How Hitler caused the Second World War
When assessing who was to blame for the outbreak of war, we must first take a look at what Hitler did specifically that caused unrest.
1933 Hitler storms out out of the League... it's dead in the water now
Hitler Rearms: Unemployed workers drawn into the army, 1931
o Rearmed secretly at first before withdrawing from League in 1931
o Openly staged a massive military rally, 1935
o Signed a naval agreement with Britain in 1935 allowing him to increase the navy to 2/3rds of Britain’s.
o Introduced conscription to the army, 1936
o Soldiers up from 100 000 to 950 000 from 1932-1939 – warships from 30-95
o Technically this was not reversing the TOV. The Saar was an industrial region which had been ruled by the League of Nations. After a ‘plebiscite’ (or vote), the people decided to be ruled by Germany. This was entirely legal and a real boost for Hitler.
o In March 1936 Hitler took a real risk by moving troops into the Rhineland despite the TOV saying it should be demilitarized, and despite the fact that Germany had promised to keep it Demiliterized at the Locarno Treaties of 1925.
o Hitler claimed that France and Russia were threatening him by signing the Mutual Assistance Pact and so had a right to invade
o British public opinion felt the Treaty had been too harsh now.
o The attention of the League was on the Abyssinian Crisis and so only condemned Hitler
o The French were about to have an election and did not want to risk war
o The gamble paid off, even though Hitler ordered his troops to retreat at the first sign of resistance!
Spanish Civil War
o In 1936 a civil war broke out between Communists who supported the Republican government, and right-wing rebels under General Franco.
o Hitler saw this as a great way to attack Communism and test his new weapons out.
o In 1937, the League looked on in horror as Hitler sent German aircraft to bomb Spanish civilian cities for Franco. The worst example was the bombing of Guernica.
Anti Commintern Pact
o Italy had also helped Franco against the Communists. In 1937 Italy, Germany and Japan all felt they had a lot in common and so signed the Anti-Commintern (which means anti-Communist) pact.
o The idea was to limit communist influence around the world
o Hitler encouraged the Austrian Nazis to stir up trouble for the government. They staged demonstrations calling for union with Germany. They caused riots
o Hitler then told the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg that only Anschluss would solve the problems. Britain and France ignored the happenings.
o Schuschnigg called a plebiscite (referendum) to choose.
o Hitler wasn’t prepared to risk this so he just marched his troops into Austria
o Under the watchful eyes of the Nazis 99.75% voted in favour of Anschluss
o Britain and France felt it was only fair that Hitler got what was essential his anyway and were not prepared to go to war over a harsh treaty.
o Edward Beneš was the leader of Czechoslovakia. He realized after the Anschluss that Czechoslovakia would be next.
o He therefore signed a Treaty with France
o Chamberlain was told by Hitler that ‘Czechoslovakia has nothing to fear from the Reich’
o However, Hitler did want it – the country had many Germans living in its borders, as it was created by the TOV.
o Henlein, leader of the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, stirred up trouble and demanded union
o Beneš knew he could not lose the Sudetenland; it had important coal, iron and railway industries. He was ready to fight, and built many air-raid shelters.
oIt became obvious Hitler was about to invade. In a last-ditch attempt Chamberlain flew out to meet Hitler; Hitler said he only wanted Sudetenland but then changed his mind. War seemed imminent
oA final meeting was scheduled by Mussolini in Munich to avoid war. (The Munich Conference) Br, Ger, France and It decided that Czechoslovakia could lose Sudetenland. They did not consult the Czechs or the USSR.
o Chamberlain returned with the Munich Agreement claiming he had secured ‘peace for our time’
o Hitler marched into Sudetenland. Beneš resigned.
Hitler felt that Britain and France would not actually risk war
o On March 15 the Nazis then took over the rest of Czechoslovakia
oThe Czechs did not resist, neither did Britain or France
o It was now clear to the world that Hitler was a liar and untrustworthy
o Britain now guaranteed Poland that if Hitler tried to invade they would stand up for Poland.
Nazi Soviet Pact
o Stalin was v.worried about Hitler’s actions; Hitler openly said he would take Russian land and hated Communists
o Stalin couldn't get any deals done with Br and Fr, LON was dead
o Despite signing a Mutual Assistance Pact with Fr, Stalin was worried.
o The Munich Agreement was worse– Stalin wasn't consulted
o Stalin kept arranging meetings with Br and Fr but nothing came of them
o Instead, he also met with Ribbentrop – German foreign minister – and discussed the Nazi-Soviet Pact
o In August 1939 they stunned the world with the deal
oThe Nazi Soviet Pact cleared the way for Hitler’s invasion of Poland; he invaded from the west whilst Stalin invaded from the east. Poland quickly fell.
oHitler’s next move was surely USSR but on 2nd September 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany. Hitler’s luck had run out.