Meanings of WWII

According to abbreviationfinder, WWII stands for World War II: It was the largest and bloodiest armed conflict in world history in which the countries that made up the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers clashed between 1939 and 1945. After six years of hard fighting, on August 14, 1945, the end of the war was declared with the victory of the Allies, which occurred after the fall of the regimes of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Hideki Tojo in the Empire of Japan. Conservative figures state that the war caused the death of around 60 million people [1], being the Soviet Union, China and Germany, the nations that had the most victims.

After the war ended, the world was divided into two blocs, the capitalist bloc, led by the United States and with influence over Western Europe and other domains, and the communist bloc, led by the USSR and with influence over Eastern Europe.

General data

In the Second World War 72 States took part, [2] the effectives of all the participating armies were 110 million men, of which 34 million died (31% of the total), 28 million men were maimed (25% of the total troops), casualties in the civilian population exceeded 24.8 million people, more than 5 million people disappeared and the costs are estimated at more than 935 billion dollars. [2] As a consequence of Nazi-fascist aggression, the Soviet Union lost 50% of its economic potential, including the vital heavy industry of the Donez Basin and the agricultural centers of Ukraine and Belarus. Which is explained because until mid- 1944, 95% of the German war potential was on the Eastern Front. About 20 million citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics lost their lives and 25 million their houses, as they were destroyed by that war.

The Soviets destroyed more than 30,000 factories; Germany practically lost its entire industrial infrastructure: more than 2,250,000 houses were destroyed and another 2.5 million were partially destroyed. It is said that more than 400 million cubic meters of debris remained. China lost between 3 and 8 million people, 6 million Jews were exterminated, within the so-called Jewish Holocaust.

On February 13, 1945, Allied aviation destroyed the city of Dresden, in Germany, where almost 130,000 people (most of them refugees) died from this bombing. Other cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Nuremberg were destroyed in the same air campaign, involving massive attacks involving more than 1,000 bombers.

Hundreds of bodies of dead prisoners in the Nordhausen concentration camp (photo taken on April 12, 1945)

One of the most horrendous crimes committed by German fascism during World War II was the so-called holocaust where millions of people, including Jews, Islamists, homosexuals and communists, were exterminated in about 20 human concentration and extermination camps created to kill human beings. The total number of people who lost their lives in these death camps has not yet been determined with accuracy, although conservative figures estimate the victims at 20 million people, the vast majority of whom are civilians, women, children, the elderly, the handicapped and the disabled.


Causes in Europe

German resentment

On November 9, 1919, the German Empire, one of the promoters and promoters of the First World War, had fallen after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the subsequent proclamation of the German Republic or Weimar Republic. The new government, divided between socialists and conservatives, had to face the consequences of the application of the agreements of the Treaty of Versailles [3], which established the following measures in some of its clauses:

  • Payment of compensation by Germany to the Allies for the economic losses suffered by them as a result of the war.
  • Reduction of the German army to the number of 100 thousand men, without the right to own any modern combat weapons (tanks, aircraft and submarines).
  • Reduction of the German Fleet to ships of less than 10 thousand tons.
  • Loss of important and strategic German territories such as Alsace and Lorraine, Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, much of the West Prussian region, and most of the German colonies in Africa and Oceania.

Such measures conditioned the formation of resentment towards the loss of national territory as well as the theft of the sovereignty of Germany and its government, which came to be controlled by external entities such as the governments of France and the United Kingdom as well as the Society of Nations. Within this context, the so-called “National Socialist” movement began to form, which in its beginnings was led by the German Workers’ Party until on February 24, 1920 the party changed its name to become the National Socialist German Workers’ Party whose main figure was adolf hitler.

Italian situation

Italy, one of the winners of the War, did not receive enough territorial concessions to compensate for the cost of the war or to see its ambitions fulfilled, for this reason it had not been left with the distribution of territories under the Treaty of Versailles, in which France, United Kingdom and Belgium had obtained the highest results. On the other hand, the harsh situation in the fields as well as the famine in the cities, increased popular discontent towards the socialist government led by the Italian Socialist Party and with it the rise to power of Benito Mussolini ‘s National Fascist Party.

Anticommunist ideologies: Fascism and Nazism

Fascism: Mussolini founded in 1914 a newspaper, “Il popolo d’Italia”, a forum that he used to incite Italy’s entry into the First World War. [4] At the end of the war, he created a union of ex-combatants named “FFasci di combattimento”. [4] From this group was born the fascist movement, of a nationalist and anti-communist nature. The fascists declared the fight against communism and the weak government of the time, organizing expeditions to the Italian towns, where they forced the socialist mayors to resign.

Benito Mussolini established in Italy in 1922 the first fascist dictatorship. His regime was nationalist and totalitarian. The economy was organized on the basis of guild corporations that brought together workers and employers. Corporatism is one of the main characteristics that identified fascism. The military preparation of the population was another of the objectives of the fascist regime.

Mussolini himself, signed an entry in the Italian Encyclopedia in 1932 titled doctrine of fascism [5] [6]. Today that text is often cited as the “original” definition of Italian fascism, which, in turn, is considered the “original” fascism.

Although the nineteenth century was the century of socialism, liberalism and democracy, that does not mean that the twentieth century should also be the century of socialism, liberalism and democracy. Political doctrines pass; the nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century that tends towards ‘the good’, a fascist century. If the XIX was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism), we are free to believe that this is the century of the ‘collective’, and therefore the century of the state.

