaval. In addition, the hatred of Britain and France for taking Germans away from their
country in places like Danzig and Alsace-Lorraine created even more instability.
All these factors, ignored by those who created the treaty, easily allowed a man named
Adolf Hitler to come to power. Hitler was a very charismatic leader, an excellent speaker, and
was offering solutions to the economic and social hardships of Germany, combined with national
pride. The German people immediately were willing to join his cause, no matter how radical it
was. Soon, Hitler began to remilitarize Germany, planning to regain the territories lost with the
Versailles Treaty, with great support from the German people. As for the League of Nations,
which was formed from many of the allied countries in World War I it was unable to do
anything. Britain and France were often to busy worrying about their own economic and social
problems to worry about foreign affairs, yet alone fight another war. Hitler had carefully
analyzed the League’s reactions toward other aggression at the time. When Japan invaded
Manchuria, the League let it pass. Similarly, when Mussolini attacked Ethiopia in 1935, the
Allies only imposed economic sanctions on Italy, which were actually ignored by most League
members. If the League of Nations would have been stronger, perhaps with help from the
United States, aggression by Germany, Italy and Japan could have been prevented. But the U.S
was still angry that their opinions that Germany were getting treated unfairly were ignored at
Versailles, and maintained a somewhat neutral policy. Hitler and Germany were able to take
over the Rhineland, the Saarland, the Sudetenland, (which had been given to the nation of
Czechoslovakia by the peace settlements) and unify with Austria with the League left only to
watch. Finally, on the 1st of September 1939, just 20 years after the end of World War I,
Hitler invaded Poland. The Treaty of Versailles had failed; Europe was once again at war.
The Treaty of Versailles had one true plan in preserving the peace, to completely
eliminate Germany’s territorial, imperial, military, and economic power so much, that the country
could never wage war again. The means of doing this in the treaty, however, were not well
thought out. Under the threat of military action, Germany was forced to pay huge reparations to
Britain and France. But all of Germany’s income producing territories and colonies had been
taken away; it was impossible for them to pay. With the economy devastated, Germany turned
to the radical ideas of Adolf Hitler, and would eventually wage war on Britain, France, and
many others. Many at the time of the Treaty of Versailles knew that there would be problems
with it; revenge and punishment would not preserve the peace. Some even tried to publicly
offer solutions like Woodrow Wilson, the president of the United States at the time, and John
Maynard Keynes, a leading economist. Unfortunately, the leaders of Britain and France
ignored these problems and signed the Treaty of Versailles into existence.
HITLER AND THE NAZI’S
Hitler was born in a small town in Austria in 1889. As a young boy, he showed little
ambition. After dropping out of high school, he moved to Vienna to study art, but he was
denied the chance to join Vienna academy of fine arts.
When WWI broke out, Hitler joined Kaiser Wilhelmer’s army as a Corporal. At this time he
was not a person of great importance. He was to become a creature of a Germany created by WWI, and
his behavior was shaped by that war and its consequences.Futhermore, he had emerged from Austria
with many prejudices, including a powerful prejudice against Jews. Again, he was a product of his
times, for many Austrians and Germans were prejudiced against the Jews.
In Hitler’s case the prejudice had become maniacal it was a dominant force in his
private and political personalities. Anti-Semitism was not a policy for Adolf Hitler-it was
religion. And in the Germany of the 1920s, stunned by defeat, and the ravages of the Versailles
treaty, it was not hard for a leader to convince millions that one element of the nation’s society
was responsible for most of the evils heaped upon it.
Hitler’s Nazi party came to power almost entirely because of accidents. In 1929 the American
Stock Market crashed, a powerful symbol of the growing depression. Germany was particularly badly
affected, since Germany’s economy was partly dependent on Americas prosperity and a large number
of loans made by America to Germany were called back and the German economy crashed.
Since the German government suffered badly in the depression the existing Weimar government,
put in place by the victorious Allies, was blamed. Without the depression the government was not
particularly liked since it was indecisive and it had not central power. Hitler used his twenty-five points from
the beginning of the Nazi party. These were a set of promises appealing to everybody, they included
elements of socialism and told people what they wanted to hear. They promised to stop reparations to the
victors of the First World War, end unemployment, give a strong leadership and they attacked immigrants
and particularly Jews. The twenty-five points were attractive to those most vulnerable to the depression,
especially ex-soldiers, the unemployed and the middle classes.
In the time of crisis the German people had swung to an extreme group, the Nazis were an easy
way out, and they were also attractive since they apparently promoted the old and respected German
militaristic values. In the hard times they were effective since the democratic parties could not solve any of
the problems facing Germany. In the 1930 elections the Nazis greatly increased the number of seats that they
held in parliament, by 1932 they had nearly 200 seats, although they did not have a majority they were the
largest single party.
