Second World War

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Photos from the time of the Second World War: Albert Speer , Adolf Hitler , Arno Breker in front of the Eiffel Tower, June 1940 • Sinking " USS Arizona " after the attack on Pearl Harbor , December 7, 1941 • Soviet battalion commander leading the attack with his pistol , July 12, 1942 (Photo by Max Alpert ) • German "Tiger" tank, March 1944, Northern France • Landing of the 1st US Infantry Division at Omaha Beach , June 6, 1944 • GIs hoist the US flag on February 23, 1945 , Iwojima • Soviet flag on the Reichstag, May 1945 • “ Fat Man ” mushroom cloud over Nagasaki , August 9, 1945

The Second World War ( September 1, 1939 - September 2, 1945 ) is the second global war waged by all major powers in the 20th century. In Europe it began on September 1, 1939, with the attack on Poland ordered by Adolf Hitler . In East Asia, the Great Japan Empire had been involved in the Second Sino-Japanese War with the Republic of China since July 1937 and in a border war with the Soviet Union from mid-1938 . The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in early December 1941 resulted in the United States entering World War II and the beginning of the Pacific War , in which the European colonial powers were also embroiled. In the course of the war, two military alliances were formed, known as the Axis Powers and the Allies ( anti-Hitler coalition ). The main opponents of the National Socialist German Reich in Europe were the United Kingdom, headed by the War Cabinet of Prime Minister Winston Churchill , and (from June 1941) the Soviet Union, which was under the dictatorship of Josef Stalin . Many historians today argue that World War II only became a world war with the entry of the United States, since in 1941 it linked the previously regional wars in Asia (1937) and Europe (1939).

With the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht , the fighting in Europe ended on May 8, 1945 ; the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 and thus to the end of the war.

Over 60 states around the world were directly or indirectly involved, and more than 110 million people were under arms.

The number of victims in war can only be estimated. More than 60 million people were killed in fighting on land, sea and in the air . Estimates that include victims of the Holocaust (Shoa), Porajmos and other mass murders, forced labor, and war crimes and aftermaths of war, range up to 80 million.

The Second World War in Europe consisted of lightning wars , campaigns of conquest against neighboring German countries with the incorporation of occupied territories, the establishment of puppet governments and area bombing . In the areas conquered by the Axis Powers and also in Germany, resistance to National Socialism grew ever stronger during the war years .

For the German armed forces , the course on the theaters of war in Europe and the Mediterranean region can be divided into three main phases:

Second World War - Warring parties and the course of the front lines in Europe 1939–1945
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Six European states remained officially neutral and did not take part directly in the fighting: Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain , Portugal and Turkey (the latter until February 1945). The US government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt had declared US neutrality at the beginning of the European war , but from November 1939 the new neutrality law and the cash and carry clause allowed warring states to have weapons and ammunition in the United States buy them and transport them on their own ships. Direct deliveries from the USA were made possible by the Loan and Lease Act passed in February 1941 . In August 1940, the US Congress gave its approval for the construction of a large fleet that should be operational in the Atlantic and Pacific.

When Fascist Italy , ruled by Benito Mussolini and allied with the German Reich, entered the war, parts of East and North Africa and the Mediterranean area also became a theater of war from June 1940. Italian troops fought in the East Africa campaign against British units for the colony of British Somaliland . In the parallel Africa campaign , the German Africa Corps supported the Italians from February 1941 . After the two battles at El-Alamein in July 1942 and October / November 1942 , Anglo-American troops landed in Morocco and Algeria ( Operation Torch ) and the German and Italian troops had to surrender after the Tunisian campaign in May 1943.

The war against the Soviet Union was waged by the German Army , Waffen-SS and Air Force as a war of annihilation with the intention of gaining Eastern Europe as far as the Urals as a (new) German settlement area for a future “Greater Germanic Empire” . The great turning point in the war were the fighting for Moscow (winter 1941/1942) and the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Stalingrad from autumn 1942. The west bank of the Volga in Stalingrad marked the easternmost point of the German advance on the eastern front. After the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad , the Red Army responded - from 1943 to the end of 1944, the occupied territories of the Soviet Union were gradually recaptured by the Red Army. With the defeat of Army Group Center in the summer of 1944, the German defeat was inevitable. The German army units withdrew to what was then the eastern borders of the empire. The joint attack of the Western powers ( Great Britain , USA and Canada ) on three fronts in Europe - landing in Sicily (July 1943), landing in Normandy (June 1944) and landing in southern France (August 1944) - marked a step towards a foreseeable end of all battles in Europe.

After the Western Allies crossed the German western border in the Aachen area in October 1944 and the eastern border by the Red Army in East Prussia, fighting began on German territory. In their winter offensive in 1945 , Red Army troops reached the Oder on a broad front and opened the battle for Berlin in mid-April . On April 25, 1945, US Americans met Soviet troops on the Elbe . After Hitler committed suicide in Berlin's Führerbunker on April 30, 1945 , the city's German troops surrendered two days later. On May 8, 1945, Field Marshal Keitel signed the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht ; the war in Europe was over. The end of the war was celebrated by the victorious powers with several parades, including the Moscow Victory Parade of 1945 and the Berlin Victory Parade of 1945 .

Second World War - theater of war East Asia and the Pacific until 1942
Second world war asia 1937-1942 map de.png

The Japanese Empire , which had been allied with the German Reich and Italy in the three-power pact since 1940, destroyed most of the US Pacific fleet on December 7, 1941 in the attack on Pearl Harbor . Now the USA declared war on Japan, which was followed by declarations of war by Germany and Italy on the USA . In accordance with the neutrality pact of April 13, 1941, the USSR remained neutral towards Japan for the time being.

At the Arcadia Conference in Washington (December 1941 / January 1942) the USA and Great Britain decided to defeat Germany as the most dangerous enemy first (“Germany first”). But from 1942 to 1945 protracted fighting also took place in East Asia (China, Burma , British Malaya , Thailand , French Indochina , Dutch East Indies ), the Philippines and many islands in the Pacific (including New Guinea ). The Japanese troops were able to occupy many of the European colonies and other countries such as Thailand and the Philippines by mid-1942 . It was not until the Battle of Midway in early June 1942, in which the Imperial Japanese Navy lost four of its six large aircraft carriers, that the Pacific War was turned. As a result, the Allied soldiers were able to occupy even smaller Pacific islands by means of " island jumping ", often with great losses. To hasten the end of the fighting in East Asia, the new US President Harry S. Truman ordered in July 1945 that one atomic bomb each be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki . On September 2, 1945, the Second World War ended with the surrender of Japan .

“This war was a historically unprecedented attack on humanity, a destruction of all the cultural ideals that the Enlightenment had brought about, a crash the likes of which had never happened before. It was Europe's Armageddon . ”In addition to the destruction of human lives, many historic districts and buildings were irretrievably lost through the destruction of entire cities . This loss was followed by the reconstruction of affected European cities, whose cityscape would appear to have been changed by war and rebuilding.

As a result of the Second World War, the political and social structures around the world also changed. The United Nations Organization (UN) was established, the permanent members of which on the Security Council became the main victorious powers of World War II: USA, Soviet Union, China, Great Britain and France. The European colonial powers Great Britain and France lost their overseas possessions and most of their colonies became independent. "Only with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War did the phase of history marked by World War II [...] come to an end."


Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler shortly after their arrival in Munich , September 28, 1938

In the years from 1920 to the end of the Second World War in 1945, fascism and right-wing extremism increasingly gained political control over large parts of Europe . In Italy, Benito Mussolini was given power with the march on Rome in 1922 . In Germany, National Socialism grew into a mass movement after 1930. Political power was handed over to her and her right-wing conservative allies on January 30, 1933 , when Reich President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor . This formed the Hitler cabinet from National Socialists and German Nationals .

The revision of the international order after the Versailles Treaty had been a goal of all German governments since 1920 and was part of the National Socialists' program . With the unification of the Saar area with the German Reich in 1935 and the reintroduction of general conscription (also in 1935), the invasion of the demilitarized Rhineland in March 1936, the " Anschluss of Austria " (March 1938) and the separation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in Munich Agreement (September 30, 1938), the Versailles peace order was gradually dissolved. This was favored by the British and French appeasement policy , which aimed at a peaceful understanding with Nazi Germany. After the " smashing of the rest of the Czech Republic" in March 1939, only the British and French governments protested. Shortly afterwards, under the pressure of the circumstances , Lithuania returned the Memelland to Germany. The First Slovak Republic became a German vassal state , which was closely bound to Germany by a "protection treaty". Great Britain and France wanted to limit the German expansionist efforts and issued a guarantee for Poland on March 31, 1939 , which was converted into a formal alliance a short time later.

Italy, which had close ties to the German Reich, attacked Ethiopia as early as October 1935 and occupied Albania on April 7, 1939 .

In the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, a Popular Front government led mainly by Republicans, Socialists and Communists and supporters of a military revolt led by General Francisco Franco fought each other . The Soviet Union and the French Popular Front supplied the “Popular Front” with weapons and war material. Italy and Germany supported the troops of the Franco nationalists. The German government sent the Condor Legion for this purpose , the Italian the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV), which made a decisive contribution to the victory of Franquism .

On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union surprisingly signed a "non-aggression treaty between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", later called the " Hitler-Stalin Pact ". In a secret additional protocol, it was decided to divide Europe into geographically precisely identified but otherwise not further defined “spheres of interest”. This ultimately resulted in the division of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union and the unilateral conquest and occupation of other areas (including the Baltic states and parts of Finland and Greater Romania ) by the USSR.

From left: Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Count Ciano, Munich, September 29, 1938

In the Munich Agreement (September 1938) Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy agreed on a peaceful solution to the Sudeten crisis , even though Hitler secretly would have preferred a martial solution even then.

The Japanese expansion policy began in the 1930s when the influence of the military leadership on the imperial government grew stronger. Japan saw itself as a protective and regulatory power that was chosen to rule the other East Asian peoples. The raw material reserves and the labor force that the neighboring countries offered should benefit the Japanese economy. The main interest was initially in the Republic of China , whose heavily industrialized region of Manchuria was annexed in 1931 and declared a protectorate of Manchukuo . In response to international protests, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933 . At the end of 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact . In mid-1937, Japan started the Second Sino-Japanese War .

War aims and leadership of the great powers

The great powers took into account the possibility of an all-out war breaking out, so they made appropriate preparations. Preparations for war therefore included, for example, the stockpiling of essential war resources and goods as well as the expansion of civil protection programs .

Axis powers


In the European context, the Second World War was a war of robbery, conquest and annihilation triggered by National Socialist Germany with the long-term goal of creating an unassailable German empire from conquered and dependent areas. The aim from the beginning was the German position as a world power and the " racist reorganization of the [European] continent ". Classical power-political motives mixed with racial ideological motives. This included, on the one hand, the acquisition of " living space in the east " with resettlement or destruction of the predominantly Slavic peoples who lived there and were regarded as " racially inferior ", and on the other hand the " final solution to the Jewish question ". Both were justified by the anti-Semitic notion of “ Jewish Bolshevism ” as part of a conspiracy of “ world Jewry ” which, in the form of the Soviet Union, was seen as a threat to the livelihoods of the “ Aryan race ” and the European civilization it represented.

The concept of the General Plan East , 1940-1943

According to the will of the National Socialist leadership, the ethnic group of the Slavs should first be subjugated and the conquered Eastern Europe should be made usable by German settlers, so-called fortified farmers (see map on the right). After the destruction of their elite , the Slavic peoples should forever provide a reservoir of uneducated and submissive agricultural and unskilled laborers. The European part of the Soviet Union was to be divided into areas under the direction of Reich Commissioners . Only Belarusians , Ukrainians and Baltic peoples were classified as livable peoples. In the words of Alfred Rosenberg , "Russia [.] Would certainly have very difficult years ahead of it".

The German strategy envisaged the use of a politically and temporally limited opportunity for a strategic offensive . It pursued military, racial-hegemonic, economic and diplomatic goals. From a military point of view, the Blitzkrieg should enable a rapid and extensive gain of space in order to forestall the emerging superiority of the opposing armaments. This strategy thus represented a special form of war of movement in combination with the decisive battle, which was based on German experience in the First World War . In economic terms, it should conserve resources so as not to burden industrial capacities to the detriment of the consumer economy. There should be no dissatisfaction among the German population due to a possible material shortage. In order to secure the “ home front ” and in the sense of an optimal use of the conquered capacities, a two- front war was initially avoided, but on July 31, 1940 Hitler announced the most serious decision to his generals at the Berghof near Berchtesgaden: “Im In the course of this dispute, Russia must be dealt with. Spring 1941. ”(Entry in Halder's war diary, July 31, 1940). Thirdly, the pillaging of the occupied territories, especially in East Central and Eastern Europe, and the enslavement of their inhabitants in favor of the German Reich and its “Aryan” population were supposed to bring about the racially motivated hegemonic ideas of National Socialism. The diplomatic acquisition of European and non-European allies was intended to secure this hegemonic position.

The outrage over the Versailles Treaty, in particular the harsh and unjust claims for reparations as well as the one-sided assignment of guilt to the Central Powers, resonated in large parts of the German population. The revision of the Versailles Treaty and the return of the German Empire to the circle of the great powers had always been sought with particular emphasis by the German generals, the monarchist and anti-republican part of the German bourgeoisie and the economic elite. For the National Socialists they were only a stage goal.

In the secret memorandum to the four-year plan , Hitler demanded the operational readiness of the German army and the war capability of the economy within four years in order to achieve a warlike "expansion of the living space or the raw material and food base" for the German Reich. On November 5, 1937, he specified his war aims in front of the military and foreign policy leaders of the Reich. He rejected self-sufficiency and Germany's return to world trade; only the acquisition of a larger living space is a way out. His irrevocable decision was to resolve the German spatial issue by 1943/45 at the latest.

