World War II permanently reshaped world geography and politics for decades to come. It would end European militarism, pave the way for the invention of the atomic bomb, and the birth of the two postwar superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union. In the same manner that geopolitical tensions caused by imperialism and militarism was the root cause of World War I, power-hungry leaders of totalitarian regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan in Asia proliferated ideologies that extoled perverted nationalism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. In Asia, Japanese militarism and aggression would prove too much to contain, hence the need to counter its spread. Under chancellor Adolf Hitler who rose to power in 1933, the swift aggression of Nazi Germany in an aim to subjugate the entire European continent and emboldened by a non-aggression pact signed with the Soviet Union, and alliance with Italy and eventually, Japan, would prove to be the main catalyst for outbreak of World War II.
In essence, World War II can be considered as inevitable and adjudged only as the culmination of unmatched German aggression. At the beginning of 1939 Hitler had already become bent in invading Poland, anticipating swift victory. The preceding year, Germany had successfully annexed Austria into the Third Reich, as well as Czechoslovakia. For its part, Poland, with assurance of Anglo-French defence, remained confident of security in the possibility of a surprise German attack. Hitler’s intention to overrun and invade Poland had long been present, but first he had to obtain a guarantee that the Soviet Union would not quash the German advance on Poland. Covert negotiations led to the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in Moscow, informally known as Molotov-Ribbentrop, named after Soviet Union foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and his Nazi German counterpart, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Included in this pact was the secret mutual agreement that Poland would be divided, with the western third of the country going to Nazi Germany and the eastern two-thirds to be controlled by the Soviet Union.
No longer surprised at Nazi Germany’s relentless military aggression, the rest of Europe was left stunned by the pact, mainly due to the extremely different and invariably opposing ideologies that the two countries espoused. This was the case despite the fact that the partition of Poland was initially kept secret. After the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed, Hitler had been readying looking at August 26 as the most auspicious date. However, a minor setback forced him to wait a few more days, as news of an Anglo-Polish military alliance surfaced. This formal alliance solidified a prior temporary agreement in 1939. World War II was now just around the corner.
Hitler was not to be fazed, nor would he be restrained by the Anglo-Polish pact. Shortly after noon on August 31, 1939, Hitler commanded the Wehrmacht to attack Poland at 4:45 AM o