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WWI Never Ended Essay, Research Paper

History: WWar IWWI Never Ended


Scott Doane

Southwestern Michigan College

English 103

Fall 1997

Doane ii


Thesis statement: WWII could have been avoided if WWI had ended differently.

I. Introduction

A. Explanation of Title

B. Thesis

II. Body

A. Events Leading To WWI

1. Nationalism

2. Imperialism

3. Dominos

4. U.S. Involvement

B. Repercussions of the Treaty of Versailles

1. Germany

2. Political

3. Psychological

4. Economic

C. Nazi Rise to Power

1. Hitler Comes to Power

2. Fall of German Republic

D. Different Ending Theory

1. American Foreign Policy

2. True German Defeat

3. Financial Advising

4. Political Watchdog

III. Conclusion

A. Restatement of Thesis

B. Summary of Paper

C. End Thoughts

WWI Never Ended

It was the war to end all wars. It took millions in lives. It should have ended when it did, something went wrong. WWI never ended. It may have taken a break, but never truly ended until the end of WWII. Complications that occurred due to the way WWI ended prompted the advent of WWII. The second word war could have been completely avoided if WWI had ended differently.

There are no doubts to the many numerous causes of WWI. Nationalism, imperialism, a cold war arms race, and treaties continent wide, put European nations head to head. Waiting to fall like explosive dominos. Nationalism is the concept of unity within one’s own country. Its lack was one of the figuring reasons for the First World War. The idea of democracy had been spread throughout Europe by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era. This was a new and enticing concept to people who have been under Monarchial control for so long. The idea that people of the same ethnic background, language, and political background had the right to be independent states sent a surge of nationalistic hope throughout Europe. This was all during a time when Europe was nowhere near nationalized. Reactionaries at the Congress of Vienna in

1815 ignored this new nationalistic movement. The French were left seething over the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. Italy and Germany themselves were broken down into so many different dynasts, principalities, and kingdoms, that it became impossible to determine where the borders of the countries actually were. Belgium, both French- and Flemish-speaking were put under Dutch control. Austria-Hungary and the Balkans were having the hardest time with the nationalistic movement. The area was controlled by few, whereas the cultural and ethnic background of the people living there varied incredibly. Everyone wanted freedom from someone else. Revolutions of a nationalistic movement counteracted some of the reactionary accomplishments of the Congress. Belgium won independence from the Dutch in 1830. Italy became united in 1861; Germany did the same ten years later. Nationalism came into full force.

The Industrial revolution occurred. First in England, then followed by France and Germany. All three markets saw an explosion of productivity and sought foreign markets to sell their goods to. Africa was close and convenient. However, it was not a peaceful place to do business. France and England never liked each other to begin with. It seems that even Africa was not large enough for the two of them. They did eventually settle their differences and agree to share the African market. Germany was not as compliant. The industrious Germans had many run-ins with the French and British in North Africa, straining peace to the breaking point. Crumbling empires in the Middle East was an alluring target to the Germans, not to mention the Russians.

As this uneasy peace continued, foreign and domestic policies of the involved nations began to change. Standing armies and navies began to increase at an alarming rate. Britain’s

philosophy was to have a navy two and a half times as large as the second largest navy in Europe. They figured with that much naval supremacy they would be safe. Politicians and statesmen across Europe and the rest of the world became very unnerved by this mass build up of arms. The Hauge Conferences were the last chance for peace in Europe as disarmament was the main topic. Unfortunately, political unrest and rivalry had advanced to such a state across Europe that disarmament was hopeless. Not only did the European nations arm them selves in “self-defense” they also began to form alliances, as not to be caught alone in an eventual war. The dominos began to stand. The main powers of these alliances were the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy and the Triple Entente or Great Britain, France, and Russia. As other countries entered into their various pacts and treaties, it came to the point if one went to war all of Europe would. A Serbian Nationalist group assassinated Archduke Ferdinand in Austria-Hungary on June 28, 1914. The first domino fell. Europe detonated.

President Wilson had tried to be a peaceful and neutral mediator during the war. Hoping that he could form some kind of base agreement both parties could agree upon. However, this all changed when Germany changed their war policy. On February 1, Germany would resort to unrestricted submarine warfare against the shipping of Great Britain and all shipping to Great Britain. The U.S. was not amused. America had already spoken out against unrestricted submarine warfare earlier. Relations with Germany were threatened to be broken as this new predicament would violate the US’s position of neutrality. Wilson gave up. The U.S. broke all diplomatic relations with Germany on February 2. At the presidents request many Latin

American nations followed suit. On April 6, congress gave Wilson their word. America went to war.

The Fist Wold War officially ended in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It left in its wake millions dead, millions disillusioned, and millions in debt. It is this very treaty that inadvertently causes the Second World War. The political and economical repercussions caused by this document are immense. Here is where the dominos reset themselves, this time for WWII.

World War One ended when Germany signed a piece of paper called the Treaty of Versailles. This was a humiliating defeat for the Germans. The size of their state was drastically reduced whereas the sizes of France and Italy were increased. They were forced to admit that they had started the war and put out the money to compensate for the war costs. The size of the German military was reduced to a minimal level. However, there were many overzealous soldiers that refused to quit fighting. Unable to accept the orders to demobilized and stand down, many joined Freikorps, an establishment of mercenaries for street fighting. Germany was seething with revenge, humiliation, and hate.

