Causes and Consequences of World War II

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The Causes of World War II

The Second World War was a vast conflict fought in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. It was a conflict between the Axis powers, led by Germany, Italy and Japan, and the Allied powers that included Britain, the USSR, France and (from 1941) the United States.

  • The impact of World War I: the peace treaties: Germany lost territory, and its economy was damaged by the need to pay war reparations.

  • The rise of fascism and nationalism: many people feared that there would be a communist revolution in their own countries, people considered that fascism and extreme nationalism were the most effective way to combat communism.

  • The weakness of democracies: democracies like Britain and France wanted to avoid a new war at any price.

  • The Great Depression: there were economic crises in many countries in the 1930s. Extreme ideologies, like communism or Nazism, were sometimes considered the only solution.

The Policy of Appeasement/The Outbreak of World War II

Germany annexed Austria and part of Czechoslovakia. Britain and France turned a blind eye, these annexation because they did not want another war, but they signed a treaty with Poland to maintain its independence. When Hitler invaded Poland the 2nd World War started.

War in the Pacific (the turning point)

In December 1941, Japan attacked the American military base of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. As a result, the United States entered World War II on the Allied side.

The Final Allied Offensives

The Allies launched the Normandy landings on the French coast, coordinated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. They broke through the German defences, and liberated Paris in August 1944.

The Allies continued their advances, which were accompanied by their strategic bombing of German cities. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the bombing of cities like Hamburg and Dresden.

The Soviets occupied Berlin in April 1945. Hitler committed suicide, and Germany surrendered. The war in Europe was over.

The Pacific War went on for a few more months.

United States president Harry Truman ordered the use of the recently invented atomic bomb, which was massively destructive. These bombs destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Japan surrendered on 2nd September 1945, and World War II had ended.

The Peace Settlement (Yalta and Potsdam)

Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met at the Yalta Conference in the Crimea region of the USSR in February 1945, before the war had ended. Their main agreements were:

  • Germany would be divided into occupied zones.

  • Stalin promised to hold free elections in eastern Europe.

After the war had ended in Europe, USA, Britain, France and the USSR met again at the Potsdam Conference in Germany.

  • Germany was divided into four zones, each of which was administrated by one of four Allied powers: the USA, the USSR, Britain and France. Within the Soviet zone, Berlin was also divided into four zones.

  • Nazi war criminals would be tried at the Nuremberg trials.

  • The amount of German war reparations was determined.

Consequences of the War

  1. HUMAN LOSS: 60 million people died, over half of the dead were civilians.

The war also caused massive displacement of people.

40 million people had to look for a new place in Europe where they could live.

  1. MORAL CONSEQUENCES: War survivors suffered intense trauma after witnessing human cruelty.

The new legal concept of crimes against humanity was created.

  1. ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES: Communications network in central Europe had disappeared, petroleum was scarce and industrial production had been reduced. Cities, farms and production had been destroyed.

The war proved economically beneficial to the United States.

Its production capacity grew enormously, and it was consolidated as a major industrial and financial power.


  • HOLOCAUST: The Nazi´s planned extermination of the Jews.

  • CONCENTRATION CAMPS: Detention centres where Jews and others targeted by Nazis were sent.

  • GHETTOES: Closed-off city neighbourhoods where Jews were required to live.

  • WANNSEE CONFERENCE: 1942 decision to exterminate Jews in ovens and gas chambers.

  • FINAL SOLUTION: The mass extermination of the Jews in gas chambers and cremation ovens.

  • NUREMBERG LAW: Nazi policy which revoked German citizenship from Jews

  • NIGHT OF THE BROKEN GLASS: Members of the Nazi assault forces and the Hitler Youth sacked Jewish synagogues, homes and establishments throughout Germany.

  • ARYAN RACE: The “master race” Nazis believed Germans belonged to.

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