Road to world war two

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  • Created on: 28-05-15 16:08

Views on the causes of ww2

There were two main views on how the second world war occured:

Traditional view:

  • Said that Hitler was to blame for the war.
  • Hitler led Germany to rebuild their army and become a more aggressive nation.
  • The Germans broke the Treaty of Versailles and remilitarised the Rhineland.
  • Then joined with Austria (Anschluss), conquered Czechoslovakia and threatened Poland, which was all against the Treaty.

Second view:

  • Hitler never planned to go to war.
  • The more that people gave in to him, the more confident he became in taking bigger risks.
  • This view suggests that the League and Allies were to blame for the war because they didn't stand up to Hitler.
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Hitlers plans for Germany

Hitler wanted to:

  • Get rid of the Treaty of Versailles - he thought it was unfair and blamed it for the problems that Germany were facing
  • Expand Germany's land - To bring back Germany's pride.
  • Make Germany racially pure - Wanted a country of pure Germans, and was against Jews. He also disliked communists.
  • Get Germany prepared for war - Hitler needed more land (lebensraum), and would take it by force if he needed to.
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Hitlers foreign policy in creating war

Civil war in Spain, where Germany supports Nationalists

Re-occupation of the Rhineland

Anschluss with Austria

Sudetenland crisis - Munich Agreement

Hitler takes the rest of Czechoslovakia

Italy and Germany form the Pact of Steel (help each other in future events)

Nazi-Soviet Pact (between Germany and Russia)

Germany invades poland

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Aggressive foreign policies of Italy and Japan

Both Italy and Japan had demonstrated they they'd use aggression in order to get what they wanted. (Japan and Manchuria, Italy and Abyssinia).

The aggressive events that the countries were involved in helped Hitler. They showed that the Leage of Nations (especially Britain and France), were unable to stop big, aggressive nations.

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Remilitarisation of the Rhineland

  • The Treaty of Versailles lead to the Rhineland being demilitarized, and Germany had agreed to this in the Locarno Treaty. It was demilitarised to help protect France from invasion.
  • When Hitler decided to remilitarise the Rhineland France has just signed a treaty with Russia that said that they'd protect each other in an attack. Hitler said that Germany felt threatened, and should be allowed to have troops on their borders, and so in March 1936 he ordered his troops into the Rhineland.
  • His timing was v clever. He knew that the League was busy dealing with the Abyssinian crisis and that the British sympathised with him. He knew that only France could get in his way, and they were going through an election and nobody wanted to be responsible for another war. Even though the remilitarisation received criticism, nobody stopped Germany.
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Why Hitler took over Austria

  • Hitler felt that the Germans that were living in Austria were being mistreated.
  • He encouraged the Nazi Party in Austria to stir up some trouble.
  • A plebiscite (public vote) was conducted to decide on Anschluss (political union), between Germany and Austria. Hitler sent in troops to "oversee" the fairness of the vote, when really they were there to pressure people to vote in favour of Anschluss.
  • In March 1938, it was announced that over 99% of Austrians voted in favour of the union.
  • Britain and France did nothing while the countries joined together.
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Why Hitler took over Czechoslovakia

  • Many German speaking people lived there, and taking over the country would expand Germanys living space (something that Hitler wanted). He also needed Czechoslovakia in case of a future war on the west.
  • In 1938 Hitler demanded to have the Sudetenland. Britain and France had made an agreement to defend Czechoslovakia, so a war over the issue seemed likely.
  • Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler to sign the Munich Agreement, which would give Hitler what he wanted as long as he promised not to use aggression in the future (this is an example of Appeasement)
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Arguments for and against appeasement


  • Nobody wanted to repeat ww1.
  • Some felt that the treaty was too harsh on Germany, and thought that appeasement could help to make Germany more peaceful.
  • Britain was still suffering from the great depression.
  • Britain needed time to strenghthen their armed forces.
  • A stong and friendly Germany would create a buffer to communism.


  • Giving in to Hitler would make him more aggressive.
  • Appeasement was flawed because it was based on the idea that Hitler was trustworthy.
  • It allowed Germany to grow stronger, which made them harder to control.
  • Soviet Russia were worried that Britain would not help in the event of a German invasion, so they signed their own pact with Hitler.
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The failure of appeasement

  • Hitler carried on and invaded Czechoslovakia (going against the Munich Agreement just 6 months later). Soon people realised that only a war would stop him.
  • Hitler made the Pact of Steel with Italy, which showed that he was building up his forces for war.
  • The British alliance with the USSR had failed, and Hitler made the Nazi-Soviet pact, which meant that he was free to invade Poland.
  • He invaded Poland.
  • Chamberlain had promised to defend Poland, which made the war inevitable when Hitler invaded.
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Reasons for the Nazi-Soviet Pact

The main ideas of the pact were that:

  • Germany and Russia promised not to attack each other under any circumstances.
  • They'd privately agreed to divide Poland amongst themselves.

Both Stalin (Russia =) and Hitler (Germany) had reasons to sign the pact.

Stalin: He was fearful of Germany, and didn't believe that Britain and France would help him in an attack. The Pact gave him a chance to build up his own territories and empire, and enough time to build up his armed forces.

Hitler: The Pact removed the only thing in his way from getting Poland (Russia). Removing Russia from his list of problems increased his confidence in taking over Poland, and he was sure that Britain and France wouldn't act. Even if they did, the Pact made sure that he wouldn't be fighting a war on two fronts.

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