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German Aggression in WWI

The initial reaction of both the leadership and the public in the United States blamed Germany for starting World War II. There was no doubt Hitler had his sights on more than Poland.  He quickly crushed Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and France. The overwhelming majority of Americans hoped that Britain and France would win the conflict while, at the same time, public opinion felt that the US should stay out of the war. Amid this feeling of non-intervention and optimism for France and England, one must also look at two very important concerns Franklin D. Roosevelt had based on practical matters: the real prospects of an Allied victory towards Germany and the US policy to be followed by the United States toward them.

German Aggression in WWI

Roosevelt and Germany

Roosevelt certainly hoped for an Allied victory; he also was skeptical on Western power. Franklin Roosevelt questioned French military power inability to prevent a German invasion and occupation. Reports out of the American Embassy in Paris in 1939 and 1940 indicated a divided France terrified of war with an uncertain course to approach the German question of superiority.  President Roosevelt’s perception of German strength and French military weakness was more evident in his attempts to persuade the Soviet Union to align itself with the Western Powers rather than Hitler. Historians believe this approach implied a perception of German ability to overtake France, and Roosevelt’s feeling that German victories in Western Europe would menace all other nations. Roosevelt believed that Nazi Germany and its allies threatened the whole world. He warned that the “Nazi master of Germany” sought to enslave the whole of Europe, especially if Britain fell, but he very much hoped to keep the United States out of the war by assisting Britain and France defeat Germany, as indicated by Warren Kimball in Forged in War.  Ironically, American neutrality acts and their amendments, enacted in the 1930s, helped Britain and France with war material supplies, while it pulled the United States closer into the war. The question of American neutrality and isolationism, though, did not go unanswered.

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