The Second World War started on September 3, 1939 when Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany after their leader Adolf Hitler had invaded Poland two days earlier. But what were the events that led the world to war again? As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the conflict starting, MSN looks at the countdown to war.
11 November 1918 - The First World War ends in defeat for Germany.
The German politicians who signed the armistice, would become known as the 'November Criminals' to Hitler and many others.
28 June 1919 - The Treaty of Versailles is signed.
This led to a restriction in the size of the German army, industrial land being taken away from German control, and massive financial reparations imposed on Germany to repay the victorious allies.
21 July 1921 - Hitler elected leader of the National Socialist party.
This gave Hitler a political vehicle for his propaganda. The party was dissolved between 1923-25 when Hitler and several leaders were jailed for their part in a failed coup.
1923-1925 - France and Belgium begin their cccupation of the Ruhr.
After Germany failed to make some reparation payments the French and Belgian governments decided to occupy the industrial Ruhr region in order to gain the money Germany owed. The occupation increased international sympathy for Germany and ended in August 1925.
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18 July 1925 - Mein Kampf is published.
Hitler wrote this book while imprisoned. It became the touchstone for the Nazi Party and was given free to every newlywed couple and soldier. Around 10 million copies had been distributed by 1945.
8 September 1926 - Germany allowed into the League of Nations.
The League was set up following the Treaty of Versailles. The idea behind it was that an international body could sort out international disputes as they occurred to help maintain world peace. It was hoped Germany's admittance would help to nurture a more peaceful Europe.
24-29 October 1929 - Wall Street Crash.
This crash plus the Great Depression that followed caused massive unemployment throughout the world. It placed even more financial burden on Germany and to some historians the combination of financial hardship and growing resentment towards Britain and the US provided Hitler with the right breeding ground to grow his politics.
30 January 1933 - Hitler elected Chancellor of Germany.
Hitler never actually gained a majority of support in the polls, but with Germany's constitution in crisis and unemployment spiralling out of control the country's President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor. Hindenburg believed he would be able to control Hitler and the Reichstag - he was wrong.
23 March 1933 - Hitler's Enabling Act passed and signed by Hindenburg.
Following an election in March 1933 the Nazi Party still did not have a parliamentary majority. Hitler pushed through the Enabling Act which legally established his dictatorship.
21 October 1933 - Germany withdraws from the League of Nations.
One week earlier Germany had withdrawn from a conference discussing the reduction and limitations of armaments. Hitler followed this by withdrawing from the League overall, increasing concerns that he was about to start rebuilding the German army.
2 August 1934 - President Hindenburg dies.
With the death of Hindenburg Hitler took over the office of President and leader of the army meaning Germany's troops now had to swear to die for Hitler. He now called himself the Führer.
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16 March 1935 - Hitler introduces military conscription.
The Führer announced his plans to rebuild his army, in direct contravention of the Treaty of Versailles, which limited the German army to 100,000. Hitler also claimed that he would ignore the Treaty. Germany's First World War opponents limited themselves to verbal responses and no sanctions were imposed on the increasingly bold Hitler.
7 March 1936 - German troops enter the Rhineland.
Under the terms of Versailles the Rhineland was to be a demilitarised zone. Germany had political control of the area but could not put any troops in there. In March 1936 Hitler ordered his troops into the area, fully expecting to withdraw under French pressure, but no action was taken.
5 November 1937 - Hitler secretly reveals his war plans.
At the Hossbach Conference Hitler revealed to his cabinet his plans to forcibly acquire 'living space' for Germans at the expense of other European nations.
12 March 1938 - Austria annexed by Germany.
After several years of pressure Austria's Chancellor Schuschnigg announced a referendum to ask Austrian people if they wished to remain independent or merge into Germany. Hitler declared the vote would be subject to major fraud and that Germany would not accept the result. On March 11, Hitler demanded that Schuschnigg hand over power to Austria's National Socialists or face an invasion. The Chancellor realised that neither France or Britain would help Austria and so resigned to avoid bloodshed. German troops entered Austria on March 12 and rather than facing resistance from the army they were greeted by cheering locals waving flags and flowers. Britain and France protested verbally to the German government, but no other action was taken, further emboldening Hitler.
12 August 1938 - Hitler orders the mobilisation of the German Army.
The Führer had now turned his attention to Czechoslovakia and was making demands on the rights of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland area of the country, claiming they were being mistreated by the Czech government. As this crisis escalated Hitler called up his army reserves and began military manoeuvres.
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30 September 1938 - The Munich Agreement is signed.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet Hitler as well as Benito Mussolini and French leader Edouard Daladier to discuss Hitler's demands over Czechoslovakia. The Führer knew that Chamberlain and Daladier were desperate to avoid another war with Germany. The meeting, which did not include the Czech government, concluded that the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia would be transferred to Germany and in return Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. Chamberlain believed his policy of appeasement had worked and returned to London declaring: "This is peace in our time."
15-16 March 1939 - Germany takes over the rest of Czechoslovakia.
The Sudetenland contained most of Czechoslovakia's energy and resource supplies. With that now in German hands the Czech government suffered. In March 1939 Hitler summoned Czech leader Emil Hacha to Berlin. The Führer threatened that he would bomb Prague if Hacha did not agree to surrender his country. Hacha, who some believe was mentally ill at the time, suffered a heart attack during the meeting and finally agreed to the surrender. On March 15 German troops entered Czechoslovakia and met no resistance. With this move British PM Chamberlain realised Hitler could not be trusted and ended his policy of appeasement.
22 May 1939 - Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel.
This agreement was an open declaration of alliance between the two countries. They would come to each others' aid immediately should war be declared and they would help each other with wartime production.
23 August 1939 - Germany and Russia sign the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
This was a non-aggression pact, whereby Germany and Russia agreed to remain neutral if either country was attacked by a third party. The pact also agreed a division of European land into German and Soviet control. The pact gave Hitler the confidence to demand the German-speaking port of Danzig, which was given to Poland after the First World War, be returned to German control. The Führer felt that the pact would prevent Britain and France from going to war with Germany.
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25 August 1939 - Polish-British Common Defence Pact signed.
This pact surprised Hitler, so much so he pushed back the date for his planned invasion of Poland. Negotiations continued between Britain and Germany over Poland, which actually convinced Hitler that the Allies would not declare war on Germany should he decide to invade Poland. He rescheduled the invasion for September 1.
1 September 1939 - Germany invades Poland.
The first military engagement of World War Two began at 4.45am when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish port of Westerplatte. This was followed by land and air attacks as the invasion of Poland took shape. Hitler still believed that Britain and France would seek a peaceful settlement through appeasement rather than declare war on Germany.
3 September 1939 - Britain and France declare war on Germany.
The British Ambassador to Berlin gave a message to the German government saying that unless the Nazis announced plans for an immediate withdrawal of Poland a state of war would exist between the two countries. At 11.15am, in a radio broadcast, Neville Chamberlain announced that the deadline for the withdrawal of German troops had passed. He added: "I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany."