World War II: It was the largest and bloodiest armed conflict in universal 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 struggle, the 14 of August of 1945, the end of the war is declared with the victory of the Allies occurred after the fall of the regimes of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Hideki Tojo in the Empire of Japan. Conservative figures establish that the war caused the death of around 60 million people, being the Soviet Union, China and Germany, the nations that had the most victims.
After the war ended, the world was divided into two blocks, the capitalist block, led by the United States and with influence over Western Europe and other domains, and the communist block, led by the USSR and with influence over Eastern Europe.
In World War II 72 States took part, the strength of all the participating armies was 110 million men, of whom 34 million died (31% of the total), 28 million men were mutilated (25% of the total of the troops), the casualties in the civilian population exceeded 24.8 million people, more than 5 million people disappeared and expenses are estimated at more than 935 billion dollars. As a consequence of fascist Nazi 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. This is explained because until mid- 1944, 95% of the German war potential was on the eastern front. Around 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 had more than 30,000 factories destroyed; Germany practically lost all its industrial infrastructure: more than 2,250,000 homes were destroyed and another 2.5 million were partially destroyed. More than 400 million cubic meters of rubble is said to have remained. China lost between 3 and 8 million people, 6 million Jews were exterminated, within the so-called Jewish Holocaust.
The 13 of February of 1945, Allied aircraft destroyed the city of Dresden in Germany, where nearly 130 thousand people (most of them refugees) were killed in this bombing. Other cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Nuremberg were destroyed in the same air campaign, in whose massive attacks more than 1,000 bombers participated.
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 for murder human beings. The total number of people who lost their lives in these death camps has not yet been accurately determined, although conservative figures estimate the victims at 20 million people, the vast majority of whom are civilians, women, children, the elderly, the disabled and the disabled.
Causes in Europe
The 9 of November of 1919, the German Empire, one of the movers and shakers of the World War One had fallen after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the subsequent proclamation of the German Republic and Republic of Weimar. The new government, divided between socialists and conservatives, had to face the consequences of the application of the agreements of the Treaty of Versailles, which established in some of its clauses the following measures:
- Payment of compensation by Germany to the Allies for the economic losses suffered by them due to the war.
- Reduction of the German army to the amount of 100,000 men, without the right to possess any modern combat weapon (tanks, aviation and submarines).
- Reduction of the German Fleet to vessels less than 10,000 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 a 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 German National Socialist Workers Party whose main figure was Adolf Hitler.
Italy, one of the victors of the War, did not receive enough territorial concessions to offset the cost of the war or to see its ambitions fulfilled, so it had not been left with the distribution of territories under the Treaty of Versailles, in which France, The 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 the National Fascist Party of Benito Mussolini.
Anti-communist ideologies: Fascism and Nazism
Fascism: Mussolini foundeda newspaper, “Il popolo d’Italia”in 1914, a tribune he used to incite Italy to enter the First World War. At the end of the war, he created a union of ex-combatants named “FFasci di combattimento”. From this group the fascist movement was born, with a nationalist and anti-communist stamp. 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 the first fascist dictatorship in Italy in 1922. His regime was nationalistic and totalitarian. The economy was organized on the basis of union corporations that grouped 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 entitled doctrine of fascism. Today this text is often cited as the “original” definition of Italian fascism, which, in turn, is considered “original” fascism.
Although the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism and democracy, that does not mean that the 20th century should also be that of socialism, liberalism and democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century that tends towards ‘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 there can be no human or spiritual value, much less have value. This understood, fascism is totalitarian, and the fascist state – synthesis and unity that includes all values - interprets, develops and enhances 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 seen nothing more than mere opportunism in the religious policies of the fascist regime, 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. The Jews, on the other hand, represented for him a destroying people of that culture. Hitler saw anti-Semitism as the foundation of his historical mission. This led him to unleash a relentless persecution, which began by stripping Jews of their property, continued their discrimination in all respects, and culminated in five million victims in concentration camps. Nationalisms that become imperialisms.
The cravings for expansion and domination 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 was inevitable. Slavic State Poland was an obstacle to the eastward expansion of Hitler’s dream. Since 1919, Germany had attempted to make a border claim at the expense of Poland, a country comprising a German minority of between 700 and 800 thousand individuals, which in the opinion of the Germans, the borders of Upper Silesia also constituted a “blatant injustice”. Furthermore, the Danzig ( Gdańsk ) issue 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, but Germany claimed it for considering that its population was almost exclusively German-speaking.
