WORLD WAR II
World War 2 lasted from 1939 to 1945. The war finally came to an end in 1945 when Allied forces, including the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, defeated Germany.
World War II evolved from the European War, which began on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Many historians believe that it was the continuation of an unresolved conflict that initially began in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I. Despite the inhumane and barbaric atrocities committed by both sides, the narrative of any war often depends on the victor. Unfortunately, the histories of different nations have suppressed or ignored many of the darkest aspects of human behavior during wartime. However, in the case of World War II, the defeat of the Axis powers brought to light some of the most shocking human behaviors of National Socialism, including the emotionless persecution of entire religious groups and those considered inferior.
The unconditional bombardment of German cities, which did not distinguish between civilians and soldiers, grown-ups and adolescents, was also a humanitarian disaster. Ultimately, those who followed the guidance of one leader were deprived of their national dignity for a very long time. Many lost their patriotism, and all of them lost their homeland.
The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain appeared becalmed when he gave his famous "Peace for our time" statement on September 30, 1938, having convinced Hitler not to use military force to resolve the conflict in Czechoslovakia over the Sudeten Germans. However, within a year, the world was in chaos as the war began.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, leading France and Great Britain to declare war on the German Reich two days later. However, they withheld their troops. On September 28, Poland surrendered, and German troops took control of the country. The war against Poland was also intended to carve out living space in the east for the German nation, a strategy comparable to the ideology that justified westward expansion in North America. The effective deployment of tanks and airplanes made Germany's swift victory possible, a tactic known as "Blitzkrieg." The former state of Poland was divided by Germany and Russia, with the German Reich implementing special criteria for the Polish people.
Group 1 comprised Poles who could be turned into citizens of the Reich, while Group 2 consisted of Poles who were given a German ID and were on trial to see if they could be made into true German citizens. Some of them may have had Aryan features but were not "Germanized" enough and remained dependants. Group 3 consisted of "protected" Poles who were there to serve their German superiors. Lastly, Group 4 included Jews, Romani people, and those who rebelled against the new regime. Their journey usually ended in one of the concentration camps, which were located in Poland.
THE WINNING MENTALITY
In 1940, Hitler's military successes in the "Weser Übung" and Western campaigns cemented his image as a great field commander. German troops invaded Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg with tanks and the Blitzkrieg strategy. France's surrender on June 16, 1940, solidified Hitler's power. The truce was signed on June 22 in Compiègne, in the same railroad car where Germany signed the truce in 1918. Hitler then visited Paris and his picture in front of the Eiffel Tower became famous worldwide.
France was divided, with the northern part under German occupation and the southern part governed by a puppet government. Hitler's focus then turned to Great Britain, but peace talks failed after Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister.
On August 13, 1940, Operation "Seelöwe" (Sea Lion) was launched against Great Britain to gain control of the air. German planes conducted massive attacks and bombed British aircraft industries and commercial centers at night. However, the British defense was too strong, and the radar system caused high casualties for the Germans. This aerial battle marked the first significant defeat for the German Luftwaffe. While the submarine war initially weakened the British economy, it was only successful in the beginning.
THE TRIPARTITE PACT
To keep the United States out of the war, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact on September 27, 1940. Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia joined the pact in November of the same year, and Bulgaria and Yugoslavia joined in March 1941. The alliance was created to provide political, economic, and military support to each other if any of them were attacked by a power not involved in the European conflict. The strategic Tripartite Pact aimed to exclude the Soviet Union as it claimed territories in Romania and prevent the US from entering the European war. It was invoked in 1940 during the Balkans Campaign when Germany supported Italy and again in 1941 when Italy asked Germany for help to fight the British in North Africa. Italian leader Benito Mussolini tried to equal Hitler's influence and sought to increase his power, but he overestimated his military strength. A potential British victory could have opened another front in the south, endangering Germany. The Tripartite Pact was also invoked when the US declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A few days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Japan terminated the Tripartite Pact in April 1941 when it signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union and refused to assist Germany's war against the Soviet Union.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, known as Operation Barbarossa, was the largest military operation in history. It involved around four million German soldiers and was marked by unprecedented violence and brutality towards Soviet civilians. The invasion was a surprise attack, as Germany had previously signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in 1939.
The Blitzkrieg strategy, which had been so successful in Poland and Western Europe, was initially successful in the Soviet Union, as German forces quickly advanced deep into Soviet territory. However, the vastness of the Soviet Union, coupled with the harsh terrain, extreme weather conditions, and determined Soviet resistance, made it difficult for the Germans to maintain their momentum. The German army suffered heavy losses and was unable to capture Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), or Stalingrad, despite repeated attempts.
