Wwii study Guide Events Leading to wwii

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WWII Study Guide

Events Leading to WWII

Japanese Aggression

  • Reasons

    • Wanted Raw Materials and Markets

    • Needed living space for growing population

    • Wanted less dependence on foreign goods/materials

    • Manchuria (1931) and China (1937)

Italian Aggression

  • 1934 – Ethiopia

  • Reasons: power and prestige

  • Ethiopia appeals to League of Nations

    • League of Nations too weak to enforce

German Aggression – 6 steps to War

Nationalism and Militarism Germany began rebuilding military


German moved into Rhineland (1936)

  • broke Treaty of Versailles

  • League of Nations did nothing

Austrian invasion – Germans met with little resistance


Czechoslovakia was demanded by Hitler at the Munich Conference in 1938. Great Britain’s Prime Minister (Chamberlain) gave into Hitler’s demands in order to keep peace in Europe and avoid war. If you give a mouse a cookie…if you give Hitler the Sudetenland he’ll want the rest of Czechoslovakia

  • Munich Conference – France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy meet in Munich, Germany to discuss the fate of the Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia). Czechoslovakia not invited. France/Great Britain agreed to give Hitler the Sudetenland to avoid war in Europe


The US would not get involved in European affairs. The Axis Powers were encouraged to take more risks and aggressive actions knowing that US would not get involved to stop them.

Treaty of Versailles

The treaty was a R.A.W deal for Germany and Italy. Japan was also angry that they didn’t get a “radical equality” clause in the League of Nations clause.

The Spark

Poland – September 1, 1939. Hitler invades Poland after the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact is signed. This is the spark that begins WWII

  • Nazi – Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

    • Public Part - Hitler and Stalin agree to NOT attack one another for 10 years

    • Secret Part – Hitler and Stalin agree to split Poland

Causes - A.G.G.R.E.S.S.I.O.N Caused WWII

A. Appeasement – Appeasement means to give into someone in order to keep peace. At the Munich Conference in 1938, Britain and France gave into Hitler’s demands for the Sudetenland in order to avoid war. This was a cause of WWII because Hitler believed that Britain and France would keep giving into his demands to avoid going to war, therefore appeasement encouraged him to take more aggressive action in the future.
G. German and Italian Fascism – Fascism was a political belief that had the following characteristics: Extreme Nationalism, Militarism, private ownership of businesses, a class system, racism, and a totalitarian government with strict obedience to its ruler. This caused WWII because fascism’s belief in extreme nationalism and militarism led Germany and Italy to use aggressive tactics to expand their borders and to demonstrate their power. In addition, Hitler and Mussolini demanded total obedience from their citizens giving them total power to achieve their goals.
G. Great Depression – The Great Depression began on October 29, 1929 when the U.S. Stock Market crashed. Reasons for the Great Depression include buying stock on margin, overproduction of goods, and under consumption due to lagging wages. The Great Depression resulted in High Unemployment, High inflation, Home and farm foreclosures, and business failures. The Great Depression spread around the world. Some countries looked for strong leaders to solve their countries problems due to the depression. This led to the rise of totalitarian dictators like Hitler and Mussolini who took aggressive action against the countries around them.
R. Reaction to the invasion of Poland – Through the Nazi-Soviet Aggression Pact, Hitler had secured an agreement with Stalin to split Poland once Germany attacked it. The invasion of Poland by Germany was achieved by Hitler’s use of blitzkrieg, or lightening war and was the start of WWII. The invasion caused WWII because France and Great Britain finally realized that Hitler could not be stopped without going to war. In reaction to the invasion, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.*
E. Expansionism – Expansionism, also known as Imperialism, is the expanding of a country’s borders in order to dominate the political, economic and social life of another country. During the 1930s, Italy, Germany and Japan used aggressive tactics to expand their borders. Italy attacked Ethiopia. Germany attacked the Austria, Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. Japan expanded into Manchuria and China. Expansionism caused WWII because it led these countries into conflict with other countries.*
S. Stupid Treaty of Versailles – The Treaty of Versailles was the agreement between the allies and Central Powers that ended WWI and created anger and resentment with the Axis powers. The treaty was a R.A.W. deal for Germany, meaning Germany had to pay reparations, give up land, reduce its military and sign a war guilt clause. Japan was angry that they didn’t get a “racial equality” clause in the League of Nations charter. Italy was angry that they didn’t get the land that was promised to them for fighting with the Allies. The Treaty of Versailles caused WWII because it humiliated the Axis Powers and caused them to want to seek revenge. *
S. Strong Japanese Militarism – Extreme glorification of the military was an aspect of Japanese culture during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Japanese children played with military toys, and received military training in school. Fighting and dying for the Japanese emperor was considered an honor. The Japanese military eventually gained control of the government. This was a cause of WWII because it encouraged leaders to take aggressive action to solve the countries problems of overpopulation, and lack of raw materials. *
I. Isolationism – Isolationism was the foreign policy of the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Isolationism meant that the U.S. would not get involved in Europe’s problems. Isolationism was a cause of WWII because the Axis powers were encouraged to take more risk and aggressive action knowing that the U.S. would not get involved to stop them.
O. Only 1 Master Race – This was Hitler’s policy to create a World Empire where Aryan’s (blond-haired, blue-eyed German’s) would enslave or kill non-Aryan’s (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, communists etc). Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat in WWII and the country’s economic problems. This caused WWII because Hitler had to conquer Europe in order to achieve his goal of “only 1 master race”, bringing him into conflict with other nations.
N. No Reaction from the League of Nations - The League of Nations was an organization created at the end of WWII with the goal of maintaining lasting peace. The LON was ineffective partly because the U.S., the world’s most powerful nation, didn’t join, but also because it didn’t have the authority to enforce its decisions. No reaction from the League of Nations caused WWII because the Axis powers saw there would be now consequences for their aggressive actions; therefore it motivated the Axis powers to take what they wanted.

