Did the British start the WWII?

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  • #1
EnumaElish
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I came across this post under another (now locked) thread:
Art said:
The second world war started over Britain's concern for her empire. She declared war on Germany for purely selfish reasons.
which sounded unusual (in an impartial sense of the word). Can anyone elaborate or point me in the right direction as to what the underlying story might be here?
 

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  • #2
turbo
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Please start studying history. If you think that Britain was picking on poor little Germany, you might not have done your homework.
 
  • #3
Art
EnumaElish said:
I came across this post under another (now locked) thread:which sounded unusual (in an impartial sense of the word). Can anyone elaborate or point me in the right direction as to what the underlying story might be here?
The second world war didn't have a definitive starting point as there were regional fights going on all over the place. The full blown war joined up all the dots. It started from Britain's point of view when Britain (and France a couple of days later) declared war on Germany when Germany (and Russia) invaded Poland having previously told Hitler as far as they were concerned he could have a free hand in the east (because Britain was more worried about Russia).

It is also interesting (and telling) to note Britain had rejected an offer from Russia of a mutual defence pact the year before.

The British strategy fell apart when Russia and Germany, instead of coming to blows, signed a non-aggression pact and set about carving up Poland between them.

Poland were themselves no innocents they had been allies of Germany the year before and had happily shared the spoils of their joint invasion of Czecho-Slovakia.

Poland and Germany fell out when Poland refused to return the Port of Danzig which had been taken off Germany and given to the Poles after WW1.
 
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  • #4
jimmy p
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If I recall, Germany was invading and pinching land all over the place, but Poland was the last straw. (brief and uninsightful :tongue2:)
 
  • #5
russ_watters
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Art, could you be specific: are you claiming that Britain wanted to go to war prior to, say, 1938?

Also, could WWII have been prevented by any action (or non-action) from Britain?
 
  • #6
Art
russ_watters said:
Art, could you be specific: are you claiming that Britain wanted to go to war prior to, say, 1938?
No, it is my understanding they didn't want to go to war prior to 1938. Britain's ruling elite were supportive of Hitler and saw Stalin's Russia as their greatest threat. In fact it is still a mystery to historians why Chamberlain did a complete U turn.

As I said he encouraged Hitler to expand eastwards. First Hallifax in Nov 1937 followed by a cofidential meeting between the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Neville Henderson and Hitler where the message was conveyed that the British Gov't was "much in sympathy with Hitler's desire for change in europe to Germany's benefit." Respected historians such as Liddell Hart have stated their belief that without this encouragement Hitler would never have set out on his invasion path.

russ_watters said:
Also, could WWII have been prevented by any action (or non-action) from Britain?
People misunderstand what WW2 was. There were numerous conflicts going on. Some would have been avoidable and some not.

It is possible that much of western europe could have avoided warfare if either Britain and France had allied with Germany (which if not for Churchill could have been a distinct possibility) or if Britain had signed the mutual defence pact offered by Russia in 1938.

Another strong possibilty is that if Britain and France hadn't declared war it is possible that having carved up Poland, Russia and Germany would have come to blows far earlier and worn each other out.

Or if, as stated above, were it not for the active encouragement given to Hitler by the British gov't. he would never have developed his ambitions. (This is based on documents recovered after the war detailing meetings between Hitler and his military)

Going back a little further if the Versailles treaty following WW1 had not been so hard on Germany it is unlikely that Hitler would ever have risen to power.

Whether the USA might have avoided the war in the Pacific and thus Britain might have avoided the loss of their eastern empire is another question entirely. That had it's own separate logic and motivations.
 
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  • #7
russ_watters
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Does the whole thing with the Jews weigh into that at all??

Also, how do you differentiate between appeasement and actual encouragement?
 
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  • #8
russ_watters said:
Does the whole thing with the Jews weigh into that at all??
Antisemitism was pretty rampant at that point in history unless I am mistaken and I think that Art was right when he stated (in the other thread) that we didn't really know how bad the situation with the jews had gotten until the war was already under way.
 
  • #9
russ_watters
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TheStatutoryApe said:
Antisemitism was pretty rampant at that point in history unless I am mistaken and I think that Art was right when he stated (in the other thread) that we didn't really know how bad the situation with the jews had gotten until the war was already under way.
That isn't what I was getting at. I'm wondering what impact that had or what kind of indicator (even if not discovered until after the war) that was of whether or not war with Germany was inevitable.
 
