World War II was a global conflict that erupted at the end of the 1930s in Eastern Europe. The rise to power in Germany of the German Socialist Workers Party led by Adolf Hitler and the annexation of Poland were the inciting incidents that led Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany.
What Were the Causes of World War II?
As Hitler rose to power in the economically unstable and politically fractured Germany of the 1930s, he expressed interest in uniting all German-speaking people, particularly in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. He had also begun to build up the country's military might, which caused worry across Europe. Britain and France were concerned about the militarization, as well as the Communist influence in Russia, and believed that allowing Germany to militarize and create a show of force might halt the spread of communism to western Europe.
When Hitler ordered German troops to enter the Rhineland in 1936, France and Britain, still crippled from World War I, weren't eager to start another conflict. During this period, Hitler formed alliances with Mussolini's Italy and Japan. In 1938, Hitler marched into Austria and found that the majority of the population desired to be part of Germany. Hitler claimed that this was the extent of his wishes for German expansion, and he wasn't challenged by any other European power.
Hitler then began an invasion of Czechoslovakia but insisted to British and French powers that he was only interested in acquiring a portion of the region. They conceded. Once again, Hitler's word proved false, and he invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. Still not perturbed enough to start a war, Britain and France assumed this was the end of Germany's aggression. But, when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939, they could look the other way no longer, and war was declared.
What Countries Were Involved in the War?
Though World War II initially began as a conflict between Germany, Poland, Great Britain and France, it soon expanded to include Japan, Italy, the United States, Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, nations such as Denmark and Norway, and colonized nations in North Africa that were occupied by German forces.
How Did World War II End?
World War II ended in 1945 with an Allied victory following the suicide of Adolf Hitler and surrender of the German army. The Japanese army, however, continued fighting for nearly four months after Germany surrendered. The United States, fearing a long, drawn-out battle in the Pacific, dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The subsequent surrender by the Japanese put an end to the combat.