The Second World War is also known as World War II, massive destruction happened in (1939 – 1945).
It is the greatest armed conflict that humanity has ever known. A deadly war that has involved millions of people around the world.
Table of Content
- 1 History of World War II
- 1.1 Causes of World war II
- 1.2 Impact of World war II
History of World War II
At the end of the First World War, Germany, and its allies were defeated and were the only ones responsible for the war. With the heavy sanctions imposed on them, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires are dismantled, while Germany has to return what many consider an unreasonable debt.
Its colonies and some of its territories are ceded to the winners and to Poland, which is recreated involving the German boundaries. These sanctions are considered a humiliation for the German people.
The German economy is weakened by excessive debt and suffers from hyper-inflation. The national currencies are trying to solve this problem by printing more Banknotes, resulting in a devaluation of their currency.
The following year, radical measures are taken to curb inflation, stabilize and reactivate the economy. But in 1929, the collapse of Wall Street in New York caused the worst economic crisis of the 20th century.
Its impact is felt all over the world, Germany is not spared either, the unemployment rate explodes. Very weakened, Germany sees an increase in the nationalism in 1933 that allows the rise to power of the Nazis Party with Adolf Hitler at the head.
Despite the strict conditions imposed Germany after the First World War, the new totalitarian regime reinitiates the country and restores military service.
The country is also starting an aggressive foreign policy with the dream of uniting all German speakers. Italy, despite its victory with the Allies, is frustrated by the amount of territory it won after the First World War.
Since 1922, the country is governed by the dictatorial regime. Fascist party of Benito Mussolini. Italy begins a colonial policy by taking Ethiopia and planning an invasion of Albania.
In Spain, it begins 3 years of civil war against the republican government supported by the USSR and international brigades and the nationalist camp led by Francisco Franco and helped by Italy and Germany.
Both countries took the opportunity to test their armies and approach diplomatically. In Asia, Japan continues its expansion politics.
The country takes advantage of the civil war in China to invade new territories. The Japanese army uses chemical and biological products. Germany is now powerful enough to launch its territorial expansion.
First, he annexed Austria with the support of the local Nazi party. Then, Western Czechoslovakia was invaded. The Slovak Republic is becoming a German satellite state, while Hungary approaches diplomatically.
After the occupation of part of Lithuania, Germany signs with the USSR a non-aggression pact and a plan to divide Europe. Then it attacks Poland, causing the declaration of war of the United Kingdom and France, marking the beginning of the World War II.
Although the German forces are concentrated in the east, the allied troops take no initiative in the west.
Instead, France and the United Kingdom attempt to cut the strategic route of iron ore through Norway and feed the German military industry.
Germany reacts by invading Denmark and Norway. In a few days, the country takes over Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
Hitler’s new military strategy is called Blitzkrieg. Surprise the opposition’s defenses with fast and high-intensity attacks in a concentrated environment surface.
The British forces withdraw against this German military feat, and the German army falls in Paris. The French army is defeated and an armistice is signed.
Germany occupies the north and west of France, leaving its other territory and settlements under the control of the new government. Therefore, Germany indirectly controls the French colonies without having to send an army there.
However, some parts of the French colonies and the Belgian Congo choose to remain in the Allied camp.
In London, which already houses several governments in exile, General Charles de Gaulle creates a free France that continues to fight against the Nazis, Germany.
Brazzaville is named as its capital. In accordance with the agreements signed with Germany, the Soviet Union seizes the Baltic States and part of Romania.
The Axis powers were formed with the countries Germany, Italy, and Japan. All British domains and colonies, with the exception of Ireland, enter the war.
In Africa, the fight begins between the Italian colonies and the allied forces.
While in Europe, despite the massive aerial bombardment of British cities, Germany does not take over the country.
Hitler then changes the plans: now he wants to invade the USSR. But the plan is delayed by Italy, which can not invade Greece and is forced to withdraw by the allied forces.
After the accession of Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria to the forces of the Axis, the German armies advance towards the south to invade Yugoslavia and Greece.
Across Europe, resistance is organized in different ways. Sometimes people organize strikes, demonstrations or protect the people sought.
Some groups spy on the allies, sabotage or print newspapers of resistance. In Eastern Europe, guerrilla forces mine the armies of the Axis.
In Yugoslavia and Greece, communist and realistic resistance groups confront each other.
Germany does not get rid of the anti-Nazi resistance, with some attempts to assassinate Hitler … that fail.
