Second World War
The First World War came to an end in 1918 and the Paris Peace conference was held in 1919. Many treaties including the Treaty of Versailles were signed in the conference. One of the important features of this conference was that only the victorious nations alone were invited. The conference turned out to be a meeting of the victors to share the spoils of the war. The defeated countries were badly treated. They also discussed about the establishment of permanent peace in the world. In order to solve mutual problems among the nations, under the initiative of the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations had been established. But the League failed to maintain the expected international peace. This ultimately led to the rise of dictatorships in Germany, Italy and Japan. The formation of Rome, Berlin, Tokyo Axis led to the Second World War.
Germany was defeated in the First World War. She was not invited to the Paris Peace Conference. Germany was forced to sign a harsh and humiliating treaty. German territories were taken away from her. She was deprived of her colonies. Her navy was completely disbanded. Her army was reduced considerably. The Weimar Republic was not in a position to solve the post-war problems. The German people decided to take revenge for their humiliation. In fact, the Second World War was a war of retaliation. Therefore, the Treaty of Versailles had in itself the seeds of the Second World War.
The inter-war period witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe. The inter-war period is otherwise called the period of dictators. Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan witnessed the rise of dictators. In Germany, the Weimar Republic was weak. Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party took full advantage of the weakness of the Republican Government and brought the government under his control. He started aggression. He captured Austria and Czechoslovakia. At last he attacked Poland and World War II started.
The same condition prevailed in Italy also. Italy felt that it was deceived in the Paris Peace Conference. Mussolini started the Fascist Party. In 1922 he captured power and became a dictator. He also followed an aggressive foreign policy. The spirit of dictatorship arose in Spain and Japan also. In Spain, General Franco defeated the Republican Government and established his dictatorship. In this effort, he was assisted by the armies of Hitler and Mussolini. Japan became a partner of Hitler and Mussolini by signing the Rome- Berlin -Tokyo Axis. This alliance disturbed world peace and the Second World War started.
The failure of the disarmament efforts after the First World War was a major reason for the outbreak of a new War. In the Paris Peace conference Germany was forced to disarm itself. The German Government demanded disarmament of the victorious powers, in the same way as she had been disarmed. As they refused, Germany under the dictatorship of Hitler increased its military strength. Owing to the immense increase in armaments and the development of militarism, the Second World War became inevitable.
The policy of imperialism was one of the causes for the Second World War. It was this same feeling of imperialism which played a dominant role during the First World War. Germany and Japan, who were more imperialistic than the Allied powers, simply ignored the decisions of the Paris Peace Conference. They made their efforts to expand their respective territories. Hitler occupied Rhineland, Austria, Memel, Czechoslovakia and incorporated them into German territory. Japan attacked Manchuria and captured it from China. Mussolini occupied Abysinia and launched a series of aggressive activities.
There was also a race for colonies among the European countries in order to obtain raw materials and markets for their industrial growth. This trend continued among these powers even after the First World War. Germany was deprived of all her colonies at the Paris Peace Conference. Italy was dissatisfied with the treatment of Allied Powers. Japan, a powerful Asiatic country wanted to have colonies to enrich its resources. It is in these circumstances Germany, Italy and Japan decided to follow aggressive foreign policy. These aggressive actions ultimately led to the Second World War.
After the First World War, the League of Nations was established to solve controversies among the nations and to maintain permanent peace and order in the world. Even the members of the League failed to respect the provisions of the covenant of the League. Those who violated the provisions simply walked out of the League, without any punishment. The League could not contain the Japanese annexation of Manchuria and Italian invasion of Abyssinia. Hitler's activities posed a challenge to the League. Thus, the failure of the League of Nations to control aggressive countries was a major cause for World War II.
The Allied powers though posed themselves as the champions of the principle of self-determination, in actual practice that principle was not followed by them. In some parts of Central Europe, the problem of national minorities existed. It is these minority groups which became the hot beds of discontent and dissatisfaction. German annexation of Austria and Sudetenland and attack on Poland was based on this policy of reunion of National minorities.
There was no collective cooperation among the Allies. England followed a policy appeasement towards Germany. France's fear of Germany was opposed by England. The U.S.A., the architect of the League of Nations, did not join the League. These differences among the allies failed to check the increasing strength of the dictators.
According to the decisions taken in the Paris Peace Conference, Poland had been made an independent kingdom. East Prussia was separated from Germany. Now, Hitler wanted to unite East Prussia with Germany. Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Great Britain declared war against Germany on September 3. Second World War started.
In April 1940, Germany captured Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Holland and Belgium were conquered. Germany attacked France and captured it in June 1940.
Italy fought against the British forces in North Africa. Mussolini attacked Greece and captured it with German support. Yugoslavia and Crete were occupied by the Germans.
After the fall of France, Britain was left alone. Hence, Hitler wanted to attack England by air. There was continuous air force attack on Britain. But the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Churchill saved England. Germany could not conquer Britain.
Germany made a mistake of invading the Soviet Union, despite a non-aggression pact. One of the important battles was theBattle of Stalingrad. For five months the battle went on. It involved 2 million men, 2000 tanks and 2000 aero-planes. The invading German army was driven back. In February1943, about 90,000 German soldiers surrendered. This was a turning point of the war.
In December 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbour. This tragedy dragged the U.S.A. into the war. General MacArther was made the supreme commander of the Pacific region. Lord Mountbatten, the Commander of South East Asia drove the Japanese from Burma.
In Africa, Abyssinia was conquered by the U.S.A. from Italy. The Italian Somaliland was also conquered. The British General Montgomery captured Libya from Germans. He also conquered Tripoli and entered Tunisia. In 1942 Algeria fell. In 1943 Sicily was captured by the British and U.S. troops. North Africa was cleared of Italian and German troops. The mainland of Italy was attacked. There was a revolt in Italy and Mussolini was arrested, but he managed to escape with German help. In September 1943, Italy surrendered unconditionally. Mussolini was captured and killed by his own people in April 1945.
In 1944 the Allied forces entered into France and expelled the German army from France. After that the Allied forces attacked Germany from the Southwest. Russia invaded Germany from the East. On 2 May 1945 Russian army entered Berlin. Hitler committed suicide. Germany surrendered.
Even after the surrender of Germany, Japan continued the war. USA dropped two atom bombs on Hiroshima (6th August) and on Nagasaki (9th August). Following this Japan surrendered on 14th August 1945.
The Second World War was over. At the end of the war, some 13 million Europeans were killed and 17 million civilians had died as a result of the fighting. All major cities were in ruins. Agriculture was ruined. People of the entire world had to face untold miseries, directly or indirectly.
In this war, about 15 Million soldiers and 10 million civilians lost their lives.
An important result of the Second World War was that it brought to an end the colonial Empire of the European countries in Asia and Africa.
Multi-polar world became bi-polar world.
The USA and USSR emerged as Super Powers.
Cold War started as an ideological war between USA and USSR