To what extent can Germany be held responsible for causing the two World Wars?
World War I and World War II are the most brutal and destructive wars that the world has faced in its history. Several countries were involved in the wars and its effects were felt worldwide. While the wars were caused by many different factors, one aspect common to both the wars was the participation of Germany.
Role in emergence of alliances
The main causes of the First World War include forming alliances, imperialism, militarism and nationalism. In each of these long-term causes, Germany played an important role. After the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, Germany became a unified state. It quickly became the largest industrial power in Europe. This changed the balance of power and many of German’s neighbours became nervous. Because of this tension, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany decided to form alliances in order to protect Germany and avoid a war on two fronts. After several default alliances, the Triple Alliance, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, was formed in 1882. In 1907, after Germany challenged the naval supremacy of Great Britain, the Triple Entente was formed, comprising Britain, France, and Russia. The emergence of alliances was a major cause of the First World War, because it divides the European powers, making them rivals, and countries forced to participate in war if one of his allies were involved in the war, which could turn a small war into a large one.
Impacts of Weltpolitik foreign policy
In 1890, William II of Germany adopted Weltpolitik foreign policy to meet the colonial aspirations of Germany and created a strong navy and empire abroad. This imperialist policy had a great impact on relations between Germany and other countries and led Germany into conflict with Britain because of colonial conflicts. This increased the tension in Europe even more. In 1897, Germany began construction of new vessels in an attempt to challenge the naval supremacy of Britain, which led to the Naval Arms Race. Britain and Germany both increased sharply their navies, and it created even more tension between countries. Finally, nationalism in Europe also led to war, because it created competition between countries that wanted to prove that they were the best and most powerful. This is especially true for Germany, who wanted to become the largest colonial power and wanted to be better than Britain in all possible aspects. The involvement of Germany in each of the main causes of the First World War is obvious and shows that Germany is largely responsible for the war. The main long-term cause of the Second World War was the resentment of Germany to the Versailles Treaty and its desire for Lebensraum, or “living space.”
The Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was created after World War I and it forced Germany to take full responsibility for the war, pay reparations to the Allied Powers, waive a large part of its territory, and to limit its army. Germans regarded the treaty as too harsh and unfair, and they were determined to throw off the shackles it had imposed on them.
When Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, two of its main axes were ending the Versailles Treaty and it started acquisition of more territory for the German people. These two things could not be achieved without causing conflict with other nations. Germany began to invade and annex the territories in Europe, such as Austria, and it also began to re-arm. This was against the Treaty of Versailles. In addition, in 1936, it sent troops into the Rhineland, which was supposed to be a zone “demilitarized,” as per the treaty. The moves of Germany caused tensions in Europe and made other countries very nervous. However, none dared to face it, lest another great war would break out. Since, the Germany faced no opposition; it began to demand more and more from other European countries until they realize that Germany would never be satisfied.
It was the persistent requests of Germany, which finally forced Britain and France to declare war and caused the outbreak of the Second World War. The participation of Germany in the long-term causes of World War II shows that it is largely responsible for the onset of the war. However, it can also be argued that Britain and France must bear some responsibility for causing the Second World War, not just Germany. This is mainly because they failed to stop Germany in the beginning when they still had the chance. Instead, they decided to follow a policy of appeasement and let Germany to get away with whatever it wanted without any kind of opposition to try to prevent war. Accordingly, Germany has won the trust and dared to do things that otherwise would not dare do, like remilitarization of the Rhineland. Thus, the other European nations should also be held liable as the cause of World War II because of their inability to control Germany.
The two world wars were caused by several different factors and many countries participated in it. Several arguments exist as to who should be held responsible for the wars. However, the contribution of Germany in both wars constitutes clear evidence that it should be the main country blamed for the wars. The significant involvement of Germany in the long-term causes of the First World War and the Second World War proves that Germany should, to a large extent, responsible for causing the two conflicts.