Though the 20s began with a favorable outlook for peace, near the end of the decade and throughout the 30s the clouds of war were forming. Dictators arose in countries dissatisfied with the results of the previous war, World War I. Nations such as Germany, Italy, and Japan took aggressive actions against other nations and neither the League of Nations nor other democratic countries were able or willing to stop them. Multiple methods were suggested to deal with Hitler and his forces. British Prime Minister Chamberlain suggested a policy of appeasement. Actions taken only dredged Europe closer to war. The debate over the causes of World War II provides different perspectives.
One of the possible causes of World War II is the failure of the League of Nations. The League of Nations did not include all nations of the world and also had no army of their own. When Italy attacked Ethiopia, the emperor of Ethiopia appealed to the League of Nations for help. The response was ineffective. According to Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor, the League of Nations should have stopped the invasion, and if the aggressors were not stopped, they will continue to take over more and more nations. (Doc 2.) Hitler was becoming more and more powerful as leader of Germany, and declared that he would tear up the Versailles Teaty. In an excerpt from Mein Kampf, Hitler suggested that Germany would need to use force to get what it wants. This method alone could seem threatening enough to draw Germany closer to war. (Doc 1.) Hitler had also began rearming Germany, and sending his battalions into the Rhineland’s demilitarized zone. He used the excuse that stationing troops marked the close of the struggle for German equality status and with that re-won equality the path is now clear for Germany’s return to European collective cooperation. Paris was infuriated by Germany’s treaty violations. They wanted Germany to remove their forces aand appealed to the League of Nations, declaring that there will be no negotioation with Germany so long as a single German soldier remained in the Rhineland. (Doc 3.)
The policy of appeasement adopted by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain also
was a likely cause of the war. Appeasement was to give in to opressors’ demands so long as they are reasonable. The policy of appeasement enabled Germany to gain what they wanted and made them over ambitious and willing to go for more. Germany wanted to take control of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. The Munich Agreement allowed Germany to take the land, so long as they promised to not take over any other parts of Czechoslovakia. At the Munich Conference, Czechoslovakia was forced to give up its land against its will. (Doc 4.) The Munich Agreement was described as “a desperate act of appeasement at the cost of the Czechoslovak state, performed by Chamberlain and French premier, Daladier, in the vain hope that it would satisfy Hitler’s stormy ambition, and thus secure Europe a peaceful future.”
The agreement was described as useless due to the fact that the Czech defenses were very strong and that German officials were actually prepared to attempt to remove Hitler if he has continued to move toward war. (Doc 7.) Chamberlain wanted appeasement so that he could do anything necessary to prevent a war in Europe. He wanted to preserve the peace for another generation. However, he said that he would fight, but on much larger issues, such as a nation making up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force. (Doc 5.) Winston Churchill disagreed with the policy of appeasement. He had always held the view that keeping peace depends on holding back the aggressor. He appealed to the government saying that Britain, together with France, and other powers should guarantee the security of Czechoslovakia. If that course had been followed, events would not have fallen into this disastrous state. He believed that all of the opportunities to stop the growth of Nazi power had been thrown away with the giving up of Czechoslovakian land to the Germans. (Doc 6.) Another view of appeasement was presented that stated that Germans were the ones who put Hitler in power, and they were the only ones who could turn him out. Hitler had come to power constitutionally, elected the chancellor of Germany, and the German people loved and supported him.
It was also stated that the appeasers feared that the defeat of Germany would be followed by a Russian domination over much of Europe. (Doc 8.) Neither the people nor the government of Britain and France were prepared for a war. Before September 1939, Hitler had done nothing that any major power considered dangerous enough to warrant starting a major war. Britain sought to appease Hitler and the French feared a repetition of the lives lost in the first World War. Hitler seemed to do nothing wrong until he called the invasion on Poland, which kickstarted World War II. (Doc 9.)
The causes of World War II were a buildup of many things, such as the League of Nations failing, the policy of appeasement, and Hitler’s growing ambition. Though Hitler’s invasion of Poland marked the clear beginning of the war, all of the before mentioned causes aided in the starting of the war. Appeasement was proven to be a rather ineffective solution to Hitler’s aggression, only getting him closer to his desired domination of Europe. If Hitler was never given the land in Czechoslovakia, things may have played out differently in the long run.