World War II is up to today considered the largest and the worst war to ever happen in history. It started in 1939 from Europe and ended in 1945, spreading to almost all parts of the world and leaving about 70 million people dead. The figure included men, women, soldiers, children and civilians who died mainly due to illnesses, starvation and bomb attacks. The WW2 involved two opposing military alliances, the Axis and the Allies, formed from great nations that participated in the war. Axis was the alliance between Germany, Japan and Italy where as Allies alliance was between Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. One factor that contributed to this war was the imposition of the Versailles Treaty on Germany by the Allied powers on 28 June 1919 after the end of First World War (Evans 107). Germany was to pay a huge amount of money to France and Britain due to the damage that occurred during World War I. In addition, Germany would not build ships again and was also to lose all its overseas colonies to France.
The war began on 1 September 1939 when France declared war on Germany due to the invasion of Poland by Germany (Forster & Gessler 64). France and Great Britain had earlier guaranteed Poland their protection should Germany try to attack it. At the same period, Germany, lead by the dictator Adolf Hitler agreed with the Soviet Union to collaborate on Poland invasion. In the agreement, Germany had to take over a third of Poland while Soviet Union takes over the other two thirds.
Adolf Hitler and World War II
The history of World War II is never complete without mentioning the role played by Adolf Hitler. Born in Austria on 20 April 1889, Adolf Hitler grew up dreaming to join army one day. At the age of 24 years, during the World War I, Hitler moved to Munich and served as one of the German soldiers against France and Great Britain (Shirer 27). When Germany lost the war, the new agreements between Germany and the Allied powers were never a welcome to Hitler because to him they were unfair. In 1919, Hitler became a member of the German Workers’ party, which paved his way to becoming the NSDAP leader in 1921. He later attempted to withdraw the government without success, which lead to his imprisonment from 1923 to 1924. In 1933, he became National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party leader and the Chancellor of Germany (Shirer 18). While on the power, he abolished the existed democratic government and became a dictator. He also ordered the banning of all trade unions and the arrest of its leaders (Shirer 201). Hitler wanted a powerful government that would easily overturn the Versailles Treaty. To him, his strong government would successfully snatch the Germans territory from the Great Britain and France. It was not long when his leadership style began to raise concerns. Hitler’s leadership made some political analysts to predict the probability of another World War breaking out (Zalampas 62).
Between 1933 and 1945, the Hitler’s leadership in Germany became very powerful. One of the many aims that Adolf Hitler wanted to accomplish was to get rid of all people he considered evil and never deserved to live. One of such people was the Jews. German army killed about two thirds of the 9 million Jews that lived in Europe (Dawidowicz 403). Jews were not the only people that Nazi targeted, since along the way, physically and mentally disabled people, homosexuals, Gypsies and many others that Hitler considered they lived by mistake were also killed (Niewyk 191).
The Holocaust mission started in Germany in 1933 just after Hitler became Chancellor. Everything that Jews owned, including properties and shops were burnt down (Snyder 45). In 1935, any Jewish person that was alive lost all their rights. The Jews were no longer considered Germany citizens. No relationship between the Germans and the Jews, including intermarriage was allowed. The few remaining Jews escaped to other peaceful places before the break out of the World War II.
Nazi Attack of the Soviet Union
The German army attack on the Soviet Union was the largest invasion ever experienced in the history of welfare. Before the attack, Hitler signed an agreement with Joseph Stalin to prevent the Soviet Union from intervening on his Western Europe attack. Hitler did this only to buy some time to prepare for Soviet Union invasion and control its oil fields and wheat. He also wanted to control the Russian expansion towards central Europe.
The Germany Soviet Union invasion operation started on June 22, 1941. In the invasion, Germany used 750,000 horses and 600,000 motor vehicles (Taylor 106). In two months time, Germany had captured and killed a big percentage of Soviet Union soldiers. The strong German troops overpowered Soviet Union and occupied its important economic lands especially Ukraine. Despite all these victories, the next German army mission was to invade Moscow. Since many of the Hitler’s soldiers had died during the Soviet Union Invasion, Hitler had to wait for backup. When German army got the backup and finally started Moscow invasion, it was too late since the Soviet Union had already strengthened and organized its army against the Germans (Taylor, 107). In addition, since it was on a winter season, and the German army had not carried enough clothing, they were affected harshly since the temperatures dropped below -300 C. Faced with all this, the Germans had to withdraw their troops.
The Germans were more than determined to capture as many territories as possible. In 1942 during a summer season, they directed their aim and attack to the Caucasus. They were aiming to occupy the Russian oil rich region. German army attacked the city; killed many, and destroyed properties. After sometime during a winter season, Russian army attacked the Germans and retained its territory. On January 1943, Germany surrendered after losing about 230,000 of its soldiers.
