The massive destruction of World War I did not resolve the international tensions within Europe and in many ways the Treaty of Versailles made the situation worse. Germany’s revived militarism and expansionism under the Nazis were met with concern by other Europeans, but the painful memory of World War I led them to make concessions in order to avoid another violent conflict. Hitler manipulated such war weariness to Germany’s advantage as long as possible and then launched the very war that Europeans had feared.
Hitler threatened and bluffed the European powers into allowing him gradually to revise Germany’s boundaries. His goal, to unite all ethnic Germans and give them Lebensraum (living space), did not seem unreasonable to some foreign statesmen, who recognized that the Versailles treaty had been unjust. At the time, no single demand of Hitler’s seemed worth risking war to protest. In 1933 Germany left the League of Nations, and in 1935 it began to rearm—virtually unopposed—occupying the Rhineland the next year.
It then signed an anti-Communist pact with Japan and made an alliance with Fascist Italy, agreements which led to the creation of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis in 1940. In 1938 Germany declared an Anschluss (union) with Austria, with little resistance from other powers or the Austrians themselves. In Munich later that year, Britain, France, and Italy signed the Munich Pact.
This pact permitted Hitler to occupy the German-populated Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia in exchange for his promise that Germany would then be satisfied. The Munich Pact later became the symbol of the disastrous consequences of appeasing an aggressor.
In March 1939 Hitler broke his word and occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia. In August, dramatically reversing his anti-Communist policy, he made a surprising nonaggression pact with the USSR.
This pact contained a secret promise to split Poland between Germany and the USSR. His repeated demands for Danzig (Gdańsk) in the so-called Polish Corridor led to a Polish-British pact and Polish mobilization. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland, and Britain and France promptly declared war on Germany. World War II had begun. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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