The Great Depression occurred at the end of the Roaring Twenties, a time of economic boom around the world. It led to almost a decade of economic troubles, which are often known as the Gloomy Thirties. The Wall Street stock exchange crashed and the world was plunged into crisis as America began recalling its loans. In many ways, the Great Depression helped forge the tools that caused the Second World War. This essay discusses why this is.
Firstly, we have to look at the trends. Economic problems cause people to lose faith in mainstream politics. Extremist parties more receptive to the idea of war tend to do better in times of economic trouble. This is obvious today as the European Elections of 2014 led to far right wing parties like France’s National Front and Greece’s Golden Dawn to win seats in the parliament. Back in the thirties, it saw the rise and consolidation of power by dictators in the Soviet Union, Germany, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Without the rise of these dictators, especially Hitler, it could be argued the Second World War would have never happened.
The biggest effect of the Second World War was Germany. Germany was prosperous prior to the Great Depression. The Germany Rentemark was strong because of American money, and the more central Weimar Republic managed to keep both fascists and communists in check. When the Great Depression occurred, America removed its support and the Weimar Republic collapsed, which paved the way for Hitler’s Nazi Party to get into power. If American support had remained, Hitler would have never had the same level of support.
At this time, America was an isolationist country. It removed itself from the politics of the world. Many historians point to the failure of America to join the world peacekeeping body the League of Nations as a reason why the Second World War was allowed to happen. The Great Depression only made America more of an isolationist country. It didn’t just pull out politically, it pulled out economically. As mentioned before, this helped extremist parties to take over in Europe.
The final road to war with Hitler’s annexing of Austria, the Sudetanland, and its invasion of Poland could have been stopped if Britain and France had the military might to intervene. The Great Depression prevented investment in their respective militaries, which meant both countries, to an extent, accepted the policy of appeasement.
The lack of strong opposition meant Hitler could essentially ignore the world’s protests. And since Germany was the number one cause of World War Two, it can only be argued the Great Depression had its part to play.
Overall, the Great Depression indirectly allowed the events leading up the World War Two to happen. In a world with better economic prospects, Hitler may have never taken power. And if Hitler did take power, he wouldn’t have had the strength to take on a rich France or Britain. War might still have happened eventually, but in more positive economic conditions, the bloodshed could have been severely limited.