The fascist conception of the state is totally inclusive; outside of it no human or spiritual value can exist, much less have value. Once this is understood, fascism is totalitarian, and the fascist state – synthesis and unity that includes all values ​​- interprets, develops and empowers the entire life of a people.

(…) Fascism is a religious conception, in which a man is seen from the perspective of his immanent relationship with a higher law and with an objective Will, which transcends the particular individual and elevates him to conscious belonging to a spiritual society. Anyone who has not seen in the religious policies of the fascist regime nothing more than mere opportunism has not understood that fascism, apart from being a system of government, is also, and above all, a system of thought.

Nazism: Adolf Hitler postulated that according to natural laws, the strongest should prevail over the weakest. He also considered that there was a natural tendency towards the duration of the races, an idea on which he based himself to fight for the purity of the Aryan race, the ethnic trunk of the Germans.

According to Hitler, the Aryans were a privileged “culture-forging” race. [7] The Jews, on the other hand, represented for him a destructive people of that culture. Hitler saw in anti-Semitism a foundation of his historical mission. This led him to unleash a relentless persecution, which began by dispossessing the Jews of their property, continued with their discrimination in all aspects and culminated in five million victims in concentration camps. Nationalisms that are transformed into imperialisms.

The desire for expansion and dominance of the national socialist regime that led to the invasion of Poland by Germany, meant the outbreak of war two days later. Germany’s aggression against Poland became inevitable. Poland, a Slavic state, was an obstacle to the eastward expansion dreamed of by Hitler. Since 1919, Germany tried to make a border claim at the expense of Poland, a country that included a German minority between 700 and 800 thousand individuals, which in the opinion of the Germans, the borders of Upper Silesia also constituted a “flagrant injustice”. In addition, the issue of Danzig (Gdańsk) and the Polish corridor had been causing great friction betweenWarsaw and Berlin. In 1919 Danzig became a free state under the control of the League of Nations, [8] but Germany claimed it for estimating its population to be almost exclusively German- speaking.

German rearmament

Contrary to what is thought, the German rearmament did not begin with the rise of Hitler but began once the First World War was over, during the so-called Weimar Republic. It is at this stage that the chancellor (head of government) Hermann Müller approves government decrees that promote various secret rearmament policies which violate the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. Several subsequent investigations demonstrated the hypothesis that the great powers (United Kingdom and France) were aware of the rearmament plans from the beginning, although they did not take action to stop the race, considering the positions of the governments during the First Republic harmless.

Once the NSAP (German National Socialist Workers Party) came to power, rearmament became a government priority, especially based on the passionate and nationalist Nazi discourse that considered the task of recovering the usurped territories as a matter of national security. during World War I to Germany. That is why, starting in 1933, Hitler began the greatest expansion of industrial production ever seen in Germany.

The task of reviving the so-called military-industrial complex in Germany was a well thought out and costly strategy. Two men with great knowledge in politics and economics (Wilhelm Frick [9] and Hjalmar Schacht) were appointed by Hitler to lead the ambitious rearmament plans. Among the approved policies were the creation of a series of “front” companies which acted not only as money-raisers to support the nascent industry, but also entities that trained pilots, drivers and militia members under the strictest secrecy.

The rearmament meant a sudden change in economic expectations for a large part of the German industrial sector, badly affected by the 1929 crisis. Some large companies, specialized in obsolete products and technologies, diversified and introduced decisive innovations in their production structures. Shipyards, for example, diversified into the aircraft industry, creating opportunities for revolutionary technological advances.

Weakness of the League of Nations

In 1935 Mussolini had attacked Ethiopia and with a large deployment of forces he soon defeated the disorganized troops of the Negus Fallé Selassie occupying Addis Adeba. [10] The League of Nations applied economic sanctions that did not even prevent the oil necessary for the war from reaching Italian ports. England allowed the passage of ships loaded with troops through the Suez Canal and with these facts the League of Nations was totally discredited, strengthening Italy and reinforcing the Rome – Berlin axis.

The League of Nations (dominated by Great Britain) could not prevent the outbreak of new international conflicts or fulfill the peacekeeping mission for which it had supposedly been conceived. He was unable to impose a ceasefire when Japan, Italy and Germany began the aggression. Despite the fact that it applied economic and diplomatic sanctions, the guilty countries chose to leave the organization instead of complying with them.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)

It is said that the Spanish Civil War was a kind of testing ground, in which the weapons that would later be used in the Second World War, which began when the peninsular conflict ended, were tested. Hitler, after denouncing the clauses on disarmament imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, organizing new Air Forces and reinstating military service, put his new weapons to the test during the Spanish Civil War. Germany and Italy delivered war material to Franco and sent specialized troops to fight on Spanish soil against the Republican government in 1936. The other powers did not want to provoke a direct confrontation and refrained from intervening in the fight.

The Pact of Steel

The Pact of Steel or Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy, was the political-military agreement that sealed the German-Italian alliance and with it the destiny of Europe and the future war. Despite the fact that Mussolini did not sympathize with Hitler from the beginning, especially with his war discourse and his image of a Germanic Europe, the fact that Italian fascism and German Nazism had strong similarities ended up bringing them closer. In that sense, Hitler needed the help of Italy to fulfill his clear intentions of invading Poland, he also wanted to have allies in Europe, with the aim of discouraging the United Kingdom and France from declaring war on him.

