World War II
Four-Power Treaty and Nine-Power Treaty
Mussolini founds Fascist Party in Italy
Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany
Good Neighbor policy
|1935||Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship|
Germany annexes Rhineland
Germany and Italy unite as Axis powers
Germany annexes Austria
Germany and Soviet Union sign nonaggression pact
Germany and Soviet Union take over Poland from opposite sides
Britain and France declare war on Germany
Germany invades Belgium and marches on to France; Allies retreat at Dunkirk
Germany sets up puppet Vichy regime in southern France
Winston Churchill becomes prime minister of Great Britain
Italy declares war on France and Great Britain
United States and Great Britain sign Atlantic Charter
Germany invades Soviet Union; Soviet Union joins Allies
Japan bombs Pearl Harbor; United States declares war on Japan
Germany declares war on United States
Axis forces surrender in North Africa
Italy signs armistice with Allies
World War II
Historians agree that the peace treaty signed in 1919 at the Congress of Versailles was one of the major causes of World War II; the second war arose as a natural consequence of the first, and both can fairly be described as wars of German aggression.
Concurrently with the war in Europe, Japan abandoned treaties it had signed with Allied powers and expanded its control over Manchuria and the Pacific islands. When Japan perceived the United States as a threat to its expansion, it launched an attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. This attack brought the United States into the world war.
After 1942, the Allied powers (Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) seized the upper hand on the battlefields for two reasons, both very important and both related to the American entry into the war in 1941. First, they outnumbered the Axis (German and Italian) troops; the United States and the Soviet Union could provide fresh troops in almost unlimited numbers, and the Italians changed sides in 1943, leaving Germany alone. Second, American factories were far from the fighting, out of danger of Axis bombing or capture, and were a source of unlimited supplies: weapons, ammunition, ships, tanks, and so on.
The change to a war economy pulled the United States out of the Depression. People who had feared the onset of war had decided to reelect FDR to an unprecedented third term as president. As he had guided the nation through the worst of the Depression, Roosevelt would continue to guide it through war.
World War II raged on until 1945. From 1942 onward, the Allies won battles steadily, but the Germans and Japanese proved to be stubborn and tough enemies, very difficult to defeat. All the Allied ingenuity was necessary to win the war.
Racial prejudice characterized both sides during the war. In the United States, the federal government rounded up tens of thousands of Japanese Americans and imprisoned them in hastily constructed camps throughout the West. In Germany, the Nazi regime was largely based on racial prejudice. German leader Adolf Hitler had a fixed, obsessive idea that people he termed “Aryan,” meaning “purebred” Germans and other Nordic Europeans, were racially superior to Slavs and Jews, whom he described as Untermenschen, meaning literally “sub- human.” His government revoked the civil and constitutional rights of all Jews throughout Germany and the nations it controlled, then forced them into concentration camps where they were starved, tortured, and finally executed in gas chambers. Millions of other non-Aryans, such as Romany and Slavs, were also dragged to the death camps.
In the spring of 1945, with the Soviets invading Berlin, Hitler committed suicide. Germany surrendered unconditionally within the week. Japan held out somewhat longer, refusing to surrender until two nuclear bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In terms of lives lost and damage done, World War II was by far the costliest war in history. As it ended, the Allies began to realize that they would have to take extraordinary steps to prevent any such international outbreak of war in the future.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:
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