European History/WWII causes.
I'm very interested in WWII. I have seen many documentaries about the war, however I am struggling to fully understand what were the real causes of it. Many point to Hitler as the key to starting WWII with the invasion of Austria and Czechoslovakia, but was Hitler the main reason? Could he have been initially stopped?
I have also heard and seen a few who think that WWI and the treaty of Versailles led to WWII. What are your thoughts on this?
Thanks so much!
Hi Ben - I hope that you are well.
Lets start with the second part of your question first (just to be awkward lol)
I would concur that Germany felt more than resentful about the Treaty of Versailles!
In many ways this "Treaty" helped to radicalise many in Germany and in some ways opened the door for extreme left and right wing politics to grow at an alarming rate. The National Socialists (Nazis) becoming the dominant party after a number of years struggling with the established centre and the communists etc. Once in power Hitler was determined to regain Germany's preeminent position in Europe pre the Great War (WW1). In this aim he was generally support by the whole of the Germanic speaking populations in Western Europe (Eastern France (Alsace-Lorraine), Western Poland, Austria and the Sudetenland in Western Czechoslovakia).
In essence Hitler was a gambler on a grand scale. He took great risks on re entering the Rhineland then Austria and finally Czechoslovakia. All of these gambles paid off because the two western powers France and Great Britain kept backing down!! As you probably know he even had a secret pact with the USSR (which he saw as his greatest threat).
Now - could he have been stopped in the first months of the war? YES he could have.
Once we had given the guarantees to Poland Hitler again gambled that France and GB would do nothing at first - indeed he only left under strength divisions to cover the western front.
The last thing that Hitler wanted or indeed could cope with was a war on two fronts.
When the Nazis invaded Poland the French did indeed probe the Germany defences but it was uncoordinated and lacked and decisive drive. At this point in the war Both France and GB could field more tanks and men as well as a massive superiority in Naval units. In addition both countries had substantial tactical air forces. A co-ordinated offensive into the Rhineland would most certainly have pulled Hitler back to the negotiation table. But in my opinion it would only have delayed the onset of total war by a year or two at the most.
I hope that this missive helps.