Causes of World War 2
The roots of World War II sprouted in the treaty that ended World War I. The Treaty of Versailles put a heavy load on the people of Germany. They couldn’t have a military. They couldn’t keep the lands they thought of as German. They had to pay a lot of money to France. To pay France, Germany started printing Marks, which is what they called their money. They just kept printing as much money as they needed to pay their debt. But the money wasn’t backed by gold or anything else of value.
So the money was essentially worthless. Germany tried to buy currency from other countries that backed their money in gold. This just made their money drop in value. In 1921, a German could trade 90 Marks for one United States dollar. But by the end of 1923, a single American dollar was worth more than 4 trillion marks. People needed a wheelbarrow full of money just to buy a loaf of bread.
Adolf Hitler was one of many Germans who thought this was unfair. He rose to power in the National Socialist Party, otherwise known as the Nazi Party. In 1923, Hitler tried to overthrow the government of Germany. He spoke to a large crowd in a beer hall, leading them to riot in the streets. The police arrested him and he spent a year in jail. While in prison, Hitler wrote about his struggle to lead the German people to greatness. His book, Mein Kampf became a best seller and helped him rise to power.
In his book, Hitler told the German people that they were the “Master Race.” He promised that under his leadership, the people of Germany would take over the world. When the stock market crashed, the economy of Germany crashed too. People looked for a new leader. There were no jobs in Germany. Even those people that had jobs had a hard time paying for simple things such as food and clothing. The German people elected Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany in 1933.
The first thing Hitler did was to build up the military. Even though it violated the Treaty of Versailles, no one stopped him. To finance his army, Hitler took property from his own citizens, but not just any citizens. Instead, Hitler passed laws against Jews. These laws meant they could not own businesses or send money out of Germany. As the need for money grew, Nazis forced Jews into concentration camps and confiscated, or took, all that they owned.
The British Prime Minister tried to keep peace. Neville Chamberlain believed that if leaders worked hard enough that there would be no war. He believed that no one really wanted to fight. So he wrote treaties to prevent war. Chamberlain signed a treaty with Hitler to give him the Sudetenland and area Hitler claimed as part of Germany.
Chamberlain said that Hitler would never go to war. But Hitler continued to grab land. He took over Austria and invaded Czechoslovakia. When Stalin and Hitler invaded Poland, Britain declared war, but did nothing to stop them. Hitler told the German people that no one stood in their way.
Meanwhile, Japan was also trying to grow. The emperor, Hirohito, was a peace-loving leader. But he had little control over the military. That was under the control of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. Tojo believed that his military could overcome any obstacle in the Pacific. Under Tojo, Japan invaded China and driven the leader, Chiang Kai-shek from his seat of power to the northwest corner of China. Once he had China, Tojo turned his attention to other territory in the Pacific Ocean.
He attacked and conquered many French territories. Then he started looking at conquering Australia and New Zealand, both British lands. Britain was very far away and it was difficult to supply troops in the Pacific. The only other power in the area, The United States, had pledged to remain neutral and did nothing to stop Tojo’s march across the Pacific.