Why Did War Break-Out in Europe in 1939

War broke-out across Europe in 1939. Many incidents and long term factors affected this outbreak. I think that the question – Why Did War Break-Out in Europe in 1939? – is being asked because in many people’s opinion there are many different factors which triggered war off and in addition, the contemporary public opinions on why the war broke-out has differed in comparison to the public of the 1930-40s. We now look back on history and are able to see what Hitler did during and after the Second World War with regards to Nazi-Germany and abuse and persecution/killing of the Jews and other racial groups etc.

We can now see that Hitler had a huge plan all along. People on the 1930-40s didn’t know what Hitler had planned, during that time people just thought that he was a great saviour to Germany (which was then in a terrible state), and that all Hitler wanted to do was recruit the unemployed and build-up Germany to regain its high world class status. In this essay I am going to investigate ‘why’ war broke out in Europe in 1939 and then come to a conclusion upon whether it was a combination of factors or just one main factor – and if so, what that main factor was. Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor (Fuhrer) or ‘Dictator of Germany’ in 1933.

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This gave him great power and authority in Germany. Hitler came into power at a time where Germany was in ruins. They were going through enormous economic, social and political problems and in addition they were also they were faced with ‘The Treaty of Versailles’. In this treaty Germany had to except the war guilt clause (blame) for causing the First World War, they had to pay regular reparations (compensatory money) for ‘their’ damages, they had to suffer from territorial loses for example Alsace-Lorraine and Danzig, they had to limit their armed forces plus they were denied access into the League of Nations.

Hitler as well as many other people (German and Non-German) thought that the terms of this treaty were unreasonable. Upon Hitler’s rise to Chancellor he recruited my of the unemployed people in Germany, he also had 3 main objectives; these were to overturn the Treaty of Versailles, to increase the German territory and to promote anti-communism.

Hitler wrote a book entitled ‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggle) in which he fully stated his feelings towards Germany at present, and his future plans if the Nazis ever gained power in Germany -“We demand equality of rights for the German people in its dealings with other nations and abolition of the peace treaty of Versailles” – Mein Kampf, 1923-1924. Hitler’s reason for wanting to abolish the Treaty of Versailles was because he thought it was unfair plus he thought that the Germans had been targeted for revenge and blame.

Hitler’s reason for wanting to increase German territory was because he thought that the Germans lost too much land due to the territorial losses term in the Versailles treaty, Hitler also felt that the Germans needed more lebensraum ‘living space’ as well as unite all of the German speaking people and ‘superior Aryan race’. Hitler’s reason for wanting to defeat communism was because he thought that it was due to the Bolsheviks that Germany lost the First World War and that they wanted to defeat Germany. The League of Nations was formed by a group of countries.

Its aim was to combat war (happening again) and help make world peace more effective. There were many early successes for example disputes in Danzig, Upper Silesia and the Aaland Islands. However the league failed drastically in some cases. The League’s first major challenge was the Manchurian crisis, where Japan (at the time a member of the league) invaded Manchuria (in north China). The league unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Japan triumph in an aggression, which they’d condemned. Japan left the league in 1933. The failure of the league in Manchuria made Hitler feel more risk-taking.

Also the league experienced an additional huge failure in Abyssinia where Mussolini (of Italy) successfully invaded the African land of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935. Unlike Manchuria, this dispute wasn’t far away so troops could have easily come from Britain and France to help. The league helplessly watched as Mussolini conquered Abyssinia. Again, this failure made Hitler feel even more confident, knowing that the league failed to step in on an incident so close by. Hitler may have thought that of the league failed to accomplish this problem, so they would not be triumphant in interfering in any he caused.

Hitler’s growing confidence, courage and self-assurance resulted in him (bit-by-bit) taking away other territory. In 1936 Hitler began taking back lost territory which he’d previously lost due to the terms apposed on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. Britain and France appeased Hitler during this time, they just continued to let Hitler keep taking land and regain lost territory. The Sudetenland was part of the new state created by the treaty called Czechoslovakia. Many of its inhabitants were or spoke German. Hitler regained this land. Britain and France again, appeased him – they never reacted and just let him do what he wanted to do.

