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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
 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
 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
On 1 September, he invaded
Poland, using a new tactic –
Blitzkrieg (“lightning war”).
Britain and France demanded
Germany withdraw from
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
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
The Japanese decided to
attack American bases in the
On 7 December 1941,
Japanese planes attacked the
American naval base at Pearl
Harbour in Hawaii, as well as
other areas in South-East
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
possessions in
South East Asia and
was threatening
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
 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?