Contrary to popular belief, German rearmament did not begin with the rise of Hitler but began after the end of World War I, during the so-called Weimar Republic. It is at this stage that Chancellor (Head of Government) Hermann Müller approves government decrees that promote various secret rearmament policies that violate the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. Several subsequent investigations demonstrated the hypothesis that the great powers (United Kingdom and France) knew of the rearmament plans from the beginning, although they did not take action to stop the race because they considered the positions of the governments during the First Republic to be 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, from 1933, Hitler began the largest 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 and Hjalmar Schacht) were appointed by Hitler to lead the ambitious rearmament plans. Among the policies approved were the creation of a series of “front” companies that acted not only as money collectors to support the nascent industry but also entities that formed pilots, drivers and members of militias under the strictest secrecy.
The rearmament meant a sudden change in economic expectations for much of the German industrial sector, very affected by the crisis of 1929. Some large companies, specialized in obsolete products and technologies, diversified and introduced decisive innovations in their production structures. The shipyards, for example, diversified to give rise to the aviation industry, creating opportunities for revolutionary technological advancements.
Weakness of the League of Nations
In 1935 Mussolini had attacked Ethiopia and with a great deployment of forces, he soon defeated the disorganized troops of the Negus Fallé Selassie occupying Addis Adeba. The League of Nations applied economic sanctions that did not even prevent the arrival of the oil necessary for war in Italian ports. England allowed the passage of ships loaded with troops through the Suez Canal and with these events the League of Nations totally discredited itself, 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. It could not impose a ceasefire when Japan, Italy and Germany began the attacks. Despite the fact that it applied economic and diplomatic sanctions, the guilty countries chose to leave the organization instead of abiding by them.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
The Spanish Civil War is said to have been a kind of testing ground, in which the weapons that were later to be used in World War II, which started when the peninsular conflict ended, were tested. Hitler, after denouncing the disarmament clauses imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty, organizing new Air Forces and reimplaining military service, tested his new weapons 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 they refrained from intervening in the fight.
The Steel Covenant
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 fate of Europe and the future war. Despite the fact that, from the beginning, Mussolini did not sympathize with Hitler above all with his war speech and his image of a Germanic Europe, the fact that Italian fascism and German Nazism had strong similarities ended up bringing them closer. In this sense, Hitler needed the help of Italy to fulfill his clear intentions to invade 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 was completed on 22 of maypole of 1939 in the city of Berlin between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Galezzo Ciano by the Kingdom of Italy and Joachim von Ribbentrop for Germany, laying the foundations for a future mutual military and logistical support in case of war. The agreement contained a secret clause, where both totalitarian governments promised to control their respective press and propaganda media to enhance the image of both governments.
Nevertheless, the 1 of September of 1939, when German forces entered Poland, Mussolini and Ciano renounced support Germany in its military adventure for fear of a confrontation with France and UK. It was not until the French defeat in 1940 that Mussolini would validate the Steel Pact, finally declaring war on the United Kingdom and on 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 formed 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, Romaniaand Yugoslavia would adhere to the pact, the first three to receive territory in the Balkans, and the last to avoid being invaded. The Slovak State also acceded to the Covenant after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.
By the signing date of 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 colonial French authorities that they could not count on any help from the metropolis (invaded by the Wehrmacht since June). Until then, the colonial power of Asia, the United KingdomHe had assigned small numbers of military units for the protection of his colonies, in part because most of his troops were already very busy fighting against 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 its peoples. It also ordered its members to support, by all possible means, a member who was attacked by an external power, except for those already at war, in this case France and the United Kingdom. With this last condition, Japan was not obliged to attack the Asian colonies of the United Kingdom, although it eventually did so in December 1941. At a specific request from Japan, the Soviet UnionIt was not included in the list of the 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 should prepare to fight in Europe and Asia at the same time.
The governments of Japan, Germany and Italy consider as a prerequisite for a 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 mutual prosperity and the 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 through channels similar to their own in order to achieve 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 applying the Covenant, 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 in no way affect the current political status between each of the signatory powers and Soviet Russia.
- ARTICLE 6: This agreement will be valid immediately after its signature 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.