On June 22, the Axis forces launched, in some way, the largest military operation in history to attack the USSR, which is now de facto in the field of allied forces.
The bulk of German troops, well equipped and motorized, rush to the east. To support the Soviets, the allies occupy Iran, which then opens a supply route through the Caucasus.
The German armies arrive in Leningrad and begin a siege of the city that will last 872 days and will cause the death of more than one million civilians.
Further south, German troops were arrested at the gates of Moscow, where they suffered a severe and deadly winter. Behind the front lines, the SS massacred the Slavic and Jewish populations.
In Asia, Japan occupies French Indochina. To counter its expansionist policy, the United States imposes an embargo on oil and steel.
In response, the Japanese launch a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor.
The massive aerial bombardment damages a large part of the United States naval fleet. The United States goes to war on the allied side.
At first, they concentrate their forces on the Pacific front.
The country also provides supplies to the USSR, which continues to resist the German advance.
Japan, on the other hand, is conquering new territories in the Pacific.
In addition to the killings, Japan sends 10 million Chinese civilians to forced labor camps.
In Indonesia, millions of prisoners suffer the same fate on the island of Java.
In Burma and Thailand, Allied prisoners are exhausted by the construction of a railway line. In addition, hundreds of thousands of women are recruited by force to prostitute themselves in the Japanese army.
In Europe, the concentration and extermination camps are being built to the massacre, among others, Jews, resistance fighters, political opponents, Gypsies, gays, and people with disabilities.
Fearing a second front in Europe, Hitler built the Atlantic Wall, a series of military installations that protect the coast from invasion.
But the allies landed first in Morocco and Algeria. Italian Libya is caught between two fronts. Having lost control of their colonies, Vichy France is invaded.
In the east, Axis forces are trying to cut off the supply route of the Caucasus. But for the first time, the German offensive suffered a major military setback.
The Soviets take the initiative and counterattack. Africa is now totally controlled by the allies who organize a landing in Sicily.
The new Italian government demands an armistice, provoking the invasion of the Germans.
The USSR is moving rapidly towards the west, forcing the German army to concentrate on this front. On 6th June 1944, the allies landed in Normandy. Their armies quickly take power and liberate Paris.
In the West as in the East, countries are liberated or are exchange fields. With the victory in sight, the allied powers announce the creation of the United Nations.
The countries that declared war on Germany and Japan would be admitted to the founding conference. This triggers a wave of declarations of war, but without major consequences.
On April 30, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker just before the arrival of the Soviets. Eight days later, the country surrenders.
The United States and the USSR come together to defeat the Japanese empire. The Soviets began a military invasion through Manchuria, while the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On August 15, Japan surrendered, marking the end of World War II.
After six years of war, the number of human victims is high, with at least 60 million dead, mostly civilians. Many cities are completely destroyed.
Europe and the USSR subjected millions of German prisoners of war to forced labor, many of whom would die.
Germany and Austria are shared among the winners. The old guard of the European powers is exhausted and ruined by the war.
I know. UU And the USSR appear as the remaining global superpowers. Despite the role of the United Nations, whose objective is to maintain international peace and security, both parties would eventually participate in confrontations around the world.
Causes of World war II
1. Hitler’s role
a) Why Hitler’s role pre-eminent in World war II?
Hitler wanted to annihilate Russia and use its territory for his Lebensraum or ‘Living space for the German’s’.
The non-aggression pact of 1939 with Russia was just for keeping Russia neutral, while Hitler took Russia by surprise when he attacked Poland.
He actually did not want a war on two fronts.
- Against the western powers (who would come to the aid of Poland) and
- Russia, the evidence of Hitler’s desire for occupying Russia comes from his autobiography Mein Kempf. If this hypothesis is right, then appeasement politics alone cannot be blamed rather appeasement only made Hitler’s goal achievement easier.
b) Why Hitler cannot be blamed for the World war II?
He only wanted a localized war and thought Britain and France would not honor their guarantee of polish frontiers when they had done so to Czechoslovakia, where Hitler’s actions were unjustified and conditions were much better with the support of stronger Czech army.
He taught that Poland and Russia were weak, would be quickly defeated through the German Blitzkrieg (a swift and violent military offensive with intensive aerial bombardment).
2. The role of appeasement policies
The Appeasement policy raised Hitler’s prestige at home. After Hitler was offered Sudetenland in Munich conference (1938), Hitler was convinced of British Prime Minister Chamberlain appeasement initiative.