The signing of the agreement took place on May 22, 1939 in the city of Berlin between the Foreign Ministers Galezzo Ciano for the Kingdom of Italy and Joachim von Ribbentrop for Germany, laying the foundations for future mutual military and logistical support. in case of war. The agreement contained a secret clause, where both totalitarian governments undertook to control their respective press and propaganda media to enhance the image of both governments.

Despite everything, on September 1, 1939, when German forces entered Poland, Mussolini and Ciano renounced supporting Germany in its military adventure for fear of a confrontation with France and the United Kingdom. It would not be until the French defeat in 1940 that Mussolini would validate the Pact of Steel, finally declaring war on the United Kingdom and the already defeated France.

The Tripartite Pact

The so-called Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis arose after the signing of the so-called Tripartite Pact or Axis Pact, which was signed in Berlin on September 27, 1940 by Saboru Kurusu, Adolf Hitler and Galeazzo Ciano, representing the Empire of Japan, Germany and the Kingdom of Italy. It constituted the military alliance between these nations, and officially the Axis Forces were formed, opposed to the Allied Forces in the war. In the following months, the kingdoms of Hungary, Bulgaria, RomaniaThe US and Yugoslavia would join the pact, the first three to receive territory in the Balkans, and the last to avoid being invaded. The Slovak state also joined the Pact after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.

By the date of signing the pact, Italy and Germany had already launched military campaigns against the Allies. While Japan had peacefully occupied French Indochina, after putting pressure on the French colonial authorities who could not count on any help from the metropolis (invaded by the Wehrmacht since June). Until then, Asia’s colonial power, the United KingdomHe had committed military units in small numbers to the protection of his colonies, in part because most of his troops were already too busy fighting Germany. Only the United States had been preparing to face the Japanese military threat, but they were not prepared to face a war on two fronts, that is, against Germany and Japan simultaneously.

The Tripartite Pact recognized the spheres of influence of the three original members, and promoted cooperation among its members to establish a new world order, and to promote the prosperity and well-being of their peoples. It also ordered its members to support, by all possible means, a member that was attacked by an external power, except those that were already at war, in this case France and the United Kingdom. With this last condition, Japan was not obliged to attack the British colonies in Asia, although it eventually did so in December 1941. At Japan’s specific request, the Soviet Unionwas not included in the list of attacking powers, so when Germany invaded this country, Japan had no formal obligation to join the German aggression. In this way, the main power affected in practice by the Tripartite Pact was the United States, since if it went to war with Japan, it would have to prepare to fight in Europe and Asia at the same time.

The governments of Japan, Germany and Italy consider it a prerequisite for lasting peace that every nation in the world receives the space to which it is entitled. Therefore, these nations have decided to support and cooperate with each other in their efforts in Europe and Greater East Asia respectively. The main purpose of this is to establish and maintain a new order of things, planned to promote the mutual prosperity and well-being of the peoples involved. Furthermore, it is the desire of the three governments to extend cooperation to nations in other spheres of influence that are inclined to direct their efforts along similar pathways to their own for the purpose of realizing their ultimate goal, world peace. So, the governments of Japan, Germany and Italy have agreed:

ARTICLE 1: Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in establishing a new order in Europe.

ARTICLE 2: Germany and Italy recognize and respect Japan’s leadership in establishing a new order in Greater East Asia.

ARTICLE 3: Japan, Germany and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts along the lines discussed. They will assist each other with all political, economic and military means if one of the signatory nations is attacked by a power that is not currently involved in the European conflict or the Sino-Japanese conflict.

ARTICLE 4: With a view to implementing the Pact, technical commissions, appointed by the respective governments of Japan, Germany and Italy, must meet without delay.

ARTICLE 5: Japan, Germany and Italy affirm that the agreements do not affect in any way the current political status between each of the signatory powers and Soviet Russia.

ARTICLE 6: This agreement will be valid immediately after its signing and will remain so for ten years from the date it became effective. Before the expiration of that term, the signatory Powers may, at the request of one of them, enter into negotiations to renew the pact.

Fragment taken from the text of the Tripartite Pact

German-Soviet Pact

On June 2, 1939, Stalin took the initiative and proposed the formation of a military alliance with the West. Western nations studied the Soviet approach and sent delegations to Moscow by sailboat, arriving on August 11. At this point the Soviets discovered that the delegates had no authority to sign an agreement. Negotiations made slow progress, but stalled when Kliment Voroshilov proposed discussing the defense of Poland.. The Polish government adamantly refused to let Soviet troops into Poland, as they feared that their state would lose the territories gained in the Peace of Riga. In the third week of August, the Polish refusal completely paralyzed the progress of the negotiations, even under Anglo-French pressure.

There are two main views on the motivation for the Soviet actions of the following days. Historians have stated that after the Munich Conference, Stalin thought he saw a Western plan to push Hitler into Russia. Even after the UK and France reassured their guarantees to Poland, Stalin considered them insincere, and that Western democracies would make the Soviet Union fight.and Germany in the first stage of the war, while they were getting stronger. In this way, the two main threats from the West, Bolshevism and Nazism, would annihilate each other. However, other historians have argued that the British declaration on Polish security gave Stalin the opportunity to condition his participation in the war, and that the alleged Western conspiracy was a pretext to justify parallel negotiations with Germany. In addition, they blame Stalin for the failure of the negotiations, since he requested the military occupation of the Baltic States, in exchange for offering his help, an unacceptable proposal for the British and the French.

