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Why did Adolf Hitler Start World War II? [In-Depth Analysis]

Written By Denis Cummings
Last updated: June 12, 2023

War, suffering, and devastation have often plagued our world, but few events can equal the calamitous turmoil of World War II. For six years, it ravaged the lives of tens of millions across the globe. Adolf Hitler’s reign over Nazi Germany triggered a conflict that’s seldom matched in scale and ferocity, leaving us struggling to understand what could cause someone to instigate such destruction. In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasoning behind “Why did Adolf Hitler Start World War II?”, delving into his beliefs and ambitions which ultimately led to a world aflame.

This exploration will take us through Hitler’s National Socialist ideologies, his drive for territorial expansion and racial purification, and major events that directly contributed to the outbreak of war. It is not meant as an endorsement or defense of any actions taken by Hitler or his regime, but rather as an examination into the mind of one of history’s most notorious figures so that we may prevent history from repeating itself.

Why did Adolf Hitler Start World War II?

In order to comprehend the reasons behind Adolf Hitler’s instigation of World War II, it is vital to delve into his beliefs, ambitions, and significant events that directly contributed to the outbreak of this catastrophic conflict.

Why did Adolf Hitler Start World War II? [In-Depth Analysis]

Hitler’s Ambitions and Nationalist Beliefs

At the core of Hitler’s motivations was his firm belief in National Socialism, an ideology that sought to revive German prestige and create a powerful empire capable of dominating other nations. Deeply ingrained in his psyche was a commitment to Lebensraum or “living space.” He believed that Germans had the right, and even an obligation, to conquer territories in Eastern Europe for resettlement by ethnic Germans. This belief stemmed from two interrelated perceptions:

  • The need for land and resources: Hitler was convinced that Germany needed more territory, natural resources, and food supplies in order to prosper economically.
  • Racial superiority: In his thinking, “Aryans” were superior beings meant to rule over “lesser races.” It was their duty to subdue non-Germanic peoples through colonization or enslavement.

Perceiving German Victimhood after World War I

Adolf Hitler saw Germany as a victim of unjust consequences following its defeat in World War I; this sense of victimhood fueled his aggressive stance with regard to foreign policy. The Treaty of Versailles left Germany at a severe disadvantage: stripped of its overseas colonies, saddled with hefty financial reparations imposed by the Allied Powers (primarily France), limited military capabilities, and bitter resentment simmering among citizens due to humiliating territorial losses.

Hitler exploited this disappointment and anger masterfully through charismatic speeches about national pride and redemption. He blamed not only other nations but also internal enemies such as communists, freemasons, liberals, trade unions – all culminating in an extensive conspiracy theory that targeted Jews as the ultimate evil-doers. This scapegoating offered Germans an easy solution to claw their way back to power.

The Rise of Nazi Germany and Aggressive Foreign Policy

Upon his ascension as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler began implementing his carefully crafted agenda to dismantle the Treaty of Versailles and strengthen the nation’s military might. This process included:

  • Rebuilding and expanding the German armed forces
  • Forming alliances with nations such as Italy (Mussolini’s Fascist government) and Japan (Imperial government led by Emperor Hirohito)

As the 1930s progressed, so did Hitler’s ruthless ambitions. In 1938, Germany annexed neighboring Austria during a historic event known as Anschluss. This marked a turning point in Hitler’s strategy, setting the stage for further conquests.

Key Events Leading Up to World War II

By analyzing these significant events that occurred prior to World War II, it becomes apparent that they played a crucial role in precipitating this global conflict:

  • Munich Conference & Appeasement Policy: The Western powers (Britain & France) attended this conference in Munich in 1938 to negotiate over the Sudetenland crisis involving the Nazi demands for territories within Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans. Britain and France agreed – allowing Hitler to annex these lands without opposition from them.
  • Invasion of Czechoslovakia: The Munich Agreement was utterly shattered when Nazi forces invaded Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939.
  • Non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union: In August 1939, Germany signed a non-aggression pact with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union – characteristic of pure political expediency considering their ideological differences – agreeing not to engage each other militarily while secretly dividing Eastern Europe into zones of control.

