The failure of the League of Nations was abysmal and its creation the act of foolish idealists out of step with the extreme frustration that was prolonged . It was due primarily, as should have been foreseen by these shortsighted idealists, to the hardship caused by the depression of the 29 and its aftermath . The rabid nationalists of Germany were allowed to rearm and they bullied the world into a silence that gave them the green light to allow Hitler to emerge on the stage of history without incident and without any repercussions from the then peace loving democracies who appeased him into existence and allowed him room to expand an evil hegemony. They were thus liable for this supreme emergence and I do not accept that they allowed this emergent "secret rearming" in the Ruhr out of motives of appeasement merely, but out of motives of a violent antisemitism that then was sublimated, refined and rationalized by other acts and motives. This scenario was so typified by the Evian Conference . Only Vatican radio had the courage to set out the naked truth of the times, so it seems.
The long term causes of WWII did go back to the treaty of Versailles.
Weaknesses of the League and the Lack of courage to use armed force which it lacked anyway.
Apparent stability and prosperity should have been viewed for what it really was, a chimera , and the lack of foresight was purposeful "Pollyanna" thinking of the mass of cowards that gave the green light to Hitler..
Isolationism predominated in the US Great Britain and France also, hiding one's head in the sand as a panacea for all problems. Reflections of these attitudes:
- the Weimar Republic
- spineless democracies and latent anti semitism (EVIAN)
- Europe was overconfident and feared emergent nationalism in Germany and willing to appease Hitler. "Peace at any price".
- The Versailles humiliation of Germany after WWI and also the Great Depression and the insensitivity of the democracies to it.
- Two treaties signed indicated (deceptively) an era of peace and toleration: The Locarno Treaty Dec 25 and the Kellog Briand Pact of 28 -disgusting document's exhibiting a costly naivete that would result in a world of war and shambles.
World War Two
was not caused solely by short term events in the 1930's such as Austria and
Czechoslovakia. The anger and resentment that built up in Nazi Germany - and
which was played on by Hitler during
his rise to power and when he became Chancellor in January 1933 - also had long
term causes that went back to the 1919 Treaty
of Versailles. Patriotic Germans had never forgotten their nation's
treatment in Paris in that year.
The League had
some successes in this decade (the Aaland Islands, as an example) but the
weaknesses of the League had also been cruelly exposed on a number of occasions
when an aggressor nation successfully used force to get what it wanted and the
League could do nothing. This process set the mould for the 1930’s and any
would-be dictator would have been very well aware that the League did not have
the ability to enforce its decisions as it lacked an army. Those nations that
were best equipped to provide the League with a military force (Britain and
France) were also not prepared to do so for domestic reasons and the aftermath
of the Great War in which so many were killed or wounded. From a political point
of view, the British and French publics would not have tolerated a military
involvement in an area of Europe that no-one had heard of. Politicians were
responsive to the attitudes of the voters and neither Britain nor France were
prepared to militarily support the League in the 1920’s - despite being the
strongest nations in the League.
However, the apparent stability in Europe
after 1925 and its apparent prosperity, meant that conflicts rarely occurred
from 1925 to 1929.
In fact, Europe could have been confident in assuming
peace would last as two treaties were signed that seemed to indicate that a new
era of peace and toleration had been ushered in.
The Locarno Treaties were
signed in December 1925. The major politicians of Europe met in neutral
Switzerland. The following was agreed to :
France, Germany and Belgium agreed
to accept their borders as were stated in the Treaty of
Versailles. France and Belgium would never repeat an invasion of the Ruhr
and Germany would never attack Belgium or France again. Britain and Italy agreed
to police this part of the treaties. Germany also accepted that the Rhineland
must remain demilitarised. In other treaties, France promised to protect
Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia if Germany attacked any one of them. Germany,
Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia all agreed that they
would never fight if they had an argument between themselves - they would allow
the League to sort out the problem.
However, nationalists in Germany were
furious with their government for signing these treaties. By signing, the German
government effectively agreed that it accepted the terms of the Versailles Treaty
of 1919. This to the nationalists bordered on treason and was totally
unacceptable. Their claims of treason went unheard as Weimar Germany was
experiencing an economic growth and the hard times of 1919 to 1924 were
forgotten. Moderate politicians were the order of the day in Germany and the
extreme nationalists such as the Nazi Party faded into
the background. The success of these moderate politicians was emphasised when
France backed Germany’s right to join the League
which Germany duly did in 1926.
The other major treaty which seemed to herald
in an era of world peace was the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.
This pact was
signed by 65 countries. All 65 nations agreed never to use war again as a way of
Therefore, Europe was effectively lulled into a false sense
of security by 1929 as the politicians of Europe had made it plain that war was
no longer an option in solving disputes and that previous enemies were now
friends. This new Europe relied on nations being at peace and harmony with one
another. The stability of Germany was shattered by the Wall
Street Crash of October 1929 and the nationalists who had spent 1925 to 1929
in relative obscurity, rose to the political surface once again. They had no
intention of accepting either Versailles or the Locarno treaties and the
League’s weaknesses in this decade had also become apparent. The League could
only function successfully, if the politicians of Europe allowed it to do so. Hitler and the Nazis
were never going to give the League
a chance once they had gained power.