Causes of WW2
- The Versailles Treaty
This treaty was the main reason that leads to this war. In 1919 when WW1 ended and after Germany lost the war, the leaders Orlando of Italy, Lloyd George of England, Woodrow Wilson of US and Clemenceau of France had a meeting to discuss on how Germany was to pay for the damage caused by the First World War. They aimed at coming up with a punishment so harsh to make sure German never again started another war. The Versailles Treaty was exclusively in Germany. The other nations that had formed alliances with Germany during the First World War were charged under different treaties (Davis 49). These leaders agreed that Germany should first pay 6,600 million USD for the World War I damage. In addition, they banned Germany from using tanks, submarines and air force and instead was only allowed to use six naval ships and a small army. As if this was not enough, the Germany land together with its overseas colonies was taken and given to other countries. Since there was no alternative, Germans had to sign the agreement, though reluctantly. Since it was a period of the great depression (Charles 2008), it was more than hard for the German people to afford these penalties, leave alone to provide for their families. The prices for basic commodities were very high and it was so hard to find a well paying job. Being dissatisfied with the government, the German people voted for Adolf Hitler, who promised to overturn the Versailles Treaty.
- League of Nations Failure
The League of Nations was formed in 1919 just after the First World as an international organization to prevent the occurrence of another war, and to keep the world peace. The aim of the League was to unify all countries together by the use of negotiation between the disputing countries (Skirbekk 288). According to the League of Nations, if negotiations between and among disputing countries were not possible, then the peaceful countries would stop trading with the aggressive countries. In addition, if that also failed, then the disputing countries would have to fight.
Problems started affecting the League in late 1920s when the world experienced great depression (Charles 2008). People started to lose faith in the ruling government. States started invading China’s areas like Manchuria that were rich in minerals and resources. Japan was the first to invade Manchuria. The League of Nations summoned Japan in vain. The League of Nations then passed a message to all countries to stop trading with Japan, but because of the depression, the countries could not risk losing their trade relationship with Japan and so they went contrary to the League. When the League summoned Japan for the second time, Japan threatened to leave the League.
Another example occurred in October 1935 when Italy invaded Abyssinia. The League then tries to bring peace between the two countries in vain. The League then called for all country members to stop trading with Italy. The move could not affect Italy since Italy could still trade with other non-member countries. In addition, the Great Britain and France never wanted to intervene, as this would ignite a war between them and Italy. All these League of Nations’ failures and many more contributed to the break out of the world war two (Rosecrance, 134)
A number of factors affected the performance of the League of Nations. First, the league of Nations had neither power nor weapons. The only tactic the League used was to ask member countries to stop trading with those states that were going contrary with the agreement. The action could not work since the member states were free to trade with the non-members. In addition, the League never its own army and instead depended on the member states armed forces. However, these countries were reluctant to provide one. The big states like Britain, France and America were so reluctant to rely on the unarmed League of Nations, which made them view it nonfunctional.
It was also hard for the League of Nations to act quickly on the matter. Since the League held meetings with the state members only for times per year, there was no adequate communication between the member states. In addition, any raised matter had to be agreed upon by all members. Since different states viewed different matters differently, it was hard to act quickly on the aggressive member states.
- Unstable German Leadership
Before Adolf Hitler became Nazi leader, Germany got a succession of many different leaders who had diverse visions and goals for German people. Due to democratic government, different democratic parties emerged whose ways of governing were very different among them. The country's economy was worsening by days. In 1929, everything went out of control and the citizens started directly attacking the Chancellors (Brooks 73). From January to March in 1933, Germany citizens had already replaced a number of Chancellors. Adolf Hitler was elected as the new Chancellor.
- Hitler’s Actions
When Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor, he immediately began to build up his army geared to attack the Allied power. He also dictated a compulsory military service to Germans. The Great Britain and France did not resist the Hitler’s new style of leadership, as they believed that the Hitler’s actions were a perfect way of preventing the spread of communism to the west (Steele 45). It is the same reason Britain and France never intervened when the German army entered the Rhineland in 1936. At the same time, Adolf Hitler also signed two collaboration agreements. The first agreement was the Rome-Berlin Axis Pact, which connected Germany with Italy. The second agreement was the Anti-Comintern, which was between Germany and Japan (Weinberg 344). With these alliances, Hitler started his mission of taking back the Germans land from France and Britain.
The first step was to take back the Czechoslovakia Sudetenland region. In September 1938 just before the Hitler’s action, the Prime Minister of Britain tried to negotiate with Hitler to prevent war. They came to the agreement that Hitler would take the Sudetenland provided that he promised not to attack the rest of Czechoslovakia. Since Hitler was not a man of his word, in March 1939, his troop took over the rest of Czechoslovakia (Overy 425). All this happened without Britain or France taking any actions. The next aim for Germans was to invade Poland. Poland had earlier on signed an agreement with Britain and France to protect its territory should Germany attempted to invade it. On September 1st 1939, Germany army invaded Poland but Britain and France intervened.