After October 13, 1943, the day the Badoglio government declared war in Italy, the German Reich found itself in a state of war with 34 states and only had the Empire of Japan as a notable ally. These two states fought, independently of each other, a hopeless war against the rest of the world . Another 18 states declared war on the German Reich by March 1945. Germany's previous allies in Southeastern Europe, Hungary and Romania, left in 1944. Finland signed a separate armistice with the USSR on September 19, 1944 . Bulgaria was occupied by the Red Army in September even though it was not at war with the Soviet Union. "People's governments" were formed in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 1944 after the Red Army occupied Belgrade at the end of October 1944 and Tito had agreed on how to proceed in Moscow. After the Wehrmacht had withdrawn , a communist government under partisan Colonel Enver Hoxha was formed in Tirana on November 10, 1944 .


With the Treaty of Saint-Germain , after the First World War, Julian Venetia , Istria , Trentino and German-speaking South Tyrol fell to Italy. In October 1935, the Abyssinian Empire (now Ethiopia ) invaded and annexed the country. This annexation, which was contrary to international law, was part of Mussolini's declared goal of resurrecting the Roman Empire . After Austria was annexed to the German Reich in March 1938, Mussolini took a clear position in favor of National Socialist Germany. Without informing Hitler beforehand, he had Albania occupied at the beginning of April 1939 and claimed that this was the counterpart to the German annexation of the Czech Republic around four weeks earlier. In the so-called steel pact of May 1939, Mussolini contractually bound Hitler and the German Reich. With Italy's declaration of war on France and Great Britain , the country entered the war in Europe on June 10, 1940, because Mussolini's miscalculation led them to believe that it was almost over. The three-power pact at the end of September 1940 created the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis between Germany, Italy and Japan . Almost a year later, on June 23, 1941, Mussolini also joined the German war against the Soviet Union . Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor , Germany and Italy declared war on the USA . After the landing of British and American troops in Sicily in July 1943, the inner-party opposition in the Great Fascist Council overruled Mussolini and, after a subsequent visit to King Victor Emmanuel III , left him . to arrest. Italy left the Axis alliance after the Cassibile armistice and rejoined the war on the side of the Allies.


Japanese soldiers occupy the Forbidden City in Beijing, August 13, 1937

Since the modernization in the course of the Meiji Restoration in the years 1868 to 1877, the Japanese Empire sought a territorial expansion on the Asian continent, which should primarily serve to secure important raw materials. These goals were particularly focused on the poorly rated Republic of China . Encouraged by an expansive dynamic, Japan viewed mounting tensions in Europe as an opportunity to counter the growing US influence in the western Pacific Ocean ( Commonwealth of the Philippines and US Outskirts ). In addition to geostrategic considerations, there was the frequent interference of the armed forces in the affairs of civilian leadership and a mutual cultural aversion between broad sections of the population in Japan and the United States.

Like the German Empire in Europe, Japan was confronted with a strategic starting position in East Asia that had deteriorated over the years. The main reason was its political isolation. The predominantly US unwillingness to accept Japanese expansion in the region was basically followed by China, the Soviet Union and the European colonial powers. Specifically, the Japanese Empire saw itself threatened in a four-fold geostrategic context. In the east this was the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor , in the north the Soviet Union, in the west China and in the south / southwest, in addition to the Philippines under US leadership, also British Malaya and North Borneo , French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies . In addition, the the British was Commonwealth belonging Australia with his mandate " Territory of New Guinea suitable" due to the spatial extent and location as a base of operations against Japan.

This geostrategic starting position prompted the Japanese leadership, like the German, to mix diplomatic instruments with a war of movement. It therefore concluded a neutrality pact with the USSR in April 1941 after a failed advance into Soviet territory in 1938/39 . The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Forces , the structure of which was qualitatively oriented in view of the restrictions of the Washington Naval Agreement , was intended primarily to deal a decisive blow to the United States Navy in view of its increasing armament. In Southeast Asia itself, too, Japan initially focused on neutralizing concentrated military resources, such as the accumulation of B-17 long-range bombers on the islands of the Philippines archipelago . The following Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia served to procure raw materials, primarily oil , and should cut off the supply route to Australia for the USA.


Western powers

On the western front, the war plans of the western powers, similar to the First World War, essentially envisaged the wear and tear of the German army. It should be supplemented by bombing the big cities and blocking the German economic cycle.

Soviet Union

The communist leadership saw the Soviet Union surrounded by a principally hostile capitalist world and considered war to be inevitable. For them it was necessary to postpone the war until the five-year plans had created the potential to cope with a dispute. But this goal did not rule out an offensive, in order to throw your own weight decisively into the scales at the right opportunity. With the German-Soviet non-aggression pact , Stalin believed that he had prevented joint action by the capitalist powers against the Soviet Union and that he could take on the role of a spectator in the self-destruction of capitalism for a long time.

After the start of Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet Union consciously learned lessons from the previous German armament . On land, it followed the German example of the Army Group, the core of which were mobile and heavily armored divisions , and founded centrally coordinated air fleets that enabled targeted close air support by significantly improving the flow of information. After the previous, politically motivated decimation of the officer corps, Stalin delegated operational management to Marshal Georgi Konstantinowitsch Zhukov , whose above-average skills enabled the successful leadership of several million men.

Comparison of the military potential

Size of the armed forces (in millions):

year GB USSR United States DR Japan Italy
1939 0.48 1.60 0.60 4.52 1.60 1.74
1940 2.27 5.00 0.70 5.76 1.70 2.34
1941 3.38 7.10 1.62 7.31 1.63 3.23
1942 4.09 11.34 3.97 8.41 2.84 3.81
1943 4.76 11.86 9.02 9.48 3.70 3.82
1944 4.97 12.23 11.41 9.42 5.38

War economy

US war poster: "We cannot win this war without making sacrifices on the home front."

“War economy in the Second World War” was the conversion of the national economies into a central administrative economy through the total mobilization of economic resources to secure the material supply of the army and the food of the population in order to achieve the war aims in the Second World War at any price. In the process, market mechanisms were undermined. While the respective military tactics were decisive at the beginning , the quantitative superiority of the war production of the Allies had a significant influence on the course of the war from 1942 onwards. Nazi Germany and Japan pursued a blitzkrieg tactic , for which a high utilization of the existing industrial facilities should be sufficient for the production of a wide range of modern weapon systems (broad armor) and were not prepared for a longer war. The aim of the Allies was to win World War II like a war of attrition . The Soviet Union had systematically since 1928 a highly standardized mass production of weapons brought (low armor). After the start of the war, Great Britain and the USA had also begun to prefer the war economy to the consumer goods industry in allocating scarce resources such as materials, personnel and means of production. Only after the blitzkrieg strategy had obviously failed, a reorganization of the war economy took place in the German Reich and Japan from 1942, which then led to production levels similar to those of the Allies ( armaments miracle ). In 1944 the production of war goods in the USA comprised 40% of the gross national income, in Great Britain and Japan 50% each and in the German Reich a little over 50%.

A widespread war strategy was also to cut off the opposing parties from imports of raw materials and food. When replacing scarce raw materials with "home materials ", the German Reich developed a great deal of ingenuity. Via the “ metal donation of the German people ”, non-ferrous metals such as copper , brass , tin , zinc , etc. that were important for the war effort were also procured.

The war economy in World War II led to a significant expansion of women’s work , especially among the Allies . Forced labor was widespread in the German Reich, Japan and the Soviet Union .

Arms production in World War II:

sector GB USSR United States DR Japan Italy
tank 28,500 110,000 91,270 61,250 7,200 light Pz (**)
Planes 133,000 162,000 329,000 126,000 90,000 k. A.
artillery 36,400 541,900 219,000 101,200 k. A. k. A.
Warships 1,340 260 8,950 1,540 (*) 625 k. A.
(*) excluding submarines
(**) mainly Fiat Pz with 2 cm cannon

Fleet comparison (1939/41):

Ship type GB USSR United States DR Japan Italy
Battleships 15th 1 + 2 (in B.) 17 + 15 (in B.) 4th 10 + 3 (in B.) 4 + 4 (in B.)
Armored ships - - - 3 - -
Aircraft carrier 7th - 7 + 11 (in B.) - 8 + 8 (in B.) -
Heavy cruisers 15th 6 + 4 (in B.) 18 + 8 (in B.) 3 18 + 18 (in B.) 8th
Light cruisers 41 - 19 + 32 (in B.) 6th 20 + 17 (in B.) 14th
Anti-aircraft cruiser 8th - 4 + 2 (in B.) - - -
Mine-layer cruiser 1 - - - - -
destroyer 113 81 171 + 188 (in B.) 22nd 108 + 108 (in B.) 128
Torpedo boats - 269 - 20th - 62
Submarines 65 213 114 + 79 (in B.) 62 63 115

War in europe

From the attack on Poland to the defeat of France, September 1939 to June 1940

In the first phase of the war, Germany (coming from the west) and the Soviet Union (coming from the east) conquered and occupied Poland (from September 1 and 17, 1939, respectively), Germany conquered Denmark and Norway (April – June 1940) and the Netherlands , Belgium and France (May – June 1940). The rapid defeat of France came as a surprise to most people, not least to Joseph Stalin . Yet Hitler did not achieve his main goal of keeping Britain out of the war, forcing it to surrender or defeating it militarily. This became clear no later than October 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Great Britain remained the only state that was consistently capable of Germany's opponent from the beginning of the war.

German invasion of Poland, 1939

On August 23, Hitler had scheduled the attack for August 26 at 4:30 a.m., but withdrew the order at short notice the day before after he learned that Italy was not ready for war and that England and Poland had contractually fixed their mutual promises .

On August 31, 1939, Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to attack Poland at 4:45 a.m. the following day. This instruction also contained tactical instructions for the conduct of the Wehrmacht in the west and north (Baltic Sea entrances Kattegat and Skagerrak ) and forbade attacks against "the English motherland" with insufficient partial forces.

Gdańsk state police officers and border officials re-enact the destruction of a Polish barrier on the border with the Free City of Gdańsk , September 1, 1939

This military attack on the neighboring country was not preceded by a formal declaration of war . In order to justify the invasion of Poland, the German side fabricated several incidents, for example the fake attack on the Gleiwitz transmitter by members of the SS disguised as Polish resistance fighters on August 31. In the process, they untruthfully announced a declaration of war by Poland on the German Reich in Polish on the radio . The flimsy trick was triggered from Berlin with the keyword “grandmother died”. Almost three million German soldiers were deployed to attack Poland. They had around 400,000 horses and 200,000 vehicles available. 1.5 million men had advanced to the Polish border, many with blank cartridges to pretend they were only going into maneuvers. The ambiguity was over when they were ordered to load live ammunition.

Wieluń after the air raid, September 1, 1939
On the left Panzer-Kampfwagen I and II advancing near Bromberg in the Polish Corridor , September 1939. On the right, in the Sd.-Kfz 251 with a device for sun protection, General Heinz Guderian

The German ship of the line Schleswig-Holstein began the military attack on the Polish position " Westerplatte " near Danzig and the air force began the air raid on Wieluń on September 1, 1939. The Polish army with around 1.01 million soldiers was 1.5 million German soldiers opposite to. Technically and in the way it waged war , it was inferior. After the Red Army marched into eastern Poland on September 17, 1939, the balance of power was shifted again dramatically in favor of the aggressors. The Polish government, on the other hand, counted on the support of France and Great Britain, who had issued an ultimatum to the German Reich on September 2, based on the “ declaration of guarantee of March 30, 1939 ” . It called for the immediate withdrawal of all German troops from Poland. The British-French declaration of guarantee would have obliged these states to start their own offensive in western Germany no later than 15 days after a German attack. Hitler assumed that the two Western powers would allow him to do as they did with the invasion of “rest of Czech Republic”, and had the Siegfried Line occupied only weakly.

Sound recording: Prime Minister Chamberlain informs the British people of the declaration of war on Germany in a radio address on September 3, 1939

An attack by the Western powers failed to materialize, but Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3rd after the ultimatum had expired. However, Chamberlain's wartime government lasted only seven months, during which Britain remained largely passive in the seat- warfare .

By concentrated attacks as part of a " blitzkrieg " strategy succeeded in the Armed Forces, large units of the Polish defenders include and battles of encirclement as in Radom (9 September), and at the Bzura to decide (to September 19) of its own.

On the night of September 17th, after the organized Polish defense was broken up by the Wehrmacht, the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland began in accordance with the secret additional protocol of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact . The next day the Polish government fled from Warsaw via south-east Poland to Romania. On September 28, President Ignacy Mościcki resigned from office while in exile in Romania. It was not until December 18, 1939 that the new Polish government in exile declared a state of war with the Soviet Union. Great Britain and France did not join.

From September 20 until the surrender, Warsaw was the target of intense air strikes , killing 25,000 civilians and 6,000 soldiers. The bombings were carried out with maximum force because Hitler wanted to have a demonstration of what could also affect French and British cities. On September 26, around 120,000 Polish soldiers surrendered in the capital Warsaw after being trapped by German troops on September 18. The Modlin Fortress was after 16-day siege passed on 29 September. Poland's last troops surrendered on October 6th after the Battle of Kock .

On October 8, the German Reich and the Soviet Union divided the conquered territory along a demarcation line in the Brest-Litovsk Agreement , which went down in history as the “ Fourth Partition of Poland ”. Not only were the areas ceded under the Versailles Treaty reintegrated into the empire, but also large areas of central Poland, including the city of Łódź . The rest of Poland became the German General Government , which was "administered" from Krakow .

The subsequent occupation was marked by extreme reprisals by the occupiers against the civilian population. Deportations for forced labor were only the most visible manifestation; Jews in particular were victims of the National Socialist politics of race and extermination. In the eastern part of Poland, numerous “ class enemies ” were deported to the Gulag by the Soviet occupiers ; the military elite was "liquidated" at Katyn and elsewhere.

The tactics in the attack on Poland, which were designed for a quick victory - and in this case successful - encouraged the use of the term " Blitzkrieg " and shaped the further conduct of the war in Germany until the end of 1941.

