World War II was a worldwide military conflict that started in 1939 and finished in 1945. The parties to the conflict were the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and China on the one hand, and Germany, Italy, and Japan on the other hand. The conflict resulted in the death of more than 70 million people (week 7), and it significantly changed the world’s environment. World War II began for a number of economic, political, and social reasons, and some of them can be traced back to the results of World War I and the Great Depression.
World War I
The defeat of the German army in the war resulted in a great social and economic crisis in Germany (week 5). In general, 1919-1933 were the years of post-war turmoil and hyperinflation. Apart from losing a great part of the male population, Germany also suffered from the requirement to pay off reparations. The First World War’s outcome brought down the imperial Second Reich regime which was replaced by the constitutional Weimar Republic. The economic crisis left millions of people jobless and also dissatisfied with the current government which was considered to be weak. These factors strained the situation and resulted in the installation of the Nazi Germany Government. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, appealed to the German population with the promise of change and the pledge to improve the living standards and restore the image of Germany.
The Great Depression originally started in the United States; however, it had a grand impact on the situation in Europe and the world in general. The reasons for the depression were the decrease in demand, a stock market crash, the wrong economic policy of the government, and, most of all, the flaws of the gold standard monetary system (week 5). These factors led to deflation, contraction of the money supply, and a decrease in output. The economy was in crisis and the gold standard deterred economic growth and did not allow the government to accumulate it.
In 1931, the gold standard helped to spread the crisis from the United States to other countries, including Germany (week 5). The crisis in the United States increased demand for American products from other countries because of their low cost. The gold flew out from these countries to the United States and it led to the same problems the American economy was suffering from. The German economy faced deflation, an increase in interest rate, and a decrease in money supply and production.
When Hitler’s government came to power in Germany in 1933-1934, it adopted new policies to provide an impetus to the economy (week 5). The budget deficit was increased and the government spent money on the production of public goods and armament. These measures helped the German economy to create jobs, engage people in economically productive activities and stimulate economic growth. However, the fact that German state machinery earmarked substantial funding for the creation of arms, military materiel, and equipment meant that someday this armament would be used. In another way, it would lead to the crisis of overproduction, thus, war was necessary to avoid it.
Economic and political contradictions that emerged after World War I and Great Depression lie at the core of World War II. The economic and social crisis caused by the First World War and the Depression led to the rise of Nazism and the militarization of the economy. Thus, strategic directions of the German economy and radical resentment attitude among the German population of that time resulted in the Second World War.