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World War I World War II The Cold War Modern Europe
World War 1 1914~1918
On June 28th, 1914. Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of AustriaHungary was assassinated. This set off a chain reaction of events all across Europe. Within days, Germany invaded the neutral country of Belgium and rolled toward Paris. The invasion of Belgium convinced the British to join the allies against Germany. Germany declared war on Russia and invaded Russian Poland. AustriaHungary declared war on Serbia at this time and attempted an invasion but was repeatedly repulsed.
In 1917, The United States also entered the war because of the continuous attacks on American ships such as the Lusitania. The United States, with France and other allied forces, pushed the German army back to well past it’s original borders. Both sides experienced heavy losses, but the Germans were finally beaten back, ending the war in 1918. Although short, World War I changed warfare drastically. World War I was when airplanes first became widely used. The introduction of gases such as mustard gas and chlorine gas had devastating consequences too. An estimated 100,000 people died from gas attacks and another 1,000,000 were seriously injured. Tanks were also introduced for the first time during World War I. A total of about 9 million people died, and countries were still recovering from their losses 50 years later.
Most of World War I was fought in trenches
After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles was made by the allied forces. Germany’s colonies in Africa, China and the North Pacific were seized. Provisions were included to make sure that Germany could never start a war again. The huge German navy had to be reduced to 6 war ships, no submarines were allowed and Germany could not have an army of more than 100,000. In addition, Germany was forced to pay a total of more than $33 billion to the allies. The Germans thought the treaty unfair, but were forced to sign because of starvation of their people. The German diplomats left the hall weeping, with a sence that things were not yet resolved. Looking back, The Treaty of Versailles proved to be a step backwards, evident less than a generation later.
Map of Europe after World War I
World War II 1939~1945
After World War I ended, Germany entered an economic depression. The Germans blamed other European countries and the Jews for their economic difficulties. In 1934 Adolf Hitler took control. Under Hitler’s rule, Germany began to increase its power. It renounced the Treaty of Versailles and annexed Austria in 1937 and 1938. In 1939 Germany’s invasion of Poland began. In 1940, Germany attacked Norway, Denmark, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and France. Then, in 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union.
In 1940, Italy, under Mussolini entered the war. It attacked countries of North Africa in 1940 and declared war on France and Britain in 1941. It also attempted invasions on Greece although unsuccessful. Italy defeated British forces in in Africa in 1942. But in 1943, the US entered the desert war and along with other allied forces, conquered the Italian army. Italy’s mainland was then attacked and conquered during the same year. After being beaten, Italy actually changed sides and attacked Germany, although they lost to the Nazis too. Hitler and Mussolini during a parade
Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler started a mass extermination of the Jews. Jews across Europe were sent to concentration camps where they were tortured and gassed. Other groups that suffered at the hands of the Nazis were Gypsies, homosexuals, and the mentally retarded.
Jews at a concentration camp
Germany’s power began to wane in 1943. After a series of battles, they lost completely to the allied powers. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 signified the end World War II. The devastating effects of World War II are inconceivable. Over 50 million people lost their lives, half of them civilians, including 6 million Jews.
The “Big Three” after WWII. From left, Churchill of Britain, Truman of the USA and Stalin of USSR.
The Cold War
The basis for the Cold War was democracy versus communism. It was the clash between the two most powerful nations in the world, The Soviet Union and The United States of America. In 1949 The Soviet Union tested its first atom bomb and China turned to communism. These two events showed that communism was spreading and gaining power. The US responded by making more nuclear weapons. They also helped make countries devastated by the war, such as Japan and Germany, into democratic and economic world powers. Containment efforts led to fighting communism in Korea and Vietnam.
Nuclear bomb test site
Shortly after World War II, NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was made. This organization of ten West European and two North American countries agreed to protect each other from the powerful Soviet Union whose troops were massed along borders of communist and democratic nations. Through Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), NATO kept the Soviet Union from using its nuclear weapons. Now that the Cold War is over, NATO still tries to improve security for countries as well as to help reform the former Soviet bloc countries.
NATO flag (left) and shield (right)
Arguably the most vivid symbol of the cold war was the Berlin wall which separated East and West Germany. In 1948, the Berlin crisis arose, in which Soviets blockaded West Berlin, in an attempt to starve West Berlin into communism. But the allies airlifted food to the citizens, ending the crisis.
Communist Russia and Eastern Europe VS democratic US and Western Europe
Under communism, incredible amounts of people suffered. In the Soviet Union alone, 61,000,000 people were killed by the communists. Stalin himself was responsible for 43,000,000 of these. This was the worst megamurder ever, the second worst being 1,000,000 killed in communist China.
The Fall of Communism
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the iron curtain finally came down. The Soviet Union broke up into independent states. Some of these were Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Although free from communist control, some of these countries have had difficulty dealing with economic troubles.
Once again, one of the most significant signs in the fall of communism was the Berlin Wall. On November 9th, 1989, after 28 years of separation, East and West Germany were united once again.
People celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate
The European Union or EU is an international organization of 25 European states, established in 1992. The European Union carries out many activities, the most important being a common single market, consisting of a customs union, a single currency (for 12 out of the 25 countries), a common agricultural policy and a common fisheries policy. The European Union also has various initiatives to coordinate activities of the member states.
One major future challenge for European countries is integrating new members into the European Union. These new members, most of them in Eastern Europe are deeply scarred by communism. The EU would also like to include Turkey by the year 2015. Another challenge that Europe faces is its economy. Population growth is zero in most European countries and their economies are heading South. Europe will have to work out these problems as well as many others as they continue on into the future.
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