OCR GCSE History Core 3 Causes of WWII

Revision cards for International Relations topic, core 3: causes of WWII! 

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  • Created on: 30-05-13 17:34

German Foreign Policy

1933 - Hitler became Chancellor of Germany

While in the 1920s relations between Germany and the major powers were improving, Hitler was able to take advantage of the economic depression to play to the German public's fears, promising solutions to their problems, and Germany's foreign policy became aggressive + expansionist.

Hitler's Aims:

  • Abolish Treaty of Versailles; a reminder of humiliation in WWI
  • Defeat Communism; hoped carving empire out of USSR would help him do this;   Communists= threat to Germany; blamed Communism for Germany's defeat in WWI
  • Expand German Territory; gain LEBENSRAUM(living space) for German 'master race'; unite with Austria (Anschluss); regain territory lost to Treaty of Versailles

Each time Hitler took over more territory, he managed to convince european leaders that once he had regained the territory that the Treaty of Versailles took away he would demand no more. Accepted as no one supported the Treaty anymore.

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Italian Foreign Policy

1922-1943 - Italy a dictatorship led by Mussolini (leader of Fascists)

Mussolini's aim: increase Italy's prestige as a world power.

Initially seemed to draw closer to Britain and France.

  • Early 1930s - very suspicious of Hitler, his main rival
  • 1934 - opposed Hitler's attempted takeover of Austria
  • Stresa Pact - joined with Britain and France to support Treaty of Versailles

HOWEVER, from 1935 Italy's foreign policy changed; Mussolini sought to expand Italy's overseas territory and to distract public from economic depression => 1935, Invades Abyssinia

  • 1935, Abyssinia invaded - undermines Stresa Pact, relations with Britain + France strained
  • Hitler refusese to comply with League sanctions against Italy over Abyssinia
  • 1936, Rome-Berlin Axis - allies Germany and Italy
  • 1939, Pact of Steel - military alliance

By 1939 Mussolini had allied Italy with the Nazis.

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Japanese Foreign Policy

During the early 20th century, Japan quickly developed into a strong trading nation.

HOWEVER, the Depression had a major impact on the Japanese economy...

  • American protectionism = no trade with USA
  • Trade reduced = economic growth crippled
  • Forced to expand territory to gain raw materials + new market for Japanese goods.

SO, 1931 - invade Manchuria (which is rich in natural resources)

1936, Anti-Comintern Pact - Japan allies with Germany and Italy against Communism.

Japanese foreign policy becomes AGGRESSIVE and EXPANSIONIST.

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French Foreign Policy

In the 1920s and 1930s, dominated by France's desire for security against German invasion; felt unsupported and isolated!

  • 1920s - Agreements signed with Germany's neighbours (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Romania, Lithuania) promising to defend each other against Germany
  • 1929 - Maginot Line built; strong defensive fortification along France's border with Germany
  • Late 1930s - French policy towards Hitler closely linked with British! Both French Daladier and British Chamberlain were SUPPORTERS OF APPEASEMENT

Appeasement= giving Hitler what he wants, on the condition he did not try to expand further.

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British Foreign Policy

Post-WWI: Main interest was the British empire. Hoped that League would keep peace.

Mid-1930s: Loses confidence in the League. Begin to form own policies.

  • 1935, Stresa Pact - signed with France and Italy, promising to support Treaty of Versailles
  • 1935, Anglo-German Naval Agreement - Allowed Germany a navy 35% the size of Britain's (which directly violated the Treaty of Versailles, undermined the Stresa Pact!)

From 1936 - Policy of appeasement towards Mussolini, and especially Hitler!

  • 1936 - Refuses to intervene when Hitler marches into Rhineland
  • 1938 - Britain and France give Hitler the Sudetenland on the condition that he leaves the rest of Czechoslovakia

By 1939, Britain abandoned the policy of appeasement, seeing that Hitler would never be satisfied. Seeing that Poland will be Hitler's next target, Britain agrees to defend Poland.

September 1939 - Hitler invades Poland. Refuses to withdraw. War is declared.

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Hitler's Actions

From 1935 relations in Europe had become increasingly tense. This was partly due to the failure of the League of Nations. Seeing it fail to deal with Japanese and Italian aggression in the 1930s encouraged Hitler to take risks...

C ivil war in Spain, 1936-39

R etaking Saar + Rhineland, 1935-36

A nschluss with Austria, 1938

S udetenland crisis, 1938

H itler takes rest of Czechoslovakia, 1939

I taly and Germany form Pact of Steel, 1939

N azi-Soviet Pact, 1939

G ermany invades Poland, September 1939

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Civil War; Retaking Saar + Rhineland

(1933 - Enabling Act passed to give Hitler total power)

Civil War in Spain, 1936-39

General Franco receives troops from Germany and Italy. Democratic government falls into dictatorship. Gives Hitler and Mussolini's troops practice for actual war.

