|San José State University|
& Tornado Alley
|How World War II Began|
In these days of various parties engaging in high risk actions concerning the Ukraine we need to remember how World War II began. No one wanted it and no one expected it to happen; certainly Adolph Hitler did not. Prior to the outbreak of the war in September of 1939 Hitler had been successfully retrieving German territory and people who had been separated from Germany by the draconian terms of the Versaille Treaty. Such actions started with the reoccupation of the Rhineland and included the retrieval of the German people and territory of the Sudetenland in the mountains which surround Bohemia. There was also the Memel region which had been detached from the East Prussian region of Germany. Both Lithuania and Poland claimed the region but a treaty of March 22, 1939 provided for its return to Germany. But Hitler went beyond such acquisitions in taking over the rest of Czechoslovakia and annexing Austria.
Finally there remained only the German territory that was made up part of Poland, including in particular the corridor to the Baltic Sea. This included making the 95 percent German city of Danzig into a Free City technically under the administration of the United Nations. Free access to Danzig was given to Poland for its port. Danzig ultimately became part of Poland after the war (WWII) and is now known as Gdansk.
There was no real justification for the Allies after World War I to give German territory and people to Poland and this action set up the next world war.
Prior to attacking Poland Hitler arranged working alliances with the Soviet Union and Lithuania. The Non-Aggression Alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union was announced on August 23, 1939. The German invasion was planned to begin on the morning of August 26th, but on August 25th Britain announced that a formal defense alliance had been signed between the United Kingdom and Poland. This news caused Hitler to postpone the invasion while he and his top officials evaluated its significance. They decided to go ahead with the invasion on September 1st, 1939.
Germany issued an ultimatum to Poland at the end of August for return of the Polish Corridor and the city of Danzig to German control but with Polish access. It is alleged that British and French assurances of support caused Poland to ignore this ultimatum.
Once the invasion began Britain and France began issuing ultimatums. When these were ignored by Hitler the British ambassador to Germany hand-delivered to Hitler a declaration of war which would commence at 11 AM on September 3rd. The world knows what the reaction was because Hitler's translator published his description of the reception of that ultimatum. The translator, Paul Schmidt, read his translation of the declaration to Hitler in the crowded room where the German high political command had congregated. Hitler sat at a desk and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop stood at a window. After hearing the declaration Hitler turned to Ribbentrop and said harshly, "What now?" Ribbentrop chose to ignore the real question Hitler was asking and instead answered inanely, "I assume that the French will hand in a similar ultimatum within the hour."
That Hitler did not want to be at war with Britain can be surmised from the following translation of a quotation from Mein Kampf:
Britain can be counted upon to show the brutality and tenacity of its government, as well as in the spirit of its broad masses, which enables it to carry through to victory any struggle that it enters upon, no matter how long such a struggle may last, or however great the sacrifice that may be necessary, or whatever the means that have to be employed; and all this even though the actual military equipment at hand may be utterly inadequate when compared with that of other nations.
Thus Hitler did not want to be at war with Britain.
Britain sent an expeditionary force to France and it and the French army engaged the German army. The British and French forces were quickly defeated. France surrendered and the British force had to make it to the English Channel coast at Dunkirk for evacuation. To the surprise of the British the German army paused for two days which allowed the three hundred thousand troops to be saved. Probably that pause was dictated by the German armored units having to wait for the infantry to catch up. But some suggest that Hitler purposely allowed that evacuation and it is not impossible that Hitler had hopes of negotiating an end to the war with Britain. The chances of negotiating such an end would have been much less likely if the German war machine massacred the British troops on the beaches at Dunkirk. But such a negotiated end did not occur and the war went on for almost six devastating years.
Thus World War II started because reasonably plausible expectations on the part of all of the parties were not fulfilled. These unfulfilled expectations were:
Germany did not declare war on Britain and France; Britain and France declared war on Germany for its bullying of Poland. The Ukraine has become the Poland of the 21st century.
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