Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War in Europe

Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War in Europe

Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War in Europe

Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War in Europe


Offers a new perspective on the origins of the Second World War by comparing and contrasting military planning in seven nations prior to the outbreak of war and by relating this planning to foreign policy goals of the era.


German policy “of finding living space for its growing population” had to reckon with two
hate-inspired antagonists, Britain and France, to whom a German colossus in the centre of
Europe was a thorn in the flesh.…Germany's problem could only be solved by means of
force and this was never without attendant risk.

Adolph Hitler, November 1937

Reliance on “means of force,” the use of military power, to support and extend national interests was a distinguishing characteristic of Great Power foreign and defence policy between 1919 and 1939. Although it has lately become fashionable—and with great truth—to characterise the period from July 1914 to September 1945 as the “thirty years war” of the twentieth century, interwar political and military leaders were largely unaware that they were laboring during a period of extended armistice. Very few of these leaders desired war, even limited war—although Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and a range of Japanese militarists seem the exception. Still, despite the carnage of the First World War, despite the criticisms of the international anarchy that supposedly led to that war, and despite the possibility of collective security after 1919 offered by the League of Nations, the reliance on “means of force” injected an element of danger into European Great Power politics by the 1930s. Adolph Hitler was the sworn enemy of both the Treaty of Versailles and Bolshevik Russia, and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, whose personal political and racial mission was imposed on Germany by Nazi capture of the levers of the state in 1933. If he knew nothing else, Hitler understood power politics. And in his November 1937 statements to senior German military commanders lay the essential issues surrounding the question of military planning and the origins of the Second World in Europe. Hitler would not shirk from the use of force to achieve Nazi foreign policy aims. The focus of his zeal lay in central and eastern Europe, including the eastern regions of Soviet Russia. In this context, the Second World War in Europe was Hitler's war, a war precipitated by his determination to achieve an expanded German state under-pinned by his pan-German, antiBolshevik, and racial imperatives.

Accordingly, the German question lay at the center of European Great Power politics after early 1933. It stood as a question that had failed to be answered in the preceding decade as the German Army explored new tactics and an operational art that looked to overthrow the Versailles diktat, especially in the East. It is not that means were not found in the 1920s to bring a system of security . . .

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