Paths to War

By Amy Wessenberg, Kelli Reyes, and Shay Scott

The German Path to War

During World War II, Europe had the beliefs of Adolf Hitler which was that Germans belonged to a superior race. Hitler also believed that Germany was capable of building it's own civilization, but they needed more land to support a larger population.


In the 1920s, Hitler had wanted the land to the east- in the Soviet Union. Germany prepared to go to war with them over it. Hitler wanted it to be settled b the German peasents. The Slavic people could be used as slaves to build that Third Reich, as Aryan vaciastate that Hitler thought would dominate Eurpoe for thousands of years.

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The First Steps

After WW1, the Treaty of Versailles had limited Germany's military power. As chancellor, Hitler, posing as a man of peace, stressed that Germany wished to revise the unfair provisions of the treaty by peaceful means. He said that Germany only wanted it's rightful place with the European states.


On March 9, 1935, Hilet announced the creation of a new airforce. A week later, he began a draft that increased his army from 100,000 to 550,000 troops. These steps were in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.


France, Britain, and Italy condemned Germany's actions and warned against agressive steps. Since these countries were focused on their own Great Depressions, they didn't do anything further.


Hitler was convinced that the western states wouldn't use force to keep the Treaty of Versailles. Because of that, on March 7, 1936, he sent troops into the Rhineland. The Rhineland was a neutral area, according to the Treaty of Versallies. Germany wasn't permitted to have weapons there. France has the right to use force against Germany, but wouldn't without British support. Great Britian didn't want to deal with Germany, so they said that it was just a reasonable action by a dissatisfied pwoer since the Rhineland was technically in German territory.

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World War II in Europe Part 1: The Peace Settlement

New Alliances

Hitler gaine new allies. Benito Mussolini had long dreamed of creating a new Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. In Octobler 1935, Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopis. Angered by French and British opposition to his invasion, Mussolini welcomed Hilter's support. Hitler drew closer to becoming a dictator.


In 1936, Germany and Italy troops went to help Spain in their civil war. In October 1936, Mussolini and Hitler made an agreement recongnizing thier common political and eonomic interests. One month later, he spoke about the alliance between Italy and Germany, called the Rome-Berlin Axis. In November, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Cominturn Pact, promising a common front against communism.

Union With Austria

By 1937, Germany was a "world power" as Hiter proclaimed. He was convinced that neither France not Britain would provide much opposition to his plans. In 1938, he decided to pursue one of his goals: Anschless, or union, with Austria, his native land.


By threatening Austria with invasion, Hitler forced the Austrian chancellor to put Austiran Nazis in charge of the government. The new government invited German troops to enter Austria and "help" in maintaining law and order. One day later, on March 13, 1938, after his triumphal return to his native land, Hitler annexed Austria to Germany.

Demands and Appeasement

Hitler's next objective was the destruction of Czchoslovakia. On Sptember 15, 1938, he demanded that he was given Sudetenland, an area in northeastern Czchoslovakia that was settled by mostly Germans. He expressed his willingness to risk "world war" tp achieve his objective.


At a confrence in Munich, British, French, German, and Italian representatives did not object to Hitler's plans, but instead reached an agreement that basically met all of Hitler's demands. German troops were allowed in Sudetenland.


The Munich conference was the high point of the westen appeasement of Hitler. When Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, returned to England from Munich, he boasted that the agreement meant "peace for our time". Hitler promised Chamberlain that he would make no more demands. Everyone believed him.

World War II in Europe Part 2: The Path to War

Great Britain and Frace React

Hitler was more convinced than ever that the western democrates would not fight. Increasingly, Hitler was sure he couldn't make a mistake and he had not be satisfied at Munich.


In March 1939, Hitler incaded and took control of Bohemia and Moraria in western Czechoslovakia. In the eastern part of the country, Slovakia became a puppet controlled by the Nazis. On the evening of March 15,1939, Hitler declared in Prague that he was the greatest German of them all.


At last, the West reacted to the Nazi threat. Hitler's aggression had made clear that his promises were worthless. When Hitler began to demand the Polish port of Danzig, Britian saw the danger and would protect Poland in the evernt of war. At the same time, both France an Britain realized that only the Soviet Union was powerful enough to help contain Nazi aggression. They began political and military negotiations with Joeseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.