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 on a sailboat, arriving on August 11. At this point the Soviets discovered that the delegates had no authority to sign an agreement. Negotiations progressed slowly, but stalled when Kliment Voroshílov proposed to discuss the defense of Poland.. The Polish government flatly refused to let Soviet troops into Poland, fearing that their state would lose the territories won 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 Soviet actions in the following days. Historians have stated that after the Munich Conference, Stalin believed he saw a western plan to push Hitler towards Russia. Even after the United Kingdom and France reassured their guarantees to Poland, Stalin considered that they were not sincere, and that the Western democracies would make the Soviet Union fightand Germany in the first stage of the war, while they were strengthening. 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 statement on Polish security gave Stalin an 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 mattress 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 approach came on May 3, when Stalin replaced Maxim Litvinov, an ethnic Jew, with Vyacheslav Molotov as Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Nazis were now able to negotiate again with the Soviet Union. On August 19, Joachim von Ribbentrop traveled to Moscow and met with Molotov, to sign a seven-year trade agreement. Later, Ribbentrop suggested extending the agreement to the political arena, to ensure good relations between 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 the 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 divided between Germany and Russia. Furthermore, the Bessarabia region would be annexed by the Romanian Soviets.
However, although his latest actions contradicted him, Hitler wanted to avoid war with the West. In addition to momentarily neutralizing the Soviet giant, Hitler believed that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact would compel the United Kingdom and France to renounce their commitment to Poland. Until the last moment the German dictator believed that these nations would not go to war if he attacked the Poles. However, this was not the case.
Causes in Asia
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 on the path of modernization. However, unlike Adolf Hitler and Victor Emmanuel III, Japan had two economic objectives for developing an empire.
The first, like its European counterparts, a tightly controlled domestic military industry was born, which was drastically hit by the global crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. In this sense, the lack of resources on the islands From 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 has become Japan’s main trading partner. Thus, due to the scheme of industrial military development and industrial growth, prevailing mercantilist theories made it essential to control several colonies in the Southeast and Central Asian area, 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 would allow the agri-food sustenance of the nascent expansionist Empire. The eyes of Japanese expansionism were set on the vast iron and coal resources 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 Manchuria region (called Manchukuo) in 1931. Japan apparently justifies it in order to free the Manchu from the Chinese, just as 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, Chinese territory that borders Manchuria, was controlled in 1933.
Japan invades China in 1937, creating what was essentially a three-branch war between Japan, the Mao Zedong Communists, and the Chiang Kai-Shek Nationalists. Japan takes control of many of China’s coasts and port cities, but avoided attacking the European colonies and their spheres of influence. In 1936, before the invasion of China, Japan signed an Anti-Communist Treaty with Germany and another with Italy in 1937.
Course of the war
Invasion of Poland
The 1 of September of 1939, the German army crossed the Polish border and within days neutralized the Polish army, he 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 Hitler’s surprise, 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 They wanted the declaration of war to serve as a deterrent in order to avoid being attacked by the Nazis.
When the Wehrmacht occupied Warsaw on October 1, the Polish Military High Command decided to direct its forces south to the border with Romania, where they planned to indefinitely contain the Germans until the arrival of promised aid. 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. Following this, the Polish Army forces fled to Romania, while the Nazis placed a puppet government which would remain until 1945.
Invasion of Finland
Stalin, still concerned about a very possible war with Germany, proceeded to accelerate the organization of the Soviet armed forces, and focused his gaze on the western borders. In this sense, aware of the fact that Finland had declared its sympathy with the Nazi Axis, the Soviet political command foresaw the possibility that said 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 greater 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 of war.
Carl Gustaf Mannerheim’s Finnish government refused, and after failed negotiations, the Soviet Union began the invasion of the little neighbor. The result of the Soviet offensive was disappointing, the numerically superior Soviet armies were unable to cope with the Finnish forces, best adapted to the harsh climate of the Arctic battlefield, and thousands of Soviet soldiers died due to the inefficiency of their commanders. Stalin then removes his protégé Kliment Voroshilov from command, and with fresh troops under the command of Semion Timoshenko 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 give more autonomy to the process of appointing army commanders.
