The War’s beginning?
Some would say that World War Two began with Germany’s Invasion of Poland on the 1st September 1939 and the ultimatum of Britain that without a German withdrawal a State of War would exist. Needless to say there was no German withdrawal and WWII began, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declaring war on the 3rd of September 1939
Others would argue that world war two was simply the second round of world war one. Although the major powers had yet to realise it the continuance of the war between the Axis and Allies would result in the end of European dominance of the world and the destruction of their colonial empires. By renewing the fight they only ensured their own demise no matter who won the outcome.
Some have claimed that the Treaty of Versailles was ‘harsh and unreasonable’ and therefore was the seed which guaranteed the second world war. Germany would seek to redress this wrong. In truth the Treaty of Versailles was no harsher than the very terms that the Germans had sought to impose on the Russians in 1917/18 with Russia forced to secede large tracts of territory and pay large indemnities in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
In truth the greater cause of the second world war was the belief by many Germans that they had never lost the first world war. German territory had not been invaded, the troops felt they had never lost. In reality the army had to return to Germany to preserve the state from social meltdown, as Germany was in greater danger from internal enemies than the threat posed by the allies. Hence the belief that Germany had only lost the war due to a stab in the back at home. This breakdown however was the result of a state put under immense pressure and succumbing to economic pressure and political facture, in order to win a modern war, victory in the field is no longer enough, victory must be obtained over the whole system of the other nation. (i.e. destroy its will to fight). Germany had lost the strategic battle, its system had collapsed and hence it lost the war. The British Navy had succeeded in its blockade of the Germany economy and had thus brought about its ruin and defeat, (even if the Navy hadn’t proven itself in open battle).
Germany had lost its allies, Turkey and Austria, and had failed in production with less airplanes, few tanks and had run out of manpower. Although Germany had not lost the battle, it had lost the war.
Nevertheless this myth of not having been really defeated lead to resentment at being labelled the losers. Soon every problem in Germany was related to past wrongs. The great depression was the final straw. Mass unemployment and hyperinflation left a perfect environment for an extremist political party to gain enough support to take centre stage. In this case the Nazi’s with a combination of nationalism, racism, authoritarism, and the promise of better times gained enough political power to begin the takeover and change a democracy into dictatorship. Careful staged events such as the burning of the Reichstag and downright bully boy tactics led to complete dictatorship. In order to continue to deliver on promises Hitler who was the embodiment of the state had continue to expand, first via appeasement and then outright war.
The killer blow was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed on the 23rd of August 1939, in which Hitler was free to carve up Poland with the acquience of the USSR.
Thanks to the Bitzkrieg tactics and superior ordanance the German army quickly overcome Poland. With France and Britain disgracing themselves by doing nothing on the Western front.
Once Poland was over Germany cemented its position by invading Denmark and Norway on the 9th of April 1940, guaranteeing its access to Swedish iron ore and opening up the North Atlantic. The invasion of France began on the 10th of May 1940, it also included a co-ordinated invasion of the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium with careful German planning producing brilliant results, France failed before it had even begun. A lack of will only quicken the defeat. The beginning of Germany’s ultimate defeat though had already been sown with the failure to destroy the British at Dunkirk (which began to evacute on the 26th May 1940), and by failing to seize the French Navy. This combined with oppressive occupations produced stiffening resolve. Victory had gained Italy as a partner, but it was to prove a fatal marriage with Italy being more of a hindrance than a help. However for now the third Reich rejoiced at France’s demise and the French signed the armistice on the 22nd June 1940. In less than two months since beginning its offensive Germany had defeated all its enemies bar the British Empire.
It has become clear from historical records that Germany did not have the capability to invade Britain nor did Hitler have the patience to take the time neccessary to allow his current superior position to pay dividends to secure the situation and to build up the necessary naval superiority and required landing craft to invade Britain. Nor build the heavy bombers required to seriously bomb Britain into oblivion. This lack of patience and overconfidence from what had already been achieved lead to the fateful decision to turn east and invade Russia.
This plan was further doomed by the unnecessary invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece on the 6th April 1941, brought about by Italy’s failure and Germany’s rescue to later be repeated in North Africa. The delay to Operation Babarossa would be costly.
Operation Babarossa began on 22 June 1941. Three German army groups, an Axis force of over four million men lay in wait to invade Russia and Comrade Stalin was ‘asleep at the wheel’ having ignore British intelligence about Hitler’s invasion plans.
German success was doomed within sight of the Kremlin with the onset of winter and the confirmation to Stalin that Japan had no intention to invade, thus freeing up the Siberian Army to be transferred to the defence of Moscow and the winter offensive in which the Russians began a counterattack on the 5th of December 1941. The unprepared German army froze to death.