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Causes of WWII
At the end of WWI the Allied nations of Europe were very angry about the war. They wanted someone to blame for all that had happened to them. That someone turned out to be Germany. The Treaty of Versailles was the treaty that officially ended WWI. According to this treaty Germany was required to accept full responsibility for causing the war, pay the Allies 33 million dollars in reparations, that means damages, give up about 1/8 of it’s land to bordering countries, give up all overseas assets like colonies and limit the size of it’s military.
Germans were shocked and humiliated with the treaty. They felt it was unfair to blame them for the entire war. They were also stunned because they had gone to the treaty negotiations believing that the treaty would be based on Wilson’s 14 points. The 14 points offered a framework for a just peace, one that would not have devastated Germany as bad. The Allied nations of Europe just wanted revenge, they were only thinking about how they felt right then, not how the treaty might affect the future.
One problem with the treaty was that Germany didn’t have 33 million dollars. The Allies didn’t care, they were mad and wanted to make the Germans suffer. Not only did the German people suffer, so did their economy. By the early 1920’s inflation was so bad that it took about a suitcase full of money just to buy a loaf of bread. Many Germans lost their jobs. The treaty plunged Germany into a Great Depression, like the one that would hit America later that same decade.
Don’t think that just because the allies won the war everything was fine in those countries. WWI had left Europe economically devastated and politically unstable. Some examples of this are the worldwide depression, high inflation, massive unemployment and the high war debt of Germany. The economic devastation and political instability in Europe resulting from WWI is one reason for WWII.
Another reason for WWII was the rise of fascism. Fascism is a political philosophy in which total power is given to a dictator and individual freedoms are denied. Germany and Italy both had fascist dictators. That means that the leaders of these two countries had total control. In Italy the leader was Benito Mussolini and in Germany the leader was Adolf Hitler. Students often ask how could people support someone like Hitler. To really understand that you have to remember what was going on in Germany during this time. Germany was in the middle of a Great Depression. Many Germans were upset about the treaty ending WWI. Then along comes a guy who tells them they are right to be angry. This man tells the German people they are not the bad guys like the other countries are trying to say. He tells them that Germany and Germans are the best in the world. That all of Germany’s problems are someone else’s fault, not theirs. This is exactly what the people of Germany wanted to hear. They didn’t want to be the bad guys, no one wants to be the bad guy. This man, Adolf Hitler, was telling them that they were better than the other countries and the German people loved it.
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