Finally, they claim that Stalin, fearful of an insurrection against him, preferred to sacrifice the Polish buffer state to appease Nazi Germany. In both cases, historians agree that the Soviet-Japanese clash, which was taking place at the time in Manchuria, made Stalin see that this was not the right time to start the war with Germany.

The first hint of the German-Soviet rapprochement came on May 3, when Stalin replaced Maxim Litvinov, an ethnic Jew, with Vyacheslav Molotov as Foreign Minister; the Nazis could now negotiate again with the Soviet Union. On August 19, Joachim von Ribbentrop traveled to Moscow and met with Molotov for the signing of a seven-year trade agreement. Later, Ribbentrop suggested extending the agreement to the political realm, to ensure good relations between the nations for the duration of the trade agreement.

On August 24, Ribbentrop met with Stalin and the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was signed, which stipulated non-aggression between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany for 10 years, as well as the neutrality of one nation if the other went to war. war with a third power, which could be understood as France and the United Kingdom. A secret clause, unknown until 1945, indicated that Finland, Estonia and Latvia would become part of the Soviet sphere of influence, while Poland and Lithuaniathey would be shared between Germany and Russia. Additionally, the Bessarabian region would be annexed by the Soviets from Romania.

However, although his latest actions contradicted him, Hitler wished to avoid war with the West. In addition to momentarily neutralizing the Soviet giant, Hitler believed that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact would force the United Kingdom and France to renounce their commitment to Poland. Until the last moment the German dictator believed that those nations would not go to war if he attacked the Poles. However, this was not the case.

Causes in Asia

Japanese expansionism

After the Great Depression, the Empire of Japan began a great approach towards the fascist model, using a campaign in which they presented themselves as a modern and expansionist empire with great interests in taking Asia towards the path of modernization. However, unlike Adolf Hitler and Victor Emmanuel III, Japan had two economic goals in developing an empire.

The first, like its European counterparts, was born from a closely controlled domestic military industry, which was drastically hit by the world crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. In that sense, the lack of resources on the islands of Japan, in order to support a growing industrial sector, raw materials such as iron, oil and coal had to be imported mostly from the United States, which had become Japan’s main trading partner. Thus, due to the scheme of industrial military development and industrial growth, the prevailing mercantilist theories made it essential to control several colonies in the area of ​​Southeast and Central Asia, mainly in strategic enclaves ofChina, Russia, and Indochina.

The first expansionist actions occurred in 1895 with the invasion of Formosa (current Taiwan) and the invasion of Korea in 1910, which were annexed as agricultural colonies, dedicated exclusively to the production of food that allowed the agri-food sustenance of the nascent expansionist Empire. The eyes of Japanese expansionism were on the vast resources of iron and coal in the area of ​​Manchuria (northern China and Mongolia), rubber in Indochina and the vast territories belonging to China.

With little trouble, Japan invades and conquers the entire region of Manchuria (called Manchukuo) in 1931. Apparently, Japan justifies it in order to liberate the Manchus from the Chinese, just like in the case of the annexation of Korea, which was supposedly an act of protection. Like Korea, a puppet government is created, governed under the figure of the deposed Chinese emperor, the boy Piyu. Later, Jehol, a Chinese territory that borders Manchuria, was controlled in 1933.

Japan invades China in 1937, creating what was essentially a three-pronged war between Japan, Mao Zedong ‘s Communists, and Chiang Kai-Shek ‘s Nationalists. Japan takes control of many of China’s coastlines and port cities, but avoids attacking European colonies and their spheres of influence. In 1936, before the invasion of China, Japan signs an Anticommunist Treaty with Germany and another with Italy in 1937.

Course of the war

European theater

Invasion of Poland

On September 1, 1939, the German armies crossed the Polish border, and in a matter of days they neutralized the Polish army, which was not prepared to face the consequences of the Blitzkrieg doctrine. On September 3, the governments of France and the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany, to the surprise of Hitler, but this did not mean any change in the course of the war in Poland, since the allies did not consider sending troops to this country because they hoped that the declaration of war would serve as a dissuasive element in order to avoid being attacked by the Nazis.

When the Wehrmacht occupied Warsaw on 1 October [12], the Polish Military High Command decided to direct their forces south towards the Romanian border, where they planned to hold off the Germans indefinitely until the promised aid arrived. This plan fell apart when the Soviet Union invaded Poland from its other border on September 17, under the pretext of protecting Ukrainians and Belarusians living in eastern Poland, due to the collapse of the Polish administration after the invasion. Nazi. After this, the Polish Army forces fled to Romania, while the Nazis placed a puppet government which would last until 1945.

Invasion of Finland

Stalin, still concerned about a very possible war with Germany, proceeded to hasten the organization of the Soviet armed forces, and focused his sights on the western frontiers. In that sense, aware of the fact that Finland had declared its sympathy with the Nazi Axis, the Soviet political command foresaw the possibility that this territory would be used by Hitler as an access point for an imminent invasion. That is why they make an intense effort to convince the authorities of that nation, offering them larger territories to the north in exchange for receiving territories around Lake Ladoga, which would serve to protect the city of Leningrad, very close to the new theater of operations. war.

