Causes of World War 2: Treaty of Versailles, Rise of Nazis, Second World War (1939-1945)

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Causes of World War 2 were many, including the effects of the Treaty of Versailles after World War One, the global economic downturn, the failure of appeasement, the growth of militarism in Germany and Japan, and the collapse of the League of Nations. The disastrous World War 2, which broke out in 1939 and ended in 1945, was a global confrontation. Due to genocidal acts, famine, killings, and illness, it was the bloodiest war in human history, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

Let’s discuss more about the Causes of Second World War, it history, consequences and more. The Causes of WW 2 will help us understand the global perspective of that time in a much better way.

World War 2

Between 1939 and 1945, a global conflict known as World War 2, often known as the Second World War, took place. The main combatants were the Allies, which included France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China, and the Axis forces, which included Germany, Italy, and Japan.

  • After an unpleasant 20-year break, the conflict, in many ways, carried on the unresolved issues from World War 1.
  • Two days after Hitler’s army invaded Poland, on September 3, 1939, World War II officially began.
  • Britain and France provided guarantees for Poland’s independence. The two protesters declared war after Hitler became insensitive to their pleas.

Causes of World War 2

Although many different factors contributed to World War 2, in the end, it all came down to Adolf Hitler’s and the Nazi Party’s aggressive and expansionist goals. Additionally, the severe Versailles Treaty from earlier only served to set the stage for future wars. The failure of the League of Nations, which was established after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, was only highlighted by other events like the Spanish Civil War and the Japanese invasion of China.

Let us now discuss the Causes of Second World War in detail:

The Treaty of Versailles

  • In 1919, the victorious Allied Powers gathered to discuss Germany’s destiny. The Treaty of Versailles was made mandatory for Germany to sign.
  • This pact required Germany to acknowledge its responsibility for the war and make restitution. Germany suffered a loss of territory and was forbidden from building its military.
  • The humiliation Germany experienced due to this pact let Ultra-Nationalism gain a foothold in Germany.

Rise of Nazism

  • Fascism with racist overtones was promoted by Adolf Hitler, leader of the German National Socialist (Nazi) party.
  • In order to give the German people greater space, which he believed they deserved as members of a superior race, Hitler pledged to annul the Versailles Treaty, restore German prosperity and pride, and secure additional Lebensraum.
  • Hitler was elected German Chancellor in 1933, and he later established himself as a dictator by a series of following measures.
  • A war of annihilation against Jews, Slavs, and other groups considered inferior by Hitler’s worldview was also launched by the Nazi administration in 1941.

Why Nazism was Popular in Germany?

Failure of the League of Nations

  • In 1919, the League of Nations was established as a global governing body.
  • It was hoped that all nations would participate and that issues between nations could be resolved by dialogue instead of force.
  • Despite being a fine idea, the League of Nations ultimately failed because not all nations agreed to participate.
  • Additionally, the League lacked an army to defend itself against military aggression, like Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in Africa or Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in China.

Great Depression of 1929

  • In Europe and Asia, the 1930s global economic depression left its mark in several ways.
  • Totalitarian and imperialist governments seized control of a number of nations in Europe, notably Germany, Italy, and Spain.
  • A resource-starved Japan started to aggressively expand in Asia, conquering China and attempting to establish control over a region of influence in the Pacific.

Rise of Fascism

  • The declared goal of World War I winners had been to build a safe world for democracy. Postwar Germany was forced to adopt a democratic constitution, as most other states restored or established after the war.
  • However, a wave of military, patriotic authoritarianism known by its Italian name, fascism, emerged in the 1920s.
  • It offered itself as the only sure bulwark against communism and claimed to serve the needs of the people more efficiently than democracy.
  • During the interwar years, Benito Mussolini imposed the first fascist government in Europe in Italy in 1922.

Difference Between Nazimism and Fascism

Policy of Appeasement

  • Hitler openly rejected the Treaty of Versailles and started quietly bolstering Germany’s military and arsenal.
  • Despite being aware of Hitler’s deeds, Britain and France believed that a stronger Germany would halt the rise of Communism from Russia.
  • The Munich Agreement of September 1938 serves as an illustration of appeasement. By signing the Agreement, Britain and France gave Germany permission to annex portions of Czechoslovakia that were home to German speakers.
  • Germany committed not to invade any other nation or the whole of Czechoslovakia. Germany, however, went back on its word and invaded the remaining Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

Consequences of the Second World War

The Causes of World War 2 paved the path to the deadliest war of mankind. Several million lives were taken in WW2. The consequences of the Second World War were:

  • Colonialism and imperialism were over.
  • Italy and Germany’s dictatorships ended.
  • Germany was divided into West Germany and East Germany. West Germany was controlled by Britain, France and USA. East Germany by USSR.
  • Nationalist movements are becoming more powerful in Asia and Africa.
  • The world was plagued by economic issues, including unemployment, slow development, etc.
  • The emergence of the USA and USSR as two major power blocs, together with developing nations. The outcome was the cold war.
  • The UNO was founded in 1945.
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