Trench warfare on the Western Front, 1939

NSDAP loudspeaker
truck on the Upper Rhine near Rheinstetten , 1939

On September 3, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. Because of this, a limited and more symbolic offensive by the French against the Saar area began on September 5th. The Germans offered no resistance and withdrew to the heavily fortified Siegfried Line. After that, things remained calm on the western front. This phase is also known as the "seat war". Except for a few artillery skirmishes , there were no Allied attacks. The propaganda machine rolled in on the German side . With leaflets and slogans over loudspeakers, the French were asked "Why are you waging war?" Or proclaimed "We will not shoot first".

On September 27, Hitler issued an instruction to the Army High Command to draw up a plan of attack, the so-called " Yellow Case ". The planning was completed by October 29th. They provided that two army groups should advance through the Netherlands and Belgium in order to crush all Allied forces north of the Somme .

Ultimately, however, no attack took place in 1939, as the attack was postponed a total of twenty-nine times due to poor weather conditions and much greater losses in Poland than expected (22% losses for combat aircraft, 25% for tanks). In addition, several high-ranking officers of the Army High Command, which was stationed in Zossen near Berlin , had urged the Army Commander-in-Chief, Colonel General Walther von Brauchitsch , to oppose a premature deployment of the Army against France. On November 5th, Hitler warned against underestimating the French. In addition, German troops had proven to be poorly trained in the attack on Poland. Hitler was beside himself and wanted to hear examples of it. Brauchitsch was not prepared for that. Hitler threw the general out with the remark that he knew “the spirit of Zossen” and was ready to “destroy him”. Chief of Staff Franz Halder feared that his coup soundings would be exposed, and the real opponents of the regime, essentially the group of younger officers in the OKH, gave up their coup plans.

Finnish-Soviet Winter War, December 1939-March 1940

Since the early 1930s, Finland had adapted to the level of development of the other Nordic democracies, to which it was denominationally related due to its Protestant-Lutheran character. In the field of foreign policy, they moved closer together when, in the autumn of 1933, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark as well as Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands united to form the so-called Oslo states , which declared themselves to be a close customs union. In 1935, the Finnish Toivo Kivimäki government decided to work more closely with the three other Scandinavian countries in order to ensure their common neutrality.

Simo Häyhä , used as a sniper during the Winter War (Dec. 1939 - March 1940) and referred to as the "White Death" by Red Army soldiers, killed more than 500 Soviet soldiers during the Battle of Kollaa
Finnish machine gun emplacement near
Pitkjaranta (today's Russian name) on the northeast bank of Lake Ladoga, about 100 m from the Soviet front, February 21, 1940

On November 30, 1939, Soviet troops under the command of Marshal Kirill Merezkow crossed the Finnish border in the so-called Winter War. The Red Army attacked with 450,000 men, 2,000 tanks and 1,000 aircraft and expected a quick victory. Their officers assumed that the Finns would greet them as their brothers and liberators from the capitalist oppressors . The Soviet leadership underestimated the fighting strength of the Finns, who with only 200,000 soldiers, including many reservists and young people, a few tanks and aircraft, were able to prevent the Red Army attackers from breaking through the Mannerheim Line after high Soviet losses. Finnish soldiers used simple but effective incendiary devices to fight tanks, which they called " Molotov Cocktail " after the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union . The numerical superiority of the Soviet troops did not have a particular effect, because the forest terrain and the deep snow hardly permitted operations of the Red Army away from the few roads and often only one regiment could fight in the front on paved roads. In addition to these adversities, temperatures of minus 35 ° C were added. At the end of the Winter War, the Red Army had more than 85,000 dead and missing, the Finnish Army around 27,000 men. The Finnish army was supported by 12,000 volunteers from Sweden, although the Swedish military advised against it. Only after extensive regrouping and reinforcements was the Red Army able to achieve major breakthroughs on the Karelian Isthmus west of Lake Ladoga in early February 1940.

Finnish territorial losses in the Peace of Moscow (1940) and in the Peace of Paris (1947)

Sweden indirectly supported Finland without giving up its neutrality. Great Britain and France did not intervene in the war in favor of the Finns, as both states did not want any further opponents. Although the German Reich sympathized with Finland, there was no military support because of the existing non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

The peace treaty , which was signed on March 12, 1940, stipulated that Finland had to cede large parts of western Karelia and the northern half of Lake Ladoga to the Soviet Union. In direct response to the Soviet attack, Finland took part in the 1941 Continuation War in the German war against the Soviet Union to recapture the lost territories. A major consequence of the Winter War was that Stalin began a reorganization of the Red Army, in the course of which officers were rehabilitated who had been exiled to Siberia in the wake of the Great Terror . This reorganization made a significant contribution to the fact that the Red Army had more combat power in 1941 than the high command of the German army had assumed. At the end of the war, the Finns had lost almost 27,000, but the Red Army had lost almost 130,000 soldiers in the fighting. After the end of the Continuation War, Finland had to cede the Petsamo area on the Barents Sea to the Soviet Union in 1944 (1947). Finland thus lost its only year-round ice-free port.

Occupation of Denmark and Norway, April 1940

Norway and the western campaign in 1940

At the end of 1939, after iron ore imports from France (Lorraine Minette ) failed, ore deliveries from neutral Sweden covered 49 percent of German demand. They were transported by ore rail from the Swedish mining areas near Kiruna to the year-round ice-free loading port of Narvik in Norway. Norway was therefore of extraordinary economic and military importance for the German Empire. Another important raw material was Finnish nickel . The British wanted to disrupt these important deliveries of raw materials and stop them as soon as possible (→ Altmark incident ), which is why the landing of four divisions in Narvik was agreed in the highest Franco-British war council on February 5, 1940 . On February 21, Hitler issued a directive for the planning of companies in Scandinavia . On March 1st, the Weser Exercise company was decided. It planned to take Denmark and use it as a “stepping stone” for the conquest of Norway. The first attacks on British warships took place in March.

On April 5, the Allied Operation Wilfred began , in which the waters off Norway were mined and more troops were to be brought into the country. One day later, the German company Weserübungen started up . Almost the entire Navy was mobilized and half of the entire German destroyer flotilla was sent to Narvik. On April 9th, a mountaineering division was landed in Narvik .

armored car in Viborg (Denmark), April 1940

The British military leadership considered a landing by the Germans to be very unlikely, which meant that only minor countermeasures were taken by the Allies. The Germans were able to expand their bridgehead without major resistance, so that on April 10th Stavanger , Trondheim and Narvik were already occupied, after Denmark had previously been occupied without a fight . Great Britain occupied the Danish Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic on April 12 for strategic reasons .

German soldiers fighting over a burning village in Norway, 40 km west of Lillehammer , April 1940

When trying to occupy the capital Oslo, heavy units of the Kriegsmarine were used, which were unsuitable in the narrow channel of the Oslofjord . The German flagship, the heavy cruiser Blücher , whose first combat mission was her last, was sunk by Norwegian coastal batteries. Oslo was captured by airborne troops later than planned by the Germans.

On April 13, nine destroyers and the battleship HMS Warspite sank in a second British attack the remaining eight German destroyers still in the Ofotfjord off Narvik. Two light cruisers of the Kriegsmarine and numerous freighters were also sunk by British submarines and aircraft of the Royal Air Force .

On April 17, the Allies finally landed at Narvik and put the Wehrmacht troops under heavy pressure while at the same time massive fire from ships of the Royal Navy . By April 19, large Allied units , including Polish soldiers and parts of the Foreign Legion , had been landed in Norway. They conquered Narvik and pushed the mountain troops of the Wehrmacht back into the mountains.

In the meantime the weather in Norway improved, so that the Wehrmacht were able to consolidate their fronts and a British and a French destroyer could be sunk off Namsos on 3 May when German aircraft attacked .

In the same month Churchill decided to withdraw the Allies from Norway because of the German successes in France. Before the 24,500 soldiers could be evacuated, however, they managed to penetrate Narvik and destroy the important port. On June 10, the remaining soldiers of the Norwegian armed forces finally surrendered , after which the Weser exercise was completed.

Norway under German occupation became a Reich Commissariat and part of the German territory, but it was to remain an independent state according to Hitler's will. In the further course Norway was strongly fortified because Hitler feared an invasion. In February 1942, a puppet government was set up under Vidkun Quisling .

Western campaign, May / June 1940

On May 10, 1940, the attack by German units (" Fall Gelb ") began with a total of seven armies on the neutral states of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. 136 German divisions faced around 137 Allies.

Rotterdam after bombing in May 1940 and subsequent clearing of rubble (1942)

The Netherlands were the first to stop their resistance. On May 13th, Queen Wilhelmina and the government went into exile in London. After Army Group A's rapid advance through the Grand Duchy and the bombing of Rotterdam , in which 814 inhabitants of the city were killed, the Dutch armed forces surrendered on May 15, 1940. Three days later, the former leader of the Austrian National Socialists, Arthur Seyß-Inquart , took over the office of the Reich Commissioner for the Netherlands . The Dutch islands of Aruba and Curacao (South America) had in World War II because of its world's largest oil refineries of great strategic importance, which is why they in 1942 by German and Italian submarines fired were.

Motorized German troops arrive in the center of Brussels without a fight , 17 May 1940

The Belgian army resisted a little longer. The fortresses of Liège, Namur and the Dyle position were taken by May 16, Brussels on May 17 and Antwerp the next day. This enabled the German attackers to cut off the Belgian troops north of this line from the British and French units, which had meanwhile advanced into Belgium. The Belgian government fled to Great Britain via France. On May 28th, King Leopold III , who remained in the country, signed . surrender against the will of the Cabinet. District President Eggert Reeder became head of the German military administration.

The so-called "sickle cut" (May 1940) from Luxembourg to Boulogne and Calais on the Channel coast. The British and French troops operating there were thereby cut off from their rear connections to northern France

In order to bypass the northern section of the Maginot Line, neutral Luxembourg was used by the Wehrmacht as a transit area. After that, the Grand Duchy became a so-called " CdZ area ", which was subordinate to a chief of the civil administration.

In France, the government and the military had relied on the heavily fortified Maginot Line along the Franco-German border from Basel to Luxembourg. Because the Belgian Ardennes were considered difficult for tanks to pass, the Allies considered them a natural extension of the Maginot Line. The campaign plan of Lieutenant General Erich von Manstein , however, provided for an advance through the Ardennes with six armored and five motorized divisions in order to encompass the French and British troops at Boulogne and Calais from the south. Army groups B and C should act more defensively. This plan was accommodated by the fact that strong Allied forces, including the bulk of the British Expeditionary Force , advanced far north to come to the aid of the beleaguered Belgians and Dutch, leaving room for German troops of Army Group A in their rear. On May 19, German units reached the Channel coast, about 100 km south of Calais. The advance further north on the Channel coast was so rapid that the British and French units were encircled at Calais and Dunkirk . This rapid and unexpected advance was later referred to by Churchill as the " sickle cut ". Hitler decided, in agreement with von Rundstedt and contrary to the opinion of other generals, to spare the battered armored troops, to halt their advance and to leave the enclosure of Dunkirk to the air force and the artillery regiments.

British soldiers in lifeboats on the beach near Dunkirk, 1940 (film scene from Divide and Conquer (1943) by Frank Capra .)

This gave the British three days to prepare for Operation Dynamo , which began on May 27. Around 1200 ships and (also private) boats were able to evacuate a total of 338,000 soldiers, including 145,000 soldiers from the French army. About 80,000 soldiers, mostly French, stayed behind. The British had lost 68,000 men in the fighting. Almost all of the remaining tanks and vehicles, most of the artillery and the existing supplies had to be destroyed. From a military point of view, Hitler's halt order, which made it possible to evacuate almost the entire British expeditionary force, was a serious tactical mistake, and especially in retrospect, with serious consequences were experienced professional soldiers. So the Allies lost only the war material left on the beach, which could be replaced more easily. But Churchill's rousing speeches in May and June 1940 also revived the courage of the British and strengthened the sense of the importance of the war for the survival of freedom and democracy.

von Ribbentrop, Hitler, Goering, Raeder (behind Goering), von Brauchitsch and Hess in front of the Compiègne car , June 21, 1940

When the British withdrew, France was preparing to defend. The " Fall Rot ", the actual battle for France, began on June 5th with a German offensive on the Aisne and Somme . On June 9, German soldiers crossed the Seine . On June 10, Italy entered the war on Germany's side and began an offensive in the Western Alps on June 21 , although the Pétain government had asked Italy for an armistice on June 20. On June 14th, parts of the 18th Army occupied the French capital Paris . To prevent its destruction, it was declared an open city and was evacuated by the French troops without a fight. On the same day, German troops broke through the Maginot Line south of Saarbrücken, and the symbolic fortress Verdun was also captured.

Hitler and his followers in front of the Eiffel Tower, June 23, 1940

After German troops had reached Orléans and Nevers on the Loire (260 km south of Paris) and Dijon on June 17, a request for an armistice from Philippe Pétain , the prime minister of the newly formed French government, arrived at Hitler's headquarters. The Führer was then praised by Keitel as "the greatest general of all time". Hitler met Mussolini in Munich on June 18 to agree the terms of the armistice with him. The far-reaching demands of the Duce , including Nice, Corsica and Savoy as well as the use of ports and railways in Africa for military purposes, were rejected by Hitler. It was important to him to prevent the war from continuing through the French fleet and in the colonies. Nevertheless, Italy began an offensive in the Alps on June 21st, which resulted in only minor gains in terrain, among others Mentone . The terms of the armistice were presented to the French General Charles Huntziger on June 21, 1940 in Compiègne von Keitel's car . On June 22, the French delegation signed the ceasefire agreement, after almost all of their counterproposals had been rejected. It came into effect on June 25 at 1:35 a.m. after the Franco-Italian armistice had also been signed the day before. France was only allowed to maintain 100,000 soldiers with light weapons; Artillery and tanks were not allowed. On July 1, 1940, the Wehrmacht demonstrated their victory over France with a large parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Occupied and unoccupied zone in France until November 1942

The so-called “Blitzkrieg” lasted only six weeks and three days in the West, in which around 100,000 French, 35,000 British and around 46,000 German soldiers lost their lives. French fighter pilots shot down several hundred German fighter planes and nearly 1,000 German fighter pilots were captured. France was divided into two zones: the north and west of France were occupied by the Germans; here were important airfields and naval bases (including Brest , Lorient , St. Nazaire , La Rochelle and Bordeaux ) for the war against Great Britain.

