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Could World War 2 Have Been Prevented: Argumentative Essay

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Appeasement was a rational and calculated foreign policy. It was intended to prevent the possibility of a Second World War, In 1961 AJP Taylor published The Origins of the Second World War, where he lays out the Revisionist argument, that Hitler was not looking for World domination, but simply 'continuing the policy of previous German governments in seeking eastward expansion' (3). Taylor tries to argue that by trying to make Germany the most dominant power in Europe or the world he is no different from leaders of German history such as those in World War 1. However, although Taylor wrote persuasively and was one of the most important historians of the 20th century, his book received a lot of criticism for his 'cavalier use of primary evidence' (4) as well as some of the conclusions he reached after cherry picking source material that fit his narrative. Taylor also did not mention Hitler's or the Nazi's ideology at any point in his book as a driving force for wanting world domination. Gerhard Weinberg published Hitler's second book that shows that instead of Hitler being an opportunist like Taylor tries to argue 'Hitler had some very definite, fixed ideas on foreign policy before he came to power' (5). Appeasement is a factor that is only relevant late in the origins of the Second World War, After German remilitarization and aggressive foreign policy, after the Great Depression, and long after the incredibly harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1961 AJP Taylor published The Origins of the Second World War, where he lays out the Revisionist argument, that Hitler was not looking for World domination, but simply 'continuing the policy of previous German governments in seeking eastward expansion' (3). Taylor tries to argue that by trying to make Germany the most dominant power in Europe or the world he is no different from leaders of German history such as those in World War 1. However, although Taylor wrote persuasively and was one of the most important historians of the 20th century, his book received a lot of criticism for his 'cavalier use of primary evidence' (4) as well as some of the conclusions he reached after cherry picking source material that fit his narrative. Taylor also did not mention Hitler's or the Nazi's ideology at any point in his book as a driving force for wanting world domination. Gerhard Weinberg published Hitler's second book that shows that instead of Hitler being an opportunist like Taylor tries to argue 'Hitler had some very definite, fixed ideas on foreign policy before he came to power' (5) Appeasement in an international context is a policy of diplomacy that involves making territorial, material, and political concessions to an aggressive power to avoid conflict (1). The policy of appeasing the Germans did not lead to World War 2 as it is a preventative measure to try to stop war. The policy was fully enacted in 1937 by Neville Chamberlain (2). The country, in this case, Britain makes concessions to avoid war, and due to Germany's actions in Poland, they still go to war. Appeasement was not a significant factor in the Outbreak of war in 1939, as war would have taken place with or without the policy, due to Hitler's long-term plans which involved conquering lands of foreign nations. Counter revisionists such as RAC Parker argue that Chamberlain overestimated German military strength tried to manipulate the public in favor of appeasement and was overcautious in rearming. The counter Revisionists believe that Chamberlain still kept faith in appeasement even when it was certainly doomed to fail, in September 1939. Appeasement was not responsible for the Second World War; however, it did not meet its goal of stopping a war, a very unrealistic goal due to Hitler's ideology and foreign policy. However, due to support for appeasement from the public due to the horrors seen in World War 1, it is easy to see why politicians would enact this policy. However, there were differing opinions of contemporaries especially in the 1940s once the war had started. 'Cato' was a pseudonym for three journalists, who published 'Guilty Men' (6) in 1940 and argued that Chamberlain, Baldwin, and MacDonald had not been strong and facilitated the Nazi expansion. They argued that all those who were associated with appeasement should exit the government due to their colossal failure. However, they wrote this one year after the war had broken out making it very easy to point out the grand failure during the war. although Cato was popular, and their published work was successful in spreading the message that the government's inaction did not stop the war they had a far more popular politician that agreed with them. Winston Churchill opposed appeasement from the mid-1930s, in his book The Gathering Storm he states that 'there was never a war more easy to stop' (7). Churchill believed that Britain should have intervened in 1934 or 1935 to stop the Nazis from rearming or forming a powerful air force. Other anti-appeasement historians believe that Britain should have taken a stand after the remilitarization of the Rhineland. Although Britain could have stopped the war by intervention in Germany during remilitarization and not by appeasing them, these are both methods of trying to stop a war. and this shows us that the factors that led to the start of the war were already in place by the time prevention was necessary, Germany had remilitarized, Hitler and Nazi ideology were very popular in Germany, Hitler's Foreign policy was beginning to become very aggressive and expansionary to create the 'lebensraum' that he wanted, as well as more long-term consequences such as dissatisfaction with the harsh terms of the treaty of Versailles. Appeasement was not why World War 2 was fought, however, if it was replaced by an effective policy, World War 2 would have never been fought. The counter-revisionists seem to have been closest to correct, appeasement was a foolish policy put in place by Neville Chamberlain and the political elite to try to promote peace, however, they seriously misunderstood The Nazi's and Hitler's aims in Europe due to their idealism. Appeasement was popular as it was said to be able to make sure Britain could keep their empire as well as not have to relive another world war. However, the appeasers held these goals to such great importance that they could never stand up to Hitler to truly avoid a second world war.

