The Second World War
The Second World War took place between the years 1939 and 1945. It is one of the military conflicts that virtually affected the whole world. The principal antagonists which took part in the war were the Allies and Axis powers. The Allies comprised of Great Britain, the United States, France, Russia (the Soviet Union), and China (Koster, 2015). On the other hand, the Axis powers consisted of Germany, Japan, and Italy. The Second World War is considered as one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the world. It was a continuation of the unresolved conflicts after World War I. The war led to massive destruction of properties and loss of over 50 million lives.
The Causes of Second World War
The Second World War was fought between the Allied and Axis powers. The immediate cause of the conflict was a violation of the Versailles Treaty by Germany when Adolf Hitler attacked Poland. The Germans were not happy about the terms of Versailles Treaty. The Germans believed that the Terms were too harsh on them. Woodrow Wilson proposed 14 points that he believed would bring peace in Europe. However, the 14 points placed a lot of demands on Germany. Germany was expected to pay all the World War I damages amounting to 6.6 million pounds. Germany was to be blamed for causing World War I. Furthermore, Germany was disarmed and only allowed to maintain a small army. The fines were too much considering that majority of the people in Germany were poor in the 1920s. The Germans decided to elect Adolf Hitler who had promised to restore the lost glory of Germany as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (Koster, 2015).
Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He lived to his words and started expanding the German military. Besides, he wanted to recover the territories that had been taken away from Germany including Austria and Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. In 1934, Hitler began his rearmament policy. He expanded the army and introduced a compulsory military training. He created an air force and built warships. In 1936, Hitler invaded Rhineland, but France and Britain were reluctant to start a war. In 1938, Hitler formed an alliance with Italy known as Rome-Berlin Axis Pact (Hart, 2015). In the same year, he formed an alliance known as Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan. The alliances were supposed to assist Germany in case of any slightest provocation by the Allied powers.
After the formation of the Alliances, Hitler’s next move was to acquire the land which had been taken away from Germany. In March 1939, he sent his troops to Austria to accomplish his expansionist mission (Koster, 2015). After six months he demanded that Sudetenland is returned to Germany. He succeeded in acquiring the two territories. However, France and Britain avoided any military action against him. France and Britain believed that Poland could be Hitler’s next target. As such, they thought that they needed to take action to prevent him from invading Poland. Hitler continued with his aggression and attacked Poland on 1st September 1939. France and Britain mobilized their troops and attacked Germany leading to the culmination of the Second World War.
The policy of appeasement adopted by France and Britain also fueled World War II. Britain and France gave in to the demands of Germany because they believed that they were reasonable. They considered Hitler’s actions as justifiable and understandable because he was committed to protecting Germany (Koster, 2015). Many politicians in France and Britain considered the terms of Versailles to be harsh in Germany. They watched as Germany embarked on mass armament. However, Hitler violated the Munich Agreement which was signed in 1938 and invaded Poland leading to the beginning of the Second World War.
After the First World War, the League of Nations was formed to help in preserving world peace (Hart, 2015). However, it failed to live to its mandate. All the nations were supposed to be members of the League of Nations. Any arising conflicts were to be solved through negotiations to prevent the world from plunging into another war. The League was also supposed to apply economically suctions on countries that were aggressive. However, the world was hit by economic depression in the 1920s. Most of the countries did not want to lose their trading partners. Japan was the first country to exhibit aggression. It attacked Manchuria a region in China, but the League failed to offer assistance. The League demanded trading sanctions on Japan, but the trading parties failed because they would lose income, further unemployment rates and kill their economies. The League failed to stop the aggressive countries from further attacks. The failure of the League of Nations is attributed to lack of an army and power (Hart, 2015). Furthermore, not all nations joined the League. The League was also not quick to take action against aggressive countries such as Germany and Italy. Countries such as Germany and Russia did not join the League. Germany was barred because it was responsible for the outbreak of First World War. On the other hand, Russia was excluded because of the rising fear of communism. Therefore, the aggressive nations had the opportunity to trade with non-member countries despite the economic sanctions. The Council of the League of Nations only met four times a year (Koster, 2015). During an emergency, a meeting had to be called, and the resolution was to be reached by all member nations. As such, it was difficult for the League to act quickly during aggression. In this way, it failed to prevent Germany from mass armament which eventually led to the outbreak of the Second World War.
The Great Depression of the 1930s greatly contributed to the outbreak of the War. However, the United States was at the center of the economic troubles which were facing Europe and Asia. The Americans did everything within their reach to avoid them being drawn into the rising troubles in Europe and Asia. It acted as the major economic powerhouse during the Great Depression to both Asian and European countries. However, her neutrality in the conflict ended when their naval station was attacked at the Pearl Harbor (Koster, 2015).
The Effects of the Second World War
The Second World War marked the end of dictatorship in Europe. It had adverse effects in comparison with World War I. The war resulted in massive loss of properties and lives. A lot of war crimes were committed during the War. Hitler and his conspirators established concentration camps where over 12 million Jews were killed. In addition, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing consumed over two million lives. Some soldiers lost their lives in the war. It is estimated that over 50 million people lost their lives during the war with Europe accounting for over 40 million. Many people were also displaced during the war. Stalin and Hitler were responsible for the mass deportation of people. At the end of the war, the German-speaking regions such as Romania, Poland, and Hungary drove all the Germans away (Hart, 2015). Germany also lost some of its territories to Russia and Poland. Over 16 million Germans were also expelled from Central and Eastern European countries between 1945 and 1947.
There was also associated with devastating economic costs. The fighting took place all over Europe. The aerial bombing destroyed many cities. The transport and communication lines were disrupted. The farmland and several industries were ruined. After the war, the United States and the Soviets Union emerged as the World Superpowers. Their economies were not much affected by the war. The United States remained neutral for a long time and had her industries, transport and communication systems preserved (Koster, 2015). Britain became bankrupt after the war and majority of the Europeans relied on relief food between 1945 and 1946.
The war also had political consequences. Several boarders were adjusted and new ones created. The war led to the creation of Israel to settle the Jews that were left after the War. Countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria received independence from Germany (Hart, 2015). The United Nations was established on 24th October to help in preserving world peace. Having learned from the failures of the League of Nations, the power was split among the five major countries including Britain, France, China, the USA, and USSR. They were given veto powers in decision making.
- Bell, Philip Michael Hett. The Origins of the Second World War in Europe. Routledge, 2014.
- Hart, BH Liddell. A History of the Second World War. Pan Macmillan, 2015.
- Kesternich, Iris, et al. “The effects of World War II on economic and health outcomes across Europe.” Review of Economics and Statistics 96.1 (2014): 103-118.
- Koster, John. Operation Snow: How a Soviet Mole in FDR’s White House Triggered Pearl Harbor. Regnery Publishing, 2012.