Origins of WW2

The origins of ww2

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Hitlers Aims

Hitler had several aims in order to make Germany more powerful.

  • He first took Germany out of The League of Nations - they joined in 1926
  • Hitler promised he would reverse the Treaty of Versailles
  • Hitler planned to expand to gain Lebensraum (living space)
  • Hitler wanted to unite all German-speaking people
  • Hitler aimed to make Italy an ally
  • Hitler aimed to destroy France
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Saar Plebiscite - 1935

The SAAR - an industrial area taken from Germany in the Treaty of Versailles -

A plebiscite was to be held after 15 years to decide whether it should be returned to Germany. 90% were in favour of it returning to Germany.

  • It was the first of the injustices of Versailles to be reversed
  • Benefited the German Economy
  • Increased Nazi Popularity
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Rearmament - 1935

Hitler withdrew Germany from the world disarmament conference in 1933. He claimed no other power would disarm so he wouldn't. 

He then reintroduced conscription and started to rearm.

Britain supported to Germany - a naval agreement was signed allowing Germany to have a navy no bigger than 35% of Britain.

  • Britain and France did nothing to stop Hitler, this gave Hitler confidence to take more risks
  • Hitler got away with rearmament
  • Another clause of Treaty of Versailles was reversed
  • Germany starting to become more powerful
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Remilitirisation of the Rhineland - 1936

The Rhineland was made a demilitirised zone by the Treaty of Versailles

In March 1936 - Hitler marched his troops into the Rhineland. The League of Nations was busy with the Abysinnian crisis and althought they condemed his actions they did nothing. Hitler promised a peace treaty so this calmed the League.

Britain claimed that hitler was merely "Marching into his own backyard" and Britain saw the Treaty of Versailles as too harsh so didn't have a problem with Hitler going against it. 

  • Hitlers gamble paid off and this increased his confidence to take risks
  • Increased Hitlers popularity with German people
  • Hitler was right and his generals who had advised otherwise were wrong.
  • Britain and France did nothing
  • Italy and Germany drew closer and they signed the Rome-Berlin Axis (agreement)
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Anschluss with Austria -1938

The union of Austria and Germany had been forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles

In 1934- Hitler attempted to seize power but this failed

By 1938 - Things had changed, Italy and Germany were allys. One of Hitlers aims was to unite all German speaking people, so he again attempted to unite with Austria.


  • Hitler bullied the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg into accepting a Nazi (Seyss-Inquart) as Austrian minister of the interior
  • Schuschnigg ordered a plebiscite to find out if Austrian people wanted an anschluss
  • Hitler feared a no vote so moved troops to the border and forced Schuschnigg to resign
  • Seyss-Inquart became Chancellor of Austria and invited Nazi troops into Austria. The Anschluss was complete.
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Results of the Anschluss

  • Another triumph for Hitler
  • Austrian resources gained
  • Another injustice of Treaty of Versaillles overcome
  • Germany becomes more powerful
  • Many Austrians were happy about the Anschluss
  • Britain and France did nothing
  • Germany now possessed land on three sides of Czechslovakia - IN DANGER
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Appeasment- resolve German greviences through negotiations in order to avoid war/conflict, Britain followed this policy from 1935-8 supported by Neville Chamberlain


  • People wanted to avoid another war
  • Many people thought Germany was treated too harshly
  • Communism was a bigger threat
  • Germany was very powerful, couldn't fight Germany
  • Britain not ready for war, and financially weak


  • Hitler had an advantage, he got away with lots and became stronger
  • Britain and France allowed Hitler to break international agreements
  • Chamberlain misjudged Hitler, missed opurtunities to stop Hitler
  • It did not stop war in 1939
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Sudetenland Crisis

Part of Czechoslovakia consisted of German-speaking people, the Sudetenland.

