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World War II and the

Collapse of Europe

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Mass Executions

Before the war began in 1939, mental patients in


Germany had been killed on Hitler’s orders by lethal
injections (to save their food for war needs). Deaths
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Katyn

The world would not learn until 1942 that Russian secret
police had murdered thousands of Polish officers in their
part of Poland – and buried the bodies in a Polish forest.
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“Sitzkreig”
Although France briefly attacked
German lines in the Saar, and the British
sent bombers over Germany, the war
after Poland collapsed was quiet.
German submarines attacked British
ships but the German armies did little
but defend the border with France.
Soon, the was called a “sitting war” in
Berlin, while the British made jokes
about a “Bore War.” Hitler made
overtures for peace talks but the Allies
rejected them.

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Stalin strikes

In December 1939, Stalin demands territory in Finland and attacks


when Finland refuses to comply. This “winter war” ends in a
Russian victory but at great cost to Stalin’s armies. Hitler concludes
that Russia would be easy to defeat.
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Norway and Denmark
In April 1940, the German armies
struck quickly, marching into
Denmark and launching a
paratroop/sea invasion of Norway.
British delays in responding and
errors made in landing a few
thousand men near Narvik led to a
crisis in Parliament – Prime
Minister Chamberlain was forced to
resign.
Winston Churchill was made Prime
Minister.
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German U-boats

But German “untersee” boats were sinking one of


every three tons of goods that Britain bought.
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Isolationism
•Neutrality Laws in 1935-1936 Restrict American
business with nations at war and prevet American
citizens from being endangered.
•But U.S. journalists begin covering the war and
their stories have an impact on how Americans
regard the situation.
•Refugees from Europe also affect how Americans
think about Europe.

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Cash and Carry

FDR persuaded Congress to modify the


Neutrality Laws so Britain could buy weapons for
cash and carry them away on their own ships.
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Enigma and Ultra

Mathematicians and engineers fought to


protect and break one another's’ codes
in war that produced the first steps to
modern computers.

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Defeat in France
In May-June, 1940, the
German armies defeated
France in 6 weeks and
forced the British to
evacuate their troops
from Belgium. The U.S.
feared Britain would
quickly sign a treaty that
would give Hitler control
of Europe.

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France Occupied

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As France collapsed,
Roosevelt offered
Britain a chance to
shelter its navy in
American ports. The
defeat of France
shocked Congress into
vastly increasing
US Aid
spending on defense.
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Britain Alone

France, having promised to make no separate peace, not


only signed a separate peace but also returned to Germany
400 captured German airmen, who could now be used to
attack Great Britain.
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Air Assault on Britain

German air attacks in British air bases in August-September 1940


did heavy damage but failed to open the English Channel for a
German landing.
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British Determination

Churchill’s willingness to destroy


French ships at Oran convinced
Roosevelt that Britain meant to
continue the war.
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Siege

Although the threat of invasion was passing by October


1940, Britain’s had to endure nightly bombings and
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Shortages
British rationing was among
the strictest in the war – with
cloth, food, gasoline, fuel oil,
shoes, paper, rubber (tires), and
even soap and metals for dental
fillings tightly controlled.
Middle- and working-class
Britons complained that their
wealthier neighbors continued
to find ways to get “more and
better” commodities.

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Action at Dakar

In September 1940, the “Free French” forces of


Charles de Gaulle, with aid from the British
navy, tried to seize the French colony of Dakar in
west Africa. The attempt failed.
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Destroyer Deal

Despite British failures, Roosevelt in September


1940 ‘traded’ 50 older destroyers to Britain in
return for 99-year leases of bases in the
Caribbean and Canada.
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North Africa

Imperial War
Museum
photograph

Italy tried to seize additional lands in North Africa but lost


over 100,000 men to the more mobile British forces
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Barbarossa
Hitler’s plan for defeating
Russia In May-June 1941
was based on the
expectation that Stalin’s
armies would collapse in
8-10 weeks. His best
generals were skeptical,
but he insisted the Soviet
Union would fall like a
“rotten house.”

