To what extent were the failures of the Treaty of Versailles responsible for the outbreak of WWII?On the 3rd of September 1939, the Allies declared war on the Axis powers. What ensued was the largest and deadliest conflict in human history. The cause of this has been debated for generations; with factors such as the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler’s foreign policy and the Wall Street Crash. Based on the evidence, the failures of the Treaty of Versailles were mainly responsible for the outbreak of WWII. However, it could be argued that the other factors contributed to the outbreak of WWII.The most important cause for the outbreak of WWII is the Treaty of Versailles; this was signed on the 28th of June 1919. This treaty ended the war between Germany and the Allies. One main factor of the treaty required Germany to become responsible for the whole war, and all the death and damage in it. One reason this contributed to the war was that the punishments were too harsh on Germany. One such punishment was that Germany had to pay about £6.6bn to the Allies. This is equivalent to about £284bn nowadays. This amount of money was hard for the Germans to pay, and a German head of government even resigned rather than to actually sign the treaty. This lead to war because some German parties gained momentum and tried to overthrow the government, and one of these parties was the Nazi party, led by Adolf Hitler. After the attempt, the Nazi party gained more and more voters and was eventually voted into power in 1933. Another punishment was the loss of German territory. In total, Germany lost around 25000 square miles of land to either the League of Nations or to other countries. An example of this was Czechoslovakia, and also the demilitarization of the Rhineland. Also, Germany was banned from joining Austria. This led to war because one of the first actions that Hitler did was march his troops into areas of land that had been taken, and also he joined together with Austria after Austria voted whether they wanted to join Germany. The final reason why the Treaty of Versailles was mainly responsible for the outbreak of WWII was that Germany’s armed forces were severely limited. For example, Germany’s army was limited to 100,000 soldiers, and these were to only be made up of volunteers, their police force was severely limited to levels from before WWI and also Germany was banned from having an air force. This led to war because the German military couldn’t do anything. For example, German troops were sent into the Rhineland to stop rioting because the police force was too small to stop the rioting. And then, because the Rhineland was meant to be a demilitarized zone, French troops occupied some German towns such as Frankfurt and Darmstadt. The Treaty of Versailles was mainly responsible for the outbreak of war because this led to other causes, such as Hitler’s foreign policy and appeasement. For example, one of Hitler’s aims was to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. Also, one of the reasons appeasement happened was because, in hindsight, some countries’ leaders thought that the punishments on Germany had been too harsh.The second most important cause of the outbreak of WWII was Hitler’s foreign policy and how the Allies responded to what he did to fulfil his aims. Hitler’s foreign policy had three main aims: to expand German territory, to destroy Judaism and Communism and to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. One reason this contributed towards war was that Germany rearmed. This was fulfilling one of Hitler’s aims: to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. Firstly, Germany was banned from having an air force, but in 1933 Hitler made the Luftwaffe, the new German air force. Also, he started making more battleships and U-boats and raised the number of soldiers in the army to 550,000. This led to war because Hitler now had a lot more power than he had before, and would now be able to invade countries that he definitely wouldn’t have been able to before. Also, this rearmament scared some countries such as France, who reinforced the Maginot Line to defend themselves from Germany. Another thing was the when Hitler rearmed, Britain saw them doing this and took pity on them because they thought that the punishments on Germany had been too harsh, and allowed Germany to have a navy 35% as strong as the British navy. Another reason the Hitler’s foreign policy led to WWII was that he wanted to expand German territory. An example of this was the “Anschluss” with Austria. Hitler wanted to become an ally with Austria, but this was banned by the Treaty of Versailles, but he did it anyway and Austria voted to join with Nazi Germany with 99.75% of the vote. Also, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland and took control over the Sudetenland and then eventually the whole of Czechoslovakia. This led to war because by the end it stopped Britain’s appeasement of German advances, and the only way to stop Germany from taking over the whole of Europe was to have a war. This did contribute greatly to the start of WWII, but the Treaty of Versailles was simply more important because without it Hitler wouldn’t be able to rip up the treaty, and maybe if the Allies weren’t so harsh on Germany, Hitler might never have wanted to go to war.The final factor for the outbreak of WWII was the Wall Street Crash. In October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed severely, causing a worldwide depression. It happened because after people had bought lots of stocks, they had debts to pay as most of them had taken loans from the bank. This meant that they wouldn’t buy anything they didn’t absolutely need, and so most shops lost a lot of business. Then, some of these shops closed down and then even fewer people had money to buy things with. This then repeats on and on until the whole US economy crashed. Then, countries that relied on goods from the US wouldn’t get those goods and then slowly that country’s economy crashes as well, and suddenly the whole world is in a big recession. One reason this led to war was that it led to the rise of Fascist movements in Italy and also in Germany, namely Mussolini and Hitler. Mussolini was already in power, but saw war as an appropriate solution to the economic problems, and started this with the invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935. Hitler, however, had not risen to power yet, and the depression gave him momentum. The Germans had been hit very hard by the depression, mostly because they imported lots of goods from the US, and their economy and industry had collapsed. Because of this, there was a large lack of money in Germany, and there were high rates of unemployment. When something big like a depression happens, people usually look for extremes, and Hitler was the perfect choice. One reason he was elected was that he promised to bring Germany back prosperity, to bring back jobs and to bring back order to Germany. This appealed to the German people, and he was voted into power in 1933. Another reason why the Wall Street Crash led to the outbreak of war was that it lowed cooperation between countries that were in the following depression. After the Wall Street Crash, countries’ economies crashed, and so these countries were more worried about trying to sort out their own personal problems and not even thinking about any other countries.
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