World War II in Europe Part 3: The Invasion of Poland

Hitler and the Soviets

Meanwhile, Hitler pressed on in the belief that the Wast wold not fight over Poland. He now feared, however, that the West and the Soviet Union might make an alliance. Such an alliance could mean a two-front was for Germany. To prevent this possibility, Hitler made an agreement with Stalin.


On August 23, 1939, German and the Soviet Union sighen the Nazi-Soviet Nonagreession Pact. In it, the was promised not to attack one another. To ger the pact, Hitler offered Stalin control of the eastern Poland and the Baltic states. Becuase he expected to fight the Soviet Union anyway, it didn't matter to Hiter what he promised.


Hitler shocked the world when he annouced the Nonaggression Pact. The treaty gave itler the freedom to attack Poland. He told his generals, "Now Poland is in the position in which I wanted her... I am only afraid that at the last moment some swine will submit to me a plan for mediation."


Hitler didn't need to worry. On September 1, German forces invaded Poland. Two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany.

World War II in Europe Part 4: Blitzkrieg in the West

The Japanese Path to War

In September 1931, Japanese soldiers had seized Manchuria, which had natural resources that Japan needed. Japan used as an excuse to Chinese attack on a Japanese railway near the city of Mukden. In face, the "Mukden incident" had been carried out by Japanese soldiers disguised as Chinese.


Worldwide protests against the Japanese led the Leage of Nations to send investigators to Manchuia . When the investigators issued a report condemning the seizure, Japan withdrew from the league. Over the nest few years, Japan strengthened it's hold on Manchuria, which was later renamed Manchukuo. Japan now began to expand into North China.


By the mid-1930s, militants connected to the government and the armed forces had gotten control of Japanese politics. The US refused to recognize the Japanese takeover, but was unwilling to threaten force.

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War with China

Chiang Kai-shek tried to avoid a fight with Japan so that we could deal with the Communists. When clashes between Chinese and Japanese troops broke out, he sought to appease Japan b allowing it to govern areas in North China.


As Japan moved steadily southward, protests against Japanese aggression grew in China. In December 1936, Chiang ended his efforts against the Communists and formed a new front against the Japanese. In July 1937, Chinese and Japanese forces clashed.


Japan had not planned to declare war on China. However, the 1937 incident eventually turned into a major conflict. The Japanese seized the Chinese capital and moved his government up river.

The New Asian Order

Japanese military leaders had hoped to force Chiang to agree to join a New Order.Japan would attempt to establish a new system of control in Asia with them leading it's Asian neighbors to prosperity. After all, who coul better teach Asian societies how to modernize that the one Asian country that had already done it?


Part of Japan's plan was to capture Societ Siberia with it's resources. During the late 1030s, Japan began to work with Nazi Germany. Japan assumed that the two contires would ultimately launch a joint attack on the Soviet Union and divide Soviet resources between them.


When Germany signed the Pact with the Soviets, Japan had to rethink their goals. Japan didn't have the resources to defeat the Soviet Union without their help. Thus, they became interested in the raw materials that could be found in Southest Asia to fuel it's military.


A move southward, however woul risk war with the European colonial powers and the US. Japan's attack on Chine in 1937 ha aroused strong criticism. Nevertheless, in 1940, Japan demanded the right to expolit exonomic resources in French Indochina.


The US objected. It warned Japan that it would apply aconomic sanctions, unless Japan withdrew from the areas and returned to its borders of 1931. Japan badl neede the oil and scrap iron it was getting from the US. If the resources were cut off, Japan would have to find the elsewhere.


Japan was now caught in a dilemma. To guarantee acress to the raw materials it wanted in Southest Asia, Japan has to risk losing raw materials from the US. After much debate, decided to launch a surpise attack on the US and European colonies in Southeast Asia.

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Essential Questions

In what ways do you think that World War 2 could have been prevented if you think it could be?


Why do you think France and Britain didn’t do anything when Germany was breaking the Treaty of Versailles several different times?