Many people thought that this policy of appeasement was right because Britain wasn’t prepared for war. However many people also thought that this policy of appeasing Hitler was wrong because it encouraged him to be more aggressive [Hitler]. Britain and France continued to follow this policy, despite Hitler’s actions in overruling the treaty. Neville Chamberlain was mostly associated with Britain’s appeasement policy, he said “We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analysing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will; I’m a man off peace to the depth of my soul”.

As in any historical event there are always pros and cons, where some suffer – others benefit and vice-versa. Appeasement was right in some cases for Britain because, it made Hitler stand up to communism, she wasn’t sure that she would have the support of its empire, USA or the commonwealth, because she thought that the Treaty of Versailles was partly unfair, she was suffering huge economic problems, she wanted to avoid another war, and she wanted to buy more time to rearm and mobilize.

Appeasement was wrong in some cases for Britain because, it stimulated and reassured Hitler into being more forceful and put masses of trust into his promises, it scared the USSR into joining forces with Hitler by signing the Nazi-Soviet pact, in addition most significantly it just made Hitler expand and strengthen Germany and turn his dreams into reality. This policy of appeasing Hitler was one of the main causes which actually made war break-out in 1939. If you allow someone this privilege they will eventually come for you. Winston Churchill once said (referring to Neville Chamberlain). An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last”. On 24th August 1939 Hitler and Stalin (from the USSR) together signed a treaty of unity on behalf of their countries. This meant that Germany and USSR were allies in addition it meant that Hitler would no longer have to fight a war on two fronts, plus the USSR would have more time to rearm and eliminate any fears or concerns of invasion from Germany. Both countries agreed not to attack one another and also secretly planned to invade Poland, and then take half each.

Britain and France had an agreement to protect Poland under any case of war or invasion. Hitler and Stalin never thought that Britain and France would keep to this agreement. On 1st September 1939 Germany’s armed forces invaded Poland from the west then days following the USSR’s armed forces invaded Poland from the east. In a matter of days Poland was conquered. Britain and France stepped in (living up to their agreement) and declared war on Germany. Finally Hitler had bitten off more than he could chew! Europe was now in absolute kayos – war swept the continent.

When Hitler signed this treaty with the USSR he used it to his advantage because he gained more physical support, more publicity and less enemy concerns. On the other hand he underestimated Britain and France’s loyalty towards their agreement. This was the event that finally knocked Hitler off of his long reign of gambling success. In my opinion, there was a combination of factors which caused the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939. However personally I feel that Hitler’s actions were the most significant, major reason for this outbreak.

The policy of appeasement encouraged Hitler to be stronger and gamble more, plus the two huge league (L. O. N) failures of Manchuria and Abyssinia in the 1930’s gave Hitler more confidence in thinking that nothing would be done if he decided to break rules and have his own way. Also as Hitler signed the Nazi-Soviet pact with the USSR he became more self-assured that he would be more victorious if he was ever under attack, and in invading Poland. I also think that there were many other not so major factors which affected the outbreak of war across Europe, for example, many countries felt hard done by and unfairly treated due to the treaties (or rules/restrictions) they had apposed upon them which lead to grudges and rebellions.

Plus the League of Nations gradually became weaker and weaker. Out of six of the leading powers in the league (Britain, France, Italy, Germany, USSR and Japan) only two remained members throughout – Britain and France, this left a lot of work and pressure on them to fulfil the leagues challenges. In addition many countries all wanted to be successful and have a strong and enormous empire. Finally in conclusion I think that Hitler’s actions were the main cause of this outbreak of war across Europe in 1939, however in spite of this I still think that there were a few inferior influences which also contributed.

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