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First World War Made a Path for Second World War

The First World War was a war between the Allies (Britain, France and Italy, and other supporting countries) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and other supporting nations). The War began in 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium in a bid to attack France, its then greatest rival. Germany was at the time the superpower of Europe and its attack on France forced other nations such as Britain, Italy and later the United States to join the War so as to minimize Germany’s dominion over the continent. The War lasted until 1918 when the Central Powers were defeated by the Allies. A number of events following the First World War laid the foundation for the culmination of the Second World War. These events include: the Treaty of Versailles, Italy’s dissatisfaction with the outcome of the war, and Japan’s failure to expand its territories to China.1

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In the last months of the First World War, Germany’s military power was declining fast, partly due to the collapse of other Central Powers such as Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary, and partly due to a wave of revolutionary sentiments that were sweeping through the country. The revolutionary sentiments were instigated by the Russian Revolution and were affecting the civilians as well as the German soldiers involved in the War. These sentiments forced the German high command to adopt a diplomatic approach with the United States to end the war. The U.S and the Allies forced Germany to sign and agree to the terms of the Fourteen Points, a peace program that would bring the War to its end. The terms mandated Germany to evacuate all the territories it had occupied and allowed the US and the allies to occupy Germany’s territories on the western side of the Rhine River. In addition, The Treaty of Versailles was drafted by the member states of the Allies, particularly, the U.S., Italy, France and Britain. Germany was held responsible for all the losses incurred during the First World War. It was therefore forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles which deprived Germany of many territories it had acquired before the War began. Germany was also forced to pay for the damage that had been caused during the War, through reparations. Although Germany signed the Treaty, the terms were too harsh it was not too long before it denounced the Treaty through its Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. In fact, many officials of the Allied countries failed to support the Treaty arguing that its contents could cause another war. Marshal Foch of France, for instance, stated that, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.”2 Hitler’s control of Germany was facilitated by the onset of the Great Depression in 1933. The Depression forced majority of the voters to support Hitler who was then advocating for a racist form of nationalism that made the Germans look like the superior race.2 Hitler strengthened the country’s military capability and power when he launched an expansionist policy, much to the dismay of other European powers. This laid the foundation for the Second World War.

Italy, which was an ally during the First World War, was dissatisfied with its outcome. Through the Treaty of Versailles, Italy hoped that the Allies would grant it the territories they had promised it when it joined them in the War. The Allies also hoped that the Treaty would “make the world safe for democracy.”3 The support for democracy led to the inception of a new form of nationalism that was referred to as fascism. Fascism was a form of militaristic socialism that was initiated by Italy under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. The fascist dictator argued that fascism would address the needs of the civilians more effectively than communism and was therefore the better option. This principle however contributed to the increased power of Germany when Hitler perverted it and turned it into a racist weapon. To worsen the situation, Germany and Italy together with Japan formed a treaty in 1936 that was commonly called the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. With the support of Italy and Japan, Germany launched its expansionist attacks on territories such as Austria and Czechoslovakia. These events led to the break out of the Second World War in 1939.4

Japan joined the Allies in 1914 during the First World War when it declared war against Germany. However, Japan’s interest in the War lay in the fact that it wanted to gain the German territories that were in East Asia and along the Pacific. Rather than fighting Germany in Europe, “Japanese forces promptly attacked the German-controlled islands in the Pacific north of the equator – the Marshalls, the Marianas, and the Carolines – as well as the German economic concession of Kiaochow on China’s Shantung Peninsula.”5 At the time, Germany was busy fighting Britain and France on the western side and Russia on the eastern side. It could therefore not afford to fight against Japan for its distant territories. Japan, therefore, won the war easily. Japan’s rising colonial power was recognized by the European powers and the U.S. when the First World War ended. Japan’s contribution to the culmination of the Second World War was enormous. Itself a believer and follower of fascism, Japan embarked on extensive arms and weapons manufacture whose raw materials came from the U.S. and its territories in China. At the same time, Japan carried out more territorial attacks on China such as Manchuria, forcing China to seek help from the League of Nations. The U.S. and other members of the League of Nations resolved not to recognize any state occupied by Japan through aggression. Japan withdrew its membership from the League in 1933 and continued its attacks on China. Fighting between China and Japan intensified in 1937 and 1938 leading to the formation of an alliance between Japan, Germany, and Italy on one side, and China, the U.S., and Britain on the other side. With time, other nations, great and small, were caught up in the War.6

The Second World War ended in 1945 when Japan surrendered to the Allies after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed and utterly destroyed. This War is considered to be the greatest and most brutal war ever fought in human history. Its launch can however be blamed on the outcome of the First World War. If the Treaty of Versailles was not too harsh on Germany, if Italy had been satisfied with the outcome of the First World War, if the Allies had respected the pledges they made to Italy, and if Germany had paid much attention to Japan during the First World War, then the Second World War could easily have been avoided.

Works Cited

  1. Keith, Robbins. The First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  2. Boemeke, Manfred, Fredman Gerald and Elizabeth Glaser. The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 years. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Footnotes

  1. Robbins Keith, The First World War, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 32.
  2. Robbins Keith, The First World War, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 98.
  3. Manfred Boemeke, Fredman Gerald and Elizabeth Glaser, The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 years. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 67.
  4. Manfred Boemeke, Fredman Gerald and Elizabeth Glaser, The Treaty of Versailles
  5. Manfred Boemeke, Fredman Gerald and Elizabeth Glaser, The Treaty of Versailles
  6. Manfred Boemeke, Fredman Gerald and Elizabeth Glaser, The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 years. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998),

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 31). First World War Made a Path for Second World War. https://studycorgi.com/first-world-war-made-a-path-for-second-world-war/

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"First World War Made a Path for Second World War." StudyCorgi, 31 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/first-world-war-made-a-path-for-second-world-war/.

1. StudyCorgi. "First World War Made a Path for Second World War." October 31, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/first-world-war-made-a-path-for-second-world-war/.


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