At last came the Invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Using the claim of protecting ethnic Germans from persecution as justification, Hitler ordered his Wehrmacht troops to embark on the process that would inevitably sweep the world into an incomprehensibly brutal conflict: World War II.

Interesting: How Many WWII Veterans Are Still Alive?

The Rise of National Socialism in Germany

National Socialism, or Nazism, emerged during the interwar period as a political ideology intent on uniting Germany under a totalitarian regime. Hitler played an instrumental role in shaping this movement as a force to be reckoned with in German politics. In this section, we’ll discuss the origins of National Socialism and how it ultimately rose to power.

Origins of the Nazi Party and Its Ideology

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), popularly known as the Nazi Party, was founded in 1920 as a far-right political party. In its early years, it was primarily a fringe group advocating for anti-Semitic and nationalist ideas. Distilling various influences like the doctrines of Völkisch nationalists, militant anti-Semites, and pan-Germanists, the Nazis forged their belief system on racial purity, national expansion and an authoritarian state.

By October 1921, Adolf Hitler assumed leadership of the party and began crafting his narrative for an idealized Germany against foreign scapegoats. In November 1923, he made his first major grab at power with the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempted coup against the Weimar government – though it failed at that time.

Hitler’s Machinations: From Prison to Power

After Hitler’s imprisonment for his part in the coup attempt, he wrote Mein Kampf, which would serve as both an autobiography and manifesto for his plans to transform Germany into a totalitarian regime under Nazi control. Despite still being a marginal party upon Hitler’s release in 1924, external factors soon worked in their favor:

  • The economic collapse following the Great Depression hit Germany hard.
  • Dissatisfaction grew within society against weak governments unable to solve their problems.
  • Persistent hyperinflation left citizens impoverished and desperate.

Throughout the late 1920s, the Nazi party gained momentum by propagating nationalist and anti-communist ideals to promise a stable governmental structure. Utilizing fiery rhetoric, scapegoating the Weimar Republic and communists, and promoting social Darwinist ideals to incite societal divisions, Hitler’s message resonated with economically struggling populations.

By January 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. Months later, the mysterious Reichstag fire was pinned on a Dutch communist, leading to Draconian laws permitting warrantless arrests and suppression of opposition parties. This consolidated power into Nazi hands, setting the stage for a genocidal war under Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Hitler’s Goals and Objectives

Trying to make sense of Adolf Hitler’s complex and nefarious goals requires an understanding of the multiple facets that drove his actions. His primary objectives can be categorized under three headings: territorial expansion, racial purification, and consolidating totalitarian control.

Territorial Expansion – Lebensraum

One of Hitler’s chief ambitions was the concept of Lebensraum, which translates to “living space.” It is based on a belief in German superiority and the need for territorial expansion to ensure their nation thrives. The idea was heavily influenced by the geopolitical theories of Karl Haushofer, which argued that nations are in constant struggle for resources, land, and power.

Hitler sought to expand German territory particularly towards the east, as he saw potential in both fertile lands and abundant resources required for Germany’s growth. Taking inspiration from America’s Manifest Destiny ideology, he viewed Eastern Europe as Germany’s frontier deserving of colonization. Moreover, this expansionist mindset played a pivotal role in preparing the stage for World War II.

Racial Purification – The Holocaust

Another appalling aspect of Hitler’s plan was his obsession with racial purity. Believing in Aryan supremacy, Hitler considered certain groups, especially Jews, as racially inferior and undesirable. This horrifying vision led to one of history’s most atrocious genocides: The Holocaust.

