History

The origins of World War II are plural: the resentment of the German people after the defeat of 1918, the global economic crisis, the rise to power of dictators in Europe and colonial covetousness in Europe and in Asia.  

Historical context: the roots of the war

At the end of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles left Germany on its knees. The treaty required amongst other things the relinquishment of Alsace-Lorraine, the creation of the Danzig corridor (giving Poland access to the sea), the limitation of German military potential and the payment of reparations. Considered a diktat by the vanquished, the treaty became a breeding ground for a desire for revenge from the German people. 

Despite this, post-war Europe wanted to forget the deadly war, which had to be the "war to end all wars". Time was for reconstruction and fun, especially in Paris, with the Roaring Twenties.

The rise of totalitarianism

However, in Italy, Benito Mussolini organized the March on Rome on 28th October 1922 to impress the Liberal government in place and take power. He obtained satisfaction in being asked to form the Government on 30th October 1922. He gradually became the Duce (the leader, the guide). 

An economic crisis hit the Western world in 1929: the New York stock market crash had implications well beyond the borders of the United States. In this context of crisis, radical movements tended to meet great success amongst the poor. This was the rise of totalitarianism.  

In Germany, leader of the Nazi party Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.

Meanwhile in Asia, Japan, devoid of raw material reserves, wanted to start the conquest of territory. Thus in 1931 the Japanese army invaded Manchuria and would not stop there. 

The Hitler Nazi ideology

After gaining full power and becoming Führer of the German people, Hitler set up the Nazi ideology. Hitler wanted a greater Germany where all German speaking people would be united. He therefore launched the conquest of "living space" for the German people by annexing Austria (the Anschluss) and the Sudetenland, but for him this did not suffice.

 

La montée des totalitarismes

The rise of totalitarianism, Nazi soldiers parade in Austria in 1938

 

On 1st September 1939, the German army attacked Poland. This was the spark : the Second World War began.

 

With the contribution of  Rémy Desquesnes
Historian