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AP European history
Ch. 28 WWII
Context: Due to the economic and political turmoil during the Great Depression,
totalitarian dictatorships threatened western democracy, erupting in the most
devastating and brutal war of the twentieth century, World War II. The end of the war
marked the demise of European hegemonic power, replaced by the USA in a power
struggle against the USSR, known as the Cold War.
Versailles settlements
American isolationism
Ineffectual League of Nations
Great Depression and political polarization
Authoritarian aggression (Europe and Asia)
Spanish Civil War
Italian aggression in Ethiopia
Nazi aggression in East Europe
War in Europe and Asia
Battle front and home front mobilization
Atomic bombing
Shattered Europe
Iron Curtain and the Spread of Communism
4th Republic in France
Divided Germany
United Nations
Cold War
By the mid-1930s, Hitler had consolidated his power in Germany and blamed all of
Germany’s problems on the Versailles peace settlements.
A. Hitler’s Goals
1.  Aryan race and unify all German Volk
2.  Conquest of land for lebensraum (“living space” for Germans);
primarily Poland and the Ukraine
3. Germany rearms: Hitler withdraws from the League (1933), creates a
nonaggression pact with Poland (1934) and rearms (1935), bulding up
the airforce and conscripting ½ million.
4. League of Nations fails to act when Japan invaded Manchuria (1931).
a. The Lytton Report simply condemned the act, no more.
Japan drops out of the League.
b. Hitler gains confidence in rearming.
c. GB, F and I sign the Stresa Front (1935) to maintain the
status quo in Europe.
d. GB violates the Stresa Front by allowing Germany 35%
fleet of GB.
Italy attacks Ethiopia, 1935
1. GB/F appease (ex. GB still allows I to
use the Suez Canal).
2. Haile Selassie, PM of Ethiopia appeals to the League, which places
sanctions, but not on the important resource, oil.
3. Rome-Berlin Axis 1936—an alientated Mussolini turns to Hitler.
Remilitarized Rhineland, 1935—violates Versailles and Lacarno (1925)
1. League offers a feeble protest, thus emboldening Hitler. GB/F believe
Hitler has limited goals.
2. France depends on the Maginot Line for protection.
The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
1. The monarchy collapse 1931 and the republic struggled for reform.
2. 1936—the Popular Front victory was challenged by General
Francisco Franco and the Falangists (fascists) = Civil War.
3. Franco’s forces dominated the army and controlled the center of the
country as opposed by the Republic and navy.
a. G/I support Franco and use the war as a rehearsal arena.
b. GB/F and the USA hesitate and only boycott the selling of
weapons to either side.
IMPACT!!—appeasement further emboldens Hitler.
c. The USSR and volunteers (such as the American Lincoln
Brigade) support the Republic.
d. Japan joins the Axis Powers in the Anti-Comintern Pact.
e. The town of Guernica is bombed, the subject of Picasso’s
famous painting depicting the horrors of war.
Austria and Czechoslovakia 1938
1. 1934 a coup by Austrian Nazis failed.
2. 1938 Hitler bullied PM Schuschnigg who calls a plebicite, but Hitler
march troops in before the election, creating the German Anschluss, or
3. Hitler next wanted the 3.5 million Germans living in the
a. GB, F and USSR commit to the Czechs.
b. Hitler provokes a German Czech riot and the West appeases.
Munich 1938—British PM Neville Chamberlain arranges the Munich
Conference WITHOUT Cz or USSR.
1. Claiming “peace for our time”, Chamberlain leads the West to give
over the Sudetenland.
2. By 1939 Hitler takes all of Czechoslovakia and GB/F prepare for
3. The West loses the USSR as an ally against Hitler. GB/F and
USSR are mutually suspicious. The West doubted Russian
competence, and GB/F did not want the USSR to enter Poland or
F. The Nazi-Soviet Pact, August 1939—in an unprecedented move, Hitler
negotiates with communist USSR to split Poland in exchange for neutrality.
Hitler invades Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and GB/F declare war Sept. 3.
IMPACT!!—the western democracies’ policy of appeasement bought Hitler valuable
time and allowed for his slow military build up. Hitler’s goals were pursued not by any
calculated agenda, but pragmatically in response to the inactions of the West.
Opportunities to confront and possibly stop a much weaker Germany were
The war was truly global, highly technological and “total” in its civilian as well as
military mobilization.
A. German Conquest of Europe
1. Blitzkrieg = “lightening war” of air raids followed by tanks. Poland
fell in 3 weeks.
2. USSR took east Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Bessarabia
(from Romania). Finland resisted.
3. Phony War or Sitzkrieg = after Hitler’s eastern invasion in the fall of
1939, all went quiet.
4. Spring 1940 Hitler took Denmark, Norway, Benelux and marched
into Paris, June 22, 1940. The Maginot Line was no match for the
German Panzers (tanks) and the left flank along the Belgian border
was left exposed.