On January 30th 1933, Hitler became the new Chancellor of the Reich. Immediately thereafter he
scrapped the old Weimar republican constitution and replaced it with a dictatorship being run by none other
than himself. Following the death of President Hindenburg on the 2nd of August 1934, Hitler assumed full
leadership of the nation under the titles of Chancellor and Reichsfuehrer. In the coming year Hitler was to
re-establish conscription; this startled the rest of Europe. Even to be more startling was the fact that,
un-noticed, Germany’s air-fleet, in the years before, had grown to be of great proportions and continuely
growing very rapidly.
In 1938, the Sudeten portions of Czechoslovakia, which had previously been a part of Germany,
were given back to Germany following the end of the Munich pact, which stated that these areas were
to be a part of Czechoslovakia following World War I. On the 14th of March, 1939, Hitler invaded
Czechoslovakia and declared that it ceased to exist, and now being a protectorate of the Reich. Their citizens
were only given a second-class citizenship, inferior to a full citizenship of Germany. Hitler didn’t stop
there though, he demanded the return of Danzig which was taken away by the Versailles Treaty. This
brought a crisis with Poland and in September, 1939, Hitler and his troops marched into Poland and
conquered it in just a few weeks.
INVASION OF POLAND
When France and Britain agreed to return the Sudeten back to Germany, it was in hopes to
avoid and another armed conflict with Germany. When it became clear that Hitler next planned an
invasion of Poland, Great Britain had no choice but to issue a threat of war if Germany went through
with the operation. The threat was simply disregard, and the attack on Poland was carried out as planned.
On 1st of September,1939, at least 80 different divisions of Hitler’s armies fully equiped with tanks,
motor cars, machine guns, heavy artiillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons very superior and
more well organized than that of Poland’s.
Hitler’s method of attack was more important than just the sheer size of his army. He used a
blitzkrieg approach meaning lighting attack. He boldly drove his armored and motorized units deep
into enemy territory and effectively eliminated their established battlefronts and strongholds. The
Polish command were even more surprised with the German Air Forces. They attacked with lightening
speed to destroy the Poles airbases, ammunition depots, and rail communications. This disrupted
almost all transport and troop movements that the Poles desperately needed. Even more important,
it prevented any successful reconnosince by the enemy that would have been much needed to
deal with any offensive attacks.
On September 2nd, 1939, a day after the Polish invasion began, Premier Chamberlain of
Great Britain gave a speech in which he finally stated that, This country is at war with Germany…(Wernick
8). The joint declaration of war on Germany with France became official the same day. In spite of efforts to
avoid combat, the fears of the British people had come true on that day. However, the British and both
the French never offered any assistance to Poland till it was too late.Without adequate scouting and military intelligence, the Poles lost control of even their own forces. Even larger defense units could not plan major attacks and because of this the Polish army began to dissolve. The President and Commander in Chief of Poland both fled as fugitives and by September 28, 1939, the German’s conquest of Poland was completed.
ENGLAND AND FRANCE ENTER THE WAR
Although England and France both entered the war when Hitler invaded Poland, No support
was sent to Poland to aide in their fight. At home, both forces were rallying their Navies to form a
maritime blockade. The blockade was not set near the German Shores but at the narrow sea approaches
to the continent. The combined forces of both the British and French sides was nearly nine times large as
the navies on the German side. All ships entering the continent were searched and any supplies heading
to Germany were confiscated and sent elsewhere.
Because the Germans could not compete with such a large outfit they started to produce their
notourious submarines again, which gave them quite an edge in the first World War. The Sea Wolves,
as they were called, reaked havoc on the Allied ships. After only three months of war, a total of 134 ships
were lost on all sides, with about seventy five of these being from the British navy alone. At this time,
the British announced that as of December 4th, all German exports, regardless of ownership or the carrier
would be seized. This brought forth protests from countries that chose to remain neutral and even threats
of retalliation from Japan. By the end of the year, German exports had been cut in half.
In the first nine months of the war, no important developments were made by either side. In the
first weeks of the war, the French made advancements into no man’s land but with the arrival of German
re-inforcements in the West after the conquest of Poland, they were pushed back across their border.
The Germans, under strict orders, were not to invade on any French soil. This was Hitler’s attempt to
force Britain and France to peace without him having to give up Poland or Czechoslovakia. His attempts
failed. In just a few short months, Hitler and his troops invaded Poland, Finland, Norway, Denmark,
Belgium, Luxemburg and on June 25th, 1940, even France were forced to lay down their arms to the
growing German army in order to save their own people from death on their own soil. With help from
the Allies, to no avail though, the Germans still won the battles and occupied these areas.