The attack by the Wehrmacht prevented the execution of the planned Operation Pike , with which England and France wanted to destroy the oil wells of the Soviet Union in order to bring about a “complete collapse” of the Soviet Union.


Politically and strategically, after the victory in the west, the German Reich found itself in a situation that opened up fundamentally new options for continuing the war: for the war against Great Britain in the west, it had shifted the equilibrium in the Mediterranean area and it was able to draw on economic resources Western Europe, Central Europe and East Central Europe to fall back and thus keep the war out for a long time, among other things Industrial goods from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia , iron ores from Sweden that were shipped to Germany via the Norwegian port of Narvik , agricultural products from Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Greece, industrial goods from Belgium and France, tungsten from Portugal and oil from Romania. Neutral Switzerland could be used for international money transactions and foreign exchange transactions.

Three battleships of the French fleet, which was anchored in Mers-el-Kébir , were sunk or badly damaged by Royal Navy ships on 3 July 1940 following a British ultimatum that went unanswered on Churchill's orders so that they would not become German Hands could fall ( Operation Catapult ). 1297 French sailors were killed. The eastern and southern parts of France remained under French control. Marshal Philippe Pétain ruled from Vichy from the so-called " État français " as a puppet state of the German Empire.

Burning French warships “Strasbourg”, “Colbert”, “Algérie” and “Marseillaise” in the port of Toulon , November 23, 1942

In November 1942, the previously unoccupied zone was occupied by German and Italian troops after Anglo-American troops landed in North Africa. The 50,000 soldiers of the Vichy government offered no resistance against Germans and Italians. The rest of the demobilized French navy was sunk by the crews in the port of Toulon .

From the capitulation of France to the attack on the Soviet Union, June 1940 to June 1941

Despite the capitulation of France , the war continued because Great Britain did not accept Hitler's so-called peace offer of July 19, 1940. Although the outcome of the war with Great Britain was still completely open, on July 31, Hitler announced to the generals his fundamental intention to have an attack on the Soviet Union prepared for 1941. Shortly afterwards, on September 17th, he postponed the Seelöwe company for an indefinite period.

Hitler tried to consolidate his rule over the " New Europe " and to secure it through further alliances with Spain, France, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Franco and Pétain opposed a formal alliance with Germany.

France libre

Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970), previously Secretary of State for the Military , became the organizer of the resistance as the “leader of free France” from exile in London. Mocked by the propaganda of the Vichy regime as Le Général micro and Fourrier (supply sergeant) of the Jews, he called on his compatriots to resist. As early as June 18, 1940, he addressed the French in a radio speech: “France has lost a battle. But France did not lose the war! ”He predicted that the industrial potential of the United States would turn the tide in this war. In doing so, he rejected the opinion of defeatists that Britain would be defeated within three weeks.

Battle of Britain, 1940/1941

The National Socialist propaganda described the preparation for an invasion of Great Britain by eliminating the Royal Air Force as the "Battle of Britain" . Hitler did not believe in success and preferred a peace treaty with Great Britain, admittedly only if it would return the former German colonies and forego influence in Europe.

On-board camera of a Spitfire shows tracer ammunition hitting a He 111 over England on September 25, 1940

In the two years between the Munich Agreement and the "Battle of Britain" the British had improved their air defense. Chain Home radar stations have been installed on the south and east coast of the British Isles . British industry was able to produce more than 1,400 fighter planes in the three months before the start of World War II . The Royal Air Force (RAF) successfully recruited pilots from the Commonwealth , France, the USA, Poland and Czechoslovakia, because for one RAF pilot there were six Germans. The situation was similar with the aircraft: In the western campaign, there were around four German fighters and bombers for every British fighter aircraft. That is why Dowding also used foreign volunteers as fighter pilots, initially from the Commonwealth of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but then also from Poland, the Czech Republic and France. A fifth of the almost 3,000 "Spitfire" or "Hurricane" pilots deployed in the Battle of Britain did not come from Great Britain.

London after the Blitz , December 28, 1940

On July 2, Goering began the air battle with a limited offensive against shipping in the English Channel. British Air Defense Commander Hugh Dowding did not accept the challenge. The next phase began in mid-August. The RAF was to be smashed by the airborne destruction of its aircraft while the fight against shipping continued. In August and September British fighters shot down 341 German aircraft and lost 108 themselves. The RAF had the advantage that the pilots of the downed aircraft were not lost to them every time they were able to save themselves by parachute. In the next phase, the Air Force concentrated its attacks on London. Hitler spoke of retaliation and total annihilation after 60 RAF bombers on the night of August 26th, on the orders of Churchill, flew an attack on Berlin that had hardly caused any damage. On September 7th, the Air Force attacked the London docks with 300 bombers and 600 fighters, but they again lost more aircraft than the British fighter squadrons. On September 15, the German attacks, called " The Blitz " by the British , culminated with two day attacks. The German bombers were decimated and the fighters turned away. The decision to attack London is considered a major strategic mistake with far-reaching consequences, because further attacks on London by the end of the year with an average of 160 bombers caused little, militarily, but were extremely lossy for the Air Force. On September 17, 1940, Hitler postponed the “ Operation Sea Lion ” indefinitely.

The air force continued its night raids through the winter and spring, not to prepare for the invasion but to hit industry and demoralize the population. When the Luftwaffe attacked Coventry on the evening of November 14, 1940 , factories such as Armstrong Siddeley's aircraft engine plant were targeted, but three quarters of the residential areas were also hit by the incendiary and high-explosive bombs and 568 residents were killed. The term " coventrieren ", a word coined by the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda , Joseph Goebbels , found its way into German military jargon .

In total, around 43,000 civilians lost their lives in air raids on London, Coventry and other British cities in 1940/41 . In London alone, 14,000 people were killed in 57 night raids between September 9, 1940 and New Year's Day 1941. In October 1940 the Luftwaffe had lost 1,733 combat aircraft, the RAF 915.

"The air battle ended as a military stalemate, but it was a political and strategic defeat of the first order for Hitler, who for the first time had failed to impose his will on a country." One of the factors that contributed to the failure of the Luftwaffe was the misjudgment of the effectiveness of the British radar systems and the guidance system as well as the insufficient range of the German fighter planes. The British aircraft factories also produced more machines than the German ones.

With the end of the air battle, "the invasion also burst." On December 18, 1940, Hitler issued his formal instruction for Operation Barbarossa to "defeat Soviet Russia in a quick campaign even before the war against England was over." Hitler's decision was also due to this coined to "achieve the final victory in the war by defeating London via Moscow". From May 1941, the German air raids on Great Britain fell significantly because bombers and fighter planes were needed for the imminent attack on the Soviet Union.

A total of 61,000 British lost their lives in German air strikes, 8,800 of them in attacks with the " retaliatory weapons " V1 and V2 .

Hitler's alliance policy

After the war opponent Great Britain could not be defeated, Hitler looked for a way out. In his mind there were two possibilities: an attack on British positions in the Mediterranean or an attack on the Soviet Union, whose exploitation as " living space in the East " had long been an integral part of his ideology.

First he turned to the Mediterranean option. Spain's dictator Franco was still ready in June 1940 to enter the war on the German side. He called for Gibraltar , French Morocco , Oran and the enlargement of the colonies Spanish Sahara and Spanish Guinea as well as previous extensive deliveries of weapons, raw materials and food. Hitler did not consider Spain's support necessary at the time and responded evasively. When he met Franco in Hendaye on October 23, Hitler showed a much greater interest in Spain's entry into the war, which he proposed for January 1941. Spanish and German troops could conquer Gibraltar and thus block off the Mediterranean to the west. Foreign Minister Ribbentrop even went a step further and ventilated the idea of ​​an anti-British continental bloc from Spain to Japan. Franco and Súñer , his son-in-law and later foreign minister, were no longer convinced that Britain would soon be defeated. They did not allow themselves to be led into careless steps and deliberately repeated excessive demands for arms to be delivered. Hitler, on the other hand, had to take Vichy France into consideration with regard to the Spanish colonial wishes in North Africa . Franco therefore only agreed to the signing of a protocol in which Spain declared its willingness to become a member of the Tripartite Pact and to enter the war - with the proviso that the date should still be agreed jointly. This made the deal practically worthless for Hitler. In the internal circle he later "raged" over the " Jesuit pig " and the "false pride of the Spaniard".

Philippe Pétain and Adolf Hitler on October 24, 1940 in Montoire-sur-le-Loir (→ Le Loir is a left tributary of the Loire)

As in Hendaye with regard to Spain, in Montoire-sur-le-Loir at two meetings with Pétain and Laval on October 22nd and 24th, 1940, it remained open whether there would be concrete cooperation with France. Hitler wanted, if not a declaration of war on England, at least the defense of the French colonies in North Africa and the Middle East against attacks by the FFL and the British, as well as the surrender of bases on the African Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts for the sea war against Great Britain. Marshal Pétain agreed in principle to cooperation with Germany, but indirectly refused France's entry into the war, pointing out that a declaration of war could only be pronounced by a parliamentary resolution. Such a decision is questionable. The outcome of the meeting was therefore irrelevant to the war against Great Britain. Nevertheless, a few days later, Pétain announced in a radio speech that he would take the path of collaboration with Germany.

Italy had become Germany's war ally in June 1940, shortly before the French surrender. The Japanese ambassador Saburō Kurusu and the foreign ministers Galeazzo Ciano (Italy) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Germany) signed the three-power pact in Berlin on September 27, 1940 , which provided mutual assistance for gaining hegemony over Europe and East Asia. The regulations were not directed against the Soviet Union; rather, the US should be prevented from entering the war. Although the pact was a great propaganda success, it had no immediate effect on the formation of an active front against Britain.

In Eastern Europe, Hitler gained Romania as an ally, which was extremely valuable to him because of its strategic location and the oil fields near Ploieşti . It is true that he let the Soviet Union claim Bessarabia , which had been lost after the First World War , as provided for in the Hitler-Stalin Pact. But in the summer of 1940 Hitler guaranteed the existence of Romania, which in turn left the League of Nations.

Italian parallel war in the Mediterranean and East Africa, 1940/1941

Fascist Italy with its colonies in Europe and Africa (1939)

Mussolini hoped that after the German axis partner , Italy could also achieve military successes, although King Viktor Emanuel III. as recently as 1939 had made the realistic assessment that the army was in a wretched state and the officers were no good. After Italy entered the war on June 10, 1940, Mussolini attacked British positions in the Mediterranean and in North and East Africa. After minor initial Italian successes in Egypt and East Africa, the initiative was lost in the late summer and autumn of 1940. The counter offensives by British and Commonwealth troops ( Operation Compass ) led to Italian defeats in Egypt, eastern Libya ( Cyrenaica ) and East Africa in early 1941 .

Italian prisoners of war during Operation Compass , after the Battle of Bardia on the Libyan-Egyptian border, January 6, 1941

130,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner by the British. In February 1941, Hitler responded by sending the German Africa Corps ( Operation Sunflower ) to at least prevent Italy from losing the colony of Libya . In East Africa, Italy lost 30,000 soldiers (24,000 prisoners of war and 6,000 dead) and its colonies there by the end of November 1941.

Mussolini's great power ambitions had been directed towards the Balkans since the 1930s . On October 28, 1940, Italian units attacked Greece ( Greco-Italian War ). Mussolini believed in a quick victory; instead, the war turned into a fiasco. The Greek troops were well organized and knew their way around the difficult terrain of the Pindos Mountains. "Within a fortnight the expected triumph had turned into a humiliation for Mussolini's regime" when the attackers were pushed back beyond the borders of Albania .

More importantly, the Axis position in North Africa was seriously weakened because, in the face of the looming debacle, urgently needed Italian troops were being transferred from there to Greece. North Africa was of the utmost importance: if the weak British troops had been driven out of Egypt and the Suez Canal, the world war would have taken a different course.

Balkan campaign, 1941

Balkan campaign, April - May 1941

At the beginning of 1941 the German Reich tried to mediate in the Balkan conflict. For example, Hitler submitted the proposal to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite Pact , but this was rejected. Greece also refrained from attempting to mediate, as its army was able to force the Italian soldiers on the front to retreat. A major Italian offensive on March 9th turned into a disaster. On March 27, Yugoslavia finally joined the Tripartite Pact . The result was anti-German demonstrations and a coup d'état by the Serbian officers' corps against the government of Prince Regent Paul , whereupon membership was revoked.

This unexpected turn led to Hitler's decision to attack Yugoslavia. He justified the attack in retaliation against a Serbian "criminal clique" in Belgrade . On April 6, Wehrmacht units crossed the border into Yugoslavia, and the air force began to reduce Belgrade to rubble (→  company criminal court ), even though the capital had been declared an “ open city ”. The further advance took place as in a planned maneuver. On April 10, Zagreb was occupied, where the Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed on the same day . Belgrade was occupied by German troops on April 13th. On April 17th, the Yugoslav commanders signed the surrender of the Yugoslav army.

Destruction in Belgrade after an air raid, April 1941

The German campaign against Greece also began on April 6th. Unlike in Yugoslavia, the Greek resistance was extremely tough in places. Especially in the mountainous areas and in the area of ​​the heavily defended Metaxas Line , German soldiers made slow progress and suffered heavy losses. Salonika fell on April 9th . At the same time, the Greek army in East Macedonia was cut off and the Metaxas line was under greater pressure. The Greek reinforcements from the Albanian front were stopped by German and Italian armored units and air raids as they advanced through the mountainous landscape. On April 21, 223,000 Greek soldiers had to surrender.

The British units stationed in Greece meanwhile set up a defense on Thermopylae . This was overrun on April 24th, whereupon the Allies had to initiate an amphibious evacuation operation in which 50,000 soldiers were shipped to Crete and Egypt . On April 27, the Wehrmacht entered Athens .