German foreign policy was the most important factor that led to the outbreak of war in 1939. Hitler had made his aims very clear from the 1930s as to what his foreign policy direction was going to be, and yet those same policies that he spread through his own book years before led to the Second World War. the ideology of the Nazis was rooted in supremacy, so they believed it was necessary to take the lands that did not belong to them for their nation. The historiographical interpretation that closely aligns with this is the Orthodox perspective from the post-war 1950s and 60s. This perspective theorized that Hitler was a keen planner who started World War 2 'due to his strong beliefs on fascism, expansionism, and the supremacy of the German state' (8). Another historian from the Orthodox perspective Elizabeth Wiskemann wrote of 'Hitler's fundamental intention to dominate the world in order to establish his caste system which could not be achieved without war.' (9) in her book The Rome-Berlin Axis. This quotation shows that Hitler's intentional foreign policy had been planned and he caused the outbreak of the war to build the German nation that he desired. There is no other more important factor in the outbreak of war. In High Trevor-Roper's book The Last Days of Hitler he stated that 'the conquest of Russia, the extermination of the Slavs, and the colonization of the East' were the 'real message of Nazis [and]... the burden of Mein Kampf' (10). All the Historians from the orthodox belief are in agreement that Hitler's aggression and domination of nearby countries is the direct cause of the war, they even g a step further by saying he had planned this and did it so effectively by preparing for so long. Even at the time of the war and right at the end of the war, contemporary sources acknowledged that the Nazi's foreign policy had been the primary reason for the start of the war. German foreign policy was underpinned by the Nazi's need for Lebensraum (living space) in territories that were not German. This meant they would have to invade, and they knew this. The German's foreign policy also focussed on undoing the Treaty of Versailles, building alliances such s the Nazi-Soviet pact as well as incorporating territories with German populations into the Reich, which could also only be done by invasion. German foreign policy was the primary reason for the outbreak of war as it strengthened Germany, for example, its annexation of Austria in 1938, and its acquiring of the Sudetenland in the same year due to its German population, the Nazis also signed the Pact of Steel with Mussolini. The war was then directly caused by Germany using this new strength to invade countries to form its Lebensraum, such as Poland on the 1st of September 1939. GP Gooch wrote in the Contemporary Review in July 1940 that 'the revelation of Hitler's Napoleonic ambitions in March 1939, quickly followed by demands incompatible with Polish independence, places the guilt of the new conflagration squarely on his shoulders.' (11) This source analyses the move Germany made for more land, especially with Poland, how this was unable to achieve with conquest and Violence, and how Hitler's actions led to this World War. this source was written during the war and was written as a report of the origins of the war for other historians. This source was written during the war and shows the reader a realistic perspective of how Hitler was willing to conquer other lands in a 'Napoleonic way' which was surprising after Years of good relations with Germany. Another primary source about the origins of the war was the report on the Origins of war from The Nuremberg Trials 'the Nazi conspirators deliberately planned, determined upon, and launched their aggressive wars and wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances' (11) this post-war report that was used to punish the war crimes committed by the Nazis show that their invasion of other lands, eastern or otherwise in order to create their Lebensraum for 'racial Germans' directly caused the war as they had invaded nations who were allied with France and Britain. The primary evidence proves the importance of the aggressive German foreign policy in starting the Second World War in that century. The only reason Britain would need to appease the Germans in the late 1930s was because of the threat of them invading non-German territories with their newly reformed military. Another source that shows the German's plans to invade new territory as well as start a war is the Hossbach Memorandum. The Hossbach Memorandum shows early evidence of Nazi planning, it is a document that shows proof of a meeting between Hitler, and his top military and political leadership in November 1937. Hitler stated that the time to wage war for Lebensraum was close, Hitler was asking his staff not how, but when. He had even narrowed down which lands he was aiming to conquer in Austria and Czechoslovakia. This, as well as Hitler's speeches and his own book, show his clear intentions of waging war to meet the ends of his cause, 'living space' for Germans. Many sources including those previously mentioned show how clear Hitler was in the instigation of this war. German foreign policy was the most significant factor in the origin of World War 2, it was deliberate and effective, and an example of this is that at the start of September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland for his lebensraum after signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and 2 days later on the 3rd of September Britain and France had declared war on Germany.