Northern or Norwegian Campaign
Hitler, who was concerned about the possibility of the British attacking Norway and Sweden as a way to cut off the important supply of iron to the Nazi troops, decided to direct his forces towards Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which 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 avoiding by all means that the Luftwaffe(Nazi Air Force) could direct direct attacks towards the weak area of the British north. During the confrontation, approximately 45,000 soldiers were used by the Nazi side while the British used a total of approximately 80,000 soldiers, although the difference was notable and leaned in favor of the British side, the invasion would end in failure for Hugh’s troops. Massy and Claude Auchinleck (British Commanders). In addition, the Norwegian bases were used as the starting point for the Luftwaffe bombers and fighters that participated in the Battle of England.
Battle of France
With the world’s eyes fixed on the conflict in Norway, the German Military High Command began planning 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. Since 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 MansteinseHe realized that the Ardennes region, southeast of Belgium, had not been sufficiently protected, as 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, a major German force entered the Netherlands and Belgium, violating their neutrality, the Allies advanced from France to these countries. Meanwhile, another major German force under General Gerd von Rundstedt crossed the Bulge, tank congestions forming on the narrow roads, when they emerged from the forest two days later, the Allies realized they were to be surrounded, and the government French panicked.
The 18 of maypole of 1840 the German encirclement was closed, and the bulk of the allied armies was trapped in Belgium. Counter-attacks from within and without to lift him were unsuccessful, and the British began evacuating their men through Operation Dynamo. It is at this same moment that Mussolini finally decided to act and get involved in the war, complying 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 it fell shortly thereafter.
Without reservation to contain the German advance, France surrendered on June 22, 1940. Then-Colonel Charles de Gaulle escaped to England, ignoring the new pro-German Vichy government, creating the French Resistance through the historic June 18 Appeal made from the BBC microphones 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.
Bombings of England
German strategists had studied the possibility of an invasion of England, which was condensed in 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 end the British Navy, since the German Navy could not do it. In this way all eyes fell on General Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe. General Göering launched a series of strategic bombings on England, focusing on airfields and industrial areas. The results were devastating, especially that of the “Eagle Day” operation, where 1,000 bombers protected by 700 fighters attacked England, destroying dozens of planes on the ground.
However, the RAF found respite when the London ports were accidentally bombed, prompting the British to bomb Berlin. This attack on German soil motivated Hitler to order Göering to change his strategy, initiating the Blitz. At 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 they were finally able to stand up to the Luftwaffe. On October 12, Hitler tires of waiting and orders the suspension of the invasion of England. However, the bombing raids on London would not stop until May 16, 1941., when Hitler would focus his gaze again to the east.
Balkan Campaign (1941)
With control over France achieved and the 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 yield to Italian demands. Greece’s negative response triggered the Italian invasion from Albania in October 1940, which ended in stalemate on the front. In March 1941, Hitler learned that the RAF was using Greek air bases, and finally came to the aid of Italy.
In order to carry out a surprise attack, the German armies had to cross Macedonia, part of Yugoslavia, reason why the regent Pablo was pressured to join his country to the Tripartite Pact. Two days after this happened, the Regent was overthrown, and although Yugoslavia’s new rulers 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 completely occupied. At the same time, the armies of Bulgaria, Italy and Germany had begun the invasion of Greece, whose defenders could not contain the enemy avalanche, 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 losses. However, despite having lost almost 16,000 men, the Axis Forces managed to expel the allied forces, conquering the island on June 1.
The German Balkan campaign is known as the Distraction or the Fun of the Balkans, 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 after what was initially planned, which would cause German troops to arrive in Moscow when the autumn rains began, hindering the German armored advance.
The Great Patriotic War is the term given by the Soviets to frame the period between June 22, 1941 and May 9, 1945, although for 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 was the turning point of the Second War, the moment when the Soviet troops, after the initial defeats of Operation Barbarossa, went on the offensive against the Nazi Axis forces, 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, for this reason historical criticism considers that the Battle of Stalingrad was the most severe military defeat ( and more decisive) of Hitler’s Germany, after which the initiative in combat corresponded to the Red Army. The Soviet Union was the fighting country that withstood almost 80% of the Axis countries’ attack in Europe, so the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad and the consequent counter-offensive meant the beginning of the collapse of the German war machine.
Opening of the European fronts
Front of the Mediterranean
After the success achieved by the Allies in their fight against Afrika Korps of Erwin Rommel in North Africa, the next target of the Allied forces in the Mediterranean, it would be Italy and thus the possibility of overthrowing Mussolini and deal a blow Hitler. The October of July of 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 the command of General Albert Kesselring were on the island. Due to the rapid Italian collapse, Kesselring retreated northwest of Mount Etna, with the aim of keeping Messina’s escape route clear. Montgomery quickly advanced to the foothills of Etna, when his offensive was stopped short. For his part, Patton freely advanced to liberate Palermo on July 22.