German troops march into Athens , May 1941

On April 25, Hitler ordered Crete to be conquered with airborne troops, paratroopers and the 5th Mountain Division in mid-May 1941. On May 20, 1941, German parachutists landed on Crete . In doing so, they had high losses. The landed units were initially unable to conquer any airfields for supplies and reinforcements. The situation for the attackers stabilized only with the increased use of the air force and after successful landings on contested airfields. The Allies, including New Zealanders and Australians , defended Crete for a week until they had to withdraw to Egypt with around 17,000 men. Due to the high German losses, Hitler decided not to carry out any more air landings in the future. The attempt to conquer the strategically important island of Malta was therefore not made.

From the creation of the Eastern Front to the Western Front, June 1941 to June 1944

The intention to invade the Soviet Union, Hitler discussed on July 31, 1940 - parallel to the plans to invade Great Britain - in a circle of the highest generals. At that time Hitler still hoped that sooner or later Great Britain would give up and, on the basis of an "understanding with England", he could throw all his strength to the east in order to tackle his great goal of conquering "living space in the east". If Russia is defeated, England's last hope will be erased. On December 18, 1940, instructions were given to attack the Soviet Union in May 1941. The background to this decision was also the recognition of the impossibility of landing on the British Isles as long as the air force and navy were too weak. If not the sole motive, it was based on the desire to force London via Moscow to withdraw from the war. An attack on the Soviet Union was viewed by Hitler as not very risky because he completely underestimated the political stability of the Soviet Union and its military potential. He frankly admitted this underestimation to Mannerheim in a confidential conversation in Finland on June 4, 1942, which was recorded without Hitler's knowledge. Hitler was not alone in his misjudgment of the Soviet military potential; almost all of his commanders shared it too. On March 30, 1941, in front of over 200 senior officers in the Reich Chancellery, he announced that the imminent war was a race-ideological war of annihilation and should be waged regardless of the norms of international warfare. The commanders would have to overcome any personal remorse. In the East, “hardship is mild for the future.” None of those present took the opportunity to put Hitler's demands up for discussion again afterwards.

With the attack on the Soviet Union , Operation Barbarossa , a new front arose in eastern Germany on June 22, 1941. It became (alongside the Sino-Japanese) the longest-running front in World War II, claiming the most casualties. The German troops conquered vast areas of the European part of the Soviet Union; Together with units of the SS and Einsatzgruppen who were immediately following up , they were given the task of ruthlessly exploiting the areas, killing some of their residents and forcing the others to do forced labor. In the process, tens of thousands of Jews were systematically killed.

Six months later, the USA, which had previously indirectly supported Great Britain, became Germany's official war opponent through Hitler's declaration of war. America needed time to adapt its economy to war. A confrontation between the Wehrmacht and Anglo-American land forces took place in North Africa for the first time in November 1942 ( Operation Torch ) .

War against the Soviet Union, June 1941 to October 1942

Russian campaign, 1941–1942

The Balkan campaign had postponed the time of attack for an attack on the Soviet Union by four weeks. The attack did not take place until June 22, 1941. Although calculations on the German side showed that the Wehrmacht could only be supplied up to a line along Pskov , Kiev and the Crimea , Hitler demanded that Moscow be conquered as part of a single, uninterrupted campaign. This showed his dangerous underestimation of the Soviet Union, which had already been expressed after France's surrender in June 1940 (see above) . Three army groups (north, center, south) were ready for the attack. The Army Group North ( Leeb ) should the Baltic conquer States and then to Leningrad advance. The main load was on Army Group Center ( von Bock ). She was supposed to advance to Moscow and was accordingly well armed. The Army Group South (von Rundstedt) was supposed to conquer the Ukraine . Attacks against the Soviet Union were also launched from occupied Norway. They aimed at Murmansk , the port and the local railway connection, the " Murman Railway ". 600,000 soldiers from allied, neutral and occupied states were also involved in the campaign. Later, 30,000 volunteers from neutral and occupied territories (including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and the Caucasus) were added, mostly representatives of right-wing extremist or fascist currents in their home countries.

In the early morning of June 22, 1941, between 3:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., the attack against the Soviet Union began. Although he had received several serious tips, including from Harro Schulze-Boysen , Arvid Harnack and Richard Sorge , Stalin remained convinced that Hitler would not attack the Soviet Union before a victory over Great Britain. The attack was led by 153 German divisions, including 19 armored and 12 motorized divisions, on a front length of 1600 km between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian Mountains. Two divisions operated from Finland. Army Group North occupied the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and reached Novgorod in early September . At the same time , Army Group Center reached Smolensk , which is on the direct route to Moscow. The Army Group South had the task of conquering the Ukraine and at the same time was on the verge of Zaporozhye in the southeast of Ukraine. The military commanders of the Red Army were not prepared for the largest military offensive in world history with just over three million army soldiers. Within a week soldiers from the allied states Romania, Italy, Slovakia and Hungary as well as Finland, which had no alliance with Germany and attached importance to the statement that it was waging a "continuation war" against the Soviet Union to recapture the areas ceded in 1940, were added. The Red Army had nearly three million soldiers stationed on the western border, whose tanks, artillery and aircraft were far superior to the attackers, but were not ready to fight. Many of the Soviet soldiers on the border surrendered without resistance, while the motorized German troops initially made rapid progress. The ability of the Soviet armed forces at that time to wage an attack or a war against Germany must be seriously questioned, even according to more recent findings. The first Wehrmacht report on the morning of June 22, 1941, however, gave the impression that Soviet troops had invaded East Prussia. He thereby supported the preventive war legend of Nazi propaganda , which portrayed the attack as a war of defense. In fact, the attack on the Soviet Union was essentially an ideologically disguised war of conquest and extermination with the goal of gaining “ living space in the east ”, which Hitler had formulated years earlier . This meant "a blockade-proof large empire" up to the Urals and beyond the Caucasus .

Soviet soldiers rescue a wounded man near Leningrad , October 1941

At noon on June 22nd, the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov read a speech on the radio announcing the outbreak of war. It was not until eleven days later on July 3 that Joseph Stalin addressed the people with a radio address. Before that, Minsk was locked in and occupied shortly afterwards. For a long time Hitler insisted on the conquest of Ukraine instead of Moscow. The main goal of the Nazi leadership was to secure the oil supplies in the Caucasus and the grain in the Ukraine. Hitler believed that this would make them invincible. Despite victorious kettle battles , the Barbarossa plan failed as early as August 1941 and triggered the so-called " August crisis " because large parts of the enemy escaped from these battles and re-formed, the surprise effect of the attack subsided, the German losses increased and Hitler's "zigzag of orders “To focus on the Central Army Group or the South Army Group increased.

German "invasion" of Kharkov on November 1, 1941, admission of a propaganda company .

Only after the capture of Kiev and Kharkov was the advance on Moscow resumed on October 2nd. But already in October it started to rain, in November frost set in with minus 22 degrees Celsius. As a result, the German offensive slowed down, it got stuck in mud or snow more and more frequently, and the attack on Moscow came to a standstill on December 5 because of arctic temperatures of up to minus 50 ° C and the stiffening Soviet resistance. The next day, a Soviet counter-offensive with units from the Far East well equipped for the winter war began under the command of Zhukov, which prevented German troops from capturing the capital Moscow. The escape of the army group could be stopped by an unconditional stop order from Hitler, but his goal of "overthrowing the Soviet Union in a quick campaign" failed, "Barbarossa" failed. The lost battle for Moscow was the geopolitical turning point of the Second World War, "the real turning point" because the series of German lightning victories broke off. The Wehrmacht had lost around a third of its soldiers by the end of January 1942. Only half of a million dead, missing or wounded could be replaced. The Red Army suffered even greater losses with around 3.3 million prisoners up to this point, an unspecified number of dead and 2.2 million wounded and sick.

Two mounted German soldiers in a burning village near Mahiljou (Belarus), July 16, 1941

In the Continuation War , Finland tried , with German support, to recapture the territories in Karelia that had been lost to the Soviet Union in the Winter War . After achieving this goal in the summer of 1941, Finland did not remain defensive, but occupied controversial Karelian territories that had never been Finnish before until December 1941 .

In response to the German attack, British and Soviet troops marched into Iran on August 25, 1941 as part of the Anglo-Soviet invasion . The aim of the attack was on the one hand to secure the oil production of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and on the other hand to take over the Trans-Iranian Railway in order to be able to supply the Soviet troops with British and American supplies on the way via Iran.

The Red Army had reorganized. The large armaments factories were relocated to the Urals, inaccessible to the German air force. On December 16, Hitler gave the order to stop. By the end of the year, however, the Wehrmacht was pushed back further. The interim economic balance sheet was also sober at the end of 1941: the loss of the Donets Basin had not, as Hitler expected, led to the collapse of the Soviet economy. The “Reichskommissariat Ukraine”, for example, wrote an civil servant working as a professor of economics to the chief of the military armaments, “proves to be a complete failure”. Young, poorly trained, "incompetent" officials who ran around with riding crops would practice brutal "mastery". It is to be feared that “the general mood of the Ukrainian people will turn against us.” The elimination of Jews from trade and handicrafts had destroyed the “backbone of the economy”. By starving the Russian prisoners of war, "overexploitation" of "available human labor" is being driven.

Hitler's “Directive No. 41” of April 5, 1942 (“ Blue Case ”) stipulated for the summer offensive that first Stalingrad on the Volga, then the Caucasus region to the Turkish and Iranian borders, should be conquered in order to transfer the oil centers there to the Get hand. First, the Red Army counterattacked in the southern section of the front. In the Battle of Kharkov in May 1942, the attacking Soviet units were completely enclosed. Again almost 250,000 Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner. Sevastopol and the Kerch peninsula in the Crimea were conquered from May to July and served as a springboard for an offensive as far as the Caucasus. 150,000 Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner. Because Tobruk fell in North Africa in June 1942 (→  Company Theseus ), the Nazi propaganda aroused great hopes for an early overall victory after the crisis in winter.

Briefing at the headquarters of Army Group South in Poltava , June 1, 1942

At the end of June 1942 the summer offensive began in the south of the Eastern Front between Kursk and Taganrog on the Sea of ​​Azov, the importance of which Hitler had once again emphasized on June 1, 1942 at a commander-in-chief of Army Group South 's meeting in Poltava : “If I had the oil from Maikop and Grozny then I have to liquidate this war. ”Stalin foresaw similar consequences for the Soviet Union if“ our most important waterway and soon our oil too are lost ”. On July 3, German forces crossed the Don at Voronezh . Twenty days later Rostov was captured on the lower Don , but the number of prisoners remained low, as the Red Army - in contrast to 1941 - initiated a strategic retreat behind the Don, the Volga near Stalingrad and to the western and central Caucasus. On the same day, July 23rd, "Instruction No. 41" (see above) was amended so that instead of the planned successive two advances into the Caucasus region and against Stalingrad were planned. In contrast to the directive from April, in which Halder's handwriting could be recognized, this directive was directly based on a decision by Hitler. The General Staff wanted to prevent them. "From then on, a defeat was foreseeable." Hitler also refused to take note of realistic estimates of Soviet tank production, which had actually been more than four times that of Germany.

World War II (Iran)
Bandar-e Shahpur (30 ° 26 ′ 16 ″ N, 49 ° 5 ′ 44 ″ E)
Bandar-e Shahpur
Tehran (35 ° 42 ′ 1 ″ N, 51 ° 24 ′ 59 ″ E)
Bandar Pahlawi (37 ° 28 ′ 12 ″ N, 49 ° 27 ′ 36 ″ E)
Bandar Pahlawi
Location of Bandar-e Shahpur, Tehran and Bandar Pahlawi in Iran
On the "Persian Corridor" women look at an Allied supply convoy for the USSR, somewhere between Tehran and Bandar Pahlawi, June 1943 (today's name: Bandar Anzali)

Army Group South was divided into Army Group A (→ Caucasus) and Army Group B (→ Stalingrad). The weaker Army Group B was assigned to conquer Stalingrad and then to advance down the Volga to Astrakhan , 75 km north of the Caspian Sea , in order to block the continuation of the so-called Persian Corridor . Army Group A was to occupy the east coast of the Black Sea, take possession of the oil wells of Maikop and Grozny in the western Caucasus and finally, far south on the Caspian Sea, conquer Baku and its oil wells. This strategy can "only be described as pure madness". In fact, it only got as far as the West Caucasus and conquered Maikop, north of it, but whose oil facilities had been systematically destroyed. The nearest and important oil region of Grozny, the possession of which Hitler regarded as essential for the continuation of the war, was not reached. This made it clear in mid-August that Army Group A's operational objective would not be achieved; the attack on the pass heights of the Caucasus had to be stopped at the end of August 1942. Army Group B was also unable to achieve its strategic goal, although Hitler had spoken of a success on November 8, 1942 in Munich's Löwenbräukeller : “I wanted to come to the Volga, at a certain point, in a certain city. [...] That is where 30 million tons of traffic are cut off. [...] No ship can come up the Volga any more. That is the decisive factor. ”Although it conquered almost all of Stalingrad, it was surrounded by Soviet troops there at the end of November 1942 and had to surrender on January 31, 1943.

Axis Powers' sphere of influence and domination in September 1942

When Hitler spoke to Goebbels in private with Goebbels on August 19 in the Führer headquarters in Werwolf near Vinnitsa (Ukraine), he was still overly optimistic: After the oil wells of Maikop, Grozny and Baku, Asia Minor would be conquered and then Iran, Iraq and Iraq Palestine , in order to cut off the British from their oil supply. With the imminent attack on Stalingrad, he expected the city to be conquered within eight days. At the same time, disappointment grew in the Soviet Union over the failure to open a “second front” by the Allies in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the aid deliveries made by the Americans on the basis of the loan and lease law made a significant contribution to the fact that the Red Army was able to hold out the war. In addition to the military goods supplied, the food was also important. The tin cans with firm, pink pressed meat were called "Second Front" by the Soviet soldiers. More than half of the goods delivered to the USSR, measured by weight, were food: "They were enough to provide every Soviet soldier with an estimated half a pound of concentrated food a day throughout the war."

