To what extent is the Great Depression responsible for WWII?How did the Great Depression contribute to the start of World War II?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While most historians would say that the causes of World War II went well beyond the Great Depression, it could easily be argued as a contributing factor in the chain of events that led to the conflict.

Germany was in ruin after WWI as a result of the crippling terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  Losing key industrial territories and being forced to pay reparations to the Allies made an effective rebuilding effort nearly impossible for the new Weimar Republic.  In addition, people's spirits were crushed, and there was little to no national pride in the former Germany.  Loans from the United States were keeping the Republic solvent, but after the Great Depression hit the United States those loans disappeared.  The Depression struck Germany hard, resulting in unemployment rates of over thirty percent and eventual hyperinflation.  At it's worst, German workers were paid twice a day, because the inflation was so bad that they needed their wages at lunch to buy bread because by the evening inflation would have rendered those morning wages worthless.  Bank notes of billions and even trillions of dollars were issued, effectively wiping out the saving of even the richest Germans.

The resulting social chaos set the stage for the rise of a man like Adolf Hitler.  His message of hope and pride amongst the disparity of the situation allowed him to come to power, and caused the German people to follow in search of stability.  It is doubtful that a nation would follow such an extreme path in normal conditions; therefore, Hitler's rise to power and World War II were both heavily effected by the Great Depression.