After losing several days on 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 first reached Messina on August 17. However, by that time, most of the enemy forces had already escaped from Sicily. The Kesselring himself had hopefully managed to escape the day before Patton’s arrival.
Despite the defeat, the first allied landing attempt in Sicily would have a political result, because in danger of direct aggression, on July 25, 1943 the Great Fascist Council decided to appoint Pietro Badoglio as Prime Minister of Italy instead of Mussolini. The action that had the consent of King Victor Manuel IIIIt was treason 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 German troops to carry out a coup d’etat in order to restore Mussolini to power, a fact that would be consummated on September 12, when a command 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 located 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 troops crossed the Messina Strait and occupied the Calabria region. The massive surrender of the Italian army left the full weight of the defense in 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 Italian had already surrendered, to move away from Salerno, which is where 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 in Salerno, commanded by the American General Mark Wayne Clark, started on the same day as the landing in Taranto to the south. After taking the beaches, a German counterattack caused heavy casualties on the Allied troops, however the naval artillery destroyed the panzer that approached the beaches. The invading troops attempted to move south, aiming to contact Montgomery, but the strong German presence made them stop. Between 12 and 14 September a German counterattack pushed the Allies back to their last line of defense, causing them to fight with the beach on their backs. However, the timely use of reserve troops saved the landing force from disaster. Finally, the beachhead was secured and the Montgomery forces located in the south could be contacted. After the occupation of Naples theOf October 1 of 1943, the southern part of Italy ended in Allied hands while in the north the Germans were preparing to call from the Volturno Line contain the allies. [[File: Allied-Troops-Italy.jpg | thumb | Allied Soldiers during the Battle of Montecattini Faced with the rapid Allied advances, Kesselring was alarmed at the prospect of the aerodromes of northern Italy falling into enemy hands, allowing increased bombardment about Germany. Therefore, he made the decision to indefinitely retain the allies in central Italy, using the Montes
Apennines as natural defense. Two temporary defensive lines were quickly built, the Volturno line and the Barbara line, the objective of which was to allow the construction of a more powerful line: the Gustav line. In front of this line and in its rearguard, 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 when crossing the Volturno and Barbara lines to the west, the British crossed without much trouble to the east, arriving at the same Gustav line, where heavy snowfall decreed 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 Fifth American Army had only managed to advance less than 10 kilometers, overcoming the Bernhardt line. For the 15 of January of 1944, the Allies had managed to drive the Germans under the command of Heinrich von Vietinghoff of Mount Trocchio, although this could not be regarded as a victory, as the allied expectations had been higher.
Since the fastest way to get to Rome was considered to be by crossing the Liri Valley on the Italian western front, plans were made to quickly overflow the German defensive lines through an amphibious landing at the rear of the Gustav line, at At the same time that two attacks would be carried out on the flanks of the same by the Liri Valley. However, both the landing ( Battle of Anzio ) and attacks across the Liri Valley ( Battle of Montecassino ) did not yield the desired results, as newly arrived German relief troops isolated the allies at Anzio, and an observation post at Montecassino it provided the German artillery with the advantage to neutralize any allied attempt to enter the valley.
It was not until the 18 of maypole of 1944 that a Polish regiment conquered the top of the Montecassino. Then the allied armies went to the Adolf Hitler line, overflowing it in a week. With the Germans retreating to northern Italy, the isolated forces at Anzio launched a taque to free themselves, forming a unique opportunity to cut off the retreat to German forces coming from the south. But General Mark Wayne Clark let the Germans escape, as he preferred to go directly to Rome to have the honor of liberating her before the British.
The 4 as June as 1944, Americans entered Rome. However, this victory was overshadowed, not only by the enormous loss of life not estimated, but because two days later the Landing in Normandy began and the front of Italy was relegated in second place definitively, because the British and American generals were they would focus from now on on the western front.
Reopening of the Western Front
While the Soviet Union faced off against the armies of the Third Reich, the Western allies began planning to land in Europe, first carrying out a small raid that would be known as the Battle of Dieppe. The 19 of August of 1942, 6,000 Canadian soldiers landed at Dieppe, in order to stay a short period in which would gather information and prove new methods of assault on the beaches. The result was disastrous, almost all the soldiers dying or being captured, losing many ships and planes.