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The dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Versailles and the knock-on effect that had to then lead Germany to Nazism supports the orthodox perspective of the origins of World War two and can be used to reject the Revisionist argument presented by AJP Taylor. This is because Germany was in a poor economic state, so the country needed intentional economic planning to improve the well-being of the people, it was not the work of an opportunist to completely reshape the German economy through policy to improve employment rates and reduce inflation. It shows Hitler's 'master planning' from the orthodox perspective. And the ultra-nationalist rhetoric and ideology that emerged from the dissatisfaction and ramifications of the Treaty of Versailles became so prominent that it directly influenced the aggressive policies we saw Germany apply abroad, which is ignored by revisionist Historians as they do not differentiate between German recovery and the start of World War 2 from any German instigated war in the past. Another more significant reason for the outbreak of World War 2 was dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Versailles. the treaty of Versailles had many important terms that drastically reduced Germany's power militarily and economically. Germany was only allowed an army of 100,000 men, a navy of 6 battleships, and no air force. The Rhineland was to be made a demilitarised zone as well. Economically, Alsace-Lorraine was given to France, all of Germany's coal for 15 years was given to France, rich farmlands were given to Poland and Germany would have to pay reparations of up to 132 billion gold marks (12). All of these sanctions, especially the reparations drove Germany into severe hyperinflation. With the worth of the German mark plummeting in the early 1920s (13). Germany then went into a long recession, where the German mark became practically worthless. The German people suffered mostly from poverty and unemployment due to their country's economic state. This then led the German people to vote for a party that promised to prioritize the German people and economy. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party changed the German economy to become more socialized and militarised, by the time the Second World War came around, the German economy had recovered. The Treaty of Versailles was deemed so harsh by the Nazi government that Hitler rejected the League of Nations restrictions on German armament levels and walked out of the League of Nations conference for disarmament. Hitler tore up successive clauses of the Treaty of Versailles due to how much he disagreed with it and its ramifications on Germany. He had already seen its economic effects, which had stunted his progress in achieving his goal of winning a war, and he refused to negotiate with the future allied powers as to how far he was allowed to re-militarise. The Treaty of Versailles created a major rift between the League of Nations and Germany. It is the earliest factor in the start of the Second World War due to what it did to the German military, economy, and morale. The German people were displeased with the outcome of the treaty, and Hitler was able to exploit that for his own personal cause of European domination.

Another factor leading to the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 was the Great Depression following the Wall Street Crash in 1929. After the Wall Street Crash, America called their loans back, as well as withdrawing capital investments they had made in Germany. The historian Ruth Henig believes that the economic situation that was worsened by the Great Depression led to a rise in the popularity of Nationalist politics. This is because the people were willing to vote for any party that prioritized their needs and wanted to improve their standard of living. The number of German workers unemployed in March 1929 was 2.8 million. After the effects of the Great Depression, by February 1932 the number of people unemployed was almost 6 million, which constituted 30% of the available workforce, and 10% of the Population (14). The German government at the time attempted to use deflationary policies, which caused further unemployment as well as wage cuts. This only increased the popularity of the National Socialist Party. The party supported protectionist policies which would increase the national economy, the most effective of these policies would be the amount of spending on re-armament. This increased their popularity and caused Hitler and the party to receive more than 13 million votes twice in succession. Henig states that the German economy 'was just starting to improve as Hitler came into power' (15). This meant that he could take responsibility for the improvement and increase his popularity. Hitler had military aims, and his party gaining popularity and coming into power allowed him to plan for his future war. we are aware of this due to our access to Hitler's Four-Year Plan document from 1936 (16). This plan sets out two major goals for the Nazi party and Germany from 1936-40. The first is that 'the German armed forces must be operational within four years' and the second is that 'the German economy must be operational within four years'. This source is useful as evidence of Hitler and the Nazi party's co-dependent relationship with the war they planned for and their economic situation. As they grew in popularity and gained governmental power due to their nationalism and ideology during the Great Depression, they needed that governmental power to then begin their ideological war in Europe. To fully capitalize on their popularity and power and to reach the stage where they were able to wage war in Europe, they still needed fast economic growth from their proposed nationalist economic policies. The policy that was most effective for the Nazi party was re-armament. According to Richard Overy's research, between 1936-9 two-thirds of Germany's economy was allocated to preparing for war (17). Re-armament also created millions of jobs, and in 1938 52% of government spending as well as 17% of GDP was attributed to spending on arms. This is higher than the combined arms spending at the time of France, Britain, and The United States (18). The Great Depression was instrumental in the breakout of World War Two in 1939. According to the historian AP Adamthwaite 'without the depression, Hitler would not have gained power'.

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