The outbreak of World War II was due largely to the failure of the lon to intervene

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"The outbreak of World War II was due largely to the failure of the LON to intervene." Discuss. EYA     

 We agree that the outbreak of World War II was due largely to the failure of the League of Nations to intervene as Appeasement and Hitler's foreign policy would not have been initiated if the League took stronger action from the start of defiance against the aggressors. Hitler's foreign policy and the policy of appeasement also played a part in causing the outbreak of World War II. If Britain did not take unnecessary pity on Germany, Hitler would not have been able to carry out with the rearmament and conscription. Rearmament in Germany caused others to mobilise, increasing the likeliness of war. Thus, we believe that the failure of the League to intervene stands as the most important reason out of the three factors leading to the outbreak of war.1


The failure of League of Nations played a large role in the outbreak of World War II because it encouraged Hitler's bold foreign policy and eventually appeasement to make up for not taking stronger actions. The League and it's Covenant was weak and unrealistic, furthermore, they did not have a army or strong powers on their side. France and Britain, who were weakened after World War I, dominated the League and thus failed to intervene in acts of aggression by Japan and Italy. Ironically, although Britain and France dominated the League of Nations, they ironically took steps that undermined its authority.


In the Manchurian Crisis of 1931, the League did not have power to prevent the attacks.2 This was a precedent for other nations to follow since Japan had defied the League successfully. Again, in the Abyssinian Crisis of 1935, the League only imposed half-hearted sanctions excluding the imports of oil, coal and steel. These actions show that the members of the League of Nations put their own interests first, as they were more concerned with getting their economies to grow again and they were unwilling to take stronger actions in case it led to war.


The League was also silent in the face of events leading to World War II, whereby Hitler had taken means to violate the Treaty of Versailles. The League of also failed to make countries give up their weapons during the 1932-4 Disarmament Conferences, since France put its national interest first by ensuring that it could protect itself against Germany and therefore refusing to disarm, so as to have an equality of armaments with Germany or give up its weapons.


Britain also signed the Anglo-German Naval Treaty with Germany in June 1935 outside the League of Nations, which shows that the League was not strong enough and that Britain had openly broke the Treaty of Versailles and protected its own interests, because she believed that it was better to acknowledge and restrict the size of Germany's navy as it was evident that she was intent on expanding in the near future rather than keeping it illegal, which might short-change German’s ability in the war.

[1]Lowe, N (2008). Mastering Modern World History, (4th edition). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 47-48

2 Anglo-German Naval Treaty, (Accessed 23 June)

Instead of carrying out the League's aims of collective security, the core members chose to protect their own national interests and took a weak approach towards Hitler's foreign policies, with the excuse that the Versailles Treaty was "too harsh on Germany”. Thus, by allowing countries to defy the League, it emboldened Germany to break the Treaty of Versailles. With all these failures of the League military wise, war was made more likely especially since they had also failed to stop rearmament.


Hitler's foreign policy aims also increased the likeliness of war.3 He intended to break the Treaty of Versailles, unite all German-speakers, and expand towards the East to achieve lebensraum. By 1933, he had withdrawn from the League following Japan's example. All these actions led to the increasing tensions between Germany and eastern Europe states, thus making war very likely.


His first move was rearmament, using this opportunity to rebuild the navy to carry out his foreign policies. In the World Disarmament Conferences in 1932 and 1933, France refused the request of equality of armaments with Germany. Then, Hitler used France’s refusal to disarm to justify Germany’s rearmament.4 By 1935, he had increased the size of the army from 100 000 men to 300 000 men, reintroduced conscription and announced his foreign policy aims. 


He then sent German troops in the demilitarised zone of the Rhineland.The British were not prepared to take any action and without British support the French would not act. With Italy drawing closer to Germany and their similarity in wings, Italy was on Hitler's side and this further weakened the League. He also signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan in the same year. He was successful with Anschluss in 1938 to make Austria part of ‘Greater Germany' with no protest from Britan and France. Also, the invasions of Sudentland, Czechoslovakia and Poland built up to the Second World War. 


Hitler was first given hope by events in the Far East, since the League had failed to stop Japan’s invasion of Manchuria. Also, with the League's preoccupation with USSR, Germay was able to carry out his expansionary policies and ultimately, leading to the mobilisation of countries. This led to rising tensions between Germany and the Eastern Europe states, which in turn made war more likely.

Appeasement in 1937 made the outbreak of World War II more likely as Hitler was encouraged by the inertia of Britain and France to raise the stakes in his gamble to achieve lebensraum. Appeasement failed when Hitler signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact with the USSR in 1939 to invade Poland and this was the trigger to World War II. The policy brought only temporary peace and kept Britain out of war for ahile, but ended up threatening the peace in Europe. Appeasement brought Germany more confidence and with this compromise, World War II became more likely.
 [3] Hitler’s foreign policies, (Accessed 25 June)


[4] Naval Disarmament Conference, (Accessed 25 June 2009)

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed in 1935, allowing the German's navy to 35% of the British naval army. Hitler had his eyes on first Sudetenland and then the demanded the whole of Czechoslovakia during the Munich Agreement in 1938, since it was clear that Britain just wanted to avoid war and protected its own interests first.

Therefore, Britain's policy of appeasement encouraged Hitler to stage a direct threat to World War II, which was the invasion of Poland.


In conclusion, although the three factors contributed to the outbreak of war, the outbreak of World War II was still caused largely caused by the League of Nations to intervene from the start. If the League of Nations had interfered and stood firm in protecting collective security by taking concrete measures, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931 would not been seen as a dangerous precedent nor would the countries begin to follow in her footsteps, curbing all possibilities of the outbreak of war.


Hitler's foreign policy aims was a direct, but weak cause to World War II. If it happened on its own without the tension in the background, World War II might not have been so easily sparked. If he had been stopped from rearming, Hitler would not have been as large as a threat as in 1939, when Hitler's invasion of Poland finally made Britain and France take action. Thus, Hitler was only encouraged to take one gamble too many when he saw how the League handled other aggressors.


Britain decided to adopt a policy of appeasement was due largely to public opinion and the fact that they could not risk entering war when their economy was in such a poor state. 5Britain also needed to buy time to rebuild their navy. Thus, this policy served to benefit Britain more than an attempt to avert war with Germany.


Therefore, we agree that the failure of the League to intervene caused the outbreak of World War II.


[5] Lowe, N (2008). Mastering Modern World History, (4th edition). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 75-80

Done by: Rachel Chan, Vanessa Ow
Hitler's foreign policies, (accessed 27 June)
Lowe, N (2008). Mastering Modern World History, (4th edition). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 47-48, 75-80
Hitler’s foreign policies, (Accessed 25 June)
Naval Disarmament Conference, (Accessed 25 June)


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