'Hitler alone caused the Second World War in 1939'. How far do you agree?

The key factors that caused WW-II include:

  • Treaty of Versailles was considered by Germans humiliating thus derive the desire for revenge.
  • Failure of League of Nations in securing general disarmament and controlling potential aggressors.
  • Lastly, the effect of great depression which increased the popularity of right wing parties. Most important among these was Nazi party in Germany.

While these factors helped to create tensions in Europe but these were not the only factors. By 1938, most of the Germany’s grievances had been removed. Thus, there are differences on the question as who should be blamed weathers appeasers or Hitler. Thus, we should analyze the responsibility of both appeasers as well as Hitler.
Responsibility of appeasers  
Historians who believe that appeasers were largely responsible for war argues that Britain and France should have taken a hard stance against Germany before it became too strong. If Britain and France had confronted German army in Rhineland it might have discouraged Hitler in his future military adventure. Virtual surrender at Munich by Britain further convinced Hitler that Britain and France would remain passive even if he went to war with Poland. However, defendants of Chamberlain, then British Prime Minister, argues motives behind the Munich deal was to give Britain some time to rearm itself for future war. In the end, it should not be forgotten that it was Britain and France who declared war on Germany in 1939. Obvious reasons were to preserve power and prestige, and safeguard their economic interests.
Responsibility of Hitler
Attacking Poland on all fronts instead of merely capturing Danzig and corridor it was quite evident that Hitler’s aim was not just to reverse treaty of Versailles but to destroy Poland. Hitler who himself participated in the First World War wanted to remove the stigma of defeat in WWI. Historians believe that Hitler wanted a major war right from the beginning. Poland was just the preparation for the larger offensive against Russia. He wanted the territory of Russia for lebensraum (living space) for the master Aryan race. The reason, why Hitler went to war in 1939, was that longer he delayed ‘inevitable’ war more time it will provide to Britain and France to grow stronger. The most controversial theory regarding Hitler’s plan is forwarded by Taylor who says that Hitler did not wanted to cause a major war but only a short war with Poland. This theory of Taylor is not accepted by the majority of historians. 
There is no doubt that Hitler’s success came from clever opportunism but there is much more than that. He might not have clear step by step plan but the basic vision was clear. The vision of German domination over Europe can only be achieved by war. Evidence of this can be seen in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ and Hossbach Memorandum. So we can conclude by saying that Hitler was largely responsible for the war.

Question for UPSC Mains:
'Hitler alone caused the Second World War in 1939'. How far do you agree?

Published: March 19, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019