Operation Barbarossa was also marked by war crimes committed by the German army, including the deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions, and the establishment of death camps. The Germans viewed the Slavic people as inferior and sought to exterminate them to create living space for the German people. The occupation of the Soviet Union led to the deaths of millions of civilians, both directly through violence and indirectly through starvation and disease.
The defeat of the German army at Stalingrad in early 1943 marked the turning point of the war in the east. The Soviet Union went on the offensive, pushing the German army back towards Germany. The Battle of Kursk in July 1943, the largest tank battle in history, further weakened the German army and marked the end of their ability to mount a successful offensive in the east. The war in the east ended in May 1945 with the capture of Berlin by Soviet forces.
Air raids against Germany started in 1940 and initially targeted military and industrial facilities. The bombing of civilians began in 1942 as part of the Allies' strategy to demoralize German society and weaken the war effort. The British adopted a policy of "area bombing," which involved targeting entire cities, including residential areas. The Americans, on the other hand, adopted a "precision bombing" strategy, which targeted specific military and industrial targets.
The devastating bombing of Dresden in February 1945 is one of the most controversial Allied bombing raids of the war, as the city was not a major military target and thousands of civilians were killed. However, the Allied leaders argued that the attack was necessary to disrupt German transportation and communication networks.
Air raids were not a new phenomenon in World War II, as they were also used during World War I. However, the development of new aircraft technology, such as the long-range bomber, brought air raids to a new level of destruction. The introduction of radar and improved navigation systems also made it easier for bombers to find their targets and evade enemy defenses.
In addition to the physical damage and loss of life caused by air raids, they also had a significant psychological impact on both civilians and military personnel. The constant threat of bombing raids created a climate of fear and uncertainty, and many Germans suffered from trauma and mental health problems as a result.
On February 18, 1943, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, delivered a speech at the Berlin Sports Palace, where he coined the term "Total War". The speech was given after the German defeat in Stalingrad, and it was widely acclaimed by the public. The term "Total War" had two meanings: first, the mobilization of all strengths to turn the war in the east in Germany's favor, which had already been ordered by Hitler in the previous month. Second, the psychological aspect of unifying the German people in their belief that they are invincible if they all contribute to the cause and are willing to make sacrifices.
As part of this total mobilization effort, German businesses that were not deemed important for the war effort were closed or transformed into arms industries. The term "Total War" is characterized by a negative connotation, as it involved the induction of minors. All boys who turned 16 were required to defend their homeland like every other man, while girls who were 17 were required to work in Germany's war industries if necessary. In the war's final stage, even 12-year-old boys were inducted by a military operation named "Werwolf" (Werewolf), authorized by Hitler. (Kistler) Furthermore, the laws of war were tightened, resulting in more death warrants. (Scriba)
Thus, those who use the propagandistic term "Total War" today act with reckless disregard for the potential involvement of minors in their policies.
The United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union were the Allies in World War II. The U.S. entered the European theater after Japan heavily attacked their naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. As a result, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which transformed the war into a global conflict fought on almost every continent.
On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), the Allies launched the largest amphibious landing operation in military history, opening the Western front. Nine months later, on March 7, 1945, American troops crossed the Rhine at Remagen, marking a significant breakthrough in the war. The Wehrmacht signed their surrender on May 7, 1945, at the U.S. headquarters in Reims, officially ending the war in Europe.
THE ALL OR NONE MENTALITY
The distinction between nationalism and patriotism is perhaps best expressed by Hitler's principles of these concepts. Besides absolute obedience and loyalty, he emphasized one core element of nationalism: the all-or-none mentality. He was determined to lead Germany towards victory or lead the nation into the abyss if necessary. It all depended on the nation's course: destiny and the willingness to fight.
Hitler stated in 1942 that his attitude towards Germany would be ice-cold if its people were not willing to fight hard enough. If Germans were unwilling to ensure victories, he argued, they should disappear from the earth - and he meant what he said. Hitler repeated his intention, saying that there was no need to consider the essential needs a nation depends on to continue to exist, not even in its most primitive form. It is better to destroy all these things and open the door for the strongest nation of the east. Those Germans left were the inferior ones anyway since the stronger ones sacrificed everything on the battlefield. When it became crystal clear that the National Socialists were about to lose the war, he ordered the emotionless destruction of Germany's institutions.
Nationalism is the application of Darwin's survival of the fittest theory in politics and the human race. It is important to keep in mind that nationalism can eliminate its healthy counterpart, patriotism, and in the worst case, even one's own country.
As the historian Martin Kitchen already pointed out,
nationalism "left nothing behind it but horror. The horror of tens of millions of dead, of a continent laid waste, the horror of a great nation reduced to barbarism, moral
squalor, and mass murder, and soon to be crippled by guilt. It is a horror that will not go away, that refuses to distance itself by becoming history."
(Kitchen, pp. 301)
However, what if a former Ally supports an agenda by blatantly referring to codes of Nazism?