What do you think?

What caused the war?

At the time, and immediately after World War Two, most historians blamed Hitler for starting the war. An example of a historian presenting this view is Hugh Trevor-Roper.

In 1961, however, AJP Taylor argued that Hitler had no grand plan to start a war – he simply grabbed opportunities as they came along. Taylor blamed the British and French politicians who appeased Hitler, which allowed him to think they were pushovers.

Soviet historians agreed with Taylor. They believed that in the 1930s, British politicians fearing the rise of communism in Soviet Russia, actively encouraged Hitler hoping that Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would destroy each other in a huge war. Britain signed the Anglo-German naval agreement in 1935 allowing Germany to build up a navy--ignoring of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles -- in order to provide a buffer of a stronger Germany between the USSR and Europe. Britain delayed response to pleas from Soviet Union for diplomatic relations to strengthen. Why do you think Soviet historians agreed with taylor?

In the 1970s and 1980s, some British historians tried to defend Chamberlain, arguing that he was a skilled politician who realised that Britain was not strong enough to stop Hitler in 1938, and needed time to re-arm.

Why did the USA enter the war?

American historians disagree about why America entered the war.

Some have claimed the American President Franklin D Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor, but let it happen to give an excuse to declare war on Germany. Most believe that America came gradually to believe in intervention, and put Pearl Harbor down just to incompetence.

Gabriel Kolko (1968) claimed that the Americans used the war to build up their economy at the expense of Britain and Russia.

What was the significance of Russia entering the war?

For a long time, Soviet historians presented a view of Russia's war which explained Nazi successes in 1941 in terms of Hitler's surprise attack and better weapons.

After 1989, historians were able to access Russian records and found out that:

  • Stalin intended to invade Germany in 1941 – but Hitler beat him to it by two weeks.
  • The Soviet army was well-prepared and well-armed. It was defeated because it had been weakened by Stalin, who had executed many of the generals.

How is the war shown in popular culture?

 The Keep Calm and Carry On poster

The first war films were propaganda films designed to inspire the British people. Later films emphasised the heroism of the British and American soldiers who had won the war – and the coldness and evil of the German soldiers. Films weren’t the only source of propaganda during war time Britain. Posters displaying various slogans were used to rally civilians and inspire people during the war. The image featuring the popular “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan is an example of a propaganda poster; though it was never displayed publically.

What do you think of World War Two? Was Hitler totally to blame for its outbreak? Are we as horrified by World War Two as by World War One?

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