  • #10
russ_watters
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Also, do you have a reference for this quote?:
Art said:
"much in sympathy with Hitler's desire for change in europe to Germany's benefit."
 
  • #11
Some claim that the full extent of what was happening in German-controlled areas was not known until after the war. However, numerous rumors and eyewitness accounts from escapees and others gave some indication that Jews were being killed in large numbers. Since the early years of the war the Polish government-in-exile published documents and organised meetings to spread word of the fate of the Jews. By early 1941, the British had received information via an intercepted Chilean memo that Jews were being targeted, and by late 1941 they had intercepted information about a number of large massacres of Jews conducted by German police. In the summer of 1942 a Jewish labor organization (the Bund) got word to London that 700,000 Polish Jews had already died, and the BBC took the story seriously, though the United States State Department did not take the news seriously[31]. By the end of 1942, however, the evidence of the Holocaust had become clear and on December 17, 1942 the Allies issued a statement that the Jews were being transported to Poland and killed. The US State Department was aware of the use and the location of the gas chambers of extermination camps, but refused pleas to bomb them out of operation. On May 12, 1943, Polish government-in-exile and Bund leader Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide in London to protest the inaction of the world with regard to the Holocaust, stating in part in his suicide letter:

I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being killed. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave.
By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.


Debate also continues on how much average Germans knew about the Holocaust. Recent historical work suggests that the majority of Germans knew that Jews were being indiscriminately killed and persecuted, even if they did not know of the specifics of the death camps. Robert Gellately, a historian at Oxford University, conducted a widely-respected survey of the German media before and during the war, concluding that there was "substantial consent and active participation of large numbers of ordinary Germans" in aspects of the Holocaust, and documenting that the sight of columns of slave laborers were common, and that the basics of the concentration camps, if not the extermination camps, were widely known[32].
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust#Who_knew_about_the_killings.3F
It seems that not many were very concerned. Several European countries even assisted in rounding them up and executing them.
I see what you mean though I think it may have fallen out like Rawanda where several people denounced what was going on but dragged their feet when it came to doing anything about it.
 
  • #12
EnumaElish
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Art said:
As I said he encouraged Hitler to expand eastwards. First Hallifax in Nov 1937 followed by a cofidential meeting between the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Neville Henderson and Hitler where the message was conveyed that the British Gov't was "much in sympathy with Hitler's desire for change in europe to Germany's benefit." Respected historians such as Liddell Hart have stated their belief that without this encouragement Hitler would never have set out on his invasion path.
I think you are referring to the Appeasement Policy that was in effect until Churchill replaced Chamberlin. Hitler very much hoped and waited for Britain (or France) to join him in the fight against Communism.
 
  • #13
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Or if, as stated above, were it not for the active encouragement given to Hitler by the British gov't. he would never have developed his ambitions. (This is based on documents recovered after the war detailing meetings between Hitler and his military)
I was under the impression that the Nazi's were developing there munitions and warfare hardware with restrictions impossed on them by the British after WW1. One thing I found interesting is that they let the Nazi's after some negotiation to build there Army/Navy but restricted it to Tonnage not units. Which with recent (at the time) discoveries in Engineering ment that they could build a LOT of units with the restrictions impossed. Another thing I understood was that the Nazi's would have gone west in any event, because they did not like the fact we (UK/US/FR)had put restrictions on them. The Riech main aim was to form a massive empire, so even if we did sign anything with them I believe they would have gone west regardless.
 
  • #14
Art
russ_watters said:
Also, do you have a reference for this quote?:
History of the Second World War - Liddell Hart p9

Here's some more corroborating quotes -

Henry (Chips) Channon, diary entry (5th December, 1936)

I had a long conversation with Lord Halifax about Germany and his recent visit. He described Hitler's appearance, his khaki shirt, black breeches and patent leather evening shoes. He told me he liked all the Nazi leaders, even Goebbels, and he was much impressed, interested and amused by the visit. He thinks the regime absolutely fantastic, perhaps even too fantastic to be taken seriously. But he is very glad that he went, and thinks good may come of it. I was rivetted by all he said, and reluctant to let him go.
William Gallacher, a member of the Communist Party, was a strong advocate of a military alliance with the Soviet Union. He was also opposed to the appeasement policy of the Conservative government. He wrote about these views in The Chosen Few (1940).

