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WW2 in Colour part 5

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Published on Mar 23, 2012

Unlike many wars, blame for outbreak of the Second World War can be firmly placed on the hands of a single individual, Adolf Hitler, chancellor of Germany from 1933. His program for power was set down in Mein Kampf, 'My Struggle', written in part while he was in jail after a failed attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic in 1923. In it, Hitler outlined his vision of a future in which all Germans would be united in a single Reich which would thus include Austria, the Sudentenland in Czechoslovakia, and those areas of Poland lost by Germany after 1918, in which France would have been humbled by Germany and reduced to the status of a small nation, and finally, in which Germany would control a large empire in eastern Europe, carved largely out of Russia and Poland. Once he came to power, he immediately began a program of rearmament, at first hidden, but eventually openly, and started to organize the Germany economy on a war footing. He soon started to achieve his aims. First was the reoccupation of the Rhineland, forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. In 7 March 1936 German troops marched across the Rhine bridges, under orders to retreat if the French, who at that point massively outnumbered the German army, took any action. Hitler was well aware that his regime would not survive such a humiliation, but the French did not act. Once in the Rhineland, Hitler was able to built the West Wall, a system of fortifications that severely limited any French ability to attack Germany if her eastern allies were threatened. Hitler next moved to Austria, where after a campaign of terror inside Austria he was able to launch a bloodless invasion (March 1938). Hitler quickly moved on to Czechoslovakia, where the presence of three million Germans, once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, gave him his excuse. Under intense pressure from their apparent allies, Britain and France, the Czechs were forced to give in (29 September 1938), and hand over the Sudentenland, which contained the well built Czech fortifications. Once again, any French attack against the badly weakened German border would have resulted in an easy victory while the bulk of the German army would have been held up in the Czech defences, where they were faced by an army equal in size to their own. In 1939, Hitler moved on to Poland. This time Danzig and the Polish Corridor were his excuse, but his first attempt, in March, was rebuffed by strong Polish resistance, and joint English and French support of the Poles. Hitler had a deadline of September for military action, and he spent the summer building up to his invasion. During August, Hitler started to built up his forces on the Polish border. On 23 August, Germany and Russia signed a non-aggression pact, secretly agreeing to partition Poland between them. Finally, after a manufactured incident on 31 August, on 1 September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. On 3 September, both France and Britain declared war on Germany. The Second World War had begun.

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