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Historic Potentials: The Question of Inevitability and the Second World War

Cameron, Stuart
This paper will discuss the question of whether the Second World War and the Holocaust were inevitable events in European history or were rather possible outcomes of historic potentials which arose before these events. These historic potentials included the aftermath of the First World War, Treaty of Versailles, the concept of self-determination, antisemitism, economic strife, nationalism, and population politics. After the First World War Europe was in turmoil due to the impact of the losses (casualties and resources) caused by the war. The Treaty of Versailles produced ideas of hypocrisy through both the promise and denial of national rights and pre-Armistice agreements. Similarly, the potential of self-determination, “guaranteed” to nations, were denied to other nations thus creating a sense of animosity. Antisemitism created the potential for “willing executioners” of the Holocaust throughout Europe. Economic strife became a dangerous potential, since the global crash during the Great Depression, along with other economic crises in Europe allowed for the possibility of fascist or other totalitarian based groups to rise in Europe since they provided solutions for these crises. Nationalism became a dangerous potential since it allowed for states to define who did or did not belong in the state and “justifying” the persecution of “others.” Lastly, population politics created the possibility for authoritarian leaders to gain power by appealing to large populations of people. Thus, the Second World War and the Holocaust were not inevitable events but were rather outcomes of various dangerous potentials which arose in Europe after the First World War.
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