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Origins and Causes of World War II

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In 1919, after the World War I ended, leaders of victorious countries met at Versailles, Paris and opened a peace conference. The main leaders were Georges Clemenceau who presented France, Woodrow Wilson president of the United States, and David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain. There were other Allies, Italy, Japan and Rumania. Russia did not attend because it was locked in civil war. The negotiations were difficult and often bitter, but the Allies reached a compromise agreement and imposed it on Germany.

Earlier in 1918 Wilson proposed a creation of the League of Nations, where he believed that only international organization could protect countries from aggression and future wars. Lloyd George and Clemenceau were very unenthusiastic about the Wilson's idea and were only concerned with punishing Germany. Eventually the League of Nations was accepted by France and England but Senate of the United States refused to ratify Wilson's treaties.

Based on the League of Nations, the Treaty of Versailles between the Allies and Germany was created, which seemed unjustly punitive. By the terms of the treaty, German colonies were giving to France, Britain, and Japan. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France and part of Germany was giving to a new state, Poland. There were limitations on the German military to 100,000 men. The guilt clause was created and they had to pay respirations of 27 billion. German government protested but there were no alternatives. Separate peace treaties were created for the other defeated powers, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey. At the same time, France signed a defense pact with Poland against Germany.

During this time in Russia, the Bolsheviks had won the civil war. They overthrew Czar Nicholas and established a Communist government in Russia. Lenin who became the leader had set up a dictatorship that firmly controlled the country. The Bolsheviks called themselves "Reds" and anyone who was opponent of the Bolsheviks were called "Whites". After the death of Lenin in 1924, Joseph Stalin rose to power.

In 1920 at Spa in Belgium the reparations conference was held where the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were discussed and confermed. During the same time, Russia under Tukhachevsky who was a military commander tried to take over Poland but was defeated by Kozienko's squad.

In 1922, at the meeting in Italy, the representatives from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Russia met to discuss the Russian pre-war debt. The talks collapsed when Russian simply did not acknowledged the debt. During the same time, secretly, Russia and Germany signed treaty of Rapallo where they began financial, economical, social, and military negotiations. Germany could train their military; develop weapons on Soviet territory in return for agricultural equipment, thus violating the Treaty of Versailles.

In Germany the Kaiser's empire was replaced by the Weimar Republic with a democratically elected government. The economies of the European countries were seriously damaged. With catastrophic inflation in Germany and political instability, the Weimar Republic could not pay any more reparations. The Ruhr Valley in Germany was occupied by France as a form of reparation because it produced coal and steel. Many Germans felt betrayed. All countries were in debt, because Germany had difficulty to pay reparations to France and Great Britain. France and England could not pay their loans to the United States. The French army pulled out of the Ruhr Valley in 1924 after the Dawes Plan was created, where payments depended on German economical prosperity. Also, Germany had to get a loan from the United States to pay the debt to Great Britain and France so they could pay back their loans to the United States. Everything seemed great until the Great Depression of 1929.

The Great Depression of 1929 was the most severe; it had halted the entire world. It caused mass unemployment, wide spread poverty and despair. The political view began to change, creating two important groups, Communists and Fascists. Communists were known as the "Left" who were mostly workers. Fascists were known as a "Right", who favored strong national government.

In Italy, economic distress led to violence, as a result, Fascist Party gained many supporters. The leader of the Fascists was Benito Mussolini. In Germany people hated and blamed Western government, their own government, the Jews, and the communists for their distress. In 1933, Adolf Hitler, who became the leader of Nazi, was appointed chancellor of Germany. He promised to bring the order, prosperity back to Germany and to prove himself he ignored the Versailles Treaty and began re-arming military and air-force by sending troops into Rhineland. Hitler's extreme nationalism appealed to many Germans. Italy invaded Ethiopia and Germany supported. France or Great Britain could not do anything because they were very weak.

Japan did not feel they had been adequately compensated for their participation in the war especially after the Washington Conference in 1921 where the size of fleets was reduced to 5 to 1. The "Open door policy" for China was concluded at the same conference. After the immigration laws in the United States and the depression Japan decided to take destiny into their own hands and in May 1931 they attacked Manchuria, cost of China for its coal and iron and later attacked Shanghai. Japan left the League of Nations.

The Spanish Civil War became an international conflict, many of Spanish officers revolted against the government and they choose General Franco as their leader. Hitler and Mussolini sent troops and equipment to support Franco, and Stalin responded by sending aid to communists fighting on the republican side. France, Great Britain, and United States remained neutral.

Russia had grown economically because of Stalin's five-year plan. All factories and farming was controlled by government. Between 1934 and 1939, the Great Purge occurred, where the secret police arrested a mass of military officials, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens who Stalin thought opposed to his views. Most of them were executed, including Tukhachevsky, and Blockov. Others were sent to forced-labor camps in Siberia.

In March 1938, Germany



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