World War II – summary of the deadliest conflict in history


It is the largest armed conflict that humanity has known. A deadly war that involved tens of millions of fighters around the world. Let’s retrace on a map, a summary of the
main events of World War II. At the end of World War I, Germany and its allies are defeated and held solely responsible for the war. With heavy sanctions imposed upon them, the
Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires are dismantled, while Germany has to repay what many consider
an unreasonable debt. Its colonies and some of its territories are
ceded to the victors, and to Poland which is recreated. These sanctions are seen as humiliation by
the German people. The German economy is weakened by excessive
debt and suffers hyperinflation. National mints try to address this by printing
banknotes, causing a devaluation of its currency. Between 1914 and November 1923, the value
of the mark grew by 1,000 billion. The following year, radical measures are taken
to halt inflation and stabilize and revive the economy. But in 1929 the Wall Street crash in New York
causes the worst economic crisis of the 20th century. Its impact is felt worldwide, with Germany not spared either, causing the
unemployment rate to explode. Severely weakened, Germany sees a rise of
nationalism in 1933 that allows the rise to power of the Nazi
party with Adolf Hitler at its helm. Despite the strict conditions imposed upon
Germany after WWI, the new totalitarian regime resets the country
and restores military service. The country also begins an aggressive foreign policy with the dream of uniting all German-speaking people. Italy, despite its victory with the Allies, is frustrated by the amount of territory it gained after WWI. Since 1922, the country is ruled by the dictatorial
fascist party of Benito Mussolini. Italy begins a colonial policy by seizing
Ethiopia and prepares an invasion of Albania. In Spain, begins three years of civil war
opposing the Republican government who’re supported by the USSR and the International Brigades,
and the nationalist camp led by Francisco Franco, and aided by Italy and Germany. The two countries took the opportunity to
test their armies and to get closer diplomatically. In Asia, Japan continues its expansionist
policy. The country takes advantage of the civil war
in China to invade new territories. The Japanese army uses chemical and biological
weapons and commits massacres of populations, Germany is now powerful enough to launch its
territorial expansion. It first annexed Austria with support from
the local Nazi party. Next, the west of Czechoslovakia was invaded. The Slovak Republic becomes a German satellite
state while Hungary grows closer diplomatically. After the occupation of a part of Lithuania, Germany signs with the USSR a non-aggression pact and a plan to carve up Europe. It then attacks Poland, which provokes the United Kingdom and France to declare war, marking the beginning of World War II. Although the German forces are concentrated in the East, the Allied troops do not take initiative in the West. Instead, France and the United Kingdom try
to cut the strategic iron ore route that passes through Norway and supplies the German military
industry. Germany reacts by invading Denmark and Norway. Within days, the country captures Luxembourg,
the Netherlands and Belgium. Hitler’s new military strategy is called
Blitzkrieg, which surprises opposition defenses with rapid, high-intensity attacks in a concentrated
area. British forces retreat in the face of this German military prowess, and the German army bears down on Paris. The French army is defeated and an armistice
is signed. Germany occupies the north and west of France, leaving its other territory and colonies under the control of the new government. Germany thus has indirect control of French
colonies without having to send an army there. However, parts of the French colonies and the Belgian Congo chooses to stay in the camp of the Allies. In London, which already hosts several governments
in exile, General Charles de Gaulle creates Free France which continues to fight Nazi
Germany. Brazzaville is named as its capital. Pursuant to agreements signed with Germany, the Soviet Union seizes the Baltic states and a part of Romania. Germany, Italy and Japan combine to form the
Axis Powers. All dominions and British colonies, with the
exception of Ireland, enter the war. In Africa, fighting begins between Italian
colonies and Allied forces. While in Europe, despite the massive aerial bombing of British cities, Germany fails to take over the country. Hitler then changes his plans: he now wants
to invade the USSR. But the plan is delayed by Italy, that fails to invade Greece and is forced to retreat by Allied forces. After the accession of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to the Axis forces, the German armies head south to invade Yugoslavia and Greece. Everywhere in Europe, the resistance is organized
in different forms. Sometimes, people organize strikes, demonstrations
or protect wanted persons. Some groups spy for the Allies, conduct sabotage
or print resistance newspapers. In Eastern Europe, guerilla forces undermine
the Axis armies. In Yugoslavia and Greece, resistant communists
and royalist groups confront each other. Germany isn’t spared the anti-Nazi resistance,
with some attempts to assassinate Hitler … which fail. On June 22, Axis forces launched – on some counts – the largest military operation in history to attack USSR, which now passes de facto into the camp of Allied forces. The bulk of the German troops, well equipped
and motorized, rush to the east. To support the Soviets, Allies occupy Iran which then opens up a supply route through the Caucasus. German armies arrive in Leningrad and begin a siege of the city that would last 872 days and cause more than 1 million civilian deaths. Further south, German troops were stopped at the gates of Moscow, where they suffer a harsh and deadly winter. Behind the front lines, the SS massacre Slavic
and Jewish populations. In Asia, Japan occupies French Indochina. To counter its expansionist policy, the United
States imposes upon it an embargo on oil and steel. In response, the Japanese conduct a surprise
attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. A massive aerial bombing damages a large part
of the US naval fleet. The United States enters the 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 resisting the German advance. Japan, for its part, conquers new territories
in the Pacific. In addition to the massacres, Japan sends
10 million Chinese civilians into 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 in the construction of a railway line. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of women are forcibly recruited into prostitution for the Japanese army. In Europe, concentration and extermination
camps are built to massacre, among others, Jews, resistance fighters, political opponents,
gypsies, homosexuals and people with disabilities. Fearing a second front in Europe, Hitler built
the Atlantic Wall, a series of military installations protecting the coast from invasion. But the Allies first landed in Morocco and Algeria. Italian Libya finds itself caught between
two fronts. Having lost control of its colonies, Vichy
France is invaded. In the East, Axis forces try to cut the supply
route of the Caucasus. But for the first time, the German offensive
undergoes a major military setback. The Soviets take the initiative and counterattack. Africa is now entirely controlled by Allies
who organize a landing in Sicily. The new Italian government requests an armistice,
causing the Germans to invade. The USSR advances rapidly westward, forcing
the German army to concentrate on that front. On June 6, 1944, the Allies land in Normandy. Their armies quickly take over and liberate
Paris. In the West, as in the East, countries are
liberated or switch camps. With victory in sight, Allied powers announce
the creation of the United Nations. Countries that declared war on Germany and
Japan would be admitted at its founding conference. This triggers a wave of declarations of war
but without major consequence. On April 30, Hitler commits suicide in his
bunker just before the arrival of the Soviets. Eight days later, the country surrenders. The United States and USSR join forces to
overcome the Empire of Japan. The Soviets began a military invasion via Manchuria while the US drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 15, Japan surrenders, marking the
end of World War II. After 6 years of war, the human toll is heavy
with at least 60 million dead, mostly civilians. Many cities are completely destroyed. Europe and the USSR subject millions of German prisoners of war to bonded labour, many of whom would die. Germany and Austria are carved up among the
victors. The old guard of European powers are left exhausted
and ruined by war. The United States and USSR emerge as the remaining
global superpowers. Despite the role of the UN, which aims to
maintain peace and international security, both sides would eventually engage in indirect
confrontations around the world.

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