The losses so far (more than 1 million soldiers since the beginning of the Russian campaign), gigantic overstretching of the front, insufficient supplies and massive Soviet resistance brought the advance of Army Groups A and B to a standstill at the beginning of September 1942. Because of this, there was a leadership crisis in the German High Command, in the course of which the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group A, Field Marshal Wilhelm List , and the Army Chief of Staff, Colonel General Halder, were dismissed by Hitler. Hitler himself took over the command of the Army Group (until November 22, 1942), Halder's successor was General Kurt Zeitzler .

On October 4, 1942, the representatives of the Soviet High Command, Georgi Schukow and Alexander Wassilewski , discussed the planned encirclement operations with the commanders of the fronts deployed around Stalingrad (Soviet armies) by which the 6th Army was trapped and destroyed in the area between the Volga and Don should be: In November 1942, Operation Uranus interrupted the connection between Stalingrad and the German front west of the Volga. The operation Kolzo (russ .: Ring) completed the Soviet encirclement of Stalingrad.

Partisan war

Resistance members arrested in France

With the invasion of German troops, a reorganization was initiated in the occupied states of Europe in accordance with the National Socialist concepts of occupation policy, racial ideology and population policy, which the occupiers tried to enforce by means of repression. Above all, it concerned the political and military-political resistance and the Jewish minority, which was the object of persecution and extermination in the entire German sphere of influence.

With the General Plan Ost (see above) under Heinrich Himmler , the Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Volkstum , a comprehensive population and settlement policy concept for the colonial "Germanization" of the occupied and yet to be conquered Eastern territories was created. In particular, the populations of Poland , Serbia , Ukraine , Belarus and Russia should "definitely be kept down". As a result of the ruthless looting of these areas, millions were threatened with starvation, which the planners accepted, if not welcomed. After the decision to use “labor” as an economically more productive way of dealing with the population, especially in the Soviet Union, millions of forced laborers were deported to Germany. Repression and exploitation soon met with resistance.

Expulsion of the Polish population from the German-occupied Wartheland , autumn 1939

In the Netherlands, for example, the police and railway workers went on strike. There were armed attacks in France. Resistance was particularly strong in the Balkans and Eastern Europe and was often divided among various groups. Yugoslav partisans led by Tito were able to liberate individual contiguous areas, and in Greece partisans from ELAS , EDES and EKKA controlled the mountainous parts of the country. In the Soviet Union, communist and anarchist groups fought the German occupation regime . The partisan war in the Soviet Union had been planned by the Red Army before the war; Corresponding units were set up to continue the resistance against the occupiers in the rear of the front after the conquest of an area.

Executed partisans in the Soviet Union, January 1943

In general, partisan warfare was characterized by numerous violations of martial law . The partisans mostly did not take prisoners or forced them to desert . On the German side, the commissar 's order contained the instruction not to treat political commissars of the Red Army as prisoners of war , but to “finish them off after they had been separated”. The partisan war in Eastern Europe began as a systematic war of extermination. In Greece ( Kefalonia , Chortiatis ), France ( Oradour , Maillé ) and Italy ( Marzabotto , Caiazzo ) there were isolated massacres of hostile civilians.

USA enters the war, December 1941

Destroyed aircraft after the attack on Pearl Harbor , December 7, 1941

The United States initially maintained formal neutrality in the conflict. The basic isolationist mood among the US population prevented President Roosevelt from intervening directly on the side of Great Britain and the Soviet Union in the war.

Japan used the outbreak of World War II in Europe to occupy the northern part of French Indochina , forced Great Britain to close the Burma Road and in September 1940 concluded the three-power pact with Germany and Italy in Berlin , which was intended to prevent the USA from entering the war . With the Lending and Lease Act of March 11, 1941, the US Congress created the legal basis for the previously practiced support for Great Britain. On July 31, 1941, the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands froze Japan's financial resources, which was practically an embargo, so that the leadership of the Japanese Empire saw their imperialist ambitions in a war against the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands in Southeast Asia.

After the attack by Japan on the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the declarations of war by Germany and Italy on December 11, the USA was officially at war with the Axis powers. Despite the Japanese attack and immediately after moving to Congress to declare war on Japan, Roosevelt reminded his advisors that Germany remained the primary target. The military instruction "Germany first" was confirmed during the Arcadia Conference (see above) with the decision to defeat Germany first as the most dangerous and only directly accessible enemy from Great Britain and the USSR. In addition, the downfall of Germany would bring about the collapse of Japan sooner or later.

After Hitler's declaration of war on the USA and the setback against Moscow, December 1941 became the turning point in world politics. From now on, Germany was no longer able to clearly win World War II.

North Africa theater of war, 1940 to 1943

Italian tank M13 / 40 in North Africa , approx. 70 km south of Tobruk , May 1941

As in the European theater of war, the Italians in North Africa suffered severe setbacks against the British. The Italian offensive against Egypt in September 1940 came to a standstill after just 100 kilometers due to the destruction of the supply bases in Libya and Egypt. In the British counter-offensive that followed, 130,000 Italians were captured by the British in late 1940.

The German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel was therefore commissioned in February 1941 to support the unsuccessful ally in its defense with two infantry divisions and one armored division of the newly established German Africa Corps . He felt it was inappropriate to take a defensive stance and wanted to attack instead. On March 31, he ordered the advance. As early as April 10, German tanks were standing in front of the east Libyan port and fortress of Tobruk , which had been expanded by the Italians shortly before and evacuated almost without a fight. After three unsuccessful attacks, Rommel had to postpone the conquest of Tobruk for the time being. Further advances could not be carried out due to supply bottlenecks, so that both sides switched to a positional war. In November 1941 the British attacked again and the occupation of the city finally managed to blow up the siege ring. On December 7th, the Africa Corps withdrew to the Gazala Line (60 km further west). After Tobruk had twice withstood a conquest by the Africa Corps, Rommel did not attack again until May of the following year (see  Operation Theseus ).

Erwin Rommel about 100 km west of the border with Egypt, June 16, 1942

After heavy tank battles, the Axis powers succeeded in taking Bir Hacheim on June 10, 1942 . Thereafter, the city and fortress of Tobruk were occupied on June 20, for which Rommel was promoted to General Field Marshal as the youngest officer in the Wehrmacht . The German and Italian successes were favored by the relocation of large parts of the British Mediterranean fleet to the Indian Ocean for the war against Japan. The targets of the further advance through the Libyan desert were Alexandria and the Suez Canal . Shortly before the Egyptian railway station at El-Alamein , the British had built a 7-kilometer-wide defensive belt between the Mediterranean Sea and the Qattara Depression , in which the Axis offensive got stuck during the first battle of El-Alamein (July 1942). On October 23, 1942, the new British commander, Bernard Montgomery, ordered the counterattack to the second battle of El-Alamein . The outnumbered Africa Corps had to retreat.

Italian soldiers north of the Mareth Line on the march into captivity, March 1943

The situation of the German and Italian troops in North Africa became hopeless after Allied troops landed in Casablanca and Algiers in Operation Torch on November 8, 1942, and the troops of the Axis Powers in North Africa were caught in two directions. Tobruk fell back into British hands on November 13, and Tripoli on January 23, 1943 .

German and Italian troops had already entered the French protectorate of Tunisia in November 1942 to stop the British and Americans who had landed in Morocco and Algeria. In February 1943, Rommel was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Americans in the battle of the Kasserin Pass near the Tunisian-Algerian border, but this did not stop them from advancing further. In March and April, the Axis forces were encircled in the Tunisian campaign . Fierce resistance was only offered on the Mareth Line in southern Tunisia. On May 12, 1943 - Rommel had meanwhile been recalled from North Africa - his successor, General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim , capitulated in Hammamet on the Cape Bon peninsula . The Italian 1st Army surrendered on May 13th. Around 100,000 German and 150,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner. The German population reacted in horror to the high German losses in North Africa, which were interpreted as the final turn of the war. A “second Stalingrad” or “Tunisgrad” was mentioned behind closed doors. The overall balance of the war in North Africa also showed clear winners: Americans, British and French had a total of around 220,000 men killed, wounded and missing, including prisoners. The losses among Germans and Italians totaled 620,000 men.

Italy, 1943 and 1944

After the success in Tunisia, Great Britain and the USA initially decided to land in Sicily in order to open up the sea route between Egypt and Gibraltar - which would lead to a shortening of the previous shipping routes around Africa. The Soviet leadership would have preferred if the British and Americans had opened the second front in France, because they hoped that this would provide greater relief for their own front. Churchill refused because, in his opinion, it was still too early for an invasion of the West in 1943. But even after landing in southern Europe, the German Reich would no longer have been able to strengthen the eastern front in the summer of 1943. On July 10, 1943, the Americans and British landed under the command of Dwight D. Eisenhower in southeastern Sicily ( Operation Husky ) . As a result, Hitler broke off the Citadel operation on July 13 and relocated the II SS Panzer Corps from Russia to Italy on July 17, against Manstein's will. The landing in Sicily had an effect, even if it was not the second front desired by Stalin. The Grand Fascist Council decided at a meeting on July 24, 1943 with 28:19 votes, the return of Italy to constitutional conditions. The majority hoped that this would provide better conditions for the Allies in the event of Italy surrendering. The following day, King Victor Emmanuel III. , in consultation with Dino Grandi and his allies, arrest Mussolini after a visit to the Royal Palace of Carabinieri. Pietro Badoglio was appointed as the new Prime Minister . In the company training course , 39,000 German and 62,000 Italian soldiers left Sicily on August 17 and crossed the Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland.

Mussolini leaving the Hotel Campo Imperatore , September 12, 1943
Italian soldiers guarded and disarmed by German soldiers in Bolzano , September 1943

There, on September 3, two British divisions landed near Reggio Calabria against little resistance from the defenders. On the same day, the new Italian government concluded the Cassibile armistice with the Allies , which Eisenhower announced five days later on "Radio Algiers". This triggered the Axis case , in which 20 German divisions disarmed and interned half of the Italian army. On September 12th, 72 German paratroopers succeeded in a commando operation to free Mussolini from his captivity in the Hotel Campo Imperatore . He proclaimed the Repubblica Sociale Italiana , which he led from the small town of Salò on Lake Garda, and allowed the fight against the Allies to continue on the German side. In the meantime, he considered the term “fascist” to have so little advertising effect that he renounced it in the name of the state. When the Italian soldiers stationed on the Greek island of Kefalonia resisted their disarmament, around 5,000 Italians were captured between September 18 and 23 and shot by German mountain troops . On October 13, the Badoglio government declared war on the German Reich. A partisan army of 256,000 men and women operated alongside the official Italian associations .

German defense lines in southern Italy, Sept. 1943 - March 1944

The advance of the Allies in southern Italy was very slow. German soldiers defended their positions to the limit, while the next defensive positions were already being excavated in the hinterland. On the Gustav Line between Ortona on the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Gaeta on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Allied attacks were unsuccessful in the winter of 1943/44. A US landing (at the end of January 1944), to the north in the rear of the Gustav Line , did not lead to the goal either. Additional German divisions were relocated to Italy.

On February 15, 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino, the Benedictine mountain monastery, which was not occupied by the Germans and had a strategic location in the Gustav Line , was bombed from the air and completely destroyed by artillery fire two days later. 50,000 German defenders, including many paratroopers from the landing on Crete , had holed up in front of (sic!) The monastery, which was unsuccessfully attacked by 200,000 Allied soldiers from 36 nations. Churchill had previously announced carelessly that Italy was “the soft underbelly of Europe.” It was only three months later, on May 18, that New Zealand, Indian and Polish troops captured Monte Cassino.

After overcoming this obstacle, on May 25, the Allies united their two fronts north and south of the Gustav Line and began to advance further north. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring , commander in chief of the army units in Italy, had Rome declared an open city . On June 4, Allied troops then occupied the city without a fight. The Allies' hope of being able to push the Wehrmacht back into the Alps afterwards was initially shattered on the line of defense in the northern Apennines between La Spezia on the Mediterranean Sea and Rimini on the Adriatic Sea, so that in 1944 the war in Italy "was far from over, but in the early summer of 1944 there could be no more serious doubts about the outcome of this struggle. "

Since July 2, 1944, Brazilian troops, after landing in Naples, also took part in the Campanha da Italia , in the course of which they reached Susa (Piedmont) in northern Italy on May 2, 1945. Of the approximately 25,000 Brazilian soldiers, 463 died, buried in the military cemetery in Pistoia until 1960 , then in a mausoleum in Rio de Janeiro . The reason for Brazil's participation in World War II was the sinking of 13 Brazilian freighters and five merchant ships in the South Atlantic by German submarines in 1942, which killed 607 Brazilians.

From Stalingrad to Leningrad, October 1942 to March 1944

German air raid on Stalingrad , October 2, 1942

Despite the tense force and supply situation, on July 23, 1942, Hitler ordered a simultaneous offensive against Stalingrad in addition to the southern offensive in the direction of the Caucasus, in an amendment to the original " Fall Blau " plan and against considerable misgivings from Army generals. The Army Group South was therefore divided into Army Group A (→ Caucasus) and Army Group B (→ Stalingrad). Originally, Stalingrad was to be conquered first as a traffic junction and then the Caucasus region with its oil wells. The succession became the simultaneity of two offensives with dangerously overstretched flanks. In the course of the attack on Stalingrad , a German tank detachment reached the Volga on the evening of August 23, 1942 ; On the same day, around 600 Luftwaffe aircraft bombed Stalingrad, and the first units of the 6th Army were able to penetrate the outskirts of the city. In the Battle of Stalingrad , the attackers made headway in bitter individual fights for houses and streets with high casualties. In the end, the 6th Army controlled about 90 percent of the city, which had been turned into rubble, but failed to take full possession.