Danzig and polish corridor were more genuine demands than Sudetenland. This was so because in Danzig the Germans formed 95% of the population and the polish corridor was important for connecting East Prussia with the rest of Germany.
The British justification for Munich conference (1938)- that it chose to appease Hitler because it needed time for rearmament – is questionable because Czechoslovakia was militarily strong and had excellent fortifications in Sudetenland against a Germany invasion.
Thus, Czechoslovakia would have formed a better ally when it had Sudetenland than Poland. Also, the inaction during the annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia is condemnable.
3. The Treaty of Versailles
The attempt was made in Paris peace conference, held after the First World War, in 1919 to establish an ideal world order based on justice, peace and disarmament.
But, what finally emerged in the shape of the treaty of Versailles was a dictated treaty of peace imposed upon Germany. The victor participants lacked sincerity of purpose.
The treaty of peace was drafted by Allies without any negotiation with defeated Germany. The terms of the treaty were highly humiliating to Germany and aroused the passions of the Germans which were exploited by Hitler.
Some of the humiliating terms of the treaty were:
Germany being made solely responsible for the war.
Germany being deprived of all her overseas colonies.
German army and Navy severely curtailed and being totally deprived of the airforce.
It was declared guilty of war crimes and forced to pay a massive amount of war reparation to the victors.
The failure of the League of Nations and ‘collective security’
It was an allied power affair, especially France and Britain setup for the implementation of peace treaties which were called unjust by Turkey, Italy as they were against the principle of self-determination.
The provisional body, the conference of ambassadors, which was set up to temporarily resolve the disputes regarding peace treaties continued to exist even after the League of Nations was formed.
The collective security clause was not implemented in checking the violations of frontiers. Eg: Japan invaded Manchuria, Hitler invaded Australia, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, etc.
It was not a truly representative organization as three main world powers, namely, USA, USSR, and Germany did not join the league.
The global economic crisis spurred by the great depression in America, as it led to the rise of Hitler and other fascist powers.
4. Non-aggression pact between USSR and Germany
USSR made World War II inevitable by signing the non-aggression pact of 1939 with Germany. In their defense, the Russian scholars argue that Russia knew that it would be attacked in future and thus needed the pact to buy time to bolster its defenses.
5. Discordance between USSR and the Superpower
The conservatives of France and Britain distrusted communists in the USSR more than the Nazis. The right-wingers in France were sympathetic to Hitler and in awe of his achievements.
The conservatives in France prevented the addition of clause for military cooperation in the agreement signed by France and USSR in 1935.
If the military alliance between the two had materialized then Germany would have been defeated in a localized war in eastern Europe or it might have not ventured into a war at all.
Impact of World war II
More than 40 million people were killed of which half were Russians. Many people were uprooted from their homes. The German industrial areas and cities were devastated. Similarly, cities in France and West Russia were devastated by air strikes.
Holocaust was another feature of the war. Hitler engaged in systematic execution of 6 million Jews in the concentration camps.
The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed and disabled countless Japanese and continued to affect the health succeeding generations for years to come.
2. The Balance of Power
The European domination of the world ended with the World war II and the balance of power shifted in favor of USSR and US.
Due to high war costs Italy, Germany, Britain, and France were on the verge of bankruptcy Britain was under high US debt which it acquired due to the US aid provided under the lend-lease act (1941).
After the war, Britain was forced to ask for another US loan. Also, the European exports decline. The US was economically strong while USSR had the largest army.
The world after World war II was a bipolar world, which became engulfed in a cold war rivalry between the two superpowers.
World war II led to proliferation and the massive build-up of nuclear weapons.
4. Third World Concept Emerged
The third world meant to be non-allied to any of the two world powers. In 1973, the leaders of the independent states that emerged after the war gathered at Algiers and declared themselves as the third world. The third world was suspicious of both communism and capitalism.
The defeat of European powers at the hands of Japan decreased their prestige upon which their colonial rule depended. British was able to maintain its colonial empire not through military but through prestige.
The war was fought against oppression and for freedom from fascist regimes. Also, many soldiers from colonies fought in Europe were they got exposed to the ideas and prosperity of the west which was in stark contrast with the poverty at home. All this led to rising of Nationalism in the colonies.
European powers were military and economically weak. USSR was now a world power. Communist ideology was against colonialism.
Thus, decolonization first began in Asia which led to demands for independence in Africa and the Middle East. The decolonization process led to the emergence of many new nation-states in the 1960s.
6. UN was Established
UN was established in 1945 for maintenance of world peace, protection of rights of individuals and for socio-economic development across the world.