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FROM EUROPEAN WAR TO WORLD WAR 1939-1941 Hitler’s designs of Poland In the middle of 1939, Hitler turned his attention to Poland. He demanded that Poland return the area of land called the Danzig Corridor. The Polish government refused to do so, and war seemed imminent. The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact 1939 In August, the German and Russian government signed a non-aggression pact. In theory, each side promised not to attack each other. Hitler’s real purpose was to have a free hand to invade Poland. Russia felt it needed more time to improve its armed forces. Stalin, the Russian leader, greets von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister War begins In August 1939, Hitler used an apparent attack on a German radio station at Gleiwitz near the Danzig Corridor to accuse Poland of aggression. On 1 September, he invaded Poland, using a new tactic – Blitzkrieg (“lightning war”). Britain and France demanded Germany withdraw from Poland. When Germany refused, they declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. A European War 1940 Poland was swiftly defeated within a month. Both sides then took stock over the winter. In April 1940, another German blitzkrieg struck in Western Europe. Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium were quickly overrun France, a major military power, was beaten in six weeks. The Battle of Britain 1940 Britain now stood alone against Germany, who began making plans for an invasion. First the Germans needed control of the air, so began aerial attacks on British airfields and cities. The British fought a three month campaign to deny the Germans mastery of the air. After a major aerial battle on 15 September 1940, the Germans gave up their attempt to invade Britain. This was their first defeat. Battle scene from movie “The Battle of Britain” Battlefield Britain How did Britain win the Battle of Britain? What was the significance of this victory? Operation Barbarossa Hitler had always opposed Communists and saw Russia as a source of land and resources like oil. On 22 June 1941, he broke the 1939 non-aggression pact and invaded Russia. Despite seizing much land, the Germans were unable to achieve a decisive victory before winter arrived. The Germans were now forced to fight a war of attrition on two fronts. Pearl Harbour USA had decided that further Japanese expansion in Asia could not be accepted. It froze Japanese bank assets in USA and placed an embargo of oil and steel import to Japan. The Japanese decided to attack American bases in the Pacific. On 7 December 1941, Japanese planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, as well as other areas in South-East Asia. Battle scene from “Tora! Tora! Tora!” An European war had now become a world war. Japanese conquests Within three months of its attack on Pearl Harbour, Japan had seized European and American possessions in South East Asia and was threatening Australia. What happened next? Germany became bogged down in Russia. Two US naval victories in the Pacific in 1942 halted Japanese expansion. The Germans were eventually driven out of North Africa. German-occupied territory was invaded in Italy (1943) and France (1944) Us forces in the Pacific began reclaiming previous Japanese conquests. Germany was invaded in 1945 and surrendered unconditionally in May 1945. In August 1945, America dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to force their surrender. The most costly war in history was over. Ideas to think about Could World War II have been avoided? If so, how and when? We have not had a general war since 1945 (more than 60 years). Does this disprove the statement “What we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history”? Why do you think studying this topic is important for young people in 21st century New Zealand?