  • Hitler ordered Henlein (The leader of sudeten Germands) to make trouble in the Sudetenland.
  • There were allegations of crimes apparently commited by Czechs against Sudeten Germans.
  • Hitler threatened war if a solution was not found
  • Chamberlain believed a peaceful solution could be found and pusuaded the Czech president to accpet self-government for Sudetenland.
  • However then Hitler produced new demands which the Czech president refused.
  • War seemed a possibility
  • Chaimberlain made one last effort to maintain peace.
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Munich Agreement

Chamberlain, the French Leader, Mussolini and Hitler met at Munich to solve the sudeten crisis. Czech representives were not invited to the meeting. The Czechs were forced to hand over the Sudetenland to Germany.

Chamberlain and Hitler had a futher meeting in Munich in which they agreed that Britain and Germany would not go to war, Hitler promised he did not want the rest of Czechslovakia. Chamberlain returned home a hero who had saved Europe from war.


  • The Czech government were humiliated
  • The sudetenland was lost to Germany, and Hungary and Poland later occupied other parts of Czechslovakia
  • Britain and France had again given in to Hitler

Although it seemed like a sucess after the Munich agreement, Britain and France began to rearm.

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Collapse of Czechoslovakia - 1939

In March 1939, Czechoslovakia finally disapeered from the map of Europe. Hitler invaded and occupied what was left of Czechoslovakia.

The results of the occupation:

  • End of Appeasement - The occupation changed chamberlains attitude to Hitler, he could not justify the takeover of Czechoslovakia and it seemed unreasonable. He had broken the promise made to Chamberlain in 1938.
  • Rearmament - Britain began to rearm as conscription was introduced
  • Promise to Poland - Poland was expected to be Hitlers next target as land from Germany had been given to them in the Treaty of Versailles. In April 1939, Britain and France had promised to help Poland if it was attacked by Germany. However they were not in a position to help Poland as they were far away.
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Pact Of Steel

In may 1939, Hitler and Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel, in which they promised to act together in future events.

Europe was now divided into two camps. 

Both Britain and Germany looked to the USSR as a possible source of support.

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The role of the USSR

The soviets felt that Britain had been trying to push Hitler to the east, and it was true that there were many in Britain who feared Communism more than Facism.

In 1939 Britain and France showed no urgency in making an agreement with USSR, although it would have been helpful to have USSR on side to help defend poland. 

Stalin was suspicious of their aims and this led him to sign the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Hitler in August 1939.

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The Nazi-Soviet Pact

On 23 August 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed. 

  • They agreed not to fight each other in the event of a war
  • Both powers secretly agreed to divide poland if war occured

Hitler and Stalin represented two opposing political systems (Facism and Communism) so the pact was a huge suprise. The Pact made war more likely:

  • Hitlers attack on Poland was inevitable 
  • Hitler had prevented a war on two fronts
  • Hitler presumed it would stop Britain defending Poland
  • If Britain kept the promise to defend Poland war was inevitable
  • Britain and France had lost another possible ally, the USSR
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The Invasion of Poland and Outbreak of War

Britain warned Hitler that it would join war if Germany invaded Poland, Hitler had gone too far.

On 1st September 1939, German troops invaded Poland, it was overrun by Germany and USSR within 4 weeks. Hitler was convinced that Britain would accept his gains in Poland and not continue war. He was mistaken.

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Responsibility for outbreak of war

  • Germany - Hitler continued to take risks, he then made impossible demands on Poland and invaded which he knew would anger the British and could result in war.
  • USSR - Stalin gave his support to Hitler which encouraged him.
  • Italy - Mussolini gave his support to Hitler which encourage him
  • Poland - Signed an alliance with Britain and France which encouraged them to resist Germany and go to war
  • Britain and France - There policy of appeasment made Hitler believe they would not resist his invasion of Poland, appeasment made Germany much stronger as they did not stop Hitler.

The Treaty of Versailles increased German desire for revenge, it helped Hitler to power and allowed Hitler an excuse for his actions.

The failure of The League of Nations meant Hitler had nothing to fear and it showed power and agression was the way to get things.

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