5. Dunkirk—a massive retreat boating F/GB forces to safety in England
saved 100s K troops.
6. Vichy France—a collaborationist pro-Nazi French gov’t under
Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain (Verdun 1914) was established in
the south, east, and N. Africa, while the Nazis directly occupied
Paris and the north/west access to the sea and English Channel.
7. Battle of Britain—Hitler wants GB to sign terms of German control
of the continent, but new conservative PM Winston Churchill
a. RAF (Royal Air Force) vs. Luftwaffe
b. 15 K die, but RAF win 2:1 in downing German planes. Hitler
abandons invasion.
8. Japan expanded in Asia.
9. 1940-1941 the USA is neutral, but pro-Allies in military aid.
B. German Attack on Russia
1. Operation Barbarossa was planned for May 1941, but need to save
Italy in Greece delayed invasion until late June 1941.
a. General Erwin Rommel the “Desert Fox” gained N. Africa.
b. Stalin was surprised = lost 2 K planes, 14 K tanks and 2.5
million soldiers.
2. FAILS! = Moscow not taken by winter = war of attrition.
C. Hitler’s Plans for Europe
1. Third Reich for 1000 years (lasts 12).
2. Lebensraum = horror for Poles and Russians.
3. Assimilation = “acceptable” near-Aryans (i.e. Scandinavian, Dutch
and some Ukrainians) re-educated.
4. Plunder = industry, food and forced labor.
D. Japan and the USA
1. Japan in Indochina, China, and wanted Malay and Indonesia.
USA slowly  Japan with sanctions on oil.
2. Pearl Harbor bombed, Dec. 1941 by General Kideki Tojo = USA
and GB declare war on Japan. Three days later G and I on USA.
3. The Tide Turns (20 countries vs. the Axis)
a. 1942 Japan takes Guam, Wake Islands, Philippines, Hong
Kong, Malay, Burma and Indonesia.
b. 1942 Germans into USSR and Rommel into Egypt.
c. Allies win in Asia (spring) and N. Africa (Nov. 1942).
d. 1943 coup of Mussolini = Germans rescue, but weakens
Axis powers.
e. Stalingrad = Germans offense for Caspian oil, but FAIL =
turning point of the war.
f. Strategic bombing = USA successful by 1944.
E. Defeat of Nazi Germany
1. D-Day, Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944 under Dwight D.
Eisenhower, along with attacks on southern France.
2. Battle of the Bulge = once last German offensive in Belgium/Lux. =
3. Capture of Berlin = Russians from the East; Hitler suicide April 30,
1945, and Nazis surrender May 8, 1945.
F. Fall of the Japanese
1. USA Recaptures Pacific Islands = “island hopping” from Solomons,
Mariana, Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Faced kamikaze.
2. Atomic bombs on Hiroshima (Aug 6) and Nagasaki (Aug 9).
3. Emperor Hirohito surrenders August 14, 1945 and peace Sept. 2.
4. Controversies over the bomb = 1) threaten USSR and 2) save lives.
IMPACT!! = Cost of War
1. 15 million military deaths and 40+ million civilians.
2. Cold War
Hitler believed Slavs and Jews were Untermensch = sub-human. Heinrich Himmler
(SS) sought  30 million Slavs for lebensraum, but only managed to kill 6 million.
Plans to make Europe Judenrein, or “free of Jews” led to the horror of Endlösung, or
“Final Solution” at the Wannsee Conference, 1942, thus leading to the Holocaust and
murder of 6 million Jews.
A. Destruction of Polish Jews = 10% of Poland. Polish Jews had suffered
under Russian “Official Nationalism”. Lacked liberal improvements and ID’d
by dress, language and culture. They were the urban poor with no union
B. Polish Anti-Semitism Between the Wars
1. General Pilduski included Jews, but after his death  rights.
2. Jews lost jobs, education rights, civil service jobs and were resented
for their work in medicine and law.
3. Despite discrimination, Jews assimilated with newspapers in Polish
and voting; sadly they factionalized over modernization issues.
C. Nazi Assault on Polish Jews
1. 100s K were forced to move, then ghettos, then camps.
2. Nazis stole property and 20% died in ghettos.
3. 1941 invasion of USSR =  Jewish persecution.
4. ***Non-Jewish Poles also killed Jews (ex. Jedwabne), but
ZEGOTA (Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland) also saved
5. 1941-1944 = Auschwitz and Birkenau gas chambers = 90%
murdered. Survivors went to Israel and only 1000s left today.
D. Explanations of the Holocaust = 1. WHY? and 2. HOW?
1. Historical Christian Anti-Semitism + Social Darwinism = WHY.
2. Aggressive Nationalism + Utopian Ideals + technological weapons
and propaganda = Totalitarian Dictatorships with mass murder
capabilities = HOW.
IMPACT!!—The world was shocked to discover the atrocities committed in the
concentration camps. While strong controversy exists over dropping the atomic bomb,
unlike the atrocities of Hitler or Stalin, it was clearly done for military purposes. The
Holocaust challenged the world’s belief in humanity.