The German Generals never had to admit defeat. When they returned home the generals told that they were not defeated, and could have gone on to victory if not “stabbed in the back.” This “Stab in the Back” theory would become hugely popular to Germans who could not admit defeat. Even the generals who signed that treaty in November would become known as the “November criminals.” A man named Adolph Hitler became obsessed with this idea. The people he blamed the most, Marxists and Jews.

Political revolutions were abounding at the end of the First World War. Socialistic ideals had begun to sprout up all over Europe. Not only in Germany and the Austrian Empire, but Great Britain and France as well. America was to far away, and to set in its capitalistic ways, to be effected by this wave. Nonetheless, the republic was the most popular form of government to emerge. Previously the monarchy had been in command of European political practices. Before the war there were nineteen monarchies and only three republics. Yet, within just a few short years Europe looked very different. Now composed of thirteen monarchies, fourteen republics, and two regencies, diplomats worldwide had to learn a whole new set of rules.

Psychologically, the First World War was devastating. In the midst of the entire war and all the subsequent revolutions, a very disillusioned feeling set in. People had become very dissatisfied with their political leader, believing that their leaders had not expressed the will of the people strongly enough. Bitterly, some believed that the government had no idea how to serve its people at all. The loss of family and friends was staggering in some parts of Europe. One in four young men did not return home. In total, the war claimed the lives of roughly over twelve million people. Four million of those were innocent civilians. The grim reality of the war replaced the optimism of years past. People now faced the hard task of living, but now living in a devastated land.

War is good for business. America was one of very few countries to come out of the First World War ahead in some way. Technological advancements were amazing throughout the war. The production of airplanes, automobiles, radios, ammunition, and even certain chemicals went through the roof. Coupled with the new eight-hour workday, the use of machinery, and the

advent of mass production, the American economy experienced an unmatched period of unrestricted growth. Americans began to see an increase in the standard of living, and a boom of the middle class.

War is expensive. On the other side of the ocean, Europe was devastated. There were incredible losses of personal property and landscape, as well as huge financial losses. It took until 1914 for Europe to gain respect as a moneylender. Only a few years later, they were completely in debt, owing enormous sums of money to their allies. Totals came to over ten billion in U.S. dollars. In a failed effort to pay back their war debts, many countries resorted to printing more and more money. As a result, inflation went insane. People of new middle class experienced an economic kick almost overnight. Living comfortably weeks before, now barely scraping enough together for the basics. All their investments fell through. Germany was hit the hardest, having to deal with all the war repercussions and the mounting inflation. In a period of three months in 1923 the mark went from 4.2 million marks to the dollar to 4.6 billion marks to the dollar. The domino table was shaking.

On Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the American economy crashed. The fist domino fell. The world followed. Germanys economy, still extremely fragile from the war, was the most venerable, built on loans from America and reliant Foreign trade. When the U.S. crashed, Germany shattered. Hitler knew his chance had arrived. In the times before the Great Depression, the Nazi party was a small, steadily growing party of only 100,000. Although small, it was tightly controlled, highly disciplined, and made up entirely of unquestioning fanatics, a poor combination.

By the middle of 1930, the pressure of the Great Depression and civil unrest began unraveling the delicate Germany Democracy. The only man who could have solved this dilemma had died Gustav Stresemann the German Prime Minister. The President was powerless as a figurehead. In his last effort of power, on July of 1930 the President, according to parliamentary rules, dissolved the Reichstag. New elections were to be held in September. The Nazis sprang into action. By the end of the elections the German public, desperate and willing to listen to anyone who offered hope, elected the Nazi party into 107 seats of the German Reichstag. Within the next three years the Nazi party would do everything within its power to destroy the democracy and get Hitler into total power. They succeeded. Hitler came into a total dictatorship near the middle of 1933. The republic died, a dictatorship lived. Poland was invaded nearly a decade later. The dominos fell. World War II had begun.

The Second World War could have been completely avoided if a few measures had been in place at the end of the First World War. First and foremost, America should have joined the League of Nations initially. America was the strongest after the war, and therefore would have been the most stable. The German generals should have been forced to admit defeat. Although the same time line might occur, the idea of defeat would kill any nonsense about being “stabbed in the back.” An international advisory board should have been set up to monitor the economic climate of the Europe. Finally the strongest nations involved should have taken watch over Germany, making sure that its political structure stayed intact. The timeline can not be changed, but it can be learned from.

The world wars of the past century have shaped the world, as it is known today. It did not have to be this way. The Second World War could have been averted if the First World War had ended differently. However, from these wars, the domino effect can very plainly be seen. Now at near the end of the century, the dominos are starting to reset, now in the Middle East. Will the dominos fall again, or this time, will the world refuse to play?

Works Cited

“Germans Elect Nazis.” The History Place. n. pag. Online. Internet. Available:


“Great Depression Begins.” The History Place. n. pag. Online. Internet. Available:


Karplovsky, Suzanne, Maria Fogel and Olivia Kobelt. Causes of World War I. n. pag.

Online. Internet. Available: http://www.pvhs.chico.k12.ca.us/~bsilva/projects/causes.htm

Karplovsky, Suzanne, Maria Fogel and Olivia Kobelt. Effects of World War I. n. pag.

Online. Internet. Available: http://www.pvhs.chico.k12.ca.us/~bsilva/projects/effects.htm

“The Republic Collapses.” The History Place. n. pag. Online. Internet. Available:


“World War One.” Microsoft Encarta 1997 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Micosoft: Encarta, 1997

“World War One Ends with German Defeat.” The History Place. n. pag. Online. Internet.

Available: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/ends2.htm

“World War Two.” Microsoft Encarta 1997 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Micosoft: Encarta, 1997

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