The Second World War It was a political and military conflict on a global scale that took place between 1939 and 1945, in which most of the countries of the world were involved and which represents one of the most traumatic and significant historical and cultural milestones of the 20th century, given the state of Total War (absolute economic, social and military commitment of the nations) assumed by the two parties involved.
The conflict cost the life of 50 and 70 million people, both civilians and military, of which 26 million belonged to the USSR (and only 9 million were military). A particular case is made up of the millions of people executed in concentration and extermination camps, subjected to subhuman conditions of existence or even medical and chemical experiments, such as the almost 6 million Jews systematically exterminated by the German National Socialist regime. The latter was called the Holocaust.
To this must be added the numerous deaths that economic consequences of the conflict caused worldwide, such as the famine in Bengal that claimed the lives of almost 4 million Indians, and that are often ignored by the official history of the conflict, whose total death toll can be around 100 million people.
The sides faced during the war were two: the Allied countries, led by France, England, the United States and the Soviet Union; and the Axis Powers, led by Germany, Italy and France. These latter countries constituted the so-called Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis, whose respective regimes of government tended to varying degrees towards fascism and certain social-Darwinian ideologies that proposed the supremacy of the “pure” races over the designated “inferiors”.
Causes of World War II
The causes of the conflict are varied and complex, but can be summarized as:
- The terms of the Treaty of Versailles. After World War I, an unconditional surrender treaty on oppressive terms was imposed on Germany, preventing the devastated nation from having an army again, wresting control of its African colonies, and imposing a virtually insurmountable debt to the United States. victorious countries. This had spawned widespread popular rejection and the theory that the nation had been stabbed in the back and was under the control of foreign powers such as the USSR.
- The appearance of Adolf Hitler and other charismatic leaders. These political leaders knew how to capitalize on popular discontent and build radical nationalist movements, whose main objective was the recovery of past national greatness through the militarization of broad social sectors, the expansion of national territories and the establishment of totalitarian governments (party unique). This is the case of the German National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi), or the Italian Fascio led by Benito Mussolini.
- The Great Depression of the 1930s. This international financial crisis, which particularly affected the European countries hit by the Great War (World War I), made it impossible for depressed nations to resist the rise of fascism and the breakdown of the democratic order. In addition, it pushed even more the European populations to a situation of hopelessness that was conducive to the emergence of radical proposals.
- The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The bloody Spanish conflict in which the German National Socialist state intervened in support of the monarchical troops of Francisco Franco, in flagrant violation of international treaties of non-intervention foreign, at the same time served as proof of the newly instituted Luftwaffe German (aviation), and as evidence of the timidity of the allied countries, which postponed the coming conflict to the margin of passivity and which still encouraged German daring.
- Sino-Japanese tensions. After the First Sino-Japanese Wars (1894-1895), tensions between the rising Asian power of Japan and its competing neighbors such as China and the USSR were constant. The Empire of Hiro Hito took advantage of the weak state in which the Civil War between Communists and Republicans had left China in 1932, to start the Second Sino-Japanese War and occupy Manchuria. This would be the beginning of the Japanese expansion (especially in Asia Minor), which would lead to the bombing of the North American base Pearl Harbor and the formal entry of the United States into the conflict.
- The German invasion of Poland. After having peacefully annexed Austria and Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia, the German government established a pact with the USSR to divide up the Polish territory. Despite the active military resistance offered by this eastern European nation, the German troops annexed it to the nascent German III Reich on September 1, 1939, causing the formal declaration of war by France and the United Kingdom, thus formally beginning to the conflict.
Consequences of World War II
While all war tends to have dire consequences on the population of the countries involved, those of the Second World War were particularly egregious and historically significant:
- Almost total devastation of Europe. The extensive and devastating bombardment of European cities by both sides, as the first blitzkrieg German (blitzkrieg) extended control of the axis across half the planet, and after the allies liberated the territory, it meant the almost total destruction of the European urban park, which later required large economic investments for its gradual reconstruction. One of these economic sources was the so-called Marshall Plan proposed by the United States.
- Beginning of a bipolar world landscape. The Second World War left the European powers, both Allied and Axis, so weakened that the world political vanguard passed into the hands of the two new warring superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. Both immediately began to compete for the influence of their government systems, capitalist and communist respectively, over the rest of the countries, thus giving rise to the Cold War.
- Germany Division. The control of the allied countries over the German territory was due to the ideological separation between the United States and the European allies, and the USSR. Thus, the country was gradually divided into two completely different nations: the German Federal Republic, capitalist and under European control, and the German Democratic Republic, communist and under Soviet administration. This division was particularly notorious in the city of Berlin, in which a wall was built to separate the two halves and prevent the escape of citizens from communist to capitalist territory, and lasted until the day of German Reunification in 1991.
- Start of the terror of the atomic war. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US forces, a tragedy that caused the unconditional surrender of Japan a few days later, also unleashed the terror of the atomic war that would characterize the Cold War. This massacre would be, together with the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the worst tragedy in human history involving atomic energy.
- Beginning of the philosophy of European despair. The recurrent questioning during the harsh post-war years by European intellectuals regarding how a conflict of such cruel and inhuman dimensions was possible. This led to the birth of a philosophy of nihilism and hopelessness, which challenged the positivist faith in reason and progress.
- Later wars. The power vacuum left by the end of the conflict led to the confrontation between France and many of its Asian colonies, which featured intense separatist movements. Civil wars also broke out in Greece and Turkey for similar reasons.
- New world legal and diplomatic order. After the end of the war, the United Nations (UN) was created as a replacement for the existing League of Nations, and it was charged with the task of avoiding future conflicts of such magnitude, betting through diplomatic channels and international justice.
- Beginning of decolonization. The loss of European influence and political power led to the loss of control over its colonies in the Third World, thus allowing the start of numerous processes of independence and the end of European world domination.