Stalingrad: Ruins of a workshop of the “Red October” steelworks, January 21, 1943

Despite heavy losses, the Soviet defenders were able to hold a narrow, western bank of the Volga, on which new troops were constantly landed from the eastern bank of the Volga, including the grain silo and the “Red October” steelworks. The west bank of the Volga in Stalingrad marked the easternmost point of the German advance on the Eastern Front (→  ). Today the monumental mother-home-statue reminds of this . World icon

City center after the end of the Battle of Stalingrad , February 2, 1943

On November 19, the Red Army's major offensive Operation Uranus against the Romanian and German lines far northwest and south of Stalingrad began with a gigantic encirclement. A few days later the Soviet spearheads united near Kalatsch on the Don . The 6th Army was encircled over a large area. The air supply promised by Goering was insufficient, and the German units were fairly immobile. A relief attack by the 4th Panzer Army, Operation Wintergewitter , brought within 48 kilometers of the siege ring, but had to be broken off on December 23rd. Colonel-General Paulus assessed an attempt to break out as impossible because of insufficient fuel reserves, felt himself bound by Hitler's order to stop and neither gave an order to break out of the cauldron, nor did he want to surrender. On January 10, 1943, seven Soviet armies opened the attack on the city. By January 23, they captured Pitomnik and Gumrak airfields . On January 24th they managed to split the cauldron into a northern and a southern half. On January 25, the last JU 52 left the Stalingradski makeshift airfield. On January 31, Paulus, meanwhile promoted to General Field Marshal, went into Soviet captivity in view of the hopeless situation without expressing a total surrender of the 6th Army. This was followed by unregulated partial capitulations by units in the southern basin; the north basin fought on until February 2nd. The Soviet losses amounted to 500,000 dead, the German army and its allies - counting dead and prisoners - also lost half a million men. When the BBC reported the capture of 91,000 German soldiers, the realization spread in Germany that Goebbels had lied to the population when he announced on the radio that the entire 6th Army had gone down fighting. The shock of this defeat was indescribable. It is believed that 110,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner of war, of which only around 5,000 returned in 1955, including Field Marshal Paulus, his chief of staff and most of the other high-ranking officers.

After the defeat by the British in the second Battle of El Alamein in early November 1942, the Battle of Stalingrad was the second, even greater, catastrophe of the German Wehrmacht. It was the psychological turning point of the Second World War. From now on it went back inexorably on all fronts, and the Germans' doubts about the “ final victory ” massively increased, regardless of Goebbels’s Sportpalast speech on February 18, 1943 with the call for “ total war ” and the frenetic approval of their chosen audience. So come Heinz Boberach , after the war, editor of Reports from the Reich to the finding that a mood swing began with the defeat of Stalingrad in 1943, by the surrender of German troops in North Africa (in May 1943) and the increase in air raids on the empire had been strengthened.

On February 16, the city of Kharkov was abandoned by troops of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS under the orders of SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser against the orders of Hitler in order to avoid an impending encirclement. A German counter-offensive began five days later. By March 14, the area up to the central Donetsk including Kharkov was recaptured. In the process, considerable gains in terrain were achieved, the enemy suffered high losses and a united front was restored. A potentially imminent collapse of the Eastern Front in the spring of 1943 was thus prevented. Another offensive in July 1943, the Citadel Company , was intended to encircle large parts of the Red Army in the front arc near Kursk and to convince wavering allies of Germany's strength after the defeat at Stalingrad.

Red Army soldiers during a counter-offensive in the Battle of Kursk , July 1943

The company culminated in the largest tank battle in history. The attack, which had been in preparation for months, had been foreseen by the Red Army, which had prepared itself through deep defensive positions, and got stuck after a few days. The German advance was canceled at the height of the battle on July 13th. The Wehrmacht lost more soldiers and material in a few days than in the month-long battle for Stalingrad. The Soviet counter-offensive at Orel , which for its part pursued the goal of encircling parts of Army Group Center, and the relocation of the II SS Panzer Corps to Italy due to the landing of the Western Allies in Sicily on July 10 ( Operation Husky ) were the decisive reasons for the demolition of the Citadel company .

The German tank reserves lost in Operation Zitadelle could no longer be replaced; the losses meant the final turn of the war in favor of the Soviet Union. After several Soviet counter-offensives in the months that followed, the Wehrmacht had to retreat along the entire front, with the Battle of the Crimea ending in a German defeat. Other major battles were the Battle of the Dnieper and the Dnieper-Carpathian Operation . At the end of 1943, Kiev was retaken by the Soviet army.

Withdrawal of German troops at Lake Ilmen , approx. 200 km south of Leningrad, February 1944

In mid-January 1944, the Eastern Front ran from Leningrad in the north through the Pripet Marshes to the Crimea in the south. In the Leningrad-Novgorod Operation , which began on January 14, 1944 , the German siege ring around Leningrad was blown up in the same month. The following Soviet spring offensive brought further territorial gains and the Wehrmacht had to withdraw as far as Lake Peipus . On May 12th, Crimea was again in Soviet hands. On June 9, the offensive began on the Finnish front on the Karelian Isthmus . At the end of June this attack came to a halt at the old 1940 border.

From the invasion to the end of the war, June 1944 to May 1945

Western Front, 1944/45

Into the Jaws of Death : American soldiers land on Omaha Beach , June 6, 1944
Landing in Normandy, situation until June 30, 1944

At the beginning of 1944 Erwin Rommel took over the command of the German Army Group B on the western front north of the Loire . On January 21, 1944, the German Air Force resumed attacks on London , which continued until April. While the Allies were busy amassing huge quantities of supplies, the Germans reinforced their coastal fortifications on the Atlantic Wall .

The plan for Operation Overlord was based on invasion plans drawn up in 1941 ( Roundup , Sledgehammer, etc.) and was revised for the final version in 1943 by the COSSAC staff under British Lieutenant General Sir Frederick E. Morgan . On August 19, 1942, around 6,000 infantrymen from the Canadian 2nd Division had attacked the port of Dieppe on a test basis , the coast of which had been fortified by German troops as part of the Atlantic Wall . The operation ( Operation Jubilee ) was a disaster and canceled prematurely. More than 900 Canadians fell and nearly 2,000 were captured. The supporting Royal Air Force lost 106 aircraft - twice as many as the Air Force . The Royal Navy lost 33 amphibious landing craft. The test provided important information for Operation Overlord in June 1944.

The Allied plan was to land with first two armies (one American and one British-Canadian) and then quickly advance inland. Hitler and the German planning staff were inadequately prepared for the invasion. They expected the landing on the Pas-de-Calais, the narrowest part of the English Channel . The coast of the Calvados department , where the Allies finally landed, was defended in places with only a few meters of barbed wire and a few machine-gun nests . Other sections were heavily paved despite the OKW's false expectations about the site of the invasion. Five landing sections with the code names Juno , Gold , Sword (British / Canadian landing sections) and Utah and Omaha (US landing sections) were selected in the invasion area . The aerial bombardments of the coast and sea bombardments went according to plan, but missed the first German line at Omaha Beach . This, together with the fact that the Germans had placed two divisions there instead of just one suspected division, led to very heavy losses (around 70 percent) of the first wave of landing soldiers.

On June 6, 1944, the so-called D-Day , and afterwards , about 6,700 ships, including more than 4,000 landing craft, were involved in Operation Neptune , the actual invasion company, the 175,000 Allied soldiers from the USA, Canada and Great Britain as well as around Put 200 French ashore. Overlord supported more than 11,000 aircraft with airborne operations. In the early morning of June 6th, two US airborne divisions started their operations in the hinterland of the French coast on the English Channel. Because of the surprisingly strong German flak fire and because of navigation errors, many machines did not reach the designated drop zones, so that the parachutists were dropped over large parts of the Cotentin peninsula .

A British soldier looks for German snipers (English: sniper ) in the fiercely competitive Caen , July 9, 1944

Although the Allies had mobilized enormous forces, they made very slow progress in places. On the other hand, due to the Allied air superiority and the extensive destruction of the rail network, the German side was unable to quickly move additional units to the combat area of ​​Normandy. The German troops in Normandy were surprised at an unexpected point because Hitler had spoken very often that the invasion would begin with a deceit attack. Von Rundstedt, Commander-in-Chief West , had asked early in the morning for the release of two tank divisions stationed near Paris. Alfred Jodl had refused. It was not until noon that Hitler agreed to use this reserve against the Allied bridgehead 150 kilometers away. His adjutants had hesitated until around 10 a.m. to wake Hitler, who had only gone to bed around 3 a.m., because of a possible false report. "This delay was crucial."

Cherbourg in the north of the Cotentin Peninsula was lost on June 26th after heavy American artillery fire and fierce street fighting (→  Battle of Cherbourg ) . The capture of Caen , a primary target on the first day of the landing, turned out to be difficult for the Allied troops of the British and Canadians on the east side of the Normandy bridgehead: the losing battle for Caen only ended after six weeks. Caen was fully occupied on July 19th.

On August 15, a second invasion began in southern France on the Côte d'Azur between Toulon and Cannes ( Operation Dragoon ) . 880 Allied seagoing ships, including four aircraft carriers, six battleships, 21 cruisers and over 100 destroyers, a total of 34 French ships and 1370 landing craft and about 5000 aircraft were involved in the landing. Three US divisions formed the attack forces. The US and French troops met little resistance and advanced rapidly through the Rhône Valley to the north. By September they had already reached the Vosges and Alsace.

In Normandy, the Americans attempted to break out of their bridgehead section on July 25 (→  Operation Cobra ) , which in the following days led to the Cotentin Peninsula being cut off as far as Avranches in the west . In the east, US units at Saint-Lô were able to quickly break through the German front after an initial delay. On August 6, the Germans launched a counterattack at Mortain under the leading Commander-in-Chief West , Field Marshal Günther von Kluge (→  Liege Company ) . This was stopped after just two days, which, with the help of the British and Canadians fighting north, led to the Falaise pocket .

French patriots line the Champs-Élysées on August 26, 1944, the day after the liberation of Paris, as Free French troops from General Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division pass the Arc du Triomphe

The German city commander of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz , ignored several orders from Hitler to defend Paris to the last man and then to destroy it. He and his troops surrendered without a fight for lack of weapons. Because of the enormous abundance of materials and the absolute dominance of the air , German troop concentrations could be broken up at any time, and the Allies made rapid progress in the period that followed.

Operation Market Garden : Paratroopers land near Arnhem , September 1944

During the Market Garden airborne operation near and in Arnhem , the II. SS Panzer Corps was able to inflict another heavy defeat on US, British and Polish soldiers. It is true that they overstretched their supply lines during their rapid advance to the German Siegfried Line; but after setting up new, faster supply routes (→  Red Ball Express ), they were able to provide the fuel they needed in large quantities. Brussels fell on September 3 , and Antwerp was occupied the next day .

After losing the ports on the English Channel, the German Navy continued its submarine warfare from Norway. Until September 1, the Germans attacked London from launch pads in northern France with cruise missiles ( V1 ) and rockets ( V2 ). Both types, of which around 7500 and 3200 respectively, were launched, were too imprecise for fighting individual targets and could therefore only be used against large cities. In London, attacks with the V1 killed over 6,000 people. Work on the Friesenwall project was intended to prevent Allied soldiers from landing on the German North Sea coast. However, it was not completed.

On October 21, US soldiers conquered Aachen as the first major German city after fierce fighting . From there they later advanced to the Rur . The battle in the Hürtgenwald from October 1944 to February 1945 was the longest battle that ever took place on German soil. A total of 35,000 German and US soldiers were killed. The heavily forested, hilly area and the cold and wet weather favored the German defenders, so that the US soldiers could not exploit their material superiority. It was not until February 1945 that the US Army managed to advance further towards the Rhine . In the south, too, in Lorraine and Alsace , the Allies had partial successes: the fortress of Metz and Strasbourg were occupied.
On December 16, the Germans launched the Battle of the
Bulge to regain the upper hand in the west. The Allies lost 76,000 and the Germans 90,000 men. The operational goals of the German attackers, to split the fronts of the Allies, to advance broadly into Belgium and to occupy the Allied supply port of Antwerp , could not be achieved after initial successes. Walter Model told Albert Speer on December 23 that the offensive had failed. Guderian, Chief of Staff of the Army , wrote in retrospect that on December 24, 1944, "every soldier [with] his eyes in his head" knew that the failure would be a failure. At the end of December 1944, US troops reached their comrades encircled in Bastogne . On January 1, 1945, the Bodenplatte company failed (a surprise attack by German fighters on 17 Allied airfields at the front). On January 3, the Allies launched an offensive despite the extreme cold , and on January 8, Hitler Model finally approved the withdrawal.

Since the last noteworthy German fuel reserves were used up in the Ardennes offensive and at the Nordwind company (January 1945), the army and especially the air force were largely immobile in all theaters of war, because from the second half of 1944 the German hydrogenation plants for the production of synthetic gasoline were bombed again and again became. It was therefore of no use that the German war economy could still deliver tanks and aircraft in large numbers.

US soldiers at the Ludendorff Bridge near Remagen , 8./10. March 1945

On March 7, 1945, US soldiers reached the incompletely destroyed bridge near Remagen south of the Ruhr area , so that they could set up a bridgehead on the right bank of the Rhine. On March 23, Operation Plunder began to cross the Rhine north of the Ruhr area near Wesel with British, American and Canadian soldiers. The Army Group B of the armed forces under Field Marshal Walter Model with over 320,000 soldiers - more than in Stalingrad - was on April 1 in the Ruhr pocket included. From a military point of view, the war in the West was finally lost. The Army Group surrendered on April 18 because two thirds of the soldiers were without weapons and deserted in large droves. On the same day, US troops took Magdeburg , one day later Leipzig .

Two US soldiers flee when a petrol tank trailer explodes, Kronach (Upper Franconia), April 14, 1945

During the occupation of German cities in southwest Germany by French soldiers, “especially by a minority of the feared colonial soldiers from North Africa, extensive looting and numerous rapes took place. […] In Freudenstadt, the worst case scenario, the looting and raping dragged on for three days. ”The French troops moved on towards Rottweil and Stuttgart . At the same time, the British army advanced rapidly from the Lower Rhine to northern Germany .

