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There were several events that led to the outbreak of World War II. One event was the Versailles Treaty, which was very harsh on Germany. Germany had to pay the Allies $33 billion in reparations. They also had to accept the responsibility for World War I. Germany resented these harsh actions, and when Germany struggled economically in the 1920s, Adolf Hitler vowed to get revenge.

Wilson managed to persuade himself that the German kaiser was the epitome of evil in the world. Getting rid of him and abolishing Germany’s constitutional monarchy, it was assumed in Wilsonian circles, would lead to a more peaceful world in the long run, as the expansionist Germany of the kaiser gave way to the representative and moderate Weimar regime.


In January 1918, Wilson issued what became known as his Fourteen Points, outlining the principles of world order that he believed should inform any peace settlement. Wilson spoke of a “peace without victory,” in which the victors would seek no unjust aggrandizement at the expense of the defeated nations. Among Wilson’s principles were an end to secret diplomacy, which was thought to have contributed to the war’s outbreak; reduction of armaments among victor and vanquished alike; the return of Poland to the map, in indisputably Polish lands; free trade; freedom of the seas; an impartial settlement of all colonial claims; and a League of Nations, an international body that Wilson believed could put an end to war once and for all. An additional principle informing Wilsonian diplomacy, though not expressly included in the Fourteen Points, was that of national self-determination: Every people should have the right to determine its own political fate.

Following the German surrender in November 1918, Wilson departed for the peace conference in Paris. In keeping with his uncompromising nature, he brought with him not a single influential Republican; the one Republican in the delegation, lifetime diplomat Henry White, had little connection to the party.

The diplomatic wrangling that took place at the peace conference has been the subject of countless detailed studies. The important point to take away is that Wilson’s fond hopes of a “peace without victory”—a peace concerned more with justice than with vengeance, a peace taking into account all just claims, whether of victor or vanquished—were quickly dashed. In the closed-door negotiations among the Big Four (Britain, France, Italy, and the United States), Wilson saw only revenge and self-aggrandizement.

So wedded was Wilson to the idea of a League of Nations that the British and French delegations knew that all they had to do to persuade the American president to abandon any of the other Fourteen Points was to threaten not to join his beloved League. For his part, Wilson persuaded himself that as long as he got his League, that institution could modify any objectionable aspects of the peace treaty. Ultimately, for Wilson, it was the League that mattered.

Historians have pointed to the punitive Treaty of Versailles, which established peace terms with Germany at the end of World War I, as a major contributing factor to World War II. Hitler appealed to the patriotism and honor of the German people, who detested the Versailles Treaty, for support of his foreign policy. Woodrow Wilson, who had genuinely wanted to make the world safe for democracy, did not. An even more terrible conflict would erupt two decades later.

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"What Led to the Outbreak of World War Two?" History on the Net
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July 13, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/how-did-wartime-pressures-create-a-break-from-the-past>
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