The Finnish government of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim refused, and after failed negotiations, the Soviet Union began the invasion of the small neighbor. The result of the Soviet offensive was disappointing, the numerically superior Soviet armies could not cope with the Finnish forces, better adapted to the harsh climate of the arctic battlefield, and thousands of Soviet soldiers died due to the inefficiency of their commanders. Then, Stalin removes his protégé Kliment Voroshilov from command, and with fresh troops under the command of Semyon Timoshenko they restart the attack. This time the exhausted Finnish defenders were overwhelmed and Finland had to cede much of its territory to the Soviet Union.

The Soviet failure in Finland did not go unnoticed by Hitler, who began to underestimate the Red Army and consider the possibility of an attack as quickly as possible. For his part, Stalin began to grant more autonomy to the process of appointing army commanders.

Northern or Norwegian Campaign

Concerned about the possibility of the British attacking Norway and Sweden as a way of cutting off the important iron supply to the Nazi troops, Hitler decided to direct his forces towards Norway, Sweden and Denmark, an event that took place during the spring of April 1940. occupation of these territories ended up convincing the United Kingdom of the need to carry out an attack to expel the Nazis from Norway with the aim of preventing by all means that the Luftwaffe(Nazi Air Force) could direct attacks towards the weak zone of the British north. During the confrontation, approximately 45 thousand soldiers were used by the Nazi side while the British used a total of approximately 80 thousand soldiers, although the difference was notable and leaned in favor of the British side, the invasion would culminate in failure for Hugh’s troops. Massy and Claude Auchinleck (British Commanders). In addition, the Norwegian bases were used as a starting point for the Luftwaffe bombers and fighters that participated in the Battle of Britain.

Battle of france

With the eyes of the world fixed on the conflict in Norway, the German Military High Command began to plan the reopening of the Western Front, with a clear objective, to avoid the reuse of the trench warfare method that had been highly effective in delaying the results during the First World War. As the Netherlands and Belgium had declared themselves neutral, the French armies had withdrawn to their borders, awaiting attack from this point, since their border with Germany was considered impenetrable. General Erich von Mansteinserealized that the Ardennes region, southeast of Belgium, had not been sufficiently protected, since the French Marshal Maurice Gamelin considered that the dense forests would make it difficult for tanks to cross that region. Marshal Gamelin was right, but he left this region almost unprotected, which was where the main German forces headed on May 10, 1940.

On the day of the invasion, an important German force entered Holland and Belgium, violating their neutrality, the allies advanced from France towards these countries. Meanwhile, another major German force under General Gerd von Rundstedt crossed the Ardennes, tank jams forming on the narrow roads, and when they emerged from the forest two days later, the Allies realized they were going to be surrounded, and the government French panicked.

On May 18, 1840, the German encirclement was closed, and the bulk of the Allied armies were trapped in Belgium. Counterattacks from within and without to lift it were unsuccessful, and the British began evacuating their men through Operation Dynamo. It is at that very moment that Mussolini finally decided to act and get involved in the war in compliance with what was agreed within the Pact of Steel, and on June 5 he declared war on the Allies, and tried to invade France from the south. On June 10, Paris was declared an open city, and fell soon after.

With no reserves to contain the German advance, France surrendered on June 22, 1940. The then Colonel Charles de Gaulle escaped to England, and unaware of the new pro-German Vichy government, creating the French Resistance through the historic June 18 Call made from the microphones of the BBC in London. The poor results in the management of the British troops, ended up specifying the resignation of the then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who was replaced by Winston Churchill.

Bombing of england

German strategists had studied the possibility of an invasion of England, which was condensed into Operation Sea Lion. They had concluded that before considering the German landing it was necessary to neutralize the British Air Force so that the German Air Force would finish off the British Navy, since the German Navy could not do this. In this way all eyes fell on General Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe. General Göering began a series of strategic bombing raids on England., focusing on aerodromes and industrial zones. The results were devastating, especially that of Operation “Eagle Day”, where 1,000 bombers protected by 700 fighters attacked England, destroying dozens of aircraft on the ground.

However, the RAF found some respite when London harbors were accidentally bombed, prompting the British to bomb Berlin. This attack on German soil motivated Hitler to order Göering to change his strategy, starting the Blitz. During this stage, civilian targets were bombed, killing some 43,000 people and destroying 1 million houses. The RAF took advantage of the change in strategy to increase their numbers, and were finally able to stand up to the Luftwaffe. On October 12, Hitler gets tired of waiting and orders the invasion of England to be called off. However, the bombing of London would not stop until May 16, 1941, when Hitler would focus his gaze back to the east.

Balkan Campaign (1941)

With control over France achieved and British forces disarmed after the terrible Blitz, Germany’s next target was the Soviet Union as Italy prepared to seek control over Greece. In this sense, Mussolini had pressured the Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, to give in to Italian demands. Greece’s negative response triggered the Italian invasion from Albania in October 1940, which ended in a stalemate on the front. In March 1941, Hitler learned that the RAF was using Greek air bases, and he eventually came to Italy’s aid.