WWII Basics

Axis Powers vs. Allied Powers

Japan Russia (USSR)

Italy USA

Germany Britain

Axis Power (Japan, Germany, Italy) similarities

  • Militaristic

  • Nationalistic

  • Expansionist policies – agreed not to interfere with each other’s plans

  • Angry about Treaty of Versailles

  • Ignore League of Nations – withdraw in 1930’s

Theaters (Playing Fields – places where WWII was fought)

Europe and North Africa

Coaches & Lineup


  • Hitler (Der Fuhrer) – Dictator of Nazi Germany, Racist policies against the Jews led to the Holocaust


  • Mussolini (Il Duci) – Dictator of Fascist Italy. Appointed by King Victor Emmanuel after the fascist revolution known as the March on Rome. Fired by King Victor Emmanuel when Allies advance on Italy. Beaten, killed and hung in a town square in Northern Italy by the Italian resistance towards the end of the war.


  • Tojo40th Prime Minister of Japan and Military leader during WWII. Executed for war crimes at the end of WWII

  • Yamamoto – Mastermind behind the attack on Pearl Harbor. Felt a swift victory over the U.S. was necessary to win the war. U.S. industrial mite would win the war if prolonged.

  • HirohitoEmperor of Japan. He was a figurehead and remained Emperor under US Occupation

Soviet Union

  • StalinTotalitarian dictator of communist Russia during WWII. Ordered his troops to hold Stalingrad at all costs. Successfully defeated the German’s at the Battle of Stalingrad. His troops were the first to reach Berlin and find Hitler had committed suicide at the end of the war.


  • De Gaulle – French General who fled to Great Britain after its defeat by the Nazi’s. De Gaulle was the de facto President of the Free French Government. He assisted the allies to defeat the Axis powers during WWII. He led the Free French troops during the invasion of France on D-Day

Great Britain

  • Churchill – Prime Minister of G.B. beginning in 1940. He motivated Great Britain’s to defeat Hitler during the Battle of Britain proving Hitler could be beat. He remained prime minister throughout WWII.

