The Second World War by A. W. Purdue (auth.)

By A. W. Purdue (auth.)

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It is seen as destroying economic co-operation and trading relations between the powers, an early casualty being co-operation between French and German business interests. Unemployment threatened political stability, while the decrease in trade led to a search for eco- 18 The Second World War nomic self-sufficiency and protectionism, a kind of economic nationalism. Above all the growth of German unemployment from two million in 1929 to over eight million in 1932 can be seen to have paralleled the rise of the National Socialist Party and Hitler to power, the Nazi vote going up from 800 000 in 1928 to 13 million in July 1932.

Whatever Hitler's long-term aims, did he intend to fight a war in 1939? Much depends on what sort of war one means. He would probably have welcomed a war with a minor power at any time from early in 1938 - the ethos of National Socialism dictating a preference for violent rather than peaceful acquisitions of territory - but had hoped to postpone a war with France and avoid a war with Britain. The state of the German economy and the level of German rearmament have been seen as crucial to the question of Hitler's plans for war.

The success of the popular front propaganda was responsible for one of the most enduring myths of the thirties, that of a united alliance of all right-thinking, or rather left-thinking, men and women The Origins of the Second World War 29 against fascism. Fractured and shaken by the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, it was dusted down in 1941 and formed the basis of that other myth, that World War II was a war against fascism. Hitler's War? Adolf Hitler dominates any discussion of World War II. Without him it seems possible that the rivalries between the powers over ideology, land or resources could have led to a war or wars, but not to a world war involving all the great powers.

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