To enforce his twisted eugenics agenda – including forced sterilizations and euthanasia – he meticulously implemented policies targeting Jewish people alongside other groups like Romani people (Gypsies), those with disabilities, Slavs, Poles, homosexuals; among others. An estimated 11 million lives were brutally snuffed out by these heinous acts during the years leading up to and during World War II.

Establishing Totalitarian Control

Finally, an essential element of Hitler’s quest for power involved creating a totalitarian state, where the government oversees and dictates every aspect of citizens’ lives – from economy to culture to education. By consolidating power and suppressing dissent, he aimed to ensure that his nefarious vision would remain unchallenged.

To achieve this level of control, Hitler pushed for censorship, aggressive propaganda campaigns, and indoctrination in educational institutions. Additionally, he established the notorious Gestapo (The Secret State Police) to maintain an iron grip on German society by ruthlessly clamping down on resistance and dissidence.

It is essential to recognize the dangerous trilogy of Hitler’s goals and objectives – Lebensraum, racial purification (The Holocaust), and totalitarian control – as key factors in understanding his undertakings. These ambitions were deeply woven into his motivations for igniting the catastrophic World War II firestorm that raged across much of Europe.

Fact Check: Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?

Key Events Leading Up to World War II

In order to comprehend the outbreak of World War II, it’s vital to examine the significant events that paved the way for global conflict. The chronological timeline below elucidates those key turning points that precipitated Hitler’s decision to start the war.

1. The Treaty of Versailles [1919]

After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, imposing severe penalties on Germany. The country was forced to bear sole responsibility for starting WWI, surrender vast territories, pay exorbitant reparations, and disarm its military. This humiliating treaty left Germany in economic and political crisis; seething with anger and resentment, which laid fertile ground for Hitler’s rise.

2. Ascension of Hitler as Chancellor [1933]

By 1933, Adolf Hitler manoeuvered his way into political power when President Hindenburg appointed him as Chancellor of Germany. As leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) party, Hitler began instituting policies geared towards overturning the Versailles Treaty and expanding German territory.

3. The Remilitarization of Rhineland [1936]

In a bold defiance against the Treaty of Versailles’s restrictions on Germany’s military ventures within its own Rhineland region, Hitler ordered troops to occupy this demilitarized zone in March 1936. To his advantage—and perhaps emboldening him—there was no intervention by France or Britain.

4. Annexation of Austria (Anschluss) [1938]

On March 12, 1938, Hitler continued his aggressive territorial expansion through the Anschluss—the annexation of Austria. In an ostensibly peaceful move, German forces occupied the latter, incorporating it into the growing German Reich.

5. The Munich Conference and Appeasement Policy [1938]

In September 1938, leaders from Britain, France, Germany, and Italy convened at the Munich Conference, seeking to assuage Hitler’s demand for Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. This appeasement [The policy of pacifying an aggressive nation by conceding to its demands or giving into its ultimatums in order to avoid war.] failed catastrophically: Britain and France agreed to cede Sudetenland in exchange for assurances that no further territorial acquisitions would occur. Unfortunately, this concession only fueled Hitler’s appetite for more conquests.

6. Invasion of Czechoslovakia [1939]

On March 15, 1939, Hitler reneged on his prior assurances from Munich by occupying the remainder of Czechoslovakia. His actions here confirmed that appeasement had failed miserably in curtailing his expansionist designs.

7. Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union [1939]

On August 23, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union struck a momentous deal by signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This ten-year non-aggression agreement between two traditional adversaries safeguarded Hitler from a potentially disastrous two-front war and cleared a pathway for him to invade Poland unopposed.

With each progression in this timeline showcasing how Hitler’s territorially aggressive tactics went unchecked or were even enabled by other world powers—while they sought a precarious peace—World War II was now an impending reality. Unrestrained and emboldened, Adolf Hitler would soon initiate a war that would engulf the globe and claim the lives of tens of millions.

The Onset of War: The Invasion of Poland

The invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or Fall Weiss (Case White), marked the beginning of World War II. In this section, we will analyze the key elements which contributed to the start of this conflict and Hitler’s motivation behind it.