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Genocide
The Nazi plan was to occupy
the western part of Russia as
far as the Ural mountains,
allow much of the Russian
population to starve and use
the remainder as slave labor.
“We shoot villagers on the slightest
excuse. Just stick them up against a
wall. We order the whole village out to
watch. It’s a vicious circle. We hate
them and they hate us, and on and on it
goes, everyone getting more inhuman.”
From a German soldier’s diary

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Greece
Italy’s failures in North
Africa and Greece forced
the Germans to intervene,
seizing Yugoslavia, Greece
and Crete in another
“lightning” campaign.
This action threatened the
British hold on Egypt and
Suez (its link to India).
But Hitler had to postpone
the attack on Russia until
late June.

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The Draft

In 1940, Congress approved the first peace-time draft in


American experience. The draftees (21 or older) were
chosen by lottery and were to serve for one year.
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Guardsmen Called Up

In the fall of 1941, the draft was extended, keeping


those from 1940 in the service. National Guard
units were also called up for training with the U.S.
Army. This included Minnesota and North Dakota
guard units. People were expecting war.
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Lend-Lease

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Russia Invaded
When the Germans invaded
Russia in June 1941, the
surprised Russian soldiers
were mauled, losing over 4
million men in six months.
But they held on until winter
stopped the German forces
west of Moscow
About 8 of every 10 German
soldiers who were killed in the
war died in battle against the
Russians.
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Full Mobilization

Russia employed more women in the military and war industry than any
other European nation, and managed to move many machine tools to
eastern communities beyond German air range – but food shortages were
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acute and there was starvation in parts of the nation.
City of Death

Leningrad (formerly St Petersburg) was under siege for 872


days, during which time 1.5 million died and over forty
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percent of the city was destroyed,
Russian losses

Russian losses in the war exceeded 25 million,


with young Russians dying at such a high rate that
population in the Soviet Union declined into the
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Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen (“special
action squads) murdered over
1 million Jews, communist
party members and other
“undesirables” in Russia from
the summer of 1941 until
early 1942.
Britain and the U.S., having
broken German radio codes,
knew about these activities,
which remained unknown in
the press.

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Death Camps
In 1942, the Nazis employed
their knowledge of poison gas
to speed up the murder of
some 5 million Jews in
special death camps, like
Auschwitz (entrance to the
Auschwitz camp still exists at
the memorial site in Poland).
U.S. and British code
breakers also knew about the
activities in these camps.

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And the War Came for
America
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Global War

Where should the U.S. use its military power?


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Purpose of the War?
In a mid-ocean meeting, Roosevelt and
Churchill had agreed that Germany
should be the major focus of US and
British military effort (which angered
Americans who wanted revenge for
Pearl Harbor).
Roosevelt also persuaded Churchill to
agree to the Atlantic Charter – a vague
commitment to a better postwar world.
Churchill feared this meant the end of
the British empire, but could only
finish the war with US aid.
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Different Agendas for Victory
 To Roosevelt the Atlantic Charter meant a
reduction of the British Empire.
 To Churchill, victory in the war meant preservation
of the British empire.
 Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill completely trusted
Stalin. But Roosevelt thought Stalin could be
persuaded to co-operate. Churchill doubted this.
 Could Roosevelt succeed where Woodrow Wilson
had failed?

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Different Strategies

Direct invasion (U.S.) vs. peripheral attacks (British)


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The Second Front
Russia began demanding a
“second front” from Britain
in 1942. But France was
not invaded until 1944.
Stalin accused Churchill
and Roosevelt of waiting
until Russia and Germany
had “bled one another
white.”
“What news from the second front” – In
British newspaper, July 1942.

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“Unconditional Surrender”
After the U.S. Army fought German
troops in North Africa, Roosevelt
surprised everyone when he said that
only the “unconditional surrender” of
Germany, Italy and Japan would end
the war. He may have said this to
reassure Stalin. Britain, receiving
enormous aid from America, had to go
along with the idea of not accepting a
negotiated peace. Churchill suspected
the US could use a long war to seize
British markets.

