Who started World War 2?

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by James Marsh, Jul 10, 2022.

  1. James Marsh

    James Marsh New Member

    In your opinion, who or what would you say started WW2? for me, it would have to be Gavrilo Princip. On 28 June 1914, the assassination of his nephew Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo resulted in Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against the Serbia, which was an ally of the Russian Empire. That activated a system of alliances declaring war on each other, which resulted in WW1.

    please note that this is just my opinion,

  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Suggest it was hitler with his idea of invading other countries and killing people who he didnt like
    Other countries thought this was not right
    Hey presto WW2
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  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Princip was a spark (a useful one to some), not a direct instigator.
    'German expansionism' the driver behind WW1 & WW2, so, I suppose if you subscribe to the 'one war with a 20 year hiatus' theory, which I sort of do with some quite strong caveats, then you could look to him.
    Though wars are relatively rarely 'started' by a single individual. 'Circumstances'. 'Agendas' & a mix of personalities the usual truth.

    WW1: German nationalist belligerence.
    WW2: German ultra-nationalist belligerence, with an intense grudge whipped-up (arguably... hesitantly... cautiously... maybe...: understandably) from the WW1 settlement.

    Hitler was elected... almost... in 1932. (Not a winner-takes-all system.)
    Hindenberg (re-elected the same year) appointed him to a position where the power levers were to hand.
    Who bears responsibility for that?
    Quite possibly... probably... the German population.

    The difficulty is at what point does democracy end & autocracy take over?
    Does democracy even notice it's walked into autocratic territory.
    I'd say Hitler certainly planned war. but he didn't really expect it to start when it did, thinking he could get away with more Mitteleuropa manipulation as he built up to being fully ready to secure those gains.
    Did he start the war with the Polish border incidents? Sort of, though that probably was not the intention.
    So it can even be argued that the war was technically started by other nations saying 'Hang on a fucking minute?!' in response to his actions. Though, of course, that response wouldn't happen without the key belligerent hubris he represented.

    Adolf of the silly moustache started it, really, but it's a hugely complex thing to 'diagnose' more accurately. Wars are ridiculously messy by their very nature.
    'Would there have been war without him?' an interesting question. Quite likely yes anyway. The political pressures in Germany were always leaning in that direction. Though we don't really do what-ifs, it's often a thought when looking at this.

    With apologies, as shooting from the hip after a Tequila or three...
    Democracy sliding to Autocracy.
    Dangerous figures placed at dangerous junctions of power and diplomacy.
    These things can feed war. And did.
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  4. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    I totally agree, it was Adolf Hitler. suggest you read "Mein Kampf"
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I have, a few times, and despite the significance so often attributed to it; I don't see the incoherent rant it really is as of much significance in the actual war to come.
    Europe was awash with nutters writing barely-readable tracts. It gives a glimpse into 'this bloke's not quite right in the head', but doesn't in any tangible way really explain what came to be.
    Domobran7 likes this.
  6. steviebyday

    steviebyday Junior Member

    Vera Lynn's agent, wasn't it.
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I feel that if you wanted to point a finger at Princip, WW2 as it happened would have to be completely inevitable after WW1 and I find that difficult to believe. Lots of things fed into it. The stabbed-in-the-back myth, the fear of another war on the part of the Allies plus their level of unpreparedness which allowed Germany to keep expanding and becoming even more powerful... I mean, yes, war was probably inevitable once Hitler took power and started to expand, for the reasons that vP wrote.
  8. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    There are no monocausal causes. And history is an extraordinarily dynamic affair, in which certain trigger points are always set somewhat arbitrarily, so that we have at least a few rough points of reference. Adolf has (un)thankfully made it really easy for us here

    At least from a purely Germanocentric perspective, I can cite the French-Prussian War of 1870/71* well before Princip:
    At that time, France had to pay insane reparations with which the German Empire financed its industrialization.
    For this Germany got the French receipt in Versailles after 1918 (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk also played a role).
    This in turn led German nationalist circles to seek revenge, for which they saw Hitler as a suitable figurehead.
    And with that we have probably just scratched the surface of the whole matter.

