World War II Causes
Unlike WWI, where a variety of complex factors were at play, WWII (in
Europe) was primarily the result of two nations (Germany and Italy)
unsatisfied with the status quo imposed by WWI.
German Ambitions: Germany was on the losing side of the Central
Powers during WWI. It lost significant portions of territory, including
the Polish Corridor, border lands along the Polish border, and critical
industrial sectors along the western French border. It was also forced
to pay suffocating reparations to pay for the damage from WWI. It was
natural for it to seek to regain its military might. Once this was
achieved, it was prepared to avenge its loss in WWI, and reassert itself
as the dominant power in Central Europe, and perhaps most or all of
Italy Ambitions: Italy was on the victorious Allied side during
WWI, paying a steep price in its contribution to victory. Hundreds of
thousands lost their lives fighting the Austrians, in which Italy was
ultimately victorious. Despite this, the Allies reneged on promises of
land awards along the eastern banks of the Adriatic Sea, which was
instead awarded to Yugoslavia. Italians were seriously disenchanted at
the minimal gains they were ceded in light of the heavy cost they paid
to fight the Austrians along their own border.
Appeasement: The Allied powers who enforced the status quo
established after WWI, such as the UK, France and the USA, were
unwilling to intercede when Germany began to once again assert itself as
a militarized power. Although in violation of the peace treaty ending
WWI, the Allies stood by as Germany rebuilt its military, annexed
Austria, and invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. They also refused to act
when Italy invaded Albania in 1939. As a result, Germany was emboldened
to continue its invasions into Poland in 1939, which did finally elicit
a declarations of war from the Allies.
Racism: Germans viewed ethnic Slavs as an inferior race, and were
therefore self-empowered and self-justified to invade and capture their
lands without inhibition to the east in order to expand its territorial
Fascism: The social and economic turbulence that gripped Europe
during the Global Depression gave rise to dictatorship-led governments,
in order to establish order (although at the expense of individual
liberties). When democracy and capitalism failed to pull nations out of
the depression, fascist governments gained favor throughout much of
Europe, including Germany and Italy. Hitler and Mussolini instituted
tight social and economic controls, typical of fascist governments.
Fervent nationalism and militarism are also typical of fascism, which
drove both nations to build-up their militaries and seek to expand at
the expense of neighboring nations.
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