The Treaty of Versailles signed by Germany with the Allies was harsh and unjustifiable. Germany had no choice but to sign it. Unconditionally she had to surrender a great part of her territory and her colonies were forcibly taken away.
Germany was asked to pay huge war indemnity moreover her military power was considerably reduced. The treatment meted out to her based on revenge. The treaty created hatred in the minds of Germans.
France in 1923 captured the German industrial zone of Ruhr. Prior to this Germany had already conceded the Valley of Saar under the Treaty of Versailles. It was a major supplier of coal and iron to Germany.
Germany was deprived of all her colonies in 1919 consequently her industries suffered as it lost the most important sources of raw materials as well as markets for her finished goods.
Italy too was not satisfied with spoils of the war, as she also looked out for more colonies. But England and France were very possessive about their colonies and wanted to prevent Germany or her allies from acquiring colonies elsewhere. So the conflict of the imperialistic designs of different nations was made inevitable. Soon Japan captured Manchuria while Italy occupied Abyssinia and Albania.
In Germany the Democratic Government under Democratic Socialists failed to deliver the goods making way to dictatorship under the Nazis. By 1934 Hitler became the dictator of Germany. He rejected the Treaty of Versailles and enhanced his military strength besides remilitarizing the Rhineland. He desired to restore the old glory and prestige of Germany.
In Italy Mussolini came to power in 1921 who introduced many reforms and put new life in the country by introducing military training. Italy also adopted a policy of active aggrandizement.
Japan’s ambitions too increased after the World War I. By 1930s she developed her navy and enhanced her strength tremendously. In 1930s military junta completely took power and under its leadership, Japan launched itself on the path of expansion. Raising the slogan of Save Asia from Communism they declared that it was their duty to take up a movement against communism in Asia. Japan created puppets states of Manchukuo,Jehol and Chahar in China. By 1936 Japan controlled most of the north-eastern China.
In 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact which was joined by Italy a year later. Meanwhile Japan continued her aggression in China.Shanghai and Nanking were taken and in 1939 South China was invaded along with whole of the coastline.
Italy’s Mussolini sent his forces into Ethiopia to which England protested. Through England’s influence, league took action against Mussolini but was not successful in checking his aggression. He ignored the League and completed the conquest of Ethiopia.
Hitler in Germany started with the remilitarization of the Rhineland. Further he signed the Rome-Berlin agreement by which Mussolini signed Austria over to Hitler and in return Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia. The two agree to form a united front in Spain to oppose Communism. In 1936 he denounced international control of German rivers. In 1938 he moved into Austria which provoked a protest from England.
The Munich Conference allowed Hitler to have 1/5th of Czechoslovakia. After signing a non-aggression pact with Russia in August 1939, Hitler made his move against Poland which began the World War II.
The inability of the League of Nations to function as an agency to promote international justice and maintain peace was the greatest disappointment. Its weaknesses were apparent and its failure to settle the disputes led to major crisis. Germany withdrew from the League and proceeded to violate almost every article of Treaty of Versailles. The severest blow came from the Italy’s defiance in the conquest of Ethopia.The general chaotic condition in international affairs that followed the failure of the League was widespread.
America followed the traditional policy of isolation and kept aloof from the European politics and did not even join the League of Nations. American aloofness helped the military rulers of Germany and Italy to adopt violent and aggressive attitude.