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Oct 26, 2023

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This essay explores the connection between World War I and World War II, shedding light on how the unresolved issues stemming from the former contributed to the outbreak of the latter. The Treaty of Versailles, Germany’s political and economic instability, and the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party are key factors in understanding this link. The paper also discusses the lead-up to World War II, including the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the invasion of Poland, and the subsequent events that set the stage for the Allied victory over the Axis powers in World War II.


The devastation caused by World War I, known as the Great War at the time, left Europe in a state of turmoil and uncertainty. However, rather than bringing lasting peace, the aftermath of World War I sowed the seeds for another global conflict, World War II. This essay delves into the connection between these two major conflicts, emphasizing how the unresolved issues from World War I played a pivotal role in the outbreak of World War II.

The Treaty of Versailles and its Consequences

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, played a significant role in shaping the landscape of post-World War I Europe. This treaty imposed harsh terms on Germany, including territorial losses, disarmament, and financial reparations. While it was intended to ensure lasting peace, the treaty had several consequences that fueled the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

The treaty’s punitive nature left Germany in a state of economic instability and humiliation. Reparations, in particular, had a crippling effect on the German economy. The financial burden placed on Germany, coupled with the loss of territory and resources, created a breeding ground for resentment and frustration within the German population (Kitchen, 2018). This discontent would be a key factor in the subsequent rise of Adolf Hitler.

The Rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party

Adolf Hitler, who had been a soldier during World War I, emerged as a charismatic and powerful figure in the post-war period. In his memoir and propaganda tract “Mein Kampf,” written as early as 1923, Hitler predicted a general European war that would result in the “extermination of the Jewish race in Germany.” This ominous prediction reflected his obsession with a concept known as Lebensraum, or living space, for the German race (Mazower, 2008).

After becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler quickly consolidated power and anointed himself as the Führer, the supreme leader, in 1934. His beliefs in Aryan superiority and the necessity of war to secure Lebensraum for the German race were central to his ideology. Hitler’s ambitions to rearm Germany in the mid-1930s, in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles, marked the beginning of his aggressive actions.

The Road to World War II

By the late 1930s, Hitler’s expansionist ambitions led to a series of events that set the stage for the outbreak of World War II. He formed alliances with Italy and Japan, signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union in 1939, and initiated the invasion of Poland in September of that year.

The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a pivotal moment in prelude to World War II. It meant that Hitler would not have to face a two-front war when he invaded Poland, as he had Soviet support in his plans (Ziemann, 2018). This pact was a strategic move that allowed Germany to pursue its expansionist goals with fewer immediate challenges.

Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, prompted France and Britain to declare war on Germany, marking the official beginning of World War II. Poland fell rapidly, and by early 1940, Germany and the Soviet Union divided control over the nation as outlined in a secret protocol appended to the Nonaggression Pact.

World War II in the West (1940-41)

In 1940, the war escalated as German forces conducted blitzkrieg-style invasions of Belgium and the Netherlands. They swiftly crossed the Meuse River and bypassed the Maginot Line, a defense barrier constructed after World War I. The British Expeditionary Force was evacuated from Dunkirk, and France was left on the brink of collapse. Italy, under Benito Mussolini, formed the Pact of Steel with Germany and declared war on France and Britain in June 1940.

By June 1940, German forces entered Paris, and a new government led by Marshal Philippe Petain, a hero from World War I, requested an armistice. France was divided into two zones, one under German military occupation and the other under the Vichy government, led by Petain.

As Hitler’s attention turned towards Britain, a series of intense aerial bombings, known as the Blitz, took place from September 1940 to May 1941. The Royal Air Force (RAF) managed to withstand the onslaught, marking a crucial turning point in the Battle of Britain. Winston Churchill’s government received vital support from the United States under the Lend-Lease Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in early 1941.

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