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Student Question

Secondary V • 2yr.

Hello ! What are the main causes of WW2?

Contemporary World

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Explanations (1)

  • Explanation from Alloprof

    Explanation from Alloprof

    This Explanation was submitted by a member of the Alloprof team.

    Team Alloprof • 2yr.


    At the end of World War I, Germany became a Republic. This new regime, contested by many, was the nest of violence and led the country into a period of political instability, coexisting with an economic and social crisis.

    Economic crisis

    • At the end of WWI, Germany was forced to reimburse damages caused to other European countries (Treaty of Versailles). However, these sums were enormous and Germany was already suffering from economic difficulties in a post-war context. Since the debt was still not repaid, France decided to occupy the German industrial zone as a payback. However, this created a loss of industrial income and the fall of several businesses in Germany, which led to a depreciation of the German currency (drop in its value). This depreciation meant that it was even more difficult for Germany to reimburse its debt.
    • Eventually, European nations agreed to reduce German debt to enable it to recover economically. Therefore, between 1924 and 1929, Germany experienced a small economic recovery which helped improve its situation.
    • In 1929, the economic crisis (stock market crash) hit the whole world, as it did Germany. The country's fragile economy suffered another shock, causing a new social crisis.
    • In fact, in 1932, Germany had 6 million unemployed representing 33% of its entire population (for comparison, the current unemployment rate here in Quebec is around 6.6% with the pandemic). Many people went bankrupt, found themselves homeless, and the lack of consumption led to a drop of industrial production. Importantly, the debt was still outstanding.

    The rise of the extreme right (fascism)

    Because of the debt and the economical shocks, the political and social climates were shaky. The population was depressed, distressed, and many lived in poverty. Plus, German population found that bearing the debt of WWI was unfair.

    This political and social crisis was the perfect timing for Hitler and his party to offer ready-made answers to the country's problems : rearmament of the country (Germany was forced to disarm and dismember its army after WWI), accentuation of state interventionism, etc. Hitler used populist speeches that appealed to all social classes.

    Above all, Hitler proposed culprits directly linked to the critical situation of Germany : the Allies who had imposed the Treaty of Versailles on them, the Americans who were responsible for the economic crisis of 1929, the Communists and the Jews. In Nazi ideology, Jews were described as parasites who exploited Germany. The Nazi Party increasingly appealed to the middle classes and the bourgeoisie. Hitler rallied them with his statements about the greatness of Germany and his anti-Semitic speeches. The climate of uncertainty and fear was reassured by these discourse that relieved guilt and wanted to unite. The lack of education of the population facilitated their adherence to these ideologies.

    Hitler also developed his theory of Lebensraum, concerning the need to increase the living space for the German people. He also defined the Aryan race, a « pure and superior race which had rights over all other peoples ». By promoting a fascist ideology, based on exacerbated racism and on the greatness of Germany to be rediscovered, Hitler was nicknamed the Führer, which means « the guide of the German nation ». A huge propaganda campaign was then launched (films, posters, teaching of ideologies in schools, publication of books, etc.). I advise you to go and learn more about these processes, although they are abominable.

    The Elections

    To ensure its win at the elections, the Nazi Party had to rely on the support of the higher bourgeoisie. Hitler offered them to promote their interests in exchange for party funding. This agreement increased the influence of Hitler and his party on the population, so much so that Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933 (chief of Germany). In the 1933 election, the Nazi Party relied on strong anti-Communist propaganda. On February 27, 1933, Hitler, through his position as Chancellor, banned the Communist Parties and abolished their rights.

    On March 23, 1933, Hitler had full powers in Germany and his party had the majority. He quickly banned the unions, which were replaced by the Labor Front, controlled by the Nazi Party. On July 14, 1933, the Nazi Party was officially the only authorized party in Germany.

    Hitler and its party sought to eliminate political and ideological opponents by all means (including assassinations), in order to establish a political, legal, social and administrative system that banned communisme and favored discrimination against Jews and other marginalized groups (homosexuals, disableds, etc.)

    Invasion of Poland

    For the expansion of the Lebensraum we talked about earlier, Hitler declared the invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939. The commitment of Germany to not invade Poland was an important point of the Treaty of Versailles signed after WWI. Since Hitler didn’t respect the commitments of Germany to not invade Poland, France and Great Britain declared war to Germany. WWII started officially two days after Germany declared its invasion of Poland.

    It’s important to know that fascism wasn’t only present in Germany, but also in Italy since 1920 with the rise of the extreme right of Mussolini. Moreover, Italy and Germany joined forces together in WWII.

    This is a very complex question, which cannot be fully explained in a few lines as I have done. You can always contact us for further information! :)

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