Between 1933 and 1937, the Britain and France governments became a bit lenient on the Germany Treaty of Versailles terms and conditions. They considered the restrictions placed in Germany being unfair and inhumane. It is the same reason they never intervened even when the German army invaded some states. All this was to prevent conflict between them and Germany and hence kept the world peaceful (Martin 115). In 1934, when Germany started creating its army, many politicians supported the movement saying Germany needed to protect itself from its enemies. In addition, strong Germany leadership would prevent the spread of communism to the west. Some politicians never supported this movement, and instead pointed out that those who supported it were undivided (Martin 115)
Since Germans could now expand in weapons and troops without any major restrictions, this was a perfect chance for them to attack France and Britain. The politicians thought that with all this freedom granted to Germans (appeasement), it would be hard for Germany to decide on another war. They never knew the Germans had other plans.
The German Collapse in 1945
The collapse of Germany in 1945 ended the six years World War II. In early 1945, the Allied powers met and planned on how they would stop the Hitler’s Leadership.. After the agreement, the operation began when Soviet troops attacked the German army from the Oder River, and at the same time, Great Britain together with France based their attack from the Rhine River. The Allied forces captured some 1,000,000 of Axis soldiers. Even though at this time it was clear that the Axis alliance could not defeat the Allied powers, Hitler insisted that the war should continue. By April 1945, 800,000 Germany soldiers had surrendered. Allied powers then established Rheinwiesenlager in the west of Germany to hold the captured and surrendered Germany soldiers. There are those soldiers who refused to surrender fearing the capture, but they later died of starvation and diseases (Davidson 84).
On 30 April, when Hitler could not defeat Soviet troops who were half a mile away from him, he committed suicide (Beevor 342.). Two days before, he had married his mistress who also killed herself on the spot. Their bodies were then collected and burnt. Shortly after, all German forces in Berlin, North West Germany and Bavaria surrendered. The whole territory that Germany claimed was then divided between the Eastern and the Western Allied countries.
The World war two had a huge effect on history and also on our everyday life as a whole. The huge number of men, women, civilians, grandparents and children who died during this war due to bombings, starvation and fighting made a number of families and generation to end. When we study a little about this war, we are told it broke out when France and Britain were trying to fulfill their protection promise should the Germans invaded it. So, in short, this war was declared to defend Poland (Forster & Gessler 64). But, what is interesting is that Poland was never rescued from this from this war. After the end of this war, instead of Poland granted its right, we see its land being taken and becoming the Soviet Union Satellite. This was the site for for imprisonment, including the 100,000 Polish citizens who were captured during the war. Poland was totally forgotten. In my view, I think these countries never went to the war for the reasons they claimed.
A question that many continue to raise is what contributed to Allies' victory over Germany. A number of answers have been put forward, the main one being that Britain had more material and human resource than Germany. However, after studies and in-depth researches, this resource myth is not backed with enough evidences. Even if it is stated that Britain supplied way more planes per month during the war than Germany did, the notion that this was the reason that made Allies win is groundless since at that time, the hugely stated number of planes never existed (David & Jonathan 86). Research shows that by the summer of 1942, the availability of resources in both allies and axis powers was the same. The best way to look at this problem is not on the availability of resources but instead we should look at the utilization of the resources that were available. In a number of ways, the Allies seemed to arrange themselves systemically, accurately planned their attack and utilized their resources in a smart manner than their enemies (David 86).
Another question that even today remains unanswered is whether Hitler planned the war. Many suggest that Hitler had not planned a war against France since France could not let him visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris. In addition, German army did not attack the Soviet Union since Soviet Union would not allow Robert Ley, German labor Front Leader, to put a pleasure ship in the Caspian Sea (Richard 704). Researches show that Germans had a purpose for this war; the purpose has been to kill all Jews in the whole world since according to Germans, Jews were evil and never deserved to live (Richard 704). It is also argued that people were made to believe that the reason Germany sent Erwin Rommel to Egypt was for him to dismantle Gaza pyramid and then set it up in Berlin. However, the truth is that what he went there to do was to supervise the killing of all Jews in Palestine, Egypt and everywhere (Klaus & Martin 63).
In 1945 when the war ended, new life and era began. New superpowers replaced the old ones. The United States and the Soviet Union rose and created a bipolar world. The main step of the emerging super powers was to recover the European economy that had collapsed by 70% of industrial destruction. In addition, after the World War II alteration of social structure and political aliment of the world, there was the establishment of the United Nations (UN), which was, and still is geared to prevent future conflict, to keep nations united and to foster international co-operation. Nations like the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, China, France and the United States that participated in the World War II are among the United Nations Security Council permanent members.
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