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What was World War II?

We explain what World War II was and the causes of this conflict. In addition, its consequences and the participating countries.

  1. What was World War II?

World War II was  an armed conflict that took place between the years of 1939 and 1945 , and that directly or indirectly involved most of the military and economic powers of the time, as well as numerous Third World countries.

It is considered the most dramatic war in contemporary history , due to the number of people involved, the enormous territorial dimensions of the conflict , the amount of military weapons employed and the heartbreaking historical consequences for humanity.

World War II  was mainly developed in three different scenarios: the European continent, the Asian and the African . In them the troops of the two opposites sides known as the Allies and the Axis Powers met and country voluntarily or forcibly involved in a conflict that did not distinguish between military forces and population civil.

In the context of this war there were extremely traumatic events for human civilization, such as mass deaths in death camps and forced labor (in particular of citizens of the Jewish ethnicity, which was called the  Holocaust ), or use for the first once in the history of nuclear weapons of mass destruction over a civilian population (the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

  1. Causes of World War II

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The German invasion of Poland was one of the causes of World War II.

Like any war, World War II was due to varied and complex reasons, which can be summed up in:

  • The terms of the Treaty of Versailles . The surrender of Germany and its allies at the end of the  First World War  imposed on them an extremely oppressive unconditional surrender treaty, which prevented the war-torn nation from having an army again, snatched control of its African colonies and it imposed an unpayable debt with the victorious countries.
  • The rise of fascism . Adolfo Hitler in Germany (Nazism) and Benito Musolini in Italy ( fascism ), mainly, took advantage of popular discontent and built extremist nationalist movements, seeking to recover national glories through the militarization of broad social sectors, the establishment of totalitarianism and the expansion of national borders
  • Chinese-Japanese tensions. After the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Japan had become an imperial power that did not welcome China and the Soviet Union. Taking advantage of the weakness in 1932 in which the Civil War between communists and Republicans had left China, Japan initiated a Second Sino-Japanese War and occupied Manchuria, then expanding through  Asia Minor until faced by the United States.
  • The German invasion of Poland. Germany began its territorial expansion by taking Austria and part of Czechoslovakia, without major conflicts. When in 1939 Hitler established a pact with the USSR to divide the Polish territory and proceeded to invade it, Western European nations declared war on it, beginning the conflict as such.
  1. Consequences of World War II

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World War II caused between 55 and 70 million deaths.

The consequences of World War II were particularly appalling. Some of them were:

  • Almost total devastation of Europe . There were extensive and devastating aerial bombardments of the main  European cities , first when the Germans conquered the continent and then when the allies released it, which resulted in an almost total destruction of them. This then required large economic investments for its gradual reconstruction, such as the so-called Marshall Plan proposed by the United States.
  • Beginning of a  bipolar world  . The European powers, both Allied and of the Axis, were so economically and politically weakened at the end of the conflict that the conduction of world politics passed to the two new superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union, thus beginning the so-called Cold War .
  • Division of Germany . Once Germany was defeated, its territory passed into control of the allied countries and the USSR, so the country was divided into two completely different nations: the German Federal Republic, with capitalist system and under American control, and the German Democratic Republic , with communist system and under Soviet administration. Germany would be unified again in 1991, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Emergence of new technologies . Today’s common technologies such as television, computers , sonar, jet flight or atomic energy owe their discovery to this bloody war.
  • scolonization . The loss of political and economic power in Europe led to the loss of control of its colonies in the Third World, thus allowing numerous processes of independence.
  • The death of  between 55 and 70 million people . Counting military and civilians, indistinctly, millions of whom did so in subhuman conditions in concentration and extermination camps.
  1. Participating countries

The two sides faced were:

  • The shaft powers.  Conducted by Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan, along with their partners from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and co-belligerent states such as Finland, Thailand, Iran and Iraq.
  • The allied countries. Made up of France, Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as Poland, China, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Greece, Yugoslavia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and, subsequently, some countries of minority participation but diplomatic support to the allies.

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