The Onset of World War 2: The Invasion of Poland

Pretext for Invasion

Before commencing the invasion, Hitler sought a reason to justify Germany’s actions. He planned and executed a false flag operation known as ‘Gleiwitz incident‘ on August 31, 1939, in which Nazi forces staged an attack on a German radio station near the Polish border. Blaming Polish forces for this transgression and claiming to protect ethnic Germans residing in Poland, Hitler launched his invasion on September 1, 1939.

The Blitzkrieg Strategy

The Blitzkrieg, or lightning warfare strategy, was central to Germany’s early victories in World War II. This strategy involved quick-moving attacks comprising air bombardments followed by ground forces advancing rapidly using tanks and motorized infantry. The aim was to break through enemy lines with swift mobilization and disorient enemy forces by targeting supply routes and command centers. This approach led to rapid German advances into Polish territory.

Division of Poland

Hitler had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Stalin weeks prior to the invasion, effectively eliminating any potential resistance from Soviet Russia while securing vital supplies necessary for their war effort. A secret protocol within this pact decided upon spheres of influence between both nations within Eastern Europe – particularly agreeing upon the division of Polish territory. After quickly conquering Poland in less than two months using their Blitzkrieg tactics, both Germany and Soviet Russia shared control over occupied Polish lands as per their agreement.

International Response

In response to Germany’s invasion, France and Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939 – although they did not intervene directly to prevent Poland’s fall in the initial phases. The worldwide community began to mobilize against Nazi aggression, with political players and military commanders realizing that mere appeasement would no longer suffice in containing Hitler’s ambitions.

The invasion of Poland marked a turning point in world history where diplomatic efforts and fragile alliances surrendered to widespread conflict. Hitler’s ideologies and the objective of conquering Lebensraum further fueled his thirst for war. With the onset of World War II, Europe and the world faced a devastating period filled with untold suffering, genocide, and a global reconfiguration of power in its aftermath.

Interesting: What Countries Will Be in World War 3?

Unexpected Outcomes and Downfall for Hitler’s Nazi Empire

As World War II unfolded, several unforeseen factors contributed to the ultimate downfall of Hitler’s Nazi Empire. These unexpected outcomes can be attributed to three overarching aspects: the Allies’ united front, the Soviet Union’s change of allegiance, and the logistical challenges faced by Germany during intense military campaigns.

Unexpected Outcomes and Downfall for Hitler's Nazi Empire

The Unity of the Allies

Contrary to Hitler’s belief that his enemies would collapse under the pressure of a global conflict, they instead formed a strong alliance. Britain, the United States, China, and Soviet Union united in their determination to defeat Nazi Germany. Cooperation among these nations was instrumental in their ability to resist and eventually overthrow Hitler. Notable highlights include:

  • The Lend-Lease Act: This allowed allied nations to receive vital supplies from the US.
  • The Tehran Conference: Here, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin strategized on how best to cooperate and ensure Germany’s defeat.
  • D-Day: This marked a critical turning point as all allied forces launched a massive invasion at Normandy in 1944.

Betrayal of The Soviet Union

Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin only months before launching Operation Barbarossa. This surprise invasion marked a betrayal of his former ally that proved catastrophic for Hitler’s ambitions:

  • The Nazi forces were not prepared for Russia’s unyielding resistance.
  • Additionally, their lack of proper equipment for harsh Russian winters hampered progress.

These issues catapulted into a drawn-out quagmire that severely depleted German resources and morale.

Logistical Nightmares

Germany embarked upon several high-stakes military campaigns simultaneously:

BranchPrimary Front
ArmyEastern Front
Air ForceThe Blitz
NavyU-boat Warfare

However, the Nazis faced multiple logistical challenges in these campaigns:

  • Their lightning warfare approach didn’t account for the larger distances and need for sustained air superiority.
  • They struggled to maintain supply lines, as they were heavily reliant on blitzkrieg tactics.

