TO THE THIRD EDITION
Since the original writing of this book, new publications on the origins of World War II have made the study of this topic more complex. There still remains no simple answer to the question: “Why World War II?” Nevertheless, if we are to search for answers, it is necessary to examine the policies, the outlook, and the experience of the statesmen and politicians who wrestled with Adolf Hitler’s demands, as well as the military, political and economic conditions of their nations. In addition, Hitler’s responsibility for World War II has mounted as new evidence indicates that he craved the war he got in 1939 but failed to get in 1938. It is important also to study the policies of those who had to confront Hitler but did not understand his intentions and policies until it was too late. They preferred peace to another bloody conflict.
The aim of this book is to explain the origins of the world war that began in 1939 and ended in 1945 with 30,000,000 people dead and unbelievable devastation over much of the world. This book seeks answers to these questions. Why, after the ordeal of 1914–1918, did Western powers err in assessing the threat that loomed across the Rhine? Why was there so much reluctance on the part of Britain and France to confront the once defeated foe? Why had Germany been permitted to rearm? Why should Germany be allowed to occupy independent nations without a struggle?
Part of the answer, as I argue in these pages, can be attributed to the illusion that sufficient security measures were in place to maintain peace. The memories of the terrible destruction and loss of life during the years 1914–1918 seemed to make another world war unthinkable. But this illusion misled men and women