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Battle for
Mediterranean bases
Despite Stalin’s complaints,
Britain won over the U.S. to
again postpone the invasion of
France and fight in Italy in
1943. It was later charged that
Britain was trying to prevent
Russian advances into eastern
Europe (Greece and
Yugoslavia).
The Allies allowed Italy to
surrender with conditions- and
join their side.
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Mountain combat

Italy’s conditions for combat were more like those of the


Great War in 1917. Here only mules could haul supplies
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into the mountains – or carry the wounded out.
Twilight War

Anti-German partisans, supported by British


weapons, carried out numerous raids – one, in
Norway, helped derail German nuclear research. But
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Lidice

When Czech partisans – trained in Britain, assassinated


Reinhardt Heydrich, SS troops destroyed the Czech village
of Lidice, killing all males over age 10, deporting all the
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Poison Gas
Both sides in Europe had
maintained large dumps
of poison gas, with
neither side using them
for fear of retaliation.
After the German
surrender in May 1945, a
large part of the Allies
stockpile was dumped in
the North Sea.

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Stalingrad

1943 -- The loss of over 200,000 veteran troops in a failed


attempt to seize Stalingrad crippled the German army.
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British War in the Air

Unable to sustain losses in daytime bombing, the


British relied on night attacks against German cities.
This resulted in about 800,000 civilian deaths in
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Germany
Bombing Germany

At Dresden, March 1945,


35,000 died in one raid by
British bombers. American
bombers struck the same city
a day later, in a raid that
author Kurt Vonnegut later
described as “a storm of fire.”

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US War in the Air
The American air force
believed Germany could
be forced to surrender by
bombing German
industry.
Of the 78,000 American
“M.I.A.s” of WWII,
85% are air force fliers.

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The U-boat menace

Until German submarine damage could be reduced,


an invasion of Europe was not possible. In 1943,
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Britain was in danger of starvation.
Small aircraft carriers and improved tactics against
U-boats turned the Atlantic into an “Allied ocean”
before 1944.
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D-Day, 1944

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Breakout

After six weeks of hard combat, British and


American forces pierced German defenses and
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Vengeance
As German forces retreated in
France, Hitler used his progress
in rocket technology to launch
his Vergeltungswaffen
(retaliation weapons) on
London.

From 1940-45, over a million


homes in Britain were damaged
by bombs and rockets. 20,000
London citizens died in the war.

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Warsaw in ruins

In August 1944, as the Red Army approached, Polish “liberation


forces” rose up against the German occupation forces – but Stalin
halted his troops and let the German army destroy Warsaw. In 1945
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Stalin moves west

Despite Hitler’s commitment of his heaviest armor


in the east, Russian forces shattered German forces
in the summer of 1944 and closed in on Poland.
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Fading moments of ‘friendship”

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End in Europe

The war ended in


Europe in May
1945, after the
Russian armies
captured Berlin and
Hitler committed
suicide.

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Cities in Europe were in such ruin that it took years to find all
the dead buried under the rubble. An estimated 30-40 million
European civilians died in the war, from battle, extermination,
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Island Hopping
To win the Pacific
War, the United
States had to build
the largest fleet in
history and move
from island to
island, building air
bases as they
approached Japan.

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End of Japanese Navy

Total destruction of Japan’s navy by April 1945


opened the home islands to endless bombing.
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End in the Pacific

Atomic bombs dropped on


Hiroshima and Nagasaki in
August 1945, forced Japan to
surrender (but only on the
condition that the Japanese
emperor remain on the thrown).

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Postwar Europe and
American Leadership
 U.S. was the guiding force in creating the United
Nations.
 US played major part in occupying Germany from
1945-50.
 US “Marshall Plan” provides billions of dollars to
restore European economy (eastern Europe does
not participate).
 US creates NATO to counter Soviet military
power.
 US leads in the creation of West German
Republic.
 US “containment” policy is the key strategy in the
Cold War (1947-92).
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