United States

  • Roosevelt (FDR)President of the United States during the Great Depression and WWII. He convinced Congress to declare war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor leading the U.S. into WWII

  • TrumanSucceeded Roosevelt as President. Responsible for the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan

  • EisenhowerSupreme Allied Commander of Allied forces in Europe and North Africa. He was responsible for allied forces during Operation Torch (N. Africa) and D-Day (France). All Allied Generals in Europe and North Africa reported to Eisenhower. He became President of the United States in 1957.

  • MacArthurCommander of U.S. troops in the Pacific. Defeated the Japanese at Midway, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa using the strategy of Island Hopping.. Japanese surrender to MacArthur September 2, 1945 after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Important Battles in WWII

  1. Battle of Poland – Spark that started WWII. Hitler uses blitzkrieg (lightning war) to defeat the Poles

  1. Battle of France – France defeated. 3 Results:

  • North – German occupation by Nazi military

  • South – Vichy France. French military commander, Henri Petain establishes a puppet government controlled by the Nazi’s. Vichy France collaborates with Nazi’s to fight Allies in N. Africa and deport Jews to concentration camps

  • Free French Government – General Charles De Gaulle flees France and establishes the French resistance and assists the Allies in defeating Germany

  1. Battle of Britain – British Royal Air Force (RAF) vs. German Luftwaffe

  • British Secret Weapons – Radar(detects incoming plans), Enigma (German code breaking machine allows British to decipher German secret codes), Blackout (citizens use black curtains to block light, so Luftwaffe can’t see targets)

  • Blitz – German Luftwaffe bombs civilians in London and other major cities during the summer of 1940

    • Working class citizens - find safety in Tube Stations (subway)

    • Wealthy class – leave cities for homes in the country

    • Citizens owe lives to the RAF

  1. Battle of Stalingrad (USSR) – Turning Point in WWII

  • Broke German army (defeated) - lose 20 Generals, 100,000 men, large portion of supplies and equipment. Army never recovers from the loss

  • First major loss of German Army on the Eastern Front

  • Germany never on the offensive on the Eastern front again

  1. Pearl Harbor – Japanese surprise attack on the Hawaiian Islands

    • 3 Reasons Japanese attack

  • Angry at U.S. for stopping shipments of oil and metal -saw this action as a threat to their national security

  • Believe U.S. will interfere with their plan to expand in the Pacific

  • Want to destroy the U.S. fleet in the Pacific

  • US enters WWII*

  1. D-Day – Operation Overlord = Invasion of France by Allies to push German’s out of France

    • Importance – opens the Western Front. Hitler has to split his armies and fight allies from 3 directions.

    • Eisenhower, Montgomery, De Gaulle vs. Rommel

    • Largest amphibious invasion in history

    • Allies invade 5 beaches in Normandy France – Omaha*(US), Utah (US), Sword, Juno and Gold (Canadian, British, French). *most casualties

  1. Hiroshima and Nagasaki – U.S. drops the first atomic bombs on Japan to end the war in the Pacific

Yalta Conference – Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin meet in Feb 1945 to discuss the Post War world

  • United Nations – plan to form world organization to maintain peace

  • Division of Germany and Berlin – 4 zones occupied by France, Great Britain, US, USSR


  • Loss of Empires by European powers

  • Established two world powers (USSR and US)

  • Nuremberg War Crime Trials

  • Division of Europe (Iron Curtain)

  • Formation of the United Nations

  • Universal of Declaration of Human Rights

  • Marshall Plan

  • Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO)

Holocaust – 6M of 10M European Jews exterminated

  • Hitler convinces Germans that Jews are to blame for Germany’s problems

  • 3 Solutions to get rid of the Jews

    • 1. Forced Emigration – 250,000 Jews leave Germany

      • Concentration camps begin

    • 2. Jewish Ghetto’s established – Jews forced to live in walled section of town with little food or sanitation

    • 3. Final Solution – Hitler’s code word for total elimination of European Jews

      • Genocide – elimination of a group of people based on ethnicity or race

      • Death camps established – mass shootings, starvation, poison gas

      • Auschwitz – largest death camp, 1 million Jews die

Other Examples of Genocide-

  • Armenians by the leaders of the Ottoman Turks

  • Russians under Stalin

  • The educated under Pol Pot

  • Tutsi minority by Hutus in Rwanda

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