Fortunately for Stalin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in favor of ending the war in Europe first, before going against Japan, so that after the relatively successful campaigns in North Africa, the Allied troops jumped into Sicily on 10 September. July of 1943. Finally, at Stalin’s continued insistence, it was defined in May 1943 that the reopening of the western front would be in 1944.
After selecting different places for landing, it was concluded that it should occur on the beaches of Brittany, Normandy or the Pas de Calais. Because Calais was so well defended, it was dropped 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, Stalin was confirmed that the invasion would take place in May 1944. This invasion, until then Operation Round-Up, was renamed Operation Overlord.
Stages of the Western Front from 1944 to 1945:
After significant resources were invested in the “Rhine Guard” operation during the Battle of the Bulge, which had been unsuccessful, the German defense depended on control over two rivers: the Rhine in the west and the Oder in the East. After the failure of Bernard MontgomeryEisenhower had to rethink his way to invade Germany. While the British pressed to make the crossing in front of the positions occupied by their armies, the Americans pressed to do so in front of their own positions. Eisenhower decided to carry out the two 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 in front of 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 American troops who would come from southern France. Once Montgomery had started crossing the RhineBradley would have the green light to do it too.
Leading Montgomery was Model’s Army Group, being a relatively small force, Montgomery considered surrounding it, so he borrowed the Ninth Army from the Americans ( Operation Grenade ). In this way, as Bradley’s forces crossed upriver, Montgomery would do so downstream, surrounding the Ruhr Valley where Model was located.
On February 8 Veritable was executed, however the strong German resistance delayed the advance of Montgomery’s forces. Worse still, the Germans destroyed the Ruhr Valley dams, flooding it, preventing Grenade from running until two weeks later. Meanwhile, Montgomery’s forces battled Model’s alone, until February 23, when William H. Simpson’s Ninth Army crossed, bonding with Plunder’s forces two weeks later.
Bradley to the south, took Cologne on March 6 and then Bonn. A US First Army command approached Remagen to contain German forces as the Third Army from the south linked with them. To his surprise, this command found an intact bridge over the Rhine, which was immediately taken. This was the first step 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 was seen later was a fight between the Allied generals to see who was advancing beyond the Rhine. By March 28, Montgomery possessed a firm bridgehead and, as previously discussed, began preparing for the taking of Berlin. To his surprise, Eisenhower changed his plan at the last minute, and ordered that Bradley’s armies now move to Dresden, with the aim of dividing Germany in two. Montgomery, for his part, should cut off the path to Denmark for the Red army. A lesser force would head to Austria, where rumors spread that Nazi fanatics were barricading themselves in a series of unassailable fortresses in the Alps.
As Hitler’s generals had predicted, Allied forces surrounded Walther Model’s German Army Group B, which had been isolated in the Ruhr pocket. After resisting until mid-April, the bag was split in two by the Allies, with one half quickly captured. As Model’s requests fell on deaf ears in Berlin, he decided to give his soldiers freedom of conscience, allowing whoever wanted to surrender to do so, while whoever wanted to continue fighting could do so. Model committed suicide near Duisburg shortly after, claiming that a general could not surrender, although some historians claim that he was afraid of being tried and executed. Of the 430,000 trapped soldiers, some 325,000 were captured alive.
By May 1945, all organized defense had disappeared, due to the massive surrender, the Wehrmacht had proceeded to recruit children and the elderly in the Volkssturm battalions, which failed to achieve a significant change. On April 11, the Buchenwald concentration camp was released, 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, released on November 23 last year.
On April 24, US forces made the first contact with Soviet forces in Torgau, on the Elbe. On May 5 the allies entered Austria. With all major German cities except Berlin having fallen, the Allies were concerned with occupying every possible corner of Germany, leaving the Reich capital to the Soviets.
Battle of berlin
By April, all Soviet fronts were ready to begin the final advance on Germany, gathering 2.5 million men, 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery pieces, 3,255 Katyusha rocket launchers, and almost 100,000 transport vehicles, most provided by the United States.