A. Germany: From Victory to Defeat
1. Blitzkrieg war was good the first 2 years. Invasion of the USSR
changed everything.
2. Albert Speer directed the economy and  3x spending on the
military.  shortages and  standard of living.
a. Teens, women and the old = work; theaters closed and
artists/entertainers conscripted.
b. Women =  motherhood and protection through sending
sons to the front and working to support them at home.
3. Josef Goebbels = propaganda minister
a. Radio and film  morale and later exaggerated victories.
b. Stiffened German resolve to the end.
4. Heavy destruction = whole new Germany after 1945
B. France: Defeat, Collaboration and Resistance
1. Vichy = conservative,  RCC, family and nationalism.
2. General Charles de Gaulle = French National Committee of
Liberation, or Free French, based in London and central Africa.
a. Broadcast resistance and sabotage in Vichy and N. Africa.
b. Less than 5% out of Nazi fear, but  1944 with Allied
3. The 4th Republic was established in 1945, but was divided due to the
wartime suffering.
C. Great Britain: Organizing for Victory
1. 1940 Churchill was given emergency powers.
2.  military, rations and economic controls. All collected metal for
airplanes, increased factory hours, focused on savings and gov’t taxed
to  spending.
3. Luftwaffe air raids
a. Children to the countryside (gov’t paid food and medical).
b. 30 K die, but more die in Germany.
c. Fuel, clothing, and food are scarce.
4. Propaganda and the BBC
a. Churchill delivered radio speeches
b. Families and soldiers listened to the same programs = 
5.  Standard of living and health
6. 1945 Labour Party wins the election.
D. The Soviet Union: “Great Patriotic War”
1. USSR fought defensively =  more suffering than any other. 16
million die, ½ industry  and Germans take food and force labor.
2. State Committee for Defense was highly centralized under Stalin
who feared his own generals and a possible overthrow.
3. Confiscated radios and used loud speakers to  war as a “Great
Patriotic War”.
4. Tolstoy’s War and Peace on Napoleon’s invasion ; Eisenstein
made Ivan the Terrible; Dimitri Shostakovich create Leningrad
5. Stalin made peace with the Orthodox Church and worked to encourage
partisans caught behind enemy advance to  his influence.
6. WWII  Stalin’s centralized authority and power.
IMPACT!!—Other than Great Britain, the European countries were decimated by the
war and suffered bombings, shortages and destruction.
V. PREPARATIONS FOR PEACE—almost immediately, the Allied victors split into
two camps: the Western Democracies lead by the USA vs. USSR = Cold War.
A. The Atlantic Charter 1941 = Churchill met Franklin Delano Roosevelt on
a ship off Newfoundland to work out principles of peace similar to Wilson’s
14 Points, including the United Nations.
B. Tehran: A Second Front 1943
1. “The Big Three” = GB, USA and USSR agreed on the D-Day
invasion plan.
2. The USSR joining against Japan when Hitler was defeated.
3. Stalin pushed to keep his rights to eastern Poland. When the USSR is
near Warsaw, the Poles revolt. The Soviets go south to take Hungary,
Romania and Bulgaria and let the Germans kill the Poles.
4. Invasion in northern France, not the Mediterranean = Russians in
eastern Europe = Iron Curtain after the war.
5. Churchill and Stalin—Churchill negotiates Greece in exchange for
Stalin’s control of Romania and Bulgaria with Yugoslavia and
Hungary in the middle. FDR does not like working out “spheres”.
6. Germany—divided into 4 zones, demilitarized and de-Nazified.
Stalin wants $20 billion in payments.
7. Eastern Europe—FDR insists on free elections; Stalin agrees, but
later violates.
C. Yalta, Feb, 1945—FDR wants the USSR in Japan and gives up islands. The
United Nations is agreed on.
D. Potsdam, July 1945 = President Harry Truman, PM Clement Atlee and
1. Poland moved 100 miles west.
2. Council of Foreign Ministers = draft peace treaties, but infighting
causes this to fall apart = Cold War.
IMPACT!!—The USA (1951) and USSR (1956) sign separate treaties with Japan,
demonstrating the fleeting peace amidst capitalist vs. communist rivalries immediately
after the defeat of Germany and Japan.
IN PERSPECTIVE—Some scholars argue WWII is a continuation of WWI, but others
argue this is oversimplified. WWII is distinct insofar as USA isolationism and
appeasement of GB and F prevented these countries from intervening in Hitler’s
rise to power. The global war, beginning as early as Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, was
a direct effort by authoritarian regimes to amass power. WWII had no treaties signed
as the Cold War ensued. Former colonies and “Third World”/“developing countries”
used the USA vs. USSR rivalry to bargain for assistance and freedom. Evident of this
rivalry is the immediate assistance West Germany, Italy and Japan received to guarantee
their democracy.