U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN THE WAR
The whole while war had been waging in Europe, the United States took a neutral stand. The U.S., like Great Britain, had hoped to avoid bringing the horrors of war to it’s people again. For them, the memories and losses of World War I were still fresh in their minds. Although the U.S participated in a peace treaty to
prevent the capture of Shanghai by the Japanese, who were waging another war in the Eastern hemisphere;
already increasing Japanese expansion throughout China and occupying the French Indochina in July, 1940,
the U.S. didn’t want to put their troops placed in any danger.
On the morning of December 7,1941, at Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base in Hawaii, the Japanese fleet of carriers that had been making it’s way toward the Hawaiian Islands went into action. Wave after wave of Japanese aircraft came into the harbor and attacked the American fleet as it sat helpless. No one saw the attack coming, so defense to the assault was minimal. In the aftermath , the final tallies were five U.S. battleships and ten warships had been destroyed, and three more battleships were severely damaged. The death toll was also high. Over 2,400 American soldiers were killed in the strike. That was not the only attack that day, In twenty four hours Japan had launched attacks on Hong Kong, the Malay pennisula, Borneo and the U.S. outpost of Guam.
On December 8, The U.S, with Franklin Roosevelt as the President, declared war on Japan. The U.S. was joined by Great Britain, the Netherlands, and several Latin American nations. In retalliation, on December 11, Germany and Italy, which had previously signed a military alliance with Japan, Also declared war on the U.S. Their strategy was to win the Eastern world to cut off valuable resources such as oil, tin and rubber. The U.S. had their own plan though. Along with Britain and the Soviet Union, they had planned to defeat Germany and Italy first than take care of the problems in the east.
THE ALLIED AND AXIS POWERS
There were now two groups fighting this war, the Allied forces, consisting of the U.S, Britain and the Soviet Union, and the Axis forces made up of Germany, Italy and Japan. The first large-scale U.S forces went into North Africa in November, 1942. The Germans, trapped between American troops on the west, British troops on the east, and the free French Forces on the south, the Germans and Italians were forced to surrender in May, 1943. This victory, put the Allies in control of the Mediterranean and paved the way for the invasion of Europe.
The first target for the Allies was Italy. Using the newly won North African bases as a jumping point, American forces invaded Sicily in June, 1943, and conquered it in five weeks. This led to many air attacks from the Allies on Italy. After three months, British and American soldiers landed in Southern Italy.
Italy’s Dictator, Mussolini fled north. Italy surrendered but many Germans were still stationed there and still fighting. For two years, the Allies made their way throughout Italy taking Rome in June, 1944 and finally pushing the German resistance out of Italy in May, 1945 This was very important to fighting elsewhere in Europe because with the war in Italy, it kept large numbers of German troops from being used somewhere else where they may have been needed.
At the time of the battles in Italy, wars were waging elsewhere in Europe. German defeats were growing in numbers and things were starting to look brighter for the Allies. The Soviets, who previously
had a non-agression act with Germany, had been on the defensive side of a seige on Stalingrad. For three months the Soviets just defended, when they counter-attacked the Germans were defeated losing almost their entire force. Throughout 1943 and 1944, The Soviets drove the Germans out of the Soviet Union and back across Europe. In September,1944, they had moved across Eastern Europe and were at the gates of Warsaw, Poland, where five years earlier Hitler started his conquest into the rest of Europe.
TURNING POINTS OF WORLD WAR II
One of the main turning points of the war was D-Day. On June 6, 1944 a long awaited, carefully planned out assault was carried out on the beaches of Normandy. In May, while preparing the invasion, the Allied forces were sending fake radio signals to different locations. Futhermore, the also had rows of inflatable tanks and landing craft situated away from the true staging area. All these factors confused the Germans. They sensed an attack but were unsure of the location. Also, they were confused as to the size of the attack.
On D-Day, five thousand Allied ships crossed the english channel and started what is still the most intense bombardment in naval history. In addition, under the cover of thousands of airplanes, the Allied armies amphibious forces landed on Omaha beach, Utah, Juno, Gold, and Sword. On Omaha beach and Utah beach, the troops found nothing but slaughter. However, on Juno beach, Gold beach, and Sword beach, the Allied forces made their way through lighter defenses and easier terrain. Within a day, the joined naval forces combined with the airborne pushed their way into France eventually ridding it of all German influence.
After swiftly conquering France, the troops pushed on. They forced Nazi control and influence out of Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg. In December, they were met by a counter-attack of the German forces, this only caused a temporary delay. The Allies drove relentlessly onward, Finally crossing into Germany in March, 1945.