It is no exaggeration to say that many prominent representatives of the Conservative Party, speaking for powerful landed and financial interests in the country, would welcome Hitler and the German Army if they believed that such was the only alternative to the establishment of Socialism in this country.

Their blatant and noisy approval of German and Italian ferocity and frightfulness in Spain, and their utter lack of concern for the sinking of British ships and the sacrifice of British lives, provides abundant proof of this contention.

The Nazis knew that in all capitalist countries there were men such as these ready to betray their own people, if by that means they could save their own property and privilege.

The first indication we got of the policy that led to Munich was in a speech by a young gentleman named Lennox-Boyd, M. P. for Mid-Bedfordshire. Until his elevation to Ministerial office, Mr. Lennox-Boyd had been a member of the notorious pro-Franco propaganda organisation, the Friends of National Spain.

This gentleman had been one of Mr. Chamberlain's first Back Bench selections for a Government post. The only reason anyone could see for his appointment as assistant to the Minister of Labour was his ferocious
hatred of the democratic. Government of Spain and his open expression of brutal glee at every advance of its
German, Italian and Franco enemies. He was chosen because he had all the qualities and all the connections of a good fifth-column supporter. It was from this pro-fascist junior Minister we got the first statement of policy on Czechoslovakia. In a speech delivered at Biggleswade, to the local Conservative organisation, he informed his audience and the country as a whole that the Prime Minister had no intention of doing anything to defend Czechoslovakia.

This declaration of policy created a sensation in the Press and in the country and was immediately made the subject of a question in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister smilingly said that his young friend had probably allowed his feelings to carry him away, but that he was only stating his own opinion and was not claiming to put the policy of the Government.

He treated the matter in the most casual manner, and unfortunately, after Mr. Lennox-Boyd had made an apology for what he claimed was an "indiscretion," the House of Commons allowed the matter to drop.
Hugh Christie, report to MI6 on a meeting he had with Hermann Goering on 3rd February, 1937.

I asked the General straight out "What is Germany's aim in Europe today?" Goering replied "We want a free hand in Eastern Europe. We want to establish the unity of the German peoples (Grossdeutschegemeinschaft)'. I said "Do you mean to get Austria?" Reply "Yes". I said "Do you mean to get Czechoslovakia?" Reply "Yes".
Henry (Chips) Channon, diary entry on the opponents of appeasement in the Conservative Party (22nd March, 1938)

The Insurgents: Winston Churchill, Leo Amery, Duncan Sandys, Harold Nicolson, Godfrey Nicholson, Leonard Ropner, Derrick Gunston, Ronnie Cartland, Ronnie Tree, the Duchess of Atholl, Paul Emiys-Evans, Vyvyan Adams, Louis Spears, Bob Boothby, Victor Cazalet, Brendan Bracken and Jack Macnamara.
Note the use of the term insurgents to show how far out of step Churchill was at that time with British policy towards Germany.
 
  • #15
Art
russ_watters said:
Does the whole thing with the Jews weigh into that at all??
No, at least the rampant anti-semitism prevalent particularly in Germany, although well known, never seems to have been mentioned in any of the discussions leading up to the war. It seems most european countries were at best indifferent to the fate of the jews.

russ_watters said:
Also, how do you differentiate between appeasement and actual encouragement?
IMO Appeasement is giving up something you own in order to avoid war which Britain never did. Encouragement is actively supporting by word or deed other people giving up something they own in support of your own perceived national interest. In this case the fear of communism far outweighed the fear of Hitler who's anti-communist policies were admired by many in Britain.
 
  • #16
russ_watters
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In other words, you don't think the appeasement policy existed?

Given the history of Germany's actions leading up to the war, starting as far back as 1933 with the start of the persecution of the Jews and the withdrawal from the League of Nations, I find your perspective on this hard to reconcile with historical fact. I believe such facts show pretty conclusively that Germany was moving toward war long before it happened, and there was little anyone could do to stop it - about the only thing that could have been done was to have the war sooner, before Germany became so strong. Britain may have hoped to avoid joining the war (or opening a new front on the west) by appeasing Germany about pushing east, but that wasn't going to stop the war either way - contrary to the implication in the initial quote in this thread. That quote says, essentially, that WWII started when Britian declared war - but the war was, most certainly, already underway before Britain entered it. Perhaps it couldn't be called a "world war" until then, but a war for control of Europe was most certainly underway, whether the major powers choose to join or not.

