WAS WORLD WAR II A CONTINUATION OF WORLD WAR I?     Introduction World War I and World War II are one of the extreme wars witnessed on earth. These wars were only 20 years apart, and historians do not clearly agree on the lin...Read More

~Posted on May 2019

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World War I and World War II are one of the extreme wars witnessed on earth. These wars were only 20 years apart, and historians do not clearly agree on the link between them. They are divided into two different groups; one group is convinced that WWI set the stage for WWII while the group argues that the two wars are entirely different and were fought for different reasons. In this paper, the link between WWI and WWII will be carefully analyzed, and a verdict on the role of WWI setting the groundwork for the warfare that followed will be given. An analysis of World War I will be done and the events that followed shown. The rise of Nazism and Fascism will be discussed and the reasons that led to World War two. Finally, an evaluation of how WWI led to WWII will be discussed.


World War I

WWI was a war that used Europe as a battleground and started in 1914. It is also referred to as the Great War It was a war that was based on militarism, nationalism, and imperialism. Before the Great War, Europe had just experienced one of the longest periods of peace without a major war. Europe had been peaceful from 1871 to 1914, which is about four decades. It all started with the assignation of Austria-Hungary Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie in his travels to the capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo. They were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip who was a Serbian nationalist[1]. Bosnia wanted to become independent from Austria, and the people there wanted to set up a country of their own. This is the spark that ignited the Great War. Archduke Ferdinand had been warned against traveling to Sarajevo but decided to go there regardless. Within one month of Ferdinand assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Austria-Hungary formed an alliance with Germany and Italy to form Triple Alliance. France, Great Britain, Japan, and Russia created the Triple Entente Alliance to prevent the aggression of Triple Alliance and support Serbia. Triple Alliance was later renamed Central Powers while the Triple Entente took up the name Allied Forces. At the start of the war, the US was neutral and not keen to participate in that war. This war run from 1914 to 1918 though many of the participants thought it would last only a few months. Germany was fighting on two fronts; one with Russia on the Eastern Front and the other with Great Britain and France on the other front called Western Front. Unable to sustain the German onslaught, Russia decided to sign an armistice in late 1917. This freed the German troops who now went to support their other troops on the western front. However, after a couple of US ships were sunk by the German Navy, the US joined the war and sent more than three million troops to support the Allied Forces on the Western Front. Germany would have easily won a battle between them and the Allied Forces, but the influx of the American troops convinced them otherwise. Finally, on 11th November 1918, an armistice was signed to end the WWI.


Causes of World War II

Many reasons led to one of the worst wars in the history of man. The World War II claimed millions of lives and destroyed the better part of Europe. The key reasons leading to World War II were the League of Nations failure, the Versailles Treaty, actions by Germany and Hitler and the Great Depression. All these factors resulted in the bloodshed that took place only 20 years from the Great War. All these factors listed will be discussed, and a link between them and World War I evaluated to determine of WWII was a continuation of the WWI.


Treaty of Versailles

The US President Woodrow Wilson went to Paris for the peace conference that followed after the war ended. He had prepared Fourteen Points to reorder Europe in an idealistic plan. However, Britain and France were only willing to settle for a vengeful peace, and Wilson only major success was the League of Nations. However, the League of Nations was ineffective and weak as it did not get the support of the US, even though it had been proposed by their President. The treaty was majorly formed by the Allied Forces with little participation from Germany. Germany was arm-twisted into signing this treaty with the Allied Forces claiming they would resume war if they did not. This treaty punished Germany for the damages done by the Great War. Germany was forced to pay hefty amounts which would leave her economy crippled and hence gullible to extreme politics[2]. This treaty was one of the reasons for the rise of Nazism and Fascism. According to Hitler, his country did not lose in WWI and hence did not understand why they had to pay for damages of a war that they did not even start. It became impossible for Germany to succeed by any peaceful means. Adolf Hitler played with the resentment of the Germans towards the terms of the treaty to ride to power and establish himself as a dictator.


The Great Depression

One aftermath of the First World War was the Great Depression which took place between 1929 and 1939. This was one of the deepest and longest economic downturns in the history of the industrialized world. In Germany, many factories and companies either shrank or closed entirely. The unemployment levels rose exponentially there were devastating effects on the German society. Many individuals could not even afford food and many children suffered and died from malnutrition or other diseases related to hunger. Unemployment affected all classes of workers with even graduates not able to find work. The depression put more than six million Germans out of work. The government was unable to come up with a response to the Depression, and Adolf Hitler used the public discontent to rise to power. The Nazi party increased popularity and soon, Adolf Hitler rose to the power and decided to implement his radical ideologies. The Great Depression also laid the stage for the World War II as now the Germans were desperate to listen to the extreme ideologies of Adolf Hitler[3]. Adolf Hitler promised to fight against Communism and promised Germans riches and great jobs.


Hitler’s Actions

In January 1933, Adolf Hitler became German’s Chancellor. Adolf Hitler was a bitter man as he was a German soldier during World War I and he believed that they had not lost the war. Within one year of him ascending to power, he had already started forming an army and arming them. He did this secretly as the Treaty of Versailles had restricted them against increasing the size of their army. He created a German air force and started building warships. Hitler also made military service compulsory. Britain and France were aware of Hitler’s actions but decided against preventing him as they were not prepared to start another war. They also saw that Hitler would be able to counter the rise of Communism and prevent its spread to the West. Hitler was opposed to Communism and viewed that not only should it be destroyed but the sources of such underhanded and dangerous ideas exterminated. As Trotsky and Karl Max were Jewish, Hitler viewed that Communism should be blamed on all Jews. He even proposed that all Jews in Germany should be annihilated in his memoir.

German troops were ordered by Hitler to enter the Rhineland, and though his army was not very strong, France and Britain did nothing about it. During this year, he made two alliances with Italy and Japan. Hitler who had expansionist ideologies decided to take back Austria and marched into the country in 1938. Though the Austrian leader asked aid from other countries, he did not receive it as other countries were not willing to go to war. Hitler was not satisfied and decided that he would also take control of Czechoslovakia, and Britain and France agreed to that provided that he does not invade any other country. However, the next target was Poland which had been promised protection by Britain and France. This did not deter Hitler’s aggression, and on 1st September 1939, he invaded Poland. This provoked France and Great Britain which declared war two days later on Germany but were not able to save Poland from Hitler’s wrath[4]. Poland invasion is considered as the beginning of World War II. Hitler’s action had provoked other countries to war that would later claim many lives over a period of about six years.


Failure of League of Nations

The League of Nations was set up in 1919 to aid maintain world peace. Its goal was for all states to become members and that any conflict between two countries would be solved through negotiations rather than by force. If negotiations failed, a trade embargo would be issued to the aggressive country with the last option being the use of armies to fight that country. Though the League of Nations early on, it later became a failure. It failed to prevent the Japanese army from invading China during the Great Depression and later the invasion of Abyssinia by Italy. The League of Nations mainly failed because not all countries joined it. Also, the League of Nations had no army hence no power at all. Lastly, it was usually incapable of acting swiftly in case of any emergency, and only meeting four times a year.



The causes of World War II show that indeed many factors had resulted from unresolved issues at the end of WWI. Though the major countries that participated were the same, one can argue that WWII is not an extension of the Great War. WWI may have caused the second war, but that does not imply that it was the same war. World War I was based on imperialism, national interest and balance of power while the second war was based on ideology.

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