What were the causes of World War II?
The main cause of the European war was Hitler’s drive to create lebensraum or living space for Germans in Eastern Europe (Shubert, A. & Goldstein, R.J. 2012). Hitler wanted to expand his Aryan nation and needed more territory to ensure it reached its full potential. The Allied powers were appeasing Hitler up until the invasion of Poland which led to a declaration of war by France and Great Britain. In the Pacific, the Japanese empire began expanding before European powers were staged to begin their conflict. The Japanese were reliant on imports to drive their economy as they had no natural resources. They knew in order to become self-sufficient they would need to expand. They began doing this in 1931 until their attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the US into the war. Had the US not cut off oil to the Japanese empire the US may not have gotten involved in the war.
How did it differ from the First World War?
The first World War began with the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, national alliances, and European expansionism. The second World War was different in the fact the continent was as a whole not prepared for a war. The Great Depression and economic issues were chocking European nations. To contrast with the first World War, most European nations were ready for a war and wanted one. The allies leading up to the second World War tried to prevent it as much as possible. By appeasing Hitler, they felt they could stop him from expanding too much. However, they were too soft on him and at the very end of the pre-war era, they tried to take a tough stance. Hitler did not budge, however. The second World War was about expanding empires, recovering national pride, and creating an Aryan living space. The first World War revolved around land grabbing which ended in little land actually being grabbed. In the Pacific, the Japanese empire seized territory for resources such as oil and rubber in addition to expanding their empire. However, their primary goal was to obtain enough land to be self-sufficient economically.
What role did race, and ethnicity play in the conflict?
Race played a factor on both sides of the conflict. For the Axis powers, it was more apparent. The Nazis were exterminating Jews, blacks, homosexuals, and Slavs. His vendetta against these groups caused thousands to die. From occupied France to parts of occupied Russia the Germans executed their brutal ideology on occupied peoples. This played a huge role in how occupied nations were governed and order maintained. In the Pacific, the Japanese were massacring Chinese, Korean, and Indonesian people. The Japanese did not see these people as equal to them. So, anyone who resisted or was accused of resisting was killed. This continued throughout the war. In Allied ranks, Segregation existed within the US, this carried over onto the battlefield. Entire regiments of troops were minorities. Separating fighting forces by race was a way to have minorities fight just not with their white counterparts. The Europeans even exhibited racial bias. In occupied nations, non-Jews were informing the Nazis about the location of their Jewish neighbors or Gypsy countrymen. This may not have been out of inherent hatred however it was seen by many as a means of survival.
What role did women play in the war effort?
Women played a major role in the war effort for both sides. When the war broke out it was apparent that it would not be a timely and decisive war that was hoped for. In allied nations men were drafted and sent off to fight. This left a labor shortage on the home front. The nation that faced this the most was the US. Great Britain did not experience this, and the French surrendered relatively quick. In the US and Soviet, Union women picked up the manufacturing jobs left behind by men sent off to fight. This led to women gaining respect for their proficiency and dedication to cause although it did little to fully place women on an even keel with men. Additionally, for American women, it changed the labor force for the future by adding and maintaining more women in the workplace after the war ended (Goldin 1991). In the Soviet, Union women did the same as in the US. Most Russian men were sent to the eastern front to fight the Nazis leaving nothing but women and children to fill the labor gap left by men. This was no issue for these women either as the survival of their nation was on the line. In Germany, women did not have to take on many more additional responsibilities than they had in the prewar period. Germany supplemented its labor force with slave labor from occupied nations. This alleviated the stress on German citizens and allowed the people not fighting to maintain some semblance of a normal life.
How did World War II end?
By late 1943 The Italians were effectively out of the war and eventually turned on Germany and declared war on it after the arrest of Mussolini. The German military was fighting a war on three fronts. One in western Europe, one in Italy, and the massive eastern front. For Germany, the war came to a slow and then sudden end. The loss of Stalingrad solidified Germany’s fate. The German army was all but decimated or captured. This led to the German army retreating for the last portion of the war. With D-Day the allied push into western Europe caused Hitler to split his resources between the two major fronts. This led to an even faster deterioration of the German military situation. This led to the end of World War Two in Europe. In the Pacific, the Battle of Midway began the downfall of the Japanese Empire which culminated in the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
What effect did the War have on European society and culture?
The effects of the war on European society were immense and had major implications that last to the present day. Before the war Europeans believed the First World War was the war to end all wars. This shattered any such future mindset, it also showed Europeans the League of Nations were powerless to prevent the war. This led to the creation of a stronger body the United Nations. With this a mindset of pacifism set into European society. We saw the decolonization of the French and British empires and an end to European imperialism. Europeans could not afford another war, nor did they have the desire to. Europeans did join together with the United States to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) out of fear of a Soviet invasion. Europeans wanted to remain peaceful and repair after the war. German society had to recover from the horrors of the war and the ideology it taught. This was difficult and took many generations to do.
Shubert, A. & Goldstein, R.J. (2012). Twentieth-century Europe [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Goldin, C. D. (1991). The role of world war II in the rise of women’s employment. The American Economic Review, 81(4), 741-756. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/docview/233045964?accountid=32521
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