World War II was the first war in which more civilians were killed than soldiers. More than 50 million people were killed, 1 trillion dollars were lost and more than 370 million lives were affected. The war started when Germany tried to own an empire in the world. There were already British and French empires and some countries supported Germany.
WHY DID IT START:-
Britain and France declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September, 1939. The governments of two countries were angry when Hitler invaded Poland. However, the invasion of Poland was just one reason why the war started. The fascists who came to power in several countries were very war-like. But how did the fascists come to power?
Treaty of Versailles
One year after Germany surrendered in World War I, the leaders of the winning side signed a treaty in a palace in Paris called Versailles in December, 1919. In this treaty, the leaders decided that Germany was solely responsible of the damages of the war. It was forced to pay 6.6 billion pounds. At that time, this was more money than the money owned by any country in Europe. This was called Reparations. Another thing which angered the Germans was that they were not allowed to attend the meetings. They called the Diktat. The ruler of Germany, called Kaiser Wilhelm II, was forced to abdicate and a new democratic government, called the Weimar Regime, came to power. Germany was not allowed to merge with Austria, which it helped during World War I. All of these factors didn't only anger the Germans, but it caused a huge financial crisis.
Another country which hated the Treaty of Versailles was Italy. Although was on the winning side of WWI, it faced many problems. The people of Italy were becoming poorer and poorer and corruption was everywhere. The Italian king at that time, called Victor Emmanuel, was in big trouble. A party called Fascio di Combbiatente claimed that it knows how to solve Italy's problems. Its leader, Benito Mussolini, accused the Italian government. King Victor Emmanuel ignored his advisors warnings and asked Benito Mussolini to form the government. Although Emmanuel didn't leave his throne, Mussolini was the real leader of Italy and he slowly became a dictator. By 1922, Italy became a fascist country.
Fascists had very strange beliefs. They believed in work not in words. Benito Mussolini managed to make trains arrive on time. The economy in Italy improved. Fascists did that by forcing people the middle and lower-classed people to work hard. He decreased taxes for the business men. When he was in power, Italians had lower salaries than any other people in Europe. Mussolini believed that this would make Italians more disciplined than any other people. Fascists executed any people who were against them and they believed that the fittest can only live. They used to wear black. Some of their slogans were:
"Nothing in history has been gained without bloodshed!"
"Believe! Obey! Fight!"
"A minute on the battlefield is worth a lifetime of peace!"
The Red Menace
In 1917, in the middle of the First World War, a party called the Bolsheviks gained popularity. On April 25th, Tsar Nicolas II was assassinated and 8 months later the Bolsheviks gained power. The Bolsheviks were communists who were the followers of Karl Marx. They believed that everything in the world must be shared equally and that no one should become richer or gain more power and respect than another. Their leader, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, or Lenin, wanted to spread communism around the world. One famous sentence written by the German writer Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their book The Communis Manifesto was: "Workers of the world unite, you only have your chains to lose." Karl Marx believed that capitalism is going to cause many problems and that the lower classes are going to become poorer and poorer. The Bolsheviks wore red, they changed the flag to red, and their symbol was the sickle. The old Russian empire was divided into republics: Russia itself, Belorussia (now Belarus), Ukraine and a region later split into Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. These republics formed the USSR, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Later, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined.
Most European countries didn't like the USSR. The Germans were resented by the attempt to introduce communism in 1919. Lenin, who ruled the USSR from 1917 till 1924, started the Red Terror campaign. He killed many people who were believed to be anti-communists or Whites. From 1924 till 1929, 3 leaders ruled Russia together. However, one of them gained full power in 1929, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili or Stalin. Stalin executed and imprisoned thousands of people who were against him. Many people had false trails and were exiled or killed. Most European leaders hated Stalin. Although Russians did not gain the same salaries as Europeans, Stalin's plans for industrialization and economic and social developments improved the lifestyle in Russia.
The Great Crash
In 1929, the Wall Street Crash affected the world economy. Many companies were bankrupted and thousands of people became unemployed. The period which followed the Great Crash is called the Great Depression. It's probably the main reason why Hitler came to power and why Japan invaded China. But how did this happen?
Hitler Comes to Power
Hitler was born in the year 1889 in an Austrian village called Brahma, near the German border. Both of his parents, Alois and Clara Hitler, were Catholics. Adolf Hitler's father was very mean and strict with him. He used to beat every time he made something wrong, while his mother tried to stop Alois. In the church near his house, the swastika symbol was found under a portrait of a saint. In 1904, Hitler sat an exam to enter the Arts Academy of Vienna, but he failed. His examiner was Jewish. After that, Hitler's ambitions were to become a politician. He fought in WWI when he was 25 years old. When Germany lost the war, he accused the German Jews and communists. In 1919, the NSAP (National Socialist Workers Party) was set up and he joined it. In 1921, he became the leader of the party and its name changed to NDSAP (National Deutschland Armour Party) [Deutschland: Germany). British people nicknamed this party NATZI or Nazi, making fun of the German accent.