To make a surprise attack, the German armies had to pass through Macedonia, part of Yugoslavia, so Regent Paul was pressured to join his country to the Tripartite Pact. Two days after this, the Regent was overthrown, and although the new rulers of Yugoslavia decided to join the German side anyway, this did not calm Hitler, who ordered the invasion to begin on April 6. After 11 days of fighting, Yugoslavia was fully occupied. At the same time, the armies of Bulgaria, Italy and Germany had begun the invasion of Greece, whose defenders were unable to contain the enemy onslaught, despite having British units among their forces.

On April 27, Athens fell and the Allied evacuation to Crete began. On May 20, Germany also invades Crete, suffering heavy casualties. However, despite having lost almost 16 thousand men, the Axis Forces manage to expel the Allied forces, conquering the island on June 1.

The German campaign in the Balkans is known as the Balkan Diversion or Diversion, since one of its consequences was the delay of the German offensive on the Soviet Union. Indeed, Hitler began his long-awaited “crusade” two months later than initially planned, which would cause German troops to arrive in Moscow at the start of the autumn rains, hindering the German armored advance.

Great patriotic war

The Great Patriotic War is the term given by the Soviets to frame the period between June 22, 1941 and May 9, 1945, although to the West, it is known as the Eastern Front. During this process, the USSR would lose approximately 27 million people in a confrontation that began with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and culminated in the fall of Berlin on May 3, 1945 at the hands of the Red Army..

The Battle of Stalingrad constituted the turning point of the Second War, the moment in which the Soviet troops, after the initial defeats of Operation Barbarossa, go on the offensive against the Nazi forces of the Axis, in fact, the importance of this battle It can be seen in the enormous number of casualties on both sides, the total destruction of a Soviet city and the enormous losses of men and material suffered by the Wehrmacht, which is why historical criticism considers the Battle of Stalingrad to be the most severe military defeat (and more decisive) of Hitlerite Germany, after which the initiative in combat corresponded to the Red Army. The Soviet Union was the combatant country that withstood almost 80% of the attack of the Axis countries in Europe, so the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad and the subsequent counter-offensive meant the beginning of the collapse of the German war machine.

Opening of the European fronts

Mediterranean front

After the success achieved by the allies in their fight against Erwin Rommel ‘s Afrika Korps in North Africa, the next objective of the allied forces in the Mediterranean would be Italy and with it the possibility of overthrowing Mussolini and dealing a heavy blow. to Hitler. On July 10, 1943, British forces commanded by Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery landed near the Sicilian city of Syracuse while General George Pattonlanded near Gela. Although Mussolini had insisted that only Italian divisions defend Sicily, two panzer divisions under General Albert Kesselring were on the island. Due to the rapid Italian collapse, Kesselring withdrew to the northwest of Mount Etna, with the aim of keeping the escape route to Messina clear. Montgomery advanced rapidly to the foothills of Etna, when his offensive was stopped in its tracks. For his part, Patton advanced freely until liberating Palermo on July 22.

After losing several days in the Santo Stefano defensive line, the two allied armies began a race to Messina. Several Allied attempts to make amphibious landings on the enemy flanks failed, but in the end resistance was broken and Patton reached Messina first on 17 August. However, by that time, most of the enemy forces had already escaped from Sicily. Kesselring himself had luckily escaped a day before Patton’s arrival.

Despite the defeat, the first Allied landing attempt in Sicily would have political results, because faced with the danger of direct aggression, on July 25, 1943, the Fascist Grand Council decided to appoint Pietro Badoglio as Prime Minister of Italy. instead of Mussolini. The action that had the consent of King Victor Manuel III, was a betrayal against Mussolini who would be arrested and sent to multiple prisons, with the aim of outwitting potential rescuers. Badoglio’s main objective would be to secretly agree to a surrender with the allies that included the perpetuation of the monarchy. Hitler, who distrusted the new Italian authorities, ordered the German troops to carry out a coup in order to restore Mussolini to power, a fact that would be consummated on September 12, when a commando of SS paratroopers led by Otto Skorzeny, freed Mussolini from his captivity. Once free, Mussolini was proclaimed prime minister of the Italian Social Republic, a territory situated in northern Italy.

The invasion of mainland Italy was planned in three non-simultaneous operations: Baytown, Avalanche, and Slapstick. Baytown was executed on September 3, when Montgomery’s troops crossed the Strait of Messina and occupied the Calabria region. The massive surrender of the Italian army left the entire weight of the defense on Germany. However, the German tactic of destroying bridges and roads delayed Montgomery’s advance. On September 9, Slapstick was executed, which stipulated landings in Taranto with the aim of forcing the German units, since the Italians had already surrendered, to move away from Salerno, which is where the Avalanche was going to be executed. Taranto was quickly secured and soon all eyes turned to Salerno, which is where the main landing was to take place.

