What Were the Main Causes of World War II?

There were a variety of factors leading up to the Second World War.

World War II started in September 1939 when both France and Britain declared war on Germany as a result of its invasion of Poland. Despite Germany instigating World War II, the causes that led to the war are more intricate. There were a variety of factors leading up to the Second World War which can be divided into short-term causes and long-term causes.

4. Reparations on Germany from the Treaty of Versailles

In 1919, four gentlemen met for the sole purpose of discussing how Germany was to be held responsible for paying for the damages caused during World War I. The four gentlemen included Woodrow Wilson from the US, Orlando from Italy, Lloyd George from England, and Clemenceau from France. Since France wanted revenge on Germany, the Treaty of Versailles was made in favor of Georges Clemenceau and was not based on Woodrow's 14-point plan which was deemed to bring peace to the region of Europe. The Treaty of Versailles was thought to be too harsh and one that would cripple the economy of Germany since the country could not afford to pay for the World War I reparations. Following the repercussions of the treaty, Germans sought to get a man who would tear apart the Treaty of Versailles, and in desperation and anger, they chose Adolf Hitler for the job.

3. The Japanese invasion of China

During the Warlord Era, China was a weak state prompting the 1931 invasion by the Japanese. During the same year, Japan framed the Manchurian Incident to establish a puppet state known as Manchukuo in Manchuria whose emperor was to be Puyi the last emperor of China. The Second-Sino Japanese War was provoked by the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937. The invasion started with the bombing of several cities including Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai where the Imperial Japanese Army carried out some of the worst war crimes.

2. Hitler and the rise of other dictators

Between the years of 1933 and 1934, Hitler together with his Nazis took control over Germany turning his reign into a dictatorship. His rule depicted a period of hostility especially to the Jews and the Treaty of Versailles. However, Hitler solved the issue of unemployment by spending heavily on the country's military. One of Hitler's diplomatic artifices was to make ostensibly reasonable demands which he threatened war if they were not met. When concessions were made, he accepted them and continued to make new demands. In the end, Germany pulled out of the League of Nations in 1933 and rejected the Versailles Treaty re-arming all three arms of the military contrary to the treaty in 1935.

1. Great Depression of the 1930s

The Great Depression was characterized by the worldwide economic decline that started in 1929 lasting until 1939. There is no doubt that the Great Depression played a significant role in causing World War II. Factors such as mass unemployment in Germany and poverty in Japan provoked considerable anger among the citizens causing them to accept dictatorial governments which made it acceptable to forcefully loot from other countries whenever they wanted. Most leaders, including Hitler, seized power by directing their citizen's anger and hatred towards other countries. Since most countries could not afford to be philanthropic during the Great Depression, some left the League of Nations while others due to self-interest could not come to the aid of the countries under attack such as Manchuria and Abyssinia. Therefore, self-interest played a role in World War II and was also the main reason that the League of Nations failed.

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