Retaking Saar and Rhineland

1935 - Saar people vote to rejoin Germany. Gives Hitler confidence, a victory over ToV

1936 - German troops moved into the Rhineland. A clear breach of the Treaty of Versailles. German army significantly weaker than the French army, yet no resistance;

  • Britain keen to avoid provoking Hitler;
  • Didn't want war, didn't feel prepared;
  • Doubts about the fairness of the Treaty of Versailles;
  • France unwilling to act without Britain.

Collective security has failed!

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Anschluss with Austria, 1938

Born in Austria, Hitler wanted to see Austria and Germany united as one country.

  • Forced the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg, to accept a Nazi, Seyss-Inquart
  • Schuschnigg ordered plebiscite to decide whether union should take place
  • Hitler threatens to invade if Schuschnigg doesn't resign. Schuschnigg resigns.
  • Seyss-Inquart names himself Chancellor, invites in German troops. Calls plebiscite; 99% majority. Anschluss is complete.

This action was a clear breach of the Treaty of Versailles.

Britain and France complained, but took no action; felt that the Treaty of Versailles had been too harsh, that Hitler was justified in wanting to reclaim his lost territory.

Western powers had shown they were unwilling to defend the terms of the post-war treaties.

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Sudetenland Crisis, 1938

Czechoslovakia: new state created by post-war treaties. Sudetenland area: many Germans!

  • Hitler orders Henlein (leader of Sudeten Germans) to stir up trouble
  • Claims Czech government is mistreating Sudeten Germans
  • Threatens war if no solution is found!

SO: Chamberlain convinces Czech President Benes to grant Sudetenland self-determination. BUT, Hitler is not satisfied - demands that Sudetenland joins the German Reich.

Munich Agreement:

Chamberlain, Daladier (France), Mussolini (Italy) and Hitler (Germany) meet to resolve crisis.

  • Czechs forced to hand over Sudetenland
  • Chamberlain and Hitler agree not to go to war
  • Hitler promises he is not interested in the rest of Czechoslovakia

Results: Czech government humiliated; Hungary and Poland begin to occupy other Czech territory; Few people believe Hitler can be trusted again; Britain and France step up rearmament programmes.

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Hitler Invades Rest of Czechoslovakia

Hitler invades rest of Czechoslovakia, March 1939

The final occupation of Czechoslovakia signalled impending war!

  • Hitler's promises at Munich clearly WORTHLESS
  • Britain and France rapidly rearming; accepted that appeasement had failed

Why Appeasement?

  • MILITARY REASONS: Britain not ready for war (no air force); doubtdul whether British empire would support another war; American isolationism meant no USA military support
  • ECONOMIC REASONS: Difficult to make war a priority during Great Depression
  • FEAR/PUBLIC OPINION: Hitler seen as ally against Communism; Hitler seen as being reasonable, as Treaty of Versailles considered unfair; Desperate to avoid repeat of WWI

Why NOT Appeasement?

  • Trusted Hitler's promises - mistakenly
  • Encouraged aggression; each successful gamble encouraged him to take a bigger risk
  • Allowed Germany to grow stronger than Britain and France; not just recover lost ground
  • Scared the USSR; Hitler planned to expand into East. Stalin: unsupported. Lost strong ally
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Pact of Steel, Nazi-Soviet Pact

Italy + Germany = Pact of Steel, May 1939

Hitler and Mussolini ally.

Europe now divided. When Hitler demands the return of the Polish Corridor and Danzig to the Reich, the prospect of war over Poland partly rests upon who Stalin allies himself with.

Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, August 1939

  • Hitler and Stalin ally
  • Secretly agree to divide Poland between them

This was surprising, because Hitler (Nazi) and Stalin (Communist) represented polar opposite political systems.

HOWEVER, they had a lot to offer each other:

  • For Hitler, the pact removed the threat of facing war on two fronts
  • For Stalin, Hitler offered acceptance of his plans to expand into Eastern Europe. Britain and France had shown him little friendship.
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Outbreak of War

Germany Invades Poland, 1st September 1939

  • 1st September - German troops invade Poland
  • 15th September - Soviet troops invade Poland, claim territory agreed in Nazi-Soviet Pact
  • Within six weeks Poland had been defeated

What gave Hitler the confidence to invade?

  • Britain and France's guarantees to defend Poland came too late to convince him that they were prepared to go to war over Poland
  • Appeasement had suggested that they would do almost anything to avoid war
  • Poland was too far away for Britain and France to provide practical support
  • The Nazi-Soviet Pact removed the threat of Soviet invasion, allowing Hitler to focus on dealing with Poland and providing military support

When Hitler refused to withdraw, war was declared.

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