History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2009: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) “Hitler did not really want a World War. His intention was only a short war with Poland.” (A. J. P. Taylor) Comment.
A J P Taylor in his book “The Origins of the Second World War” writes, “Hitler never intended a major war and at most was prepared for only a limited war against Poland.”
This statement can be justified by the following:
(1) In 1938-39, the last peacetime years, Germany spent on armaments about 15 percent of her gross national product. The British proportion was almost exactly the same.
(2) German expenditure on armaments was cut down after Munich Conference and remained on this lower level, so that british production of aeroplanes, for example, was way ahead of Germany by 1940.
(3) When the war broke out in 1939, Germany had 1,450 modern fighter planes and 800 bombers; Great Britain and France had 950 fighters and 1,300 bombers. The German had 3,500 tanks; Great Britain and France had 3,850. These numbers do not suggest that Germany had planned and prepared a great war that they started in 1939.
(4) One of Hitler’s Generals, Keitel, wrote in his diary about the German-Italian military talks in April 1939. It turned out that the Italians insisted on to tell that they could only be ready for war earlist in 1942. The German representatives agreed with them.
(5) Since, the Civil War had just ended in Spain where Fascist government of Franco had come to the power, there was no chance of getting help help from Spain.
(6) German foreign policy in 1939 was directed mainly on the preparation of the attack on Poland. Hitler might have assumed that invading Poland would not raise any much more objection especially since the Soviet Union had just signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, and the allies did not share a border with Poland. He had already annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia, and met only feeble protests from Britain and France. He probably thought he had a good chance for that happening with Poland as well. He also saw Britain and France as weak and unprepared and therefore probably thought they would not declare war.
(7) Taylor says that in 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany, not the other way round.
He argues that Britain and France declared war for old-fashioned reasons. German expansion in Europe was undermining the balance of power, and they wanted to restore it. Moral objections had nothing to do with it, though of course as with the German invasion of neutral Belgium in 1914, they immediately became part of the Allied propaganda campaign.
Hence it can be concluded that the circumstances do show the fact that Hitler had no intention of starting the World War, at least in the near future, but it cannot be denied that he was the one who intentionally or unintentionally caused the World War.