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Major Actions taken by Adolf Hitler that Led to World War II (Fall 2012)

            The chaos and destruction that World War I brought to this planet were both devastating and horrific. Millions of people, from different corners of the world, lost loved ones trying to defend their country and it’s beliefs. Germany was in shambles and the United States in extreme financial debt. The war had taken away more than any country involved could handle. Not only was Germany going through it’s own problems, but they were also being blamed for causing World War I, and were trying to be forced into financially compensating damages that other countries endured. Obviously, this did not please Germany as they felt that they were receiving too much blame for what the war had brought. Although they may have been unhappy with what was trying to be brought upon them, they had no choice in the matter of signing the Treaty of Versailles. The main ideas of the treaty were to try and control Germany. It made sure that there was no possible way that Germany could start another war, as it limited the size of their armies. They may have signed the treaty, but in the end, other tensions were already brewing between Germany and other European countries. After signing the treaty in 1919, years passed with little military action as these countries were trying to rebuild what the war had destroyed.  A man they called Adolf Hitler developed a plan and took control of Germany in January of 1933. The beliefs this man demonstrated had an incredible influence on millions of people, and it was because of these beliefs that World War II expanded as far and as fast as it did. 

            In January of 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany through the Enabling Act. It did not take him long after that to start secretly building up Germany’s army and weapon supply. About a year later in 1934, Hitler increased the overall size of his army by building warships and creating other military branches, such as the German Air Force. With these actions clearly violating the Treaty of Versailles, France and Britain were starting to notice. They were concerned about rising Communism and thought that a stronger Germany may help in preventing the spread of Communism to the West. With Hitler being as great of a speaker as he was, unifying Germany and painting an image in their heads of what he desired seemed to be too easy. Starting off slow, Hitler ordered German troops to invade Rhineland in 1936. The terms of the Versailles Treaty stated that the Rhineland area had been made into a demilitarized zone. This meant that no military action was to take place at any time or under any circumstance. Although Germany controlled the area politically, it was not allowed to put any troops into it. Due to the fact that Germany was not allowed to have any of it’s army in the area, they believed that they did not fully control the area, even though the Rhineland was in Germany itself. Hitler, in March of 1936, made an incredible risky decision, he ordered his troops to openly re-enter the Rhineland. Again, Hitler had broke agreements that the Treaty of Versailles had declared. After making this order, thought, he did tell his generals that if the French tried to make any sort of military stand against them that they were to back down immediately and retreat out of the Rhineland. Although Hitler informed his generals of this, no military stand or attempt of defense was made by France and over 30,000 Nazi-Germany soldiers and officers crossed into the Rhineland. The Rhineland was such a critical area for the French because the area was to act as a sort of barrier for them if the Germans were to become active in war again. After the invasion, Hitler discovered that he could gamble on the French knowing that they wouldn’t try doing anything in stopping him. With this knowledge, Hitler continued to rumble through Europe, invading cities and taking lives, making decisions that truly shaped the course of World War II and he needed to be stopped. 

            Not only did the Rhineland invasion help Hitler out immensely, the two alliances he made played a huge role in his advances. The first alliance he made was called the Rome-Berlin Axis Pact. This pact, formed in 1936, between Fascist Germany and Italy linked the two countries together by becoming allies. Benito Mussolini promised Hitler military support if it were ever needed in times of war. The second pact that Hitler formed was called the Anti-Comintern Pact. This was an anti-Communistic pact that was formed between Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire. Much like the agreements made with Italy, Germany now had a second ally in Japan. After these allies were added, Hitler’s next step was to begin taking back the land that started off as Germany’s. Hitler ordered German troops to enter Austria in March of 1938, two years after he had entered the Rhineland. The occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi-Germany was referred to as Anschluss. Austria’s leader was forced into holding a vote that asked his people if they wanted to become a part of Nazi-Germany. The vote’s results were fixed into showing that 99 percent of the Austrian people wanted Anschluss, or a union with Germany. After the vote, Austria’s leader went to France and Britain for aid, but it was no use as Hitler promised that Anschluss was the “end of his expansionist aims” and did not want to risk war, and the other countries did nothing. This was the culmination of the Anschluss Movement that had been in motion since 1918. Six months later, Hitler went back on his word and declared that the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia be handed over, into Germany’s control. 