Quotes about how diplomats personally liked the Nazi diplomats are not equivalent to saying that they actively encouraged Germany's expansion and that view you are expressing is not the prevaling historical view.
 
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  • #17
Art
russ_watters said:
In other words, you don't think the appeasement policy existed?
Appeasement was simply a derogatory term used by opponents to criticise the conservative party's foreign policy at the time.

russ_watters said:
Given the history of Germany's actions leading up to the war, starting as far back as 1933 with the start of the persecution of the Jews and the withdrawal from the League of Nations, I find your perspective on this hard to reconcile with historical fact. I believe such facts show pretty conclusively that Germany was moving toward war long before it happened, and there was little anyone could do to stop it - about the only thing that could have been done was to have the war sooner, before Germany became so strong.
Don't confuse historical facts with WW2 movies. The information I have provided is historical fact and serious historians have a very different view to the popular spin put on events by the eventual victors. Probably best summed up by a quote from Churchill "history will be kind to me because I intend to write it"

edit- can you provide any sources to show that saving the jews from persecution was a factor in Britain or anyone else for that matter going to war with Germany?

russ_watters said:
Britain may have hoped to avoid joining the war (or opening a new front on the west) by appeasing Germany about pushing east, but that wasn't going to stop the war either way - contrary to the implication in the initial quote in this thread. That quote says, essentially, that WWII started when Britian declared war - but the war was, most certainly, already underway before Britain entered it.
Appeasement suggests a begrudging approval. The records show that the PM and his foreign secretary actively supported Hitler's expansion eastward as did the Duke of Windsor and many other high ranking British officials.

I have already expanded on my initial quote - when world war 2 actually started is a matter of perspective. From the British point of view it started when they declared war on Germany in Sept 1939 whereas the Ethiopians no doubt believe it started when Italy invaded them a few years earlier in 1935. It could equally be argued that WW2 began as early as the end of WW1 with the seeds of discontent sown by the Versailles Treaty or as late as 1941 when Japan and the USA became involved. For practical purposes it seems fair to say that it started when the first super power of the time - Britain, became involved in which case it is also fair to say it began with Britain's declaration of war.

As for the timing of the war, Britain, France and Poland should have pulverised Germany in Sept 1939. It was a combination of brilliant generalship by the Germans coupled with unbelievable incompetence by the allies that led to Germany's initial conquest of europe.

Given that combination any time would have been a bad time for the allies.

At the outbreak Poland had 30 active divisions and 10 reserve divisions. It also had 12 large cavalry divisions although only 1 was motorised plus it had 2,500,000 trained men available to mobilise. France had 110 divisions including 2 mechanised and 1 armoured and a further 5,000,000 trained men available to mobilise. Britain sent 5 divisions to help France and imposed a naval blockade.

Germany on the other hand had 52 active divisions who were very short of artillary and other weapons. At the start of the war Germany had 0 heavy tanks and only a handful of medium tanks.

Records show that the German generals at the time were astonished and greatly relieved that France and Britain did not attack their western flank whilst they were fighting Poland. If they had done so Germany would have been crushed. Instead with their WW1 mentality they sat in their fixed defensive lines for 10 months whilst Germany built up it's armed forces with ironically the help of the Russians who's public overtures for an alliance with Britain had been spurned.


russ_watters said:
Quotes about how diplomats personally liked the Nazi diplomats are not equivalent to saying that they actively encouraged Germany's expansion and that view you are expressing is not the prevaling historical view.
already addressed
 
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  • #18
So after the war, what happened to Germany in terms of restrictions placed on them? was there another treaty signed like at Versaille? Are those restrictions and laws (if any) still in effect to this day?
 
  • #19
Art
Physics is Phun said:
So after the war, what happened to Germany in terms of restrictions placed on them? was there another treaty signed like at Versaille? Are those restrictions and laws (if any) still in effect to this day?
The allies accepted that the harshness of the Versailles treaty was the major influence leading to the popular support for the remilitarisation of Germany and that it provided the fertile conditions which allowed Hitler to come to power and so after WW2 the allies were far more gracious in victory. This time they helped to rebuild Germany through the Marshall Plan.

