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The Versailles Settlement, The 1929 Economic Crisis and Ideological Extremism as causes for the Second World War

Updated on April 25, 2014


The causes of the Second World War were various, diverse and each cause played a different role in the build up to Germany’s invasion of Poland and the answer from France and Great Britain. This essay will asses the role of the three of the most important causes: The Versailles Settlement after the First World War, the economic crisis of 1929 and its further consequences on all belligerent parties and the ideological extremism, which built up not only in Nazi Germany but in other nations as well.

The Title Page


The peace settlement

The peace settlement after the armistice in World War One was a heavily contributing factor to the unleashing of German resentment and in effect World War Two especially the Treaty of Versailles, which heavily punished the German nation and its people. Its war guilt clause accused Germany as the aggressor and angered the German nation leaving a long-lasting feeling of abandonment. It also made sure that Germany would have to pay a huge amount of war guilt in the form of reparations to the victorious nations. It secured a large amount of territorial losses of Germany, such as the Polish Corridor, Alsace-Lorraine and all overseas colonies, such as Namibia or Samoa. The treaty demilitarized the Rhineland and allowed France to exploit the Ruhr’s resources in Western Germany. The Peace Settlement created many small independent states in Eastern Europe such as Hungary Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia creating a power vacuum in later years. The treaty of Versailles and its clauses pertaining to the diminished size of Germany’s army, navy and the non-existent German air force, became Hitler’s main issue. The Nazi dictator had made it one of his main goals to revise the treaty and regain Germany’s pre-war significance and power to be able to follow and complete his other goals. These including the revision of Versailles, were later accomplished in the beginning of the Second World War.

A Title Page


The Wall Street Crash of 1929

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 set of the worst economic crisis ever in the history of mankind and as like much of the world it had a large impact on Germany and thus has a role in causing World War Two. Before the crash, the Weimar Republic (Germany) had seen a period of improvement under the leadership of Streseman with the presence of US help in the form of loans. They were known as the Dawes commission and Young plan and had the goal of assisting Germany in its attempt to secure democracy and stabilize its economy. They were successful to begin with but after the Wall Street Crash the United States were unable to continue with the payments towards Germany and the rest of Europe. Germany became unable to continue with the payment of reparations, which raised tensions between countries and increased the economic crisis in the Weimar republic, where the majority of the population had lost faith in the government. This led to the reemergence of both right and left extremist groups which later contributed to the political instability and the rise of Hitler and Nazism, vicious ideology, which needed a conflict to succeed.

Nazi Propaganda


Ideological extremism

Ideological extremism was present through Europe in the post-war years, yet mainly affected Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and Spain, where a civil war ensued. In Germany the ideology of Nazism built upon Mussolini’s fascism allowed Hitler to take control over Germany and dissolve the Weimar republic. Hitler’s further ideologues, such as his idea of “lebensraum” and a perfect race, are triggers, which began World War Two for example the German occupation of Poland. Italy’s change to fascism under the rule of Mussolini led to the Rome-Berlin Axis between Germany and Italy and their later collaboration during the war. However, strong ideological extremism was also present among the allies. Russia had become a socialist; communist nation after Lenin’s revolution in 1917 and under Stalin’s leadership became more and more opposed towards Germany and Hitler. In Japan, the idea of anti-US imperialism rose and led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, an attempt to force the United States out of Asia, which led to US involvement in the war, both in the pacific and in Europe.

The Cause for WW2

Which of the following was the main reason for WW2?

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All three aspects played an important role in the causes of the Second World War. Ideological extremism and the economic crisis gave extremist parties the right climate to seize power and created lasting differences and opposition between nations. The Peace Settlement of 1919 left a politically torn Europe and an angry Germany and a League of Nations with no significant influence over international affairs. In combination with each other all of the above mentioned aspects create one of the main causes of the war, Hitler’s rise to power and the implication of his political goals. This led to the death of more than 10 million soldiers and civilians in the space of 6 years and the Holocaust, one of the biggest genocides know to mankind.

Crash Course History


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