Causes of World War II

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Dismemberment of eastern Germany by Versailles Treaty.

Historians tend to agree on 1 September, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, as the commencement of World War II. There were several important factors that led to this (and these are also disputed). There is general agreement, however, that the principal causes of World War II were the unfair and imposed Versailles Treaty[1][2][3] and the Treaty of Trianon.[4]


The victorious western plutocratic Allies had forced Germany to accept responsibility for The Great War[5] and charged her an indemnity of 25 trillion dollars. This responsibility was, of course, a fiction[6], but as Russia, the prime mover[7][8], had fallen to the Bolsheviks and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been broken up into fragments by the same Allies, only Germany was left to accuse. Everyone seemed to have forgotten Serbia, who had set the war in motion[9][10]. Germany lost all her colonies along with Alsace-Lorraine, northern Schleswig, Danzig, the provinces of Posen and West Prussia[11], parts of Upper Silesia with its industries and coal mines, and the coal-fields of the Saar.[12]

The question of Austria, reduced by the Allies to a rump State, and its internally popular union with Germany in 1938; and the question of Czechoslovakia an artificial state[13][14], "a structure manufactured at untenable situation"[15] with its minority Czech population (43%) ruling a majority of others, including 3,500,000 Germans, were in fact very minor factors relating to the outbreak of war in September 1939. For a majority of Germans (especially those in the Sudetenland) and Austrians, 1938 was merely revanchism.

Every German Chancellor and Government between 1919 and 1939 was pledged to what they described as "revision" of the imposed eastern borderlands, Danzig and Memel.[16] Most notable was Gustav Stresemann, whose aim was to use diplomatic methods.[17][18][19][20]

Behind the scenes

In a report from Count Potocki, the Polish Ambassador in Washington DC, he warned his government in 1939 of the campaign there that was being organised pressing for war with Germany in which various Jewish intellectuals took part, such as Bernard Baruch, Felix Frankfurter, a Justice of the Supreme Court, Morgenthau, Secretary of the US Treasury, and others linked to President Theodore Roosevelt, some of whom held many of the highest posts in the American Government.[21] Samuel J. Bullitt, who worked in the Roosevelt Administration and was of Jewish descent, had been working to convince Poland not to negotiate with Germany while also pressuring the British government to take pro-active steps against Germany. It has been argued that the Jewish community in America and Britain was determined to drive Britain into a war with Germany, and used all of their financial and political leverage in order to bring about that very eventuality.


The main (but not the only) pretext for the German-Polish conflict started with the continuing disputes over the German city of Danzig, whose overall population in 1938 was 407,000[22] of whom 98% were German, the balance being approximately 1% Kashubian and 1% Polish. It had been the capital city of West Prussia. In 1919 the city and its hinterland had been separated from Germany and made into a so-called 'Free City' but awarding oppressive conditions and 'rights' in the Free City to Poland at the Versailles conference.[23][24]


Great anger and resentment was caused in Germany by the territorial losses in eastern Germany, and the open French sympathy towards the re-established Poland and her terrorism in Silesia[25][26][27][28], (almost a mirror of the terrorist situation in Ireland).

Hitler, who had respected the former Polish leader, Josef Pilsudski, and who claimed he did not want war with Poland, had attempted to negotiate Danzig's return to Germany.[29] From January through to March 1939, Hitler approached the Polish government several times with diplomatic overtures, seeking to resolve "the Danzig question" by negotiation. Germany's proposals included allowing Poland to retain the economic concessions it had been awarded in 1919, and also joining Germany in an alliance against the Soviet Union. In return Germany would gain direct political control of Danzig, her return to the Reich, and Germany would be permitted to erect an extra-territorial railway and autobahn across the so-called "Polish Corridor" to East Prussia.[30] These proposals were refused without discussion.

British guarantee to Poland

Though negotiations at times seemed they might be entered into, they were eventually permanently derailed when, on 31 March 1939, Britain gave Poland an unsolicited guarantee of Poland's borders and promise of support if attacked. This 'war guarantee' (the French already having mutual defence treaties with Poland) promised Poland that in the event of an attack on its territorial integrity, that Britain and France would militarily aid Poland against the aggressor. The guarantee had not been requested by Poland.

This 'blank cheque' had the effect of deterring Poland from negotiations with Germany, convincing its leadership that it no longer even had to negotiate over anything, including the return of Danzig. It also emboldened the Poles. The British Ambassador at Berlin telegraphed Viscount Halifax on 3 May 1939 about "the ravings of the Warsaw and Cracow press demanding a Polish Protectorate over Danzig, a broader access to the Baltic for Poland, and the cession of Silesia and East Prussia to Poland." He added that 'the 'blank cheque' given by England to Poland is deemed to be principally responsible for this outbreak of megalomania and a large part of the blame should be laid at the doors of the new Protectors of Poland for failing to check this inflammable mischief-making and for allowing the British and French press to add fuel to the flames."[31]

The guarantee also solidified Hitler's belief that Jews were working to ensure that Britain and Germany were on a collision course to war.

German invasion of Poland

On 1 September, 1939, Germany attacked the Polish outpost at the Westerplatte at Danzig and invaded Poland. As a result, two days later, on 3 September, Britain (with France in turn shortly following them) declared war on Germany. What began and should have remained a localized conflict over the fate of a German city, Danzig, between two continental European nations, namely Germany and Poland, was now expanded by Britain and France into a continental war involving all of Europe's major powers. No-one has ever adequately explained why Britain and France failed to declare war on the Soviet Union when they invaded Poland from the East and occupied a third of that country.

In time, this European war would expand to include the Soviet Union (June 1941) and the USA (1942), and eventually most of the nations of the world (excluding South America).