The 16 of April of 1945, the so – called Battle of Berlin began, and although Georgi Zhukov found problems in the Hills of Seelow calls, in the south, the First Ukrainian Front Konev arrived without problems to the south of Berlin. The I Belorussian Front of Zhúkov was pressured to accelerate the step, since this wished to conquer Berlin first. In this way, Zhúkov surrounded Berlin and attacked from the northwest, while Koniev, who stopped momentarily on Stalin’s orders, came second to Berlin and attacked from the south.
The April 24General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the LVI Panzer Corps, went 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 showed in his last months, Weidling was not only not executed, but was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Berlin, since 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 weapons, so it was normal to see ten-year-old children, as well as the elderly and disabled, in artillery posts or using Panzerfausts. The Soviet losses were very high, and the architecture of Berlin suffered great 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 fought 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 the Berchtesgaden, which is why senior Wehrmacht officers refused to surrender, as they had all taken an oath of allegiance to the Fuhrer.
On April 30, Adolf Hitler committed suicide along with his new wife Eva Braun. Several important figures in the German government did the same, including Joseph Goebbels and his wife, who previously poisoned their six children. Hitler’s secretary Martin Bormann went missing in the battle, although several people say they saw him dead with two shots to the back at a Berlin metro station. Weidling surrendered the city to the Russians on May 2. The Feldmarschall Wilhelm KeitelHe was captured and then participated in the signing of the surrender document. 360 thousand Soviet soldiers died in the battle, the German figures are doubtful, but it is estimated that they were much lower, since there were only 90,000 German defenders. [[File: Keitel-9-May-1945.jpeg | thumb | Time the German Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signed on behalf of Nazi Germany ‘s capitulation on 9 May 1945.]] Admiral Karl Doenitz was appointed Chancellor by Hitler before he died, and he gave General Alfred Jodl permission to sign the unconditional surrender with the Soviet Union on May 7, taking effect the next day. Hitler’s former trusted men, Hermann Goering andHeinrich Himmler had fallen out of favor trying to make peace separately with the allies. Both committed suicide after being captured by the Americans.
On May 9, the victory day for the Soviet Union, it became a festive date, and on June 24 an impressive parade was held in Moscow, thus culminating the European phase of World War II.
The League of Nations, which was responsible for helping to unleash the war, was replaced by the UN. The United Nations charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. At the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials, part of the Nazi and Japanese Tenno hierarchy was tried and convicted of crimes against humanity. In Germany after the Axis signature of the armistice, the Marshall Plan contributed to the reconstruction of Germany. Although the Germans lost the war, their advancements in cutting-edge technology in industrial chains, manufacturing of components for rockets, missiles and various types of weapons helped the Allies of the West and served for the so-called “German miracle”.
The losses for the United States were, compared to the rest of the Allies, much less in number because the war did not take place in its territory and the losses were only military.
This, in effect, consecrated the end of its colonial power. Consequently, the British Isles experienced an unprecedented crisis, which required the reconstruction and restructuring of its economy.
An estimated 6 million Jews, along with other ethnic groups, were killed by the Nazis, mainly through deportation to concentration camps, some as well-known as Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Majdanek. The Hebrew expression Shoah (catastrophe) —also known as the Holocaust — designates the mass extermination of the Jews perpetrated during this bloody war. At the end of the conflict, the United Nations ( UN ) replaced the League of Nations (SDN), founded in 1919, and gave itself the mission of solving conflicts, generally warlike, of an international nature.
Decolonization: The independence movements of the colonies became widespread with the support of the two superpowers. The armies of the colonial powers no longer had the capacity to control these movements, so throughout the second half of the 20th century the so-called decolonization took place.
There was no precedent in history for an international trial against the leaders of a sovereign nation after losing a war against other nations. The non-existence of an international law recognized by all nations was a great obstacle to impute crimes to politicians from instances outside the sovereignty of their state. His actions were only subject to the legal system of his country and the politician was solely responsible before its courts. Nazi politicians, then, could only be tried by the German courts.
The news of the atrocities that the Germans were committing during the war and the conviction that the Nazi government had deliberately provoked the war promoted from the beginning of 1941 the development of the idea of putting the leaders of Nazism to international trial. Wiston Churchill was the first to speak of war crimes and of the need that “the punishment for these crimes should take place when the final outcome of the war occurs.”
In 1942, a commission was created in order to draw up a list of those responsible who should be tried when the conflict ended. In 1945, at the Yalta conference, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt also discussed this issue, discussed a comprehensive document produced in the United States, and laid the groundwork for reaching an agreement among the allies on how the trial should be held.
