World War II broke out when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. A once preventable war had become inevitable — and would soon become global — due to three fatal decisions.
Most infamously, the Western European democracies had appeased Hitler during the late 1930s in hopes that he would quit gobbling up his neighbors. Unfortunately, the Nazis considered Western appeasement as weakness to be manipulated rather than magnanimity to be reciprocated.
After the bloodless annexation of Austria and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, Hitler assumed that Britain and France would not go to war at all if he went into Poland. Or, if they did, that they would not fight very seriously.
Yet Western appeasement did not alone guarantee the outbreak of World War II.
The Germans invaded Poland only after a guarantee from Josef Stalin that the Soviet Union would soon join in attacking the Poles from the east. The two dictatorships could then divvy up the country.
Stalin’s Communist Russia had foolishly gambled that by making a deal with Nazi Germany, Hitler would leave the Soviets alone. At first, Stalin hoped that Germany would turn its war machine loose only on the Western European democracies.
Read more at NationalReview.com…