International Events Leading to World War II
Oral History Item Type Metadata
I don't think that the Spanish Civil had more than a marginal influence on the developments. It was a clear attempt on the part of Germany and Italy to expand their control over Europe. By the way, it failed because they never drew Franco's Spain in the war on their side.
The war could have been prevented in 1936 when the German army occupied the area in West Germany that had been demilitarized at the Versailles Treaty, when Hitler gave the order to the German army that if one French battalion crosses the border from the other side in order to stop the Germans from reoccupying the area, the Germans would have to withdraw. That would have been a political defeat, which it is very doubtful that Hitler would have survived.
In 1938, German army officers planned a putsch against Hitler if the Western Powers stood up against Hitler in the crises around Czechoslovakia, when ultimately the Germans annexed the border areas of Czechoslovakia. Again, probably the regime would have either collapsed -- or at least retreated -- and World War II might have probably been avoided. The clearest element there is exactly as I said before: the negotiations in the late spring of 1939 between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, had it agreed then with the West, it would have saved the lives of 20 million Soviet citizens.