Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Seeds of War

As I write this blog entry it’s May 8th of 2020, which marks the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Germany in World War 2. While it’s a day of celebration we must never forget the events that led to the war.

We can’t overstate the role of the Treaty of Versaille. At the end of the Great War, under intense pressure from the Allies, Germany signed the treaty that required massive reparations and required that they largely disarm. The treaty severely hampered the German economy and was a source of humiliation for the German people, which radicals used to their political advantage.

This leads us to another major factor in the cause of the war: economics. The German economy was devastated by the war. As it rebuilt it was heavily dependent upon foreign investment. When the Great Depression hit the United States the German economy was unable to stand on its own. Communist and fascist parties took advantage of the German economic problems to gain followers.

Out of fear of the Communists, the German Conservative political leaders created an informal alliance with the Nazi party. They thought the Nazis could be controlled. They were very much mistaken. Hitler, who had been appointed Chancellor, took advantage of the Reichstag fire to become dictator of Germany in 1933.

Germany wasn’t the only dictatorship of the Diesel Era. Many don’t realize that Fascism actually arose first in Italy in 1922. And Japan entered the Shōwa period seven years before the Nazi party came to power. While the Soviet Union wasn’t fascist it was certainly a dictatorship under Stalin, who consolidated his power in 1927.

During the Great War, Czechoslovakia had become an independent nation. Hitler wanted to annex the Sudetenland, an area in western Czechoslovakia where many Germans lived. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wanted to appease Hitler and agreed to his demands for the Sudetenland after Hitler promised he would not demand more territory.

However, Hitler had no intention of settling for just the Sudetenland. In March of 1939, he seized the rest of Czechoslovakia and then moved on to seize Poland. The UK responded with an ultimatum to Germany to cease military operations, and on September 3rd, after the ultimatum was ignored, France and Britain declared war on Germany. 

Looking back it can seem easy to spot the errors that led to the war. However, rather than passing judgment, we should strive to learn from their mistakes so as to try to avoid making them ourselves in the future.

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