Is The US To Blame for WWII?

In this piece, I make a primitive argument that America’s loans to Germany during the interwar years are the direct cause of WWII (i.e., “but for” these loans, Hitler wouldn’t have been able to re-militarize).  Now, I understand this is controversial, and critics of mine in the future will probably try to use this to attack my patriotism, or something else equally ill-advised.  Let me repeat a line from my Letter to the Reader, the first post in this Writing Seminar Category:

“Consider that I hold writing itself in a much higher regard than the subject; I value the means more than the end.”

If you really want to read into this piece and find some sort of character trait, it is this: I enjoy a challenge, I enjoy persuasive writing, and combining these two often results in contrarian articles.  It has everything to do with presenting the reader with a view or an argument previously unheard, and very little to do with my own personal views on the matter.

Also, I invented a new word: “vendetous”

An Unusual Suspect

The Great War left Europe in tatters.  Trench warfare ravaged the landscape and ruined the agricultural economies upon which most Europeans relied.  Both sides had to cope with unprecedented death tallies, and even more injuries.  The victorious Allies emerged vendetous, and with the Treaty of Versailles buried Germany under a mountain of blame, shame, and debt.  Time marched on.  Each day Germany’s inflation rose, its morale sank.  Out of this negative spiral, an archetypal German leader was born, an orator who rallied the masses towards a future of restored German prestige, influence, and power.  Despite this seemingly irreversible sequence of events, there is a single country that can be blamed for World War II.  After all, if Germany hadn’t rearmed herself, war would have been impossible.  The country solely responsible for the rearmament of Germany is the United States of America.

Most historians are quick to blame the Treaty of Versailles.  They are of the perspective that Germany was simply reacting to harsh reparations demanded by the Allies, a reaction which never would have occurred if the Allies had been gracious rather than rapacious victors.  These reparations devastated the German economy.  So desperate was the German government, that they just started printing money to pay the Allies.  Already high inflation was sent skyrocketing.  But the reparations hurt Germans in more than just their wallets: they tore deep psychological scars.  In less than a year, Germany was reduced from premier continental power to Europe’s pauper.  Winston Churchill predicted “that a Germany so conditioned would… sooner or later seek revenge.”[1]  Adolph Hitler, a child of Germany’s poverty and desperation, fulfilled Churchill’s prophecy.  Hitler “exorcized the spirit of despair from the German mind by substituting [it with the] spirit of revenge.”[2]  On the wings of this spirit of revenge, Hitler “restor[ed] Germany to the most powerful position in Europe.”[3]

But the argument that reparations caused World War II skips a major logical link.  While the Treaty of Versailles certainly motivated Hitler, and certainly aided his ascent to power, it didn’t provide Hitler with the strong military he needed to extract revenge.  The German army had to be completely rebuilt. More importantly, it had to be paid for.  Simply put, motive cannot matriculate into opportunity without means.  Germany herself had no such means.  A country so poor could never fund its own rearmament.  But the funds obviously had to come from somewhere.  The United States provided that means, that sole resource which fueled Hitler’s war factories.  In the early 1920s, America lent Germany over two billion dollars.[4]  With this loan, the United States single-handedly provided Hitler with the means to rearm Germany.  If one were to remove this sole variable, Hitler would not have been able to “once again let loose upon the world another war.”[5]

[1] Geoffrey Best, Churchill: A Study in Greatness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 154.

[2] Winston Churchill, Great Contemporaries (Oxford: Macmillan and Co Ltd., 1942), 195.

[3] Ibid., 196.

[4] Churchill, Contemporaries, 197.

[5] Ibid., 195.