As the Allies advanced into Germany, the Soviets moved in from Poland, seized Austria, and approached Berlin. The two armies met at the Elbe River and spliting Germany in two. At this point the war came to a rapid end. German armies were cut to pieces and pounded from the air frequently. On May 2th, both Allied forces met and entered Berlin. Just five days later, Germany surrendered unconditionally. Germany was eventually divided into four zones, each zone was to be occupied by either British, French, Soviet or American military at all times. Sadly, while the Allied forces made their way through Berlin, Hitler commited suicide and was never to answer or to be punished for the atrocious crimes he commited as Dictator of Germany.
In April 1933, just three months after Adolf Hitler took power in Germany, the Nazis issued a degree, ordering the compulsory retirement of non-Aryans from the civil service. This included Poles, Russians, and their favorite target, the Jews. This law was the first spark in what was to become the Holocaust, one of the most ghastly things that has happened in history. Before Hitler’s campaign against the Jews was halted by the defeat of Germany, something like eleven million people had been slaughtered in the name of Nazi racial purity.
The Holocaust had many things leading up to the severe brutality it would turn out to be. In the years following 1933, the Jews were deprived of their civil rights, of their jobs and even their property. Violence and brutality became a part of their everyday lives. Their places of worship were defiled, their windows smashed, their stores ransacked. Old men and young were beaten and stomped to death by Nazi officers. Jewish women were ravaged, in broad daylight, on main roads. All these crimes were carried out by Hitler’s own Nazi law enforcers, known as the Gestapo, or the SS.
Some Jews fled Germany. But most, with a belief in God, sought to wait out the Nazi terror. It was in vain sadly. In 1939, after Hitler’s conquest of Poland, the Nazis got much worse. Jews in their millions were now herded into concentration camps, there to starve and die as slave laborers. Other millions were driven into dismal ghettos, which served as holding pens until the Nazis got around to disposing of them.
The mass killings began in 1941, with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Nazi murder squads followed behind the armies enthusiastically killing Jews and other conquered peoples. First tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people were led off to remote fields and forest to be slaughtered by SS guns. Assembly-line death camps were established in Poland and train loads of Jews were collected from all over Germany occupied Europe and sent to their deaths.
At some of the camps, the Nazis tried to disguise their intentions, at others, the Jews saw scenes beyond belief. What had begun as a law against Jewish civil servants was now ending in the death six million Jews, Poles, gypsies, Russians, and other sub-humans
Thousands of Jews and other inmates were used as guinea pigs in a wide range of medical and scientific experiments, most of them of little value.Victims were infected with diseases, mainly Typhus, to no one’s surprise, all of them died quickly. Prisoners were forced to drink only sea water to see how long castaways might survive. Gynecology was an area of interest. Various methods of sterilization were practiced by massive X-ray, irritants, drugs, and surgery without anesthetic. The Jews were also used by Nazi doctors who needed practice performing various operations. After, these patients would probably just be sent to the Gas Chamber.
The worse killing machine were called shower baths. After their arrival at a death camp, the Jews who had been chosen to die were told that they were to have a shower. Dirty from their long, miserable journey, they sometimes applauded the announcement. Countless Jews and other victims went peacefully to the shower rooms which were gas chambers in disguise.
As the Allied armies pushed through conquered German territories, the Jews were freed from these horrible camps as they came up on them. Finally, when the war ended, so did the last of the concentration camps that Hitler and his Nazis created during their reign of terror.
ENDING THE WAR WITH THE JAPANESE
In the years that the Allies were finally making head way with the fighting in Europe, there was still the conflict in the east with Japan to end. After Italy and Germany had been defeated, the Allied forces centered their focus on driving the Japanese out of the areas they invaded in the previous six years. They ended any threat Japan might pose to Australia and Hawaii. From then on, it was a short matter of time before they were forced out of the Philipines, the Malay pennisula, the Dutch East Indies, China and forces were already prepared to invade Japan.
By June, 1945, the U.S. were able to launch heavy aerial assaults againest the home islands of Japan. With bases now on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, The U.S. were ready to go ahead with their plans. On August 6, 1945, with Japan’s forces in widespread retreat, supply lines disrupted, and with the bombings of the major cities being bombed more and more heavily, the U.S. dealt their final blow, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Wiping out a large part of the city, the Japanese still didn’t surrender. The U.S. proceeded to bomb Nagasaki with the same type of bomb and on August 14, 1945 the Japanese begged for peace.
The surrender terms were issued by the Allies a month before. They stated that Japan was to be disarmed; their war criminals were to be punished; and there was to be a constant military occupance in Japan territory. The emperor was premitted to retain his throne, but a democratic government was to be established.
Written by Jerry Burt, Newfoundland…..ICQ # 104972002
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