THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR II
During the 1930s Germany, Italy & Japan became more aggressive whilst Britain &
France felt weak & vulnerable. They might have been prepared to oppose one of the
three aggressive countries but became paralysed into doing nothing when confronted by
all three trouble-makers. USA refused to become involved in world affairs so Britain &
France felt isolated; moreover they both feared communist Russia (USSR) more than
they feared Hitler & Germany.
They therefore appeased Germany & Italy and hoped war could be avoided; Hitler &
Mussolini took advantage of this and became more daring and aggressive. Eventually
when Hitler invaded Poland (Sept 1939) Britain & France realised that Hitler had broken
too many promises and war was unavoidable.
Britain & France declared war on Germany in Sept 1939.
Following Germany’s victories of April, May & June 1940, Italy declared war on Britain &
France in June 1940 (Mussolini hoped for easy successes as Germany had already
defeated France and Britain had withdrawn from Europe and seemed about to collapse.
In June 1941 Hitler invaded Russia and came near to defeating the Russians. At the end
of the year (Dec) Japan attacked the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and also
British & French territories in the Far East. Foolishly Hitler then declared war on USA, thus
allying Germany with Japan.
What had started as a European war in 1939 became a World War in 1941.
Read pages 58 & 59 in The Twentieth Century World and pages 148 & 149 in Peace &
War (also look back at “Two Decades of Aggression” in The Twentieth Century World
(pp32/33) or your copy of this and then -
In your exercise books:
1. Define “appeasement” (p58 in 20th Century World and pp 132/133 in Peace & War)
using your own words and give two examples of British appeasement.
2. Use 2 or 3 pages of your exercise book and divide them into columns headed 1919;
1929; 1936; 1938 & 1939. In a sentence or so explain what each of the pictures on pp
148/149 in Peace & War mean and how this particular feature contributed to the outbreak
of war. (You may need to read some of the other pages in the two books.)
Additional information: Japan had already invaded eastern China in the early 1930s; the
Japanese also wished to dominate the Pacific Ocean so they believed it was necessary to
destroy the US navy in the Pacific.
Although Hitler had planned for an eventual war against Communist Russia (led by the
dictator Stalin – the figure in the top left of the first 1939 cartoon); he needed Stalin’s
cooperation to destroy Poland in 1939 as he was not yet ready for war with Russia.
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