(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "The Second World War"

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Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: The Second World War

The treaty of Versailles played a major role in the second world war. Whenever we try to make a comparison between the congress of Vienna and Paris Peace conference we come to the conclusion that in Paris Peace Conference the balance between what was possible and what was desired was disturbed. Although some critics try to justify the approach of allied powers towards Germany in Paris Peace Conference on the ground that even Germany had taken a very tough approach towards Russia in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Secondly even the British people developed very anti-German approach and they were shouting the slogan. Hang Kaiser.

But even on the above ground one cannot justify approach of allied powers because the provisions of the treat were quite impossible to be implemented. One member of the British delegation John Menard Keynes himself made this point clear and opposed the provision of the treaty. He came to the conclusion that economic provisions of the treaty of Versailles could not be enforced and as we know the later event proved this. For example, on the basis of the Lausanne conference held in 1932 almost 90% of the total amount outstanding from Germany to allied powers was simply waived off. That’s why we can say that Paris Peace conference could not solve the problem of power-politics in Europe and it could not bring the permanent peace.

Secondly on the one had allied powers hurt national sentiments of Germany and they know very well that German nationalism was grieved but still they did not do something concrete to check the future upsurge of Germany. For example, after the First World War and Paris peace conference U.S.A. withdrew himself from Europe and returned to her own continent. On the other hand Britain alone was not ready to give a guarantee of security to France. In other words, we can say the carelessness on the part of allied powers encouraged Hitler to challenge the provisions of the treaty of Versailles.

The Second World War could be explained even in context of foreign policy of Mussolini and that of Hitler. As we know Italy was dissatisfied with the treaty of St. Germaine. Mussolini made benefit from this situation and he tried to satisfy ultra nationalist feelings in Italy. So the objectives of foreign policy of Mussolini were

(i) To establish Italy as a prestigious nation in Europe and to carry imperialist expansion in Balkan region and Africa. That’s why Mussolini followed an aggressive foreign policy.
(ii) Fuem port was a disputed region between Italy & Yugoslavia. In Paris Peace conference it was given the status of an independent port. But Mussolini through concluding a treaty with

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Yugoslavia in 1924 got the control over Fueni port. Likewise Italy had not been given the mandate over Albania during Paris Peace conference but in 1927 on the basis of the treaty of Tirana, Italy got the mandate over Albania. Furthermore Mussolini invaded Greece and captured the region of Korfu. Although under British pressure he had to evacuate this region but as compensation Italy got five crore Lira.

Initially Italy developed tensions with France in course of imperialistic rivalry but in 1933 after the rise of Hitler, French attitude towards Italy just softened. Then France tried to use Mussolini against Hitler initially Mussolini worked as protector of peace in Europe and he gave a guarantee of security to the neighboring regions of Germany. In 1933 Loval Mussolini Pact was signed. It led towards growing cooperation between Italy and France. But situation changed after October 1935. In fact Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in October 1935 so Italy was banned by league of nations and economic embargo was brought against Italy. But during this critical juncture Hitler sympathized Italian cause. It recognized Italian conquest over Ethiopia and provided Italy some military arsenals. So now Mussolini came nearer to Hitler and it led towards the formation of Rome-Berlin axis in 1936.

The Foreign Policy of Hitler

The foreign policy of Hitler has been a very controversial issue. When one observation minutely, one can underline both the forces of continuity and those of changes in the foreign policy of Hitler. For example, the revision of the treaty of Versailles was not a demand raised for the first time by Hitler but before Hitler even Weimar republic and its foreign minister Stresemann made such a demand so here we find the elements of continuity in the foreign policy of Hitler. Likewise in Hitler’s foreign policy the changes are much significant. For example before Hitler conservatives and neo-Bismarkians both believed that Germany was having a fixed boundary and its boundary should be resorted to the point it was before 1940.

But Hitler rejected this thesis. Hitler was not talking in terms of boundary rather in terms of territory in Europe. The approach of Hitler was continental. One of the programmes of Nazi party was the creation of a greater Reich through combining German population from different regions of Europe with Germany.

He tried to establish that Germans were the superior race. So the region they had been allocated in Europe was not sufficient for them. On the other hand some inferior races in Europe occupied more space then they had deserved. Here the target of Hitler was slav race in Europe Hitler made his objective clear in this text “The Secret Book”. In this way there was a strong racial element in the foreign policy of Hitler.

We can divide the foreign policy of Hitler in different stages, on the basis of its trend.

(i) First stage (193-36). In this stage the objective of the foreign policy of Hitler was to break or contravene the provision of the treaty of Versailles. But he was much calculative in his approach and he was trying to convince the allied powers simultaneously that he was not having any mollified intentions For example, In April 1933 he formed German Security Council and started the rearmament programme. Likewise in October 1933. Germany withdrew itself from disarmament commission of the league of nations. But still he tried to convince European powers that he was still committed to peace and harmony in Europe. In 1934 Hitler concluded a no aggression pact with Polland. So European powers were more convinced about his good intentions. Furthermore in 1935 he successfully dispelled British fear about Germany. But it was during this period that he set German army to Rhine region in March 1936.

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