These complications diminished the efficiency of the German war machine and ultimately contributed to their defeat.

By understanding these unexpected outcomes and learning from history, we can better comprehend why Hitler’s Nazi empire ultimately fell. By taking these lessons to heart, we ensure that humanity remains vigilant against any future attempts at such destructive conquests.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Hitler’s primary motivation for starting World War II?

Hitler aimed to create a Greater German Reich that would dominate Europe, driven by his belief in the superiority of the Aryan race and the need for Lebensraum (living space) for the German people.

How did World War I influence Hitler’s decision to start World War II?

The harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany signed after World War I, fueled Hitler’s resentment. He wished to redress what he perceived as a humiliating defeat and restore Germany’s power and national pride.

How did the Munich Conference contribute to the start of World War II?

The Munich Conference allowed Hitler to annex parts of Czechoslovakia without opposition in 1938. This policy of appeasement misled him into believing that he could continue his territorial expansion without consequences.

Why was Poland significant in starting World War II?

Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, under false pretenses to protect ethnic Germans. This invasion marked Germany’s first aggressive act against another nation in a clear breach of international law, triggering the start of World War II as Britain and France declared war on Germany.

What was Operation Barbarossa?

Operation Barbarossa refers to Nazi Germany’s ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. It intended to secure vital resources and territory while eliminating communism from Europe, but ultimately led to a costly two-front war that contributed significantly to Nazi Germany’s downfall.

What role did the Holocaust play in Hitler’s actions during World War II?

A critical aspect of Hitler’s vision for a Greater German Reich involved the racial purification of Europe. The Holocaust stemmed from this belief, resulting in the systematic extermination of millions of Jews, Romani people, and other undesirables deemed inferior to the Aryan race.

How was Germany affected by the Great Depression in relation to Hitler’s rise to power?

The Great Depression devastated Germany’s economy, causing widespread unemployment and poverty. As a result, desperate citizens were increasingly drawn to extremist political ideologies like National Socialism, allowing Hitler and his Nazi Party to gain significant influence.

What was the importance of Mein Kampf to Hitler starting World War II?

Mein Kampf, written by Hitler while imprisoned after a failed coup attempt, outlined his political beliefs and future plans for Germany and Europe. It provided a glimpse into his aggressive expansionism policy that ultimately led to the start of World War II.

In Retrospect: Learning from Humanity’s Darkest Hour

History imparts lessons on the human spirit, and World War II reminds us of the potential for destruction concealed within our collective psyche. At its root, Adolf Hitler’s driving forces were imbued with nationalistic fervor and an obsession to restore Germany’s glory. Examining his motivations and actions provides crucial insights into how we can perpetually reject such philosophies. Key lessons to be gleaned include:

  • Be wary of blind nationalism: Hitler was able to exploit German pride and despair, seducing them into an ideology laced with hatred and supremacy. Always question authority irrespective of national pride.
  • The dangers of groupthink: Hitler’s absolute power in Nazi Germany allowed him to execute horrific atrocities without opposition, exposing the hazards of silencing dissenting voices.
  • The importance of checks and balances: Unchecked ambitions led not only to war but also genocide. It is essential for democracies to maintain a strong system of checks and balances in governance.

In conclusion, acknowledging why Adolf Hitler catalyzed World War II enables us to avert similar disasters. We should remain eternally vigilant against the spread of totalitarian ideologies that engender mindless cruelty. By scrutinizing Hitler’s motives and dissecting precipitating events, we ultimately fortify the foundations for a more compassionate society – one where atrocities like those committed during World War II remain relegated only to the pages history.

Charles Eames

Denis Cummings is a history enthusiast and author, with a passion for uncovering the stories of the past. Through his writing, he seeks to share his love of history with others and provide a unique perspective on the events that have shaped our world.

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