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Why had international peace collapsed by 1939?

In 1920, League was started to sort out disputes between nations without resorting to war. In 1939, just 19 years later, the Second World War broke out. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he pledged to overthrow the Treaty of Versailles. He hated the treaty and felt that the treaty was harsh and unfair. He felt it a reminder of Germanys defeat in the First World War. The Treaty had taken away territory from Germany, and Hitler was determined to regain lost land. He wanted the unity of all German speaking people and also wanted to carve out an Empire in eastern Europe to give living space or Lebensraum for Germans. His first step to accomplish the abolishing of the Treaty, was to rearm Germany. In 1933, soon after he was elected, Hitler began rearming Germany and withdrew from the League. He also re-introduced conscription in 1936. He claimed that the only reason for rearming was because other countries refused to disarm. Germany had Britains support on this issue. Britain thought that the restrictions on Germanys armed forces had been too tight and felt that a strong Germany would be a good buffer against Communism. In 1936, a year after a Germany regained lost land of the Saar region through a plebiscite, Hitler took a massive risk by moving his troops to the de-militarized region of the Rhineland. By remilitarizing the Rhineland, Hitler had broken another one of the terms of the Treaty. However, due to the attention of the League of Nations focused on the Abyssinian crisis, the League simply condemned Hitlers action but had no power to do anything else. Neither France nor Britain reacted in any way. To accomplish his aim of uniting all German speaking people, Hitler, through numerous staged demonstrations and riots, managed to form an Anschluss with Austria in 1938. Britain and France were, yet again, not prepared to take any decisive action. In the same year, after the Munich Agreement, Hitler invaded the Sudetenland, he claimed that he was not interested in occupying the rest of Czechoslovakia. However, only a few months later, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Due to Britain and Frances policy of appeasement, nothing was done to stop Hitlers quest of overthrowing the Treaty. In addition to the Leagues failure to prevent Hitlers antics, there were two incidents that really tested the League of Nations in the 1930s. In 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria. Invading Manchuria was the perfect opportunity to build Japanese empire, and save it from the massive toll the depression had taken on the country. In 1932, China appealed to the league for help. The Leagues officials sailed to Manchuria to assess the situation for themselves. The League concluded that Japan had acted unlawfully and Manchuria should be returned to the Chinese. However, instead of withdrawing, Japan announced that it intended to invade more of China. The Leagues official report in February 1933 was approved by 42-1 votes. Smarting at the result, Japan withdrew from the League and invaded Jehol the following week.

The fatal blow to the League came in 1935, when the Italian dictator, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. He claimed the land was actually Italian territory and began preparing the Italian army for an invasion. Even after the Abyssinian emperor, Haile Selassie appealed to the League for help, Mussolini continued preparing for a fullscale invasion of Abyssinia. Britain and France were concerned about keeping good relations with Italy and failed to take any action. As the year went on, there was public outcry against Italys behavior and there was much talking and negotiating, but the League never actually did anything to discourage Mussolini. In October 1935 Mussolini launched a full scale invasion of Abyssinia, a dispute the League was designed to sort out. However, the Leagues failure to close the Suez Canal, Italys main route to Abyssinia, was fatal. Closing the Suez Canal would have ended the campaign for Abyssinia, but Britain and France were worried about a possible war with Italy as a result. Even more damaging to the League, was the leak of the Hoare-Laval pact. Hatched by Britain and Frances foreign ministers, it promised Italy two-thirds of Abyssinia in return for calling off the invasion, without the consultation of the League or Haile Selassie. Though Hoare and Laval were sacked, sanction discussions lost all momentum and no decision was made to ban oil sales to Italy. The Leagues authority had been undermined by Mussolini, who formally annexed the entire country by May 9th 1936. With the Leagues focus on the Abyssinan crisis, Hitler marched his troops into Rhineland, an act prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles. Stalin, meanwhile, was very worried about the German threat to the Soviet Union ever since Hitler came to power in 1933. After joining the League of Nations in 1934, Stalin hoped Britain and France would, if need be, help fight Hitler, who despised Communism and showed an open interest of conquering Russian land. However, he saw how powerless the League was after Mussolinis successful invasion of Abyssina, and how Britain and France had not resisted Hitlers quest to rearm and invade new territories. In August 1939, convinced that France and Britain would not make strong allies against Hitler, Stalin decided to befriend his arch enemy and signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact. They agreed not to attack one another, and privately, agreed to divide Poland between them. On 1 September, the German army invaded Poland from the west and on 17 September Soviet forces invaded Poland from the east. After following the policy of Appeasement for almost a decade, Hitler was sure France and Britain would not go to war over Poland. Hitler was in for a nasty surprise: on 2 September, they declared war on Poland. Though it was Hitlers actions which led to war, following the policy of Appeasement and letting Hitler get away with his antics simply encouraged him to gamble further. Had either France or Britain taken some serious action earlier, such as stopped him from remilitarising the Rhineland (Frances army was much stronger than Germanys at that stage) war might have been averted. Another element contributing to the

collapse of peace was the failure of the League of Nations. Due to the member countries being more focused on individual problems and the League lacking an army, it was unable to put a stop to Hitlers actions. Had the League fulfilled its aim to encourage disarmament and dealt with problems such as the Abyssinian Crisis more effectively, countries wouldn't have undermined its authority. The failure of the League as an effective peacekeeping body prompted Stalin to sign the Nazi-Soviet pact, for he knew that there was little the League could and would do to defend the USSR against a possible Nazi attack.