What are the underlying and immediate reasons for World War II?  

Expert Answers
mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were several causes of World War II. Some of them were underlying causes while others were immediate causes.

One underlying cause was the anger that was created by the Versailles Treaty. Germany was furious they had to accept responsibility for World War I. They also weren’t pleased with the reparations they had to pay to the Allies. Italy felt it didn’t get enough land from the Versailles Treaty. Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy vowed to get revenge for this poor treatment.

Another underlying cause was the Great Depression. Things were really bad economically in Germany after World War I. They were willing to listen to a leader who was promising to bring prosperous economic times back to their country. When the Great Depression hit Great Britain, France, and the United States, these countries were so preoccupied with trying to deal with the Great Depression that they ignored the actions of Germany, Japan, and Italy. When Germany, Japan, and Italy began to invade other countries, nothing was done about this. This is a third underlying cause. Since the Allies were dealing with such a severe depression, they couldn’t afford to worry about the actions of other countries. When nothing was done to initially stop the aggression of Germany, Japan, and Italy, it encouraged them to continue to try to take more land.

When the Allies eventually did try to deal with the repeated invasions by Germany, they followed a policy called appeasement. This policy was doomed to fail. When the Munich Pact was signed, all Hitler had to do was to promise to take no more land in order to get the Sudetenland. Trusting Hitler was a mistake.

There were a few immediate causes of World War II. After Hitler broke the Munich Pact by taking the rest of Czechoslovakia, the Allies warned Hitler that if he took any more land, it would lead to war. When Hitler invaded Poland, the Allies declared war on Germany.

For the United States, the immediate cause of our entrance into World War II was the attack at Pearl Harbor. We had been having issues with the Japanese expansion in the Pacific and in Asia. We stopped selling them oil and scrap metal, and we froze their financial assets in our banks. Japan decided to attack Pearl Harbor in the hopes they would cripple our military presence in the Pacific. This would allow Japan to take more land. Once Japan attacked us, we had no choice but to declare war on Japan and enter World War II on the side of the Allies.