            The Sudetenland region contained over 3 million Germans who had been left out of the rest of Germany after the Treaty of Versailles created Czechoslovakia. Hitler believed that he had a worthy claim on the area, since he saw it as German land. Also, Germans that lived in the Sudetenland were claiming that they were victimized by the Czech government and wanted the union with Germany. With these events happening some sort of opposing action was in need, but Britain did not want to involve itself due to the fact that it had inadequate armed forces to step in and they also had no treaty requirements that dealt with Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s Prime Minister at the time, met with Hitler during 1938’s September three times, trying to reach some sort of agreement that would prevent another war to start. During these meetings, the Munich Agreement was formed. The agreement stated that Hitler was to be granted the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, but he had to promise that he would not invade the rest of the remaining Czechoslovakia. Shortly after these meetings and the Munich Agreement, Hitler again went back on his word and invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. Neither Britain nor France came to Czechoslovakia’s aid in Hitler’s invasion even though many calls for help were made. They did not respond simply because they were not prepared to take military action against Hitler. However, some sort of action was to be taken against Hitler, because Britain and France believed that Poland was his next target. Thinking that Poland was the next area Hitler was to invade, they promised that they would step in and take military action if he attempted to invade Poland. 

            These moves that were being made by Hitler definitely started to worry Britain and France. Hitler was moving through Europe at an alarming rate of speed and needed to be stopped. Stopping, though, was not yet in Hitler’s mind whatsoever. Probably Adolf Hitler’s most influential and event changing speech was delivered on January 30th, 1939. Hitler’s Prophecy Speech called for genocide of the Jewish race. After the invasion of Poland, Germans successfully established many ghettos in several Polish cities. In these cities, Jews were effectively imprisoned and controlled by Hitler’s Nazi army, and this is how the incredibly devastating time period, infamously referred to as, the Holocaust, began, yet the ideas Hitler addressed in the speech were not to be fulfilled until a couple years later, after the invasion of the Soviet Union. Living conditions in these ghettos were absolutely inhumane. The living areas were cramped, surrounded by disease, hunger, death and overcrowding. Jews all over Europe were deported to these ghettos by German soldiers who were starting work camps for these poor, helpless people that had no idea what danger they were truly in. 

            The event that officially started World War II was Adolf Hitler and Nazi-Germany’s invasion of Poland. Germany, the Soviet Union and a small Slovak contingent invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939. German forces invaded Poland that morning from all directions. Advancing at an incredible rate of speed, polish forces started to withdraw from the Polish-German border and establish a better line of defense to the east. It was not until a mid-September, German victory, in the Battle of the Bzura, that Germany gained an undisputed advantage. After their defeat, polish forces started to withdraw from the Southeast where they had created a long line of defense for the Romanian Bridgehead. This was an area that Polish troops had been waiting for expected relief from France and the United Kingdom, two countries that had established pacts with Poland and had also declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September. Though pacts were officially created, the aid that these countries gave to Poland were very limited and failed to help enough in trying to stop Nazi armies. With Poland coming under German control, Adolf Hitler and Nazi-Germany had officially become the reason for the Second World War. 

            Several decisions that were made and actions that were taken by Adolf Hitler had an incredible amount of influence to the world after the First World War. His individual political ideas were one of the biggest reasons that the Second World War had to happen. His invasion of Europe truly made other countries realize and actually see what Hitler wanted for the future of the world. He should have been stopped much sooner in his advances, but because of depression and financial struggles countries had faced in the previous war they had no legitimate ways in stopping him. Hitler went too far, too fast and no one could keep up with him, and the actions he took directly relate to why World War II had to happen. 

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  5. Simkin, John. Spartacus Educational. The Sudetenland. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERsudetenland.htm. Dec. 5, 2012. 
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