    * And it was again Napoleon Bonaparte, who was causal for the awakening "German" nationalism.
    After Napoleon's final defeat, a German-Austrian confederation was discussed as a "Greater German Solution", which, however, was pushed back by Prince Metternich. Hitler then realized this old Viennese coffeehouse dream....
    Which closes the circle at least here
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  9. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Good call.
    The Franco Prussian business really doesn't get enough coverage, does it.
    Sadly, Dave/Croonaert died recently, as he was brilliant & passionate on the whole subject.
    I hate to use the 'Forgotten History!' trope, but that area really is. So many past and future events bound up in it, but almost never comes up in normal chat about the two larger bashes.
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  10. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    By the way, I have never read "Mein Kampf" completely.
    It shares this fate with Nietzsche's "Also sprach Zarathustra", which had a similar headache-producing effect on me.
    With the latter, however, one could at least get a good grasp how the author slowly but surely drifted into madness.

    Compared to this, the reading of the 1887 german translation of Tacitus' Annals in Fraktur was directly a delight.
    (However, this could be because I find nosebleeds more bearable) :D
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  11. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I honestly think 'don't bother'.
    I waded through it initially for enforced essay reasons, then later for 'why do they keep citing that' reasons, and have come to the conclusion it's worthless on almost all levels.
    Many claim it gives 'psychological insight' into Adolf, and I see almost none of that, other than 'shouty man' & 'poor writer'. We confirm he hates Jews etc., well... yeah, we knew that too from his every other action.
    Other than that, it's just another interminable self-pitying rant from a prison cell. It doesn't even really reflect what the whole NASDAP project later became. There's a massive gap between the prisoner & the later dictator. A curiosity rather than anything significant.
    I must read his second book one day. Bought it recently, but... yeah... urgh.

    Back on track:
    Who starts any war?
    People exist in positions of power that may be more inclined to belligerence, but there's almost always a raft of underlying tensions that make things more inevitable.
    The occasions when individuals manage to stop wars might be easier to pin down.
    ltdan likes this.
  12. Andsco

    Andsco Well-Known Member

    Was the unpreparedness a contributing factor too, doing nothing while Germany expanded, Churchill warned many times that Hitler was gearing up for war but was often shouted down as Chamberlain chose appeasement until it was too late to avoid a global conflict. As Sajid Javid said in his recent resignation speech "Doing nothing is a conscious decision" which in the current European conflict the west seemed to have learnt not to do, wasn't it Churchill who said "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” thus at the suffering of it's people the Russian expansion is being contained in Ukraine.
  13. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Yes, that's what I meant. At the back of that, in part was the horror at the thought of more war, but then also the economic downturn in the 1930s.
  14. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    With regard to von Poop's comments on the Franco Prussian War I recall writing an essay some 65 years ago on the subject of 'Bismark. The author of ruin?'. His desire to unite Germany and create a new dynamic state must be a prime cause of the Franco Prussian War, WW1 and WW2. Of course one can trace causes back even further to the Napoleonic Wars when Austria was shown to be a spent force and Prussia developed an intense hatred of France.

    However one looks at it Germany did eventually become an economic power.

  15. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    I think one has to distinguish two essential things in this context:
    What historical and political factors led to Hitler's rise to power?
    Who was responsible for the outbreak of WWII?

    In the first case, one could assume the year 1888 as one possible starting point for such a direct line of development: In the famous "Three Emperors' Year" Wilhelm II was enthroned. And from that point on things demonstrably got more and more out of hand.
    However, IMHO it is futile to go deeper into this, because then a tremendous rabbit hole opens up, which cannot even be dealt with here in the least.

    In the second case, however, there is little doubt that AH was THE driving force. There were certainly assisting forces, but it was Hitler's personality that tipped the balance
    I know several historical revisionist exculpation legends why this is supposedly not true - but for that you have to do a lot of logical somersaults to make them sound at least rudimentarily plausible.
    Chris C likes this.
  16. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I'll throw the usual "there was a war going on the Far East, also" out there as a reminder that there was a war going on already in the Far East.
    The question was, who started World War II, not who started the European phase of World War II, so i would suppose that some inclusion of discussion about that theater of is in order?
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  17. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Who started World War 2?
    World War in the title says it all

    taking chunks out of local countries before invading Poland

    Asked politely to withdraw his troops
    Did not do as requested

    Britain and France then declared war and the dominoes stacked and toppled as the days went on until countries took sides.
    Either Allies or Axis (plus your neutrals)
    TTH likes this.
  18. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    By that standard of reasoning I'd say: Eve - when she handed the apple to Adam.
  19. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    They did.
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  20. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    The issue LtDan alludes to, isn't it.
    Personally, I've decided to stop at Charlemagne.
    The Holy Roman Empire* has a lot to answer for.

    *Obligatory to quote "Neither holy, nor Roman, nor [much of] an empire" here.
    I don't make the rules.
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