The Nazi party had similar ideas to fascists in Italy. Fascism haves existed in the 1500's in Venice and also in the English Revolution but they didn't come to power. The word fascist comes from the Latin word faeces which means a bundle of sticks; a symbol for power and unity. Hitler believed that the Aryan, or German, race was the best and that all of the other races should disappear. In 1923, he led a mini-revolution, or putsch, called the Beer Hall Putsch, in Munich. He was imprisoned after that. At first, Adolf was so disappointed that he decided to stop eating. However, he gained confidence. While he was in prison he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which became a best selling book. In his book, he believed that the fittest people have the right to live, just like a lion eats a deer so that it can survive, the Aryan race must kill all of the other races and rule the world. He claimed that he knew how to make Germany a stronger country. One year after he has written Mein Kampf, Hitler left prison although he was supposed to stay there for another 4 years. Adolf Hitler started to make speeches in many places in Germany but he didn't gain much support. In 1929, the Great Crash occurred and the German economy was demolished. Banknote was cheaper than wallpaper. The rate of inflation was so high that people had to bring a suitcase full of money to eat in a restaurant. One third of Germans were unemployed. Before 1929, America used to help Germany to pay its reparations, but after the Great Crash, America had its own problems to solve and it decided to stop helping Germany. For that reason, the German government announced that it could no longer pay its reparations, so France decided to take the Rhineland, part of Germany.
After, the Great Crash, Hitler gained popularity. His extraordinary skills in speeches made him close from being elected in 1932. In 1933, the Reichstag, or Parliament, was burnt. Some historians believe that Hitler was the one who burnt but people are not sure. Anyway, Hitler claimed that the communists were the ones who burnt and promised everyone that he will solve Germany's problems. Soon, he was appointed as a Chancellor, or Prime Minister. In 1934, with most of the Reich's seats belonging to the Nazis, Hitler passed the Enabling Act, which he claimed it would solve Germany's problems. The Enabling Act allowed Hitler to pass laws and make decisions without a vote. In the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler killed the leader of the Stormstoopers, who he believed could cause problems. In 1936, Germany's president Paul von Hindenburg died and Hitler became the Fuhrer, outright leader.
The Great Crash also affected Japan. The Japanese government faced an economic crisis. Although Hiro Hito was the emperor at that time, he was not the real leader. The admirals and general were the ones who were controlling the government. Japan was looking for raw materials to sell. The army found out that the only solution was Manchuria, an area in China. It was full of raw materials. In 1931, the Japanese army invaded Manchuria without permission from its government. Japan was a powerful member in the League of Nations, which was similar to the United Nations. Many countries criticized Japan but the League of Nations couldn't do anything. In 1939, Japan left the League of Nations. The Japanese were not fascists but they were very belligerent and they had a lot of determination and fanaticism.
Ignoring the Treaty of Versailles
Germany and Italy began to ignore the Treaty of Versailles. In 1933, Hitler began rearmament. He started building weapons; something which Versailles prevented Germany from doing. In the same year, Japan and Germany left the League of Nations. France and Britain faces their own problems after the Great Crash and left Hitler, who was making Germany a rich and developed country, to do what he wanted to do. In 1935, he removed all of the limits on his army after making several treaties with France and Britain. In the same year, Benito Mussolini ordered his army to invade Abyssinia, which is now called Ethiopia. The League of Nations accused Italy but France and Britain did absolutely nothing. One of Hitler's friends, called Marshal Herman Goering, started the "League for Air Sports". This was actually a tournament for pilots. Goering's real purpose was to train pilots for a war, something Versailles prevented him from doing. In 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland and faced no resistance from the French troops. In the same year, Hitler visited Italy and the Rome-Berlin axis occurred. Later that year, the Spanish Civil War, between the communists and fascists in Spain, started. Stalin helped the communists, while Hitler and Mussolini helped the fascists. Many German aeroplanes bombed many Spanish cities and killed many innocent citizens. The same pilots in the League for Air Sports became murderers. Although Spain was not involved in World War II, the Spanish Civil War was a practice for Italy, Germany and Russia. The fascists won the war and Francisco Franco became Spain's dictator. In 1937, Japan invaded China completely and a war started in the Far East. The next year, an alliance between Germany and Austria, called Anschluss, occurred. Although this was another thing Versailles prevented Germany from doing, most people in the world were not worried. Britain and France were giving in, this was called appeasement. In the same year, Hitler invaded part of Czechoslovakia, called Sudetenland, where many Germans and supporters of Nazism lived. Many people criticized Hitler. In 1938, Britain's Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, visited Munich and signed a treaty with Hitler, allowing him to control Sudetenland but preventing him from invading any other country. Chamberlain thought that he has restored peace. In 1938, the Gestapo (Hitler's secret police) attacked thousands of homes of Jewish people. In the "Night of the Broken Glass" more than 300,000 Jews emigrated. In 1939, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia, making Britain and France angry. On the 1st of September, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. France and Britain decided not to give in and declared war on Hitler on the 3rd of September. On the 17th of September, Stalin invaded part of Poland. By then World War II had already started.
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