Finally, on August 8, 1945, when the war was over, the agreement between the 26 countries that had intervened in it against Germany was signed in London, which decided to create an International Military Tribunal.
This process begins with a preliminary session in Berlin, on October 18, 1945, chaired by the Russian military judge Nikitchenko. But the process as such against the main culprits of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity was held between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946 in the Palace of Justice of the city from Nuremberg. Unfortunately very few people responsible for German barbarism were tried and even many Nazi hierarchs managed to avoid being caught. The most famous faces of the Third Reich arrived in Nuremberg, at least those people who were still alive at the time of the process. Himmler, Goebbels, and Hitler himself had committed suicide to avoid being judged; only Göring came to Nuremberg alive as a great Nazi hierarch.
The city of Nuremberg was chosen for a practical matter: no building had been left standing in Berlin that could accommodate such judicial proceedings, but Nuremberg had a courthouse with a room capable of 600 people, adjacent to a large center prison where detainees could be detained and with access to the room, which, on the one hand, avoided any unwanted contact of the Nazi leaders, and on the other, made the transfers of prisoners from cells to court.
Nuremberg also offered an added incentive: it had been the site of the great demonstrations; there they had displayed all their symbols and flags acclaimed by crowds, and there the most racist laws of the Third Reich had been passed. The symbolic ingredient was also important.
The charges of the prosecution
The indictment made four charges:
- Crimes against peace: that is, actions that will lead to the planning or execution of violations of international treaties or the commission of acts of unjustified aggression against nations.
- Crimes against humanity: planning, execution or participation in exterminations and genocides.
- War crimes: violations of international war laws and conventions.
- Conspiracy: acting with others or association with them to commit any of the crimes indicated in the previous charges.
Judges: The court was made up of four judges from the four main powers that had intervened in the war: United States, France, Great Britain and the USSR. Each of them had a substitute for their same nationality. The presidency fell into the hands of the English Geoffrey Lawrence.
Defendants: The defendants were selected from among the eight hundred senior chiefs arrested in the last days of the war. The list, in the end, was reduced to 24 names, although the court only opened the case against 22, because the accusation against the heavy industry magnate Gustav Krupp was dismissed due to his advanced age and poor health and because Robert Ley, responsible for the labor camps, he managed to commit suicide, hanging himself with a sheet before the process began. One less appeared before the court, since Martin Borman would be tried in absentia because his death had not yet been confirmed in the battle of Berlin (the total of accused present in Nuremberg was 21 people).
It gave judgment on 1 of October of 1946, the judges found 19 of the 22 defendants guilty of any of the charges against them. Hess, Raeder, and Funk were sentenced to life in prison; Speer and Schirach were sentenced to twenty years; Neurath at fifteen; Doenitz to ten years. Sentenced to death by hanging: Göring, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Seyss-Inquart, Sauckel, Jodl, Bormann (he was sentenced in absentia because he was a fugitive). As for the defendants Schacht, Fritzsche and Von Papen they were incredibly acquitted.
There was no full agreement between the judges when setting the sentence. The Russian judge disagreed on two issues: he did not accept the three acquittals and demanded, without success, that both the governments of the Third Reich and the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces be globally condemned as criminal organizations.
The executions of those convicted were carried out by Sgt. John C. Wood of San Antonio, Texas, a professional executioner who had previously executed 299 people. Hermann Göring escaped from the executioner’s hands because he committed suicide hours before his cell, ingesting a cyanide capsule. It was never known how the poison came into the hands of Göring, who served to save the pride of the man most harshly censured by the Court, who called him “leader of a war of aggression and creator of the persecution program against the Jews. Their guilt is unique in its enormity. ”
On October 16, 1946, at one past eleven in the morning, Ribbentrop climbed the stairs of the gallows, installed in the prison gymnasium, to be hanged. They would follow in a short interval, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick and Streicher, who shouted Heil Hitler !! while the executioner surrounded his neck with the gallows rope. The others, Jodl, Sauckel, and Seyss-Inquart, went up the scaffold serenely. Borman, tried in absentia, could not be executed. His death was later confirmed during the last days of Berlin.
To avoid any kind of demonstration in memory of the executed Nazi leaders, their bodies were cremated in the only crematorium that existed in Dachau, near Munich, and their ashes were scattered in the nearby Isar River.