World War II (WWII) was the deadliest and most destructive war in human history. Marked by astonishing events such as the Holocaust and the use of nuclear weapons, WWII represented the largest deployment of military forces of the twentieth century. Two factions, the Axis and the Allies, entered into a global military altercation that began with Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, and finished with the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945. A review of human motives, including the need for revenge, power, and extreme nationalism (jingoism) can explain the roots of WWII. In historical terms, the Treaty of Versailles, the increase in military spending and alliances, and expansionist ideologies were the prime catalysts of nationalistic and diplomatic tensions in the 1930s’ Europe, providing a foundation for WWII.
On January 18, 1919, roughly two months after the culmination of World War I (WWI), the Paris Peace Conference assembled to establish the terms of peace and to plan the course of the post-WWI era. The Treaty of Versailles became the conference’s centerpiece. France attended the conference seeking revenge. Great Britain wanted weakened militaries and economies for the Central Powers (losing faction of WWI). Meanwhile, United States President, Woodrow Wilson, promoted his Fourteen Points. In these he traced the need for open diplomacy, disarmament, and respect for nationality groups. Ultimately, the Treaty of Versailles outlined the creation of the League of Nations (LON), forced Germany to accept full blame for WWI, and established harsh penalties focused on debilitating the Central Powers’ governments.
As established by the Treaty of Versailles, the LON consisted of an international organization entitled to prevent future conflicts among the countries of the world. Nonetheless, it encountered several obstacles, the most important of which was the refusal of several governments to join it, and its lack of intergovernmental power. “The league was too often looked upon as Utopia, an impractical ideal not likely to be realized while human nature remains what it is.” As the belligerent nations struggled to return to their antebellum styles of life, most world leaders saw the LON as counterproductive body and refused to join it. The Japanese military invaded China in 1931and the LON proceeded to condemn the island nation’s efforts to absorb part of China. Japan did not respect the LON’s claims and decided to withdraw. The rest of the LON members were instructed to stop trade with Japan, but most members disregarded these commands. The LON’s weakness was highlighted by its inability to make its members obey its mandates. Conflicts continued to emerge, and Germany and Japan later became the two prime leaders of the Axis front in WWII.
Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to accept full blame for the outbreak of WWI. While Germany bore the brunt of the blame, the treaty placed severe penalties upon the...