The landing at Salerno, commanded by American General Mark Wayne Clark, began the same day as the landing at Taranto to the south. After taking the beaches, a German counter-attack inflicted heavy casualties on the Allied troops, however naval artillery destroyed any panzers that approached the beaches. The invading troops attempted to move south, aiming to contact Montgomery, but the heavy German presence stopped them. Between 12 and 14 September a German counterattack pushed the Allies back to their last line of defence, making them fight with the beach on their backs. However, the timely use of reserve troops saved the landing force from disaster. Eventually the beachhead was secured and Montgomery’s forces located to the south could be contacted. After the occupation of Naples theOn October 1, 1943, the southern part of Italy ended up in Allied hands while in the north the Germans were preparing to contain the Allies from the so-called Volturno Line. [[File:Allied-troops-italy.jpg|thumb|Allied soldiers during the Battle of Montecattini In the face of rapid Allied advances, Kesselring became alarmed at the prospect of airfields in northern Italy falling into enemy hands, allowing increased bombardment about Germany. Therefore, he made the decision to retain the allies in central Italy indefinitely, using the Montes

Apennines as a natural defense. Two temporary defensive lines, the Volturno line and the Barbara line, were quickly built, the purpose of which was to allow the construction of a more powerful line: the Gustav line. In front of this line and in its rear, around the Montecassino area, two lines were built that protected the western flank of Italy: the Bernhardt line and the Adolf Hitler line. While the Americans suffered delays crossing the Volturno and Barbara lines to the west, the British crossed without much trouble to the east, reaching the same Gustav line, where heavy snowfalls spelled the end of the British offensive by 1943. Winter operations on the Italian Eastern Front were limited to raids and night patrols.

On the American side, the offensive continued, but after six weeks suffering 16,000 casualties, the US Fifth Army had only managed to advance less than 10 kilometers, overcoming the Bernhardt line. By January 15, 1944, the Allies had managed to expel the Germans under the command of Heinrich von Vietinghoff from Mount Trocchio, although this could not be considered a victory, since the Allied expectations had been greater.

As the quickest way to reach Rome was considered to be across the Liri Valley on the Italian Western Front, plans were made to quickly outflank the German defensive lines via an amphibious landing in the rear of the Gustav Line, At the same time, two attacks were carried out on its flanks through the Liri valley. However, both the landing (Battle of Anzio) and the attacks up the Liri Valley (Battle of Montecassino) did not yield the desired results, as newly arrived relief German troops cut off the Allies at Anzio, and an observation post at Montecassino it provided the German artillery with the advantage to neutralize any Allied attempts to enter the valley.

It was not until May 18, 1944 that a Polish regiment conquered the top of Montecassino. Then the Allied armies headed for the Adolf Hitler Line, outflanking it within a week. With the Germans retreating into northern Italy, the isolated forces at Anzio launched a strike to break free, creating a unique opportunity to cut off the retreat of German forces coming from the south. But General Mark Wayne Clark let the Germans escape, preferring to head directly to Rome for the honor of liberating it rather than the British.

On June 4, 1944, the Americans entered Rome. However, this victory was overshadowed, not only by the enormous loss of life that was not estimated, but also because two days later the landing in Normandy began and the Italian front was definitively relegated to second place, since the British and American generals they would henceforth focus on the western front.

Reopening of the Western Front

As the Soviet Union stood alone against the armies of the Third Reich, the Western Allies began planning to land in Europe, first making a small incursion that would become known as the Battle of Dieppe. On August 19, 1942, 6,000 Canadian soldiers landed in Dieppe, with the aim of staying for a short period in which they would collect information and test new methods of assaulting the beaches. The result was disastrous, almost all the soldiers were killed or captured, and many ships and planes were lost.

Fortunately for Stalin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in favor of ending the war in Europe first, before going against Japan, so after relatively successful campaigns in North Africa, Allied troops jumped into Sicily on 10 March. July 1943. _ Finally, at Stalin’s continued insistence, it was decided in May 1943 that the reopening of the Western Front would take place in 1944.

After selecting different places for the landing, it was concluded that it should take place on the beaches of Brittany, Normandy or the Pas de Calais. Because Calais was so well defended, it was ruled out almost immediately, and because Brittany was so far from Paris and Germany, and because its climate was so unstable, it was decided that the Normandy beaches would be selected. In June 1943 it was confirmed to Stalin that the invasion would take place in May 1944. The invasion, until then Operation Round-Up, was renamed Operation Overlord.

Stages of the Western Front from 1944 to 1945:

  1. Reopening of the Front: Battle of Normandy, Operation Market Garden
  2. German Counterattack: Battle of the Bulge
  3. Conquest of Germany: Operation Plunder

After significant resources were invested in the “Rhine Guard” operation during the Battle of the Bulge, which had yielded no results, German defense depended on control over two rivers: the Rhine in the west and the Oder in the north. the East. After the failure of Bernard Montgomery, Eisenhower had to consider again the way to invade Germany. While the British pressed to make the crossing against the positions held by their armies, the Americans pressed to make it against their own positions. Eisenhower decided to carry out both plans, allowing Montgomery to execute Operation Veritable with the 21st Army Group, which would place his forces in the right place to cross the Rhine opposite Wessel. To the south, General Omar Bradley would do the same between Koblenz and Cologne with the XII Army Group. Patton’s Third Army would head south between Mainz and Mannheim to link up with American troops coming from the south of France. Once Montgomery had started the crossing of the Rhine, Bradley would have the green light to do it too.

Leading Montgomery was Model’s Army Group, being a relatively small force, Montgomery thought of encircling it, so he borrowed the Ninth Army from the Americans (Operation Grenade). In this way, while Bradley’s forces crossed upriver, Montgomery would cross downriver, skirting the Ruhr valley where Model was located.

On February 8 Veritable was executed, however heavy German resistance delayed the advance of Montgomery’s forces. Worse still, the Germans destroyed the dams in the Ruhr Valley, flooding it, which prevented Grenade from being executed until two weeks later. Meanwhile, Montgomery’s forces faced Model’s alone, until February 23, when William H. Simpson ‘s Ninth Army crossed, linking up with Plunder’s forces two weeks later.

