Origins and creation
The origins of the Allied powers stem from the
Allies of World War I and cooperation of the victorious powers at the
Paris Peace Conference, 1919.
Germany resented signing
Treaty of Versailles. The new
Weimar Republic's legitimacy became shaken. However, the 1920s were peaceful.
Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the ensuing
Great Depression, political unrest in Europe soared including the rise in support of
revanchist nationalists in Germany who blamed the severity of the economic crisis on the Treaty of Versailles. By the early 1930s, the
Nazi Party led by
Adolf Hitler became the dominant revanchist movement in Germany and Hitler and the Nazis gained power in 1933. The Nazi regime demanded the immediate cancellation of the Treaty of Versailles and made claims to German-populated Austria, and German-populated territories of Czechoslovakia. The likelihood of war was high, and the question was whether it could be avoided through strategies such as
In Asia, when
Japan seized Manchuria in 1931, the
League of Nations condemned it for aggression against China. Japan responded by leaving the League of Nations in March 1933. After four quiet years, the
Sino-Japanese War erupted in 1937 with Japanese forces invading China. The League of Nations condemned Japan's actions and initiated sanctions on Japan. The United States, in particular, was angered at Japan and sought to support China.
Poland first to fight
— British wartime poster supporting Poland after
the German invasion
In March 1939,
Germany took over Czechoslovakia, violating the
Munich Agreement signed six months before, and demonstrating that the appeasement policy was a failure. Britain and France decided that Hitler had no intention to uphold diplomatic agreements and responded by preparing for war. On 31 March 1939, Britain formed the
Anglo-Polish military alliance in an effort to avert a German attack on the country. Also, the French had a long-standing
alliance with Poland since 1921. The
Soviet Union sought an alliance with the western powers, but Hitler ended the risk of a war with Stalin by signing the
Nazi–Soviet non-aggression pact in August 1939. The agreement secretly divided the independent nations of Eastern Europe between the two powers and assured adequate oil supplies for the German war machine. On 1 September 1939,
Germany invaded Poland; two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. Then, on 17 September 1939, the
Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. A
Polish government-in-exile was set up and it continued to be one of the Allies, a model followed by other occupied countries. After a quiet winter, Germany in April 1940 invaded and quickly defeated Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Britain and its Empire stood alone against Hitler and Mussolini. In June 1941, Hitler broke the non-aggression agreement with Stalin and Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In December, Japan attacked the US and Britain. The main lines of World War II had formed.