Known as one of the most brutal conflicts in recent history, the Second World War wreaked havoc for six years, involving 113 countries from six continents. Starting in 1939, the Allied forces – mainly Britain, Russia, and the USA – sought to stop Nazi Germany in its conquest for European domination. By 1945, Western Europe had been rampaged, an entire race of people had come close to eradication, and the dynamic of power in many participating countries was to change forever.
Having been appointed to Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Adolf Hitler led the Nazi party with an ideology of racial superiority, nationalism, and destruction of all who opposed them. The aftermath of WW1 – specifically, the Treaty of Versailles – meant that Germany was limited in what it could do on a diplomatic stage, and during the 1930s, the Nazis broke a series of rules that had been laid down in 1919. This caused the Allied countries to become concerned, and when the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939, France and Britain declared war on Germany.
What followed was six years of turmoil. One of Hitler’s key aims as Fuhrer of Germany was the destruction of the Jewish race, and even before the war began the Nazis had implemented a number of laws which discriminated against the Jews. Things became gradually worse, with the Nazis establishing Jewish ghettos in Poland in 1940, and the concentration camps 1942. It is estimated that 6 million Jews were killed during the reign of Hitler. Other social minorities were targeted by the Nazis, including homosexuals, communists, Romani, and people with disabilities.
The battles of WW2 were fought at sea, in the air, as well as on land. Some of the most well-known battles include the Battle of Britain (1940), Stalingrad (1942-3), El Alamein (1942-3), Iwo Jima (1945), and the Battle of the Bugle (1944-5). The D-Day landings in June 1944 are also some of the most famous events from the war, since many people consider it a turning point in the course of the war. D-Day resulted in the liberation of Paris, and allowed the Allied forces to close in around Germany. By 1944, the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union was proving unsuccessful, and the Soviets were bringing the Eastern front closer to Germany, meaning that the final year of the war saw Hitler stop fighting his own offense, and switching to tactics of defence.
By May 1945, Hitler had committed suicide, and the Nazi regime had collapsed. Japan surrendered in August 1945, and the Allied forces had achieved victory. All territory that had been claimed by Germany was split between the Western and Eastern Allied countries, and Germany itself was divided likewise. Many other countries who previously boasted empires lost their own territories in the years that followed, with the hangover of the Nazi dictatorship leaving bad associations with colonisation. Approximately 73 million people are thought to have died during the conflict, and the economic repercussions were felt across the participating countries for decades after peace was declared.
Link/cite this page
If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.
Link will appear as World War 2 Summary: https://worldwar2.org.uk - WorldWar2.org.uk, September 8, 2013