Austria was split off again as an independent state and it and Germany were divided between 4 zones controlled by Britain, France, America and Russia. There were demands made for reparations by the allied powers totalling $320 billion but I am unsure if any of this was ever paid.

The jews also made demands for reparations and several billion dollars was paid to the new state of Israel. Further reparations were sought and paid to compensate the eastern european jews following the reunification of Germany.

Other than that the allies insisted Germany rewrite their constitution to prevent offensive wars and to prevent an individual such as Hitler grabbing power again.

The allies also entrenched a large army in Germany both to make sure the Germans behaved and as a buffer in case of a Russian invasion.
 
  • #20
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i doubt that the british actually started WWII because most of the western leaders wanted to fight communism. hitler was one of roosevelt's allies, & it's common knowledge that germany declared war on the US when they declared war on japan. the US, however did want to enter the war because of they (well the council on foreign relations & the state dept, etc) knew that the US would basically rule the world afterwards. bill blum has written that
"It has been asserted that dropping of the atomic bombs was not so much the last military act of the Second World War as the first act of the Cold War. Although Japan was targeted, the weapons were aimed straight to the red heart of the USSR. For more than 70 years, the determining element of US foreign policy, virtually its sine qua non, has been "the communist factor". World War II and a battlefield alliance with the Soviet Union did not bring about an ideological change in the anti-communists who owned and ran America. It merely provided a partial breather in a struggle that had begun with the US invasion of Russia in 1918. It is hardly surprising then, that 25 years later, as the Soviets were sustaining the highest casualties of any nation in World War II, the US systematically kept them in the dark about the A-bomb project, while sharing information with the British.

According to Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard, Secretary of State Byrnes had said that the bomb's biggest benefit was not its effect on Japan but its power to "make Russia more manageable in Europe".
http://members.aol.com/essays6/abomb.htm [Broken]
 
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  • #21
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The Brits started WWII. . . . This is the most ludicrous crackpottery ever to appear on these forums.
 
  • #22
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The Brits started WWII. . . . This is the most ludicrous crackpottery ever to appear on these forums.
OMG THE IRONY! IM DYING HERE :rofl: :rofl:
 
  • #23
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:!!) :!!) :!!) HAHA! I thought you would like that Cyrus.:!!) :!!) :!!)
 
  • #24
Fourier Jr said:
hitler was one of roosevelt's allies
That's funny....
After World War II began (and over the objections of Sir Stewart Menzies, wartime head of British intelligence) now-Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent Stephenson to the United States on June 21, 1940 to covertly open and run the British Security Coordination (BSC) in New York City, over a year prior to the US entering the war.

The BSC office, headquartered in room 3603 in Rockefeller Center, became an umbrella organization that by the end of the war represented the British intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 (SIS or Secret Intelligence Service), SOE (Special Operations Executive) and PWE (Political Warfare Executive) throughout North America, South America and the Caribbean.

Stephenson's initial directives for BSC were 1) to investigate enemy activities, 2) institute security measures against the threat of sabotage to British property, and 3) organize American public opinion in favor of aid to Britain. Later this was expanded to included "the assurance of American participation in secret activities throughout the world in the closest possible collaboration with the British."

Stephenson's official title was British Passport Control Officer. His unofficial mission was to create a secret British intelligence network throughout the western hemisphere, and to operate covertly and very broadly on behalf of the British government and the Allies in aid of winning the war. He also became Churchill's personal representative to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Stephenson was soon a very close advisor to FDR, and suggested to Roosevelt that he put Stephenson's good friend William J. 'Wild Bill' Donovan in charge of all US intelligence services. Donovan founded the US wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which eventually became the Central Intelligence Agency.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stephenson#World_War_II
My emphasis added.
 
  • #25
EnumaElish
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I guess one can say that WWII did not start until Britain entered the fray (or that it did not start before the U.S. joined the fight), and be right in a definitional sense. In that sense, saying that "Britain started WWII for selfish reasons" is equivalent to saying "Britain started to fight against Germany for selfish reasons." Which was probably the point that Art meant to make originally.
 

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