In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria in order to expand it’s Empire. Japan was unhappy with what it had received from the peace process in WWI and intended on gaining influence, territory and power in mainland Asia. The world did nothing, as it was the start of the Great Depression and few nations had money to save poor Manchuria.
From 1933 Hitler ordered Germany into production of arms. He started building planes, tanks, subs and weapons. He rebuilt the military and blazingly showed it to the world. This was a violation of the Treaty of Versailles but no nation could do anything about it given that it was the heart of the Great Depression.
Spanish Civil War
Spain was not involved in the Great War. It had remained neutral, however, there were great problems in Spain thanks to the Great Depression. The people had taken to extremist policies, some choose Fascism others choose Communism. Some were still loyal to the Monarchy.
In 1935 civil war broke out in Spain. A Fascist leader by the name of Francisco Franco tried to take power. He fought an alliance of communists, royalists, democrats and anarchists.
Germany and Italy being Fascist nations offered to help Franco by sending him troops and new technological weapons. Germany and Italy used Spain as a testing ground for weaponry and a training ground for their troops. The world largely ignored this war.
In Spain during the civil war was one of the most recognizable painters of the 20th century. Pablo Picasso experienced the civil war first hand and he painted the horrors of war in his Cubist style.
The first bombing of civilians in history by planes happened in the town of Guernica. Picasso painted an enormous painting of the atrocities at Guernica to represent the futility of war and the suffering of the people. The painting is displayed today at the United Nations in New York.
Appeasement is a term used to describe compromises with acts of aggression. No nation wanted war. People and governments were lacking money due to the Great Depression. The memory of the Great War still lingered over many people. No nation wanted to risk another world war. Every time there was some sort of aggression by a nation like Italy, Germany or Japan the world largely ignored it or tried to negotiate with them to take what they had gained and stop. This policy is blamed for sacrificing some nations in order to protect the world from war.
In 1936 Germany violated the treaty of Versailles and remilitarized the Rhineland. Under the terms of the settlement Germany was not allowed to have troops in this coal and steel area nor was it allowed to have troops so close to France’s borders.
No nation felt that they had the sufficient money or troops to stop Hitler, and they did not think it was a big problem. Some in Britain even felt that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles was too hard on Germany.
When Hitler wrote Mein Kamph he stated that all Germanic peoples should be unified under the same nation. In 1938 he instigated a coup in Austria in order to bring the German people of Austria under Germany’s control. This unification is called the Anschluss. Their were mild protests from France and Italy but overall most nations knew that there was nothing they could do if they were not going to go to war. This lack of acting (appeasing) made Germany believe that they could take more without a response.
Czechoslovakia was a nation created out of the Paris Peace Conference. Czechoslovakia bordered Germany and a small portion of its citizens were of German heritage. They lived in an area called the Sudeten land and Hitler believed that he could bring them under his control. Sudeten Nazis were trying to bring in German control. To stop a crisis the various powers tried to negotiate with Hitler. They were led by British Prime minister Neville Chamberlin. They appeased Hitler by giving the Sudeten land to Germany in order for his word on paper that he would no longer seek new territorial ambitions. They based this agreement on the fact that they thought Hitler was an honorable statesmen who would abide by an international agreement that had his signature. Britain and France sold out Czechoslovakia. When Germany took the Sudeten land in Sept of 1938 it left the rest of Czechoslovakia defenseless. Shortly after Germany, Hungary and Poland took the rest of Czechoslovakia for their own territory.
To continue his goals as set out in Mein Kamph, Hitler tried to take over Poland. He had a secret agreement with Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union to divide Poland between the two of them. They also signed a non-aggression pact called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In September of 1939 Germany invaded Poland. Unlike Czechoslovakia Britain and France had given guarantees to Poland that they would protect them against Germany. So they declared war on September 3rd 1939. Canada joined Britain a week later. They waited to show that they were independent.
As war broke out nations needed to decide what they were going to do. The U.S decided to remain neutral, as did Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden, Ireland and Turkey. The Soviet Union had a non-aggression pact with Germany and no love for Britain or France. Bulgaria, Finland and Hungary decided to join with Germany. Egypt was a protectorate of the British Empire and so with Britain. China was a chaotic mess of warlords and civil war so it was in no position to help.
Blitzkrieg is German for lighting war. Germany was ready for this war and quickly invaded multiple nations with great success. By May of 1940 Belgium and France had been overrun.
It was clear France was lost. A massive evacuation of troops happened from the port of Dunkirk just before Paris fell. Soon after Italy and Germany took large parts of north Africa and moved south east into Greece. Britain and its Commonwealth/Empire stood alone.
After the Fall of France Prime minister Chamberlain stepped down and allowed Winston Churchill to form a government. Churchill had been saying that Britain should have a tougher stance on Germany for years but he was ignored. Now that war had come Churchill was the man needed to lead Britain in its fight against Germany.