  1. The Case for the Central Powers - An Impeachment of the Versailles Verdict by Count Max Montgelas, a signatory of the Versailles 'Diktat', London, 1925.
  2. The End of Order - Versailles 1919 by Charles L. Mee, London, 1981, ISBN 436-27650-X
  3. Hall of Mirrors by David Sinclair, London, 2001, ISBN 0-7126-8389-5
  4. The Tragedy of Trianon by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E., LL.B., London, 1928.
  5. Montgelas, 1925
  6. German White Book concerning the responsibility of the authors of the war, 1919, reprinted 2018. 178 pps.
  7. Outbreak of the World War - The Kautsky Documents, edited by Count Max Montgelas and Professor Walther Schucking, Oxford University Press, London & New York, 1924.
  8. The End of Tsarist Russia - The March to World War I and Revolution, by Professor Dominic Lieven, New York, 2015, ISBN: 978-0-670-02558-9
  9. The Austrian Red Book April 1915, 92 pps.
  10. The Serbian Blue Book May 1915, 34 pps. (in response to the Austrian Red Book)
  11. The Polish Corridor and the Consequences by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E., LL.D., London, 1929.
  12. The Weimar Republic edited by Henrik Neubauer, English-language edition, Cologne, Germany, 2000, p.67. ISBN 3-8290-2697-8
  13. The Tragedy of Trianon by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E., LL.B., London, 1928, pps: 25-6, 57-8.
  14. The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor, F.B.A., London, 1961, p.201.
  15. Speech by German Chancellor Hitler at the NSP Congress, Nuremberg, Germany, 12th September 1938.
  16. Neubauer, 2000, p.96.
  17. The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor, London, 1961.
  18. 1939 - The War that had Many Fathers by Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, 6th edition, Munich, 2007; English edition, Munich 2011. ISBN: 978-1-4466-8623-2
  19. The Free City - Danzig and German Foreign Policy 1919-1934 by Professor Christoph M. Kimmich, Yale University Press, 1968.
  20. Germany and the League of Nations by Professor Christoph M. Kimmich, University of Chicago Press, 1976, ISBN: 0-226-43534
  21. Polish Documents on the Origin of the War, cited in State Secrets by Comte Léon de Poncins, UK edition, 1975, ISBN 0-85172-911-8, p.31.
  22. Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year 1938, London, 1938, p.193
  23. The Danzig Dilemma by John Brown Mason, Standford University Press & Oxford University Press, written before eventual publication in 1946.
  24. Kimmich, 1968
  25. The Cauldron Boils by Emil Lengyel, New York, 1932.
  26. The British in Germany 1918-1930 - The Reluctant Occupiers by David G. Williamson, Oxford UK, 1991. ISBN 0-85496-584-X
  27. Frontiers of Terror by Friedrich Glombowski, London, 1935
  28. Silesia Revisited 1929 by Lt-Col. Graham Seton Hutchison, London, 1929.
  29. mason, 1946; Kimmich, 1968.
  30. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 edited by Professor E. L. Woodward, M.A., Rohan Butler, M.A., and Anne Orde, M.A., Third Series, vol.v, 1939, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1952, p.275, Telegram 254 from British Embassy in Berlin to Viscount Halifax, 22 April 1939 which gives full details. See also British Foreign Office Memorandum of the 4th May 1939 containing the full German proposals regarding Danzig and the Polish Corridor as well as the Polish Counter-Proposals from March-April 1939, on pages 415-420.
  31. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 vol.v, London, 1952, p.403, Telegram 349.
  • Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 edited by Professor W. N. Medlicott, et al, multiple volumes in four series, HMSO, London.
  • The Origins of the Second World War by Professor A.J.P. Taylor, London, 1961.
  • Who Started World War II by Udo Walendy, Uckfield, Sussex, England, Sept 2014. ISBN10: 1-59148-072-8
  • 1939 - The War that had Many Fathers - The Long Run-up to the Second World War by Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, English edition Munich, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4466-8623-2
  • How War Came by Donald Cameron Watt, London, 1989. ISBN 0-434-84216-8
  • Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer - The Annexation of Austria by Dieter Wagner & Gerhard Tomkowitz, English-language edition, London, 1971. ISBN 0-582-10803-9
  • The Twilight of France 1933-1940, by Alexander Werth, New York 1942, reprinted 1966.
  • The World Situation etc., including the text of Chancellor Hitler's Speech to the Reichstag 6th October 1939; text of Premier Daladier's broadcast to the French Nation 10th October 1939; text of Prime Minister Chamberlain's speech to the House of Commons]], London, 12th October 1939. Published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, New York, November 1939.
  • The Crisis in Czechoslovakia 1938. Published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, New York, November 1938.
  • Europe Into The Abyss a book of Essays by 20 notables from across Europe, edited by Dr. Alex Forbath, London, 1938.
  • Danger Spots of Europe by Bernard Newman, London, 1938.
  • The End of Reparations by Hjalmar Schacht, New York, 1931.
  • The Destiny of France by Alexander Werth, London, 1937.
  • Inside Europe by John Gunther, revised & illustrated, 27th reprint, London, 1937.
  • The Reparation Settlement June 1929 by Dr. Leon Fraser, New York, October 1929.
  • Locarno edited by F. J. Berber, Dr.Jur., London, 1936.
  • International Affairs 1920-1934 by G. M. Gathorne-Gardy, Oxford University Press, 3rd edition May 1936.
  • Vital Peace - A Study of Risks by Henry Wickham Steed, London, 1936.
  • Embattled Borders - Eastern Europe from the Balkans to the Baltic by E. Alexander Powell, London, 1928.

See also