Bradley to the south, took Cologne on March 6, and then Bonn. A US First Army commando approached Remagen to hold off the German forces while the Third Army coming from the south linked up with them. To their surprise, this commando found a bridge over the Rhine intact, which was immediately taken. This was the first pass that the allies achieved, and although it allowed the passage of material and soldiers to the other shore, it collapsed on March 17, since it had been damaged during its capture.

What followed was a struggle between the Allied generals to see who would advance beyond the Rhine. By March 28, Montgomery had a firm bridgehead and, as discussed earlier, began preparing to take Berlin. To his surprise, Eisenhower changed his plan at the last minute, ordering that Bradley’s armies now move on Dresden, with the aim of dividing Germany in two. Montgomery, for his part, should cut off the Red Army from Denmark. A smaller force would head for Austria, where rumors spread that fanatical Nazis were entrenching themselves in a series of impregnable fortresses in the Alps.

As Hitler’s generals had predicted, Allied forces surrounded Walther Model ‘s German Army Group B, who had been cut off in the Ruhr pocket. After holding out until mid-April, the pocket was split in two by the Allies, one half being quickly captured. As Model’s requests fell on deaf ears in Berlin, he decided to give freedom of conscience to his soldiers, allowing those who wanted to surrender to do so, while those who wanted to continue fighting could do so. Model committed suicide near Duisburg shortly after, saying that a general could not surrender, although some historians say he was afraid of being tried and executed. Of the 430 thousand soldiers trapped, about 325 thousand were captured alive.

By May 1945, all organized defense had disappeared, due to mass surrenders, the Wehrmacht had proceeded to recruit children and old people into the Volkssturm battalions, which did not achieve a significant change. On April 11, the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated, and then, on April 29, the Dachau concentration camp. Allied generals had already been alerted to the nature of these camps, in part by information given by 16 survivors of the Struthof-Natzweiler concentration camp on the French border with Germany, liberated on November 23 last year.

On April 24, US forces made first contact with Soviet forces at Torgau on the Elbe. On May 5 the allies entered Austria. Having fallen every major German city except Berlin, the Allies made it their business to occupy as many corners of Germany as possible, leaving the capital of the Reich to the Soviets.

Battle of berlin

By April, all Soviet fronts were ready to begin the final advance on Germany, mustering 2.5 million men, 6,250 tanks, 7,500 planes, 41,600 artillery pieces, 3,255 Katyusha rocket launchers, and almost a hundred thousand transport vehicles, most of them borrowed from the United States.

On April 16, 1945, the so-called Battle of Berlin began, and while Georgi Zhukov ran into trouble in the Seelow Hills to the south, Koniev’s 1st Ukrainian Front reached south of Berlin without any trouble. Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front was pressured to pick up the pace, as Zhukov wanted to take Berlin first. Zhukov thus surrounded Berlin and attacked from the northwest, while Koniev, halting momentarily on Stalin’s orders, came second in Berlin and attacked from the south.

April 24, General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the LVI Panzer Corps, headed to Hitler’s bunker to be shot after being accused of having escaped to Potsdam. However, as a symptom of the mental instability that Hitler displayed in his final months, Weidling was not only not executed, but was made Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Berlin, as Goebbels, the nominal Defender of Berlin, did not have the military preparation. The battle of Berlin was hard, as the civilian population was forced to use the weapons, so it was normal to see children as young as ten years old, as well as old people and invalids, in the artillery positions or using Panzerfausts. Soviet casualties were extremely high, and Berlin’s architecture suffered extensive damage, including the Reich Chancellery, the Reichstag, and thebrandenburg gate.

Those civilians who refused to fight were immediately executed by the Germans, while those who did fight were executed by the Soviets, the number of prisoners was low compared to those obtained in other battles. Hitler all the time refused to leave the capital to go to Berchtesgaden, so the top officers of the Wehrmacht refused to surrender, since they had all taken an oath of allegiance to the Fuhrer.

On April 30, Adolf Hitler, along with his new wife Eva Braun, committed suicide. Several leading figures in the German government did the same, including Joseph Goebbels and his wife, who earlier poisoned their six children. Hitler’s secretary, Martin Bormann disappeared in the battle, although several people say he was seen dead with two shots in the back in a Berlin subway station. Weidling surrendered the city to the Russians on May 2. The Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitelhe was captured and later participated in the signing of the surrender document. In the battle 360 ​​thousand Soviet soldiers died, the German figures are doubtful, but it is estimated that they were much lower, since there were only 90,000 German defenders. [[File:Keitel-May-9-1945.jpeg|thumb|Moment when German Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signs the capitulation on behalf of Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945.]] Admiral Karl Dönitz was appointed Chancellor by Hitler before he died, and he gave permission to General Alfred Jodl to sign the unconditional surrender with the Soviet Union on May 7, becoming effective the next day. Hitler’s former confidants, Hermann Goering andHeinrich Himmler had fallen out of favor by trying to make a separate peace with the Allies. Both committed suicide after being captured by the Americans.

May 9, Victory Day for the Soviet Union, became a holiday, and an impressive parade was held in Moscow on June 24, culminating the European stage of World War II.


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