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WORLD WAR II

As the First World War came to end November 11th 1918, over 9,000,000 people had lost their lives. The countries to suffer the greatest losses were Germany and their Allies over 3,500,000, Russia 1,700,000, France 1,300,000, the British Empire 1,000,000 and the USA 116,000. People at that time thought no war could ever cause so many deaths again. By September 1939, another war had broken out that would make the destruction of World War One seem minimal. That war claimed the lives of over 50,000,000 people. The countries to suffer the greatest losses during World War Two were, the Soviet Union over 21,000,000, Germany 7,000,000, Poland 6,850,000, Japan 1,800,000, Yugoslavia 1,700,000, Romania 985,000, France 810,000, Hungary 750,000, Austria 525,000, Italy 410,000, Czechoslovakia 400,000, Great Britain 388,000 and the USA 295,000.

The First World War ended with many people in Germany believing politicians not fit to run the country had signed their surrender. In April 1921, the victorious nations presented Germany with a bill demanding 33,000,000 dollars to compensate for damage caused by the war. The bill led to a series of riots throughout Germany as it created widespread poverty. It was during that period of unrest the Nazi Party led by Adolph Hitler began to grow in popularity. Hitler’s highly controversial book Mein Kampf was published in 1925. The book claimed German Jews were responsible for Germany’s surrender in World War One. The book also divides humans into categories based on physical appearance. Fair skinned blonde blue-eyed Germans are classed as the superior race with Jews, Poles, Czechs and Russians as the inferior races. Mein Kampf also accuses Jews of conspiring to take control of the worlds finances. The conclusion of the book suggests, with Germany being the superior race, they should be allowed to acquire more land and defeat France in war to avenge the German humiliation of World War One.

Hitler became chancellor of Germany January 30th 1933 and the first concentration camp opened March 12th 1933. These camps were originally set up to hold political opponents and Jews. At that time, the Nazis were spreading fear throughout Germany by claiming communists and Jews were plotting to take control of the country. On March 23rd 1933, the newly elected German Parliament passed an act proposed by Hitler (law for removing the distress of the people of the Reicht). Hitler became Dictator of Germany at that time as he banned all other political parties in the country. Within a week of that act being passed, Hitler ordered people to stop using Jewish shops, banned Jews from working in influential jobs and took away their right to join the German people at entertainment venues such as the theatre and movies.

After the 87-year-old president of Germany ‘Paul Von Hindenburg’ died August 2nd 1934, Hitler took 90% of the German citizen’s votes to become Fuhrer (absolute leader of Germany). Hitler soon began violating the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription and building warships that exceeded the tonnage allocated to Germany. Also, he placed the Gestapo above the law so they could dispose of those apposed to his policies.

After the Spanish Civil War broke out July 17th 1936, the German and Italian dictators Hitler and Mussolini backed the Spanish dictator Franco. Germanys air force and troops were sent to Spain at that time so they could test a new form of warfare called Blitzkrieg (fast moving armored vehicles and troops supported by aircraft). That war led to Italy and Germany forming an alliance August 25th 1936. On the other side of the world, full-bloodied war broke out between Japan and China January 19th 1937. Germany invaded Austria March 12th 1938 and proclaimed a union between the two countries. At that time, Hitlers followers began persecuting the Austrian Jews. By March 15th 1939, Germany had completed the occupation of Czechoslovakia, this showing the remaining European countries his intentions of expanding German lands.

The Spanish Civil War came to an end March 28th 1939 with the dictator Franco taking control of the Country. German forces were then ready to begin their attacks on countries Hitler had chosen for conquest. Before Hitler ordered his forces into Poland, he signed a pact of non-aggression with the Soviet Union August 23rd 1939. This led to Hitler thinking his invasion of Poland September 1st 1939 would have to be accepted by other countries. Hitler had underestimated the resolve of governments throughout the world at that time as Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand responded to the invasion of Poland by declaring war on Germany September 3rd 1939. Two days later, the United States declared a state of neutrality. Canada spent a week debating the situation before showing their support for Britain by declaring war on Germany September 10th 1939. With the Soviets having invaded Poland by that time, Warsaw was forced to surrender to the Germans and Soviets September 27th 1939.

Within a month of taking control of Poland, the Nazis began carrying out euthanasia on Germanys sick and disabled. The Soviets were thrown out of the League of Nations after they began invading Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. With Hitler seeing these invasions as encroaching on German lands, he launched operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union June 22nd 1941).

The United States had imposed severe sanctions on Japan as they had been taking control of Islands and mineral rich areas of other countries throughout the Far East in the late 1930s. These sanctions would have crippled Japan, as they were totally dependant on the import of oil to sustain their countries needs. Japan had a choice of either giving up all their conquests in the Far East or go to war with the United States.

Germany, Italy and Japan formed an alliance September 27th 1940. This led to Italy carrying out attacks on British forces throughout the Mediterranean and North Africa while the Japanese planned the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7th 1941. After the United States declared war on Japan the day after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Germany showed their support for Japan by declaring war on the United States December 11th 1941.

World War II Battleships

Political unrest throughout the world in the late 1930s led to countries abandoning treaty limits on warships to embark on building Battleships greater in size and firepower than that of their potential enemy’s. The British battle cruiser Hood that entered service in 1920 became the warship to emulate.

Below, the Japanese battleship Yamato being fitted out
Yamato fitting out

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