The Second World War has provided us with enough references and ideological shifts to fuel discussions and arguments on a variety of subjects. And Hitler is unanimously recognized as its pivot. But, what sparked Hitler’s despise towards the world was the widespread poverty he witnessed firsthand, and how Germany was subjected as collateral to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
The degraded and absolutely wrecked economic condition of Germany during this period is credited to the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles was drafted essentially to ensure that another World War didn’t break out. It reassigned Germany’s borders and stated the terms for its reparations. When the treaty was in discussion, economists like Keynes had stated that the harsh regulations imposed on Germany would have serious economic and political ramification throughout Europe. In fact, Keynes walked out of the Peace Conference in France in protest the treaty. He was right. The harsh terms of the treaty reverberated throughout, not just Europe, but the entire world, in the form of Hitler’s vengeance (and profit motif, of course). The treaty signed to ensure that the ‘war to end all wars’ remained true to its name, turned antithetical.
While Germany was at the centre of the Second World War, World War 1 saw its origin in the Balkan region with Germany playing a major role as an aid to one of the primary factions (though first in command). The Balkan region refers to countries in the Balkan Peninsula. The Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-1878 had left the region with tremors of tension to which added the political instability of the Balkan region. In the early 20th century Austria-Hungary, under dual monarchy governed Bosnia and Herzegovina. Siberia had long opposed and questioned this Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand with wife Sophia (Getty Images)
On June 28th 1912, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, shot to death the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Bosnia. While this specific event is said to trigger the First World War, it wasn’t until Germany confirmed its assistance to Austria-Hungary that the latter declared war on Serbia which was backed by Russia. It is believed that Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German leader gave a ‘carte blanche’ to Austria-Hungary. And on July 28th, World War 1 commenced.
Before the war actually commenced, Austria-Hungary sent an ‘ultimatum’ to Serbia with unacceptably harsh terms. I believe, the refusal was expected. Austria-Hungary, perhaps just wanted time to correspond with Germany. World War 1 raged from 1914 to 1918. It was during this period when Russia, alongside proving to be a strong alliance to Serbia, saw a revolution on its own land. It was the Russian revolution of 1917 which brought the First World War to end. The overthrow of the czar of Russia Nicholas II (who shared the unpopularity of his German born wife Alexandra) withdrew the country from the alliance. Russia negotiated armistice in early December 1917. However, on the western edge, the scenario was starkly different. In April 1917, United States announced itself as an Allied Power and entered the war after mass protests against the German submarines’ attack on the British ocean liner Lusitania (from New York to Liverpool) in 1915. The liner had both English and American passengers.
Pearl Harbor attack (Source)
What stands out among all facts is that as its first attempt at siege in 1914, Germany invaded France through Belgium which had declared its neutral stance. Incidentally in World War II, the Axis acted out in quite the same manner when they attacked Pearl Harbor.
It’s not only Germany which in some ways failed to learn from its past mistakes, but the world at large. (Although today, it is quite impossible to see the country in the same light.) People, after all, are the same everywhere.
That’s it. If there’s one lesson the First and the Second World War has taught us, that is it. But, despite this fact or perhaps because of it, it is quite likely we may have failed to learn the lesson from our past mistake.