Elbe Day , US and Soviet troops near Torgau an der Elbe , April 25, 1945

On April 25, US and Soviet troops met south of Torgau on the Elbe. The German troops fighting on their home soil and in adjacent areas were thus split into two separate combat areas. On April 26, Bremen fell to the British. In quick succession they took Lübeck (May 2) and Hamburg (May 3), while British-Canadian troops marched into Wismar.

On May 5th, Colonel General Blaskowitz surrendered , whose troops were encircled in Holland. While the British units were conquering northern Germany, US troops quickly advanced into southern Germany and on to Tyrol-Vorarlberg , “often greeted as liberators […]. Many soldiers simply let themselves be rolled over and taken prisoner. ”The Americans occupied Munich on April 30th . On April 22nd, Stuttgart fell to the French army, which advanced south to Vorarlberg. The US Army met on May 3 at the Brenner Pass with their compatriots who had occupied Northern Italy from the south.

In Italy, Bologna was occupied by Polish troops on April 21st . On April 25, Benito Mussolini fled from Salò to Switzerland from the Allies who occupied Genoa on April 27 . A day later, Italian partisans seized Mussolini in Dongo and shot him. On May 2, the German units surrendered in Italy, and on the same day British troops marched into Trieste .

Eastern Front, 1944/45

Abandoned war material of the German 9th Army near Babrujsk (Belarus), end of June 1944

At the same time as the invasion in the west, the Soviet Union succeeded in completely breaking up Army Group Center in June, July and August 1944 with Operation Bagration . With the loss of 28 divisions of the Wehrmacht, it is considered to be the most lossy defeat in German military history. The Red Army was able to advance from Belarus to shortly before Warsaw and to the East Prussian border. On July 3, Soviet troops retook Minsk , and from July 13, a further Soviet offensive penetrated into Galicia as far south as Lemberg and the Vistula . From this point on, the Wehrmacht was only able to hold out against the Red Army.

Warsaw Uprising , August - October 1944: burning house in the old town ( Agfacolor photo). Photographer: Ewa Faryaszewska (1920–1944)

The Warsaw Uprising of the Polish Home Army began on August 1st . On August 20, the Red Army marched into Romania , whereupon King Michael overthrew the dictator Ion Antonescu by a coup on August 23 and the Romanian army stopped fighting on Germany's side on August 24. When the Wehrmacht began the military occupation of Slovakia on August 29, due to increasing partisan activities, the Slovak National Uprising broke out there , which was supported by parts of the Slovak army. The successes of the Soviet Union forced the Wehrmacht to withdraw from Greece; British units entered Athens on October 13th. On September 5th the Red Army took Bulgaria; Assured of the support of the Soviet Union, the Bulgarian communists brought about a forcible change in the form of government on September 9 and took over the leadership of the country.

The Finnish government signed an armistice with the Soviet Union on September 19. On October 20, Soviet units and Yugoslav partisans under Tito captured the capital Belgrade . In the Baltic States , Army Group North withdrew from Riga to Courland on October 13th . In East Prussia , the offensive of the Soviet Union came to a standstill in October after initial successes.

Hungarian soldiers with PAK fighting in a Budapest suburb. The war correspondent of the SS Propaganda Company commented in Nazi jargon: “November 1944, combat area Hungary. The enemy only broke in here yesterday, but were immediately repulsed in a counter-attack. [...] Hungarian anti-tank guns secure the arterial roads from renewed Bolshevik raids. "

The Hungarian capital was besieged in the Battle of Budapest and could not be captured by the Red Army until February 1945. The Red Army advanced north from Warsaw (liberation on January 17) at the beginning of 1945, thus cutting off East Prussia from the German Reich. Tens of thousands of Germans fled to the west across the frozen fresh lagoon during the battle for East Prussia .

Hundreds of thousands of people traveled west when the wounded and refugees were transported across the Baltic Sea . In the course of this rescue operation ( company Hannibal ) , the former KdF ship Wilhelm Gustloff with thousands of people on board was torpedoed by the submarine S-13 of the Baltic Fleet on January 30th and went down near Stolpmünde , where 11 days later the Steuben was also a victim of S-13. The sinking of the Gustloff , Steuben , Goya (April 16, 1945) and Cap Arcona (May 3, 1945) with a total of more than 20,000 victims are considered to be the greatest catastrophes in shipping .

On January 27, 1945, Red Army soldiers liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp , which the SS guards had fled , where more than 1.1 million Jews had been murdered since 1941.

On the same day, the first Soviet units reached Küstrin and with it the Oder . In the Battle of Königsberg , the Soviet attackers finally occupied the city on April 9th.

Soviet artillery ( SiS-3 ), 60 km east of Berlin, April 1945

After the Vistula-Oder operation at the end of January 1945, the Red Army stood along the Oder and Neisse rivers from Stettin to Görlitz almost 80 kilometers from Berlin. From April 16 to 19, one of the greatest battles of the Second World War was fought at the Seelow Heights . One million German soldiers, many of them young, barely combat-experienced recruits, with 1,500 tanks, 10,400 guns and 3,300 combat aircraft, many of which had to remain on the ground for lack of fuel, faced 1 million Soviet soldiers with 3,155 tanks and 20,130 guns. It was the most powerful fire of the entire war: On the first day 1.2 million grenades were fired, the tremors of which caused the walls to shake in the east of Berlin, 60 km away. Further north, in Pomerania, Rokossowski's “Second Belarusian Front” had 1.4 million soldiers, over 4,000 tanks and 23,000 heavy artillery pieces. In the south, on the Neisse, Konev's First Ukrainian Front had another 1.1 million soldiers and 2,150 tanks. From the air, all fronts were supported by a total of 7,500 combat aircraft. Meanwhile, in the south, the Soviet siege ring around Wroclaw was closed on February 15, which only fell into the hands of the Red Army on May 6.

Battle for Berlin

The Reichstag building in Berlin four weeks after the end of the war

On April 21, five days after the start of the attack on the Oder, Soviet troops reached the northeastern city limits. In the Battle of Berlin, Zhukov's and Konev's armies advanced towards the center in concentric attacks and, after overcoming the Spree and Landwehr Canal, stood in front of the so-called "Citadel", the innermost sphere of influence of the "Nazi leadership". On April 28, the attempt of the 12th Army under General Walther Wenck to relieve the trapped failed . On April 30, Adolf Hitler killed himself in the Führerbunker under the garden of the Reich Chancellery, and on the same day units of the Red Army captured the Reichstag building , the symbol of Hitler's Germany for the Soviet Union. The fighting, which increased in intensity towards the end, was now concentrated on the flak towers at the zoo bunker , the Tiergarten district , the Bendler block , the Gestapo headquarters , the Reich Aviation Ministry and the flak bunker Humboldthain . The artillery bombardment had crowded the population, who had sought protection in the area of ​​the bunker at the Anhalter Bahnhof and in the underground railway stations. On the night of May 2, most of the defenders' numerous attempts to break out to the north and west failed. On the morning of May 2, SS units blew up the ceiling of the north-south S-Bahn tunnel under the Landwehr Canal and, as a result, large parts of the subway network were flooded (see also: History of the Berlin subway - The subway under water ). On the same day, after negotiations with General Vasily Tschuikow, the German combat commander Helmuth Weidling surrendered with the last defenders of the city.

Southeast Europe

After the failure of the Lake Balaton offensive in the spring of 1945, Hungary was completely conquered by the Red Army on April 4th. In the Vienna operation , the Red Army, coming across the Burgenland border from the southeast, occupied Vienna in a pincer attack between April 4 and 13, and shortly afterwards Lower Austria, Burgenland and Styria. In the foothills of the Alps and in the north, the Soviet advance slowed. On May 3, US troops occupied Salzburg and advanced further into the foothills of the Alps. On May 5, their advance detachments liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp and on May 7 they met with the Red Army on the Enns River on the border of Upper and Lower Austria. On the same day the Red Army reached Graz . On May 8, 1945, at 11:00 p.m. Central European time, the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces came into effect. Most of the 900,000 soldiers in Army Group Center (former Army Group A ) under General Field Marshal Schörner were taken prisoner by the Soviets. The Prague uprising that began on May 5th also claimed an unknown number of victims in connection with the initially disorderly expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia . On May 10th, Soviet units entered Prague .

End of the war in Europe in 1945

Proclamation No. 1 from General Eisenhower to the German people, March 1945
Signing of the partial surrender of the Wehrmacht for northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands on May 4, 1945 in a tent on the Timeloberg near Lüneburg
Declaration of surrender by the German Wehrmacht, May 8, 1945 Berlin-Karlshorst
Keitel signs the document of surrender in Berlin-Karlshorst , 8./9. May 1945.

One day before Hitler committed suicide on April 30, in his political will, he had designated Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as Reich President and Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels as Reich Chancellor. After the latter had also committed suicide on May 1, Dönitz announced in a radio address on the same day that the military struggle against "the advancing Bolshevik enemy" was to be continued. Doenitz wanted to achieve that as many German soldiers as possible ended up in American-British instead of Soviet captivity. After the last units in Berlin had surrendered on May 2nd, he opened his headquarters in Flensburg-Mürwik on May 3rd and named an executive government under Count Schwerin von Krosigk . On May 4, the newly appointed commander of the Navy, Admiral signed Hans-Georg von Friedeburg , on the Timeloberg in Lueneburg , in the presence of the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery , the partial surrender of the Wehrmacht for Northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands , which on May 5 to 8 Clock came into force.

After Eisenhower had rejected the request for a separate armistice with the Western Allies, Colonel General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of all German troops in Reims on May 7th . It came into force on May 8, 11:01 p.m. Central European Time . In a further document, the ratification of this unconditional surrender by the high command of the Wehrmacht and the commanders-in-chief of the army, air force and navy was agreed. This was done by signing another deed of surrender at the Soviet headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. In the late evening hours of May 8th, the document was signed by Field Marshal Keitel (for the OKW and the Army), Admiral General von Friedeburg (Navy) and Colonel General Stumpff (Air Force, as representative of the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal von Greim ). The ratification dragged on until after midnight. Since the surrender was also only announced in Moscow on May 9th, May 9th was / will be celebrated as Victory Day in the Soviet Union and in the post-Soviet states .

Dutch civilians cheering soldiers of the First Canadian Army on 7 May 1945 in Utrecht to

At the end of the war in Europe on May 8th, the Channel Islands and the cities of Lorient , Saint-Nazaire and La Rochelle in the west, northern Courland in the east and parts of the Aegean in the southeast were still under the control of the Wehrmacht. In Denmark and Norway, too, German rule remained until the surrender, in the Netherlands the provinces of North and South Holland and the province of Groningen. The German Empire itself was largely occupied, only the Alpine region, parts of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, most of Schleswig-Holstein and East Frisia were still under the control of German troops.

On May 8th and 9th, countless German soldiers tried to get from the Soviet sphere of influence into the areas controlled by the Western Allies, especially those from the Bohemian-Moravian region. The vast majority did not succeed, especially since the US Army strictly adhered to the ceasefire conditions and German soldiers who came into their area were held in camps and handed over to the Soviet Union. There was no prospect of escaping captivity for the enclosed Army Group Courland . On May 9, Stalin announced to the “peoples of the Soviet Union” that they were celebrating the victory, but had no intention of “dismembering or destroying Germany”.

The three main victorious powers, the Soviet Union, the USA and Great Britain, celebrated the victory over Germany and Japan with large military parades in Europe and in the USA:

  • Victory Parade in Moscow on June 24, 1945
  • New York City Victory Parade on January 12, 1946
  • London Victory Celebrations on June 8, 1946

In a unilateral declaration, the Supreme Soviet only lifted the state of war with Germany on January 25, 1955. On May 8, 1985, the German President Richard von Weizsäcker declared in his speech on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe and the National Socialist tyranny that it had entered the national culture of remembrance as liberation from National Socialism .

Neutral European countries

The states of Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain remained neutral during the European war. Turkey nominally joined the Allies in February 1945, but is generally also counted among the neutral states due to its military non-participation.

Switzerland in the Second World War

The Switzerland could maintain its independence and was never target of a German offensive. Nevertheless, she prepared herself intensively against a possible German invasion. The Rhine plain could be flooded in order to make it impassable for tanks - according to military knowledge due to the successful German campaign in the west through the Ardennes (see above). In Réduit 26,000 locally fit camouflaged bunkers and artillery positions were created. You should be able to remain on standby autonomously (independently) for up to six months.

General Henri Guisan relocated army units to the Alpine Reduit around the Gotthard as the center. The concept of the Réduit national envisaged protracted mountain battles and the destruction of the Alpine transversal . The majority of the Swiss population accepted this defense concept. Critics, on the other hand, criticized the fact that the Axis powers could conquer the resource-rich Central Plateau with little effort and starve the army in the Réduit. In 1942, thanks to the decreasing threat from the Axis powers and the completion of the fortifications, the Réduit had achieved its full effect. It seemed that these powers would benefit more from an independent Switzerland with functioning goods transport through the Alps and because of the transfer of foreign currency than a conquered country with destroyed production facilities. After the Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944, the Commander-in-Chief Guisan relocated troops from the Réduit back to the Swiss Plateau due to the more relaxed threat situation.

In August 1942 there was a temporary complete closure of the border for refugees as the culmination of a generally very restrictive admission of Jewish refugees to Switzerland. Between 1939 and 1945 around 300,000 people were admitted (around a third of whom were interned soldiers) and around 20,000 people were deported or expelled from the border.

The determination of Switzerland to defend its neutrality or the violation of its airspace against any attacker was internationally beyond doubt. After the aerial battles in Pruntruter Zipfel in 1940, the general had ordered restraint, but British bombers en route to Italy were also shot at on July 12, 1943 and two of them crashed. If US pilots accidentally bombed Swiss border towns, they were interned for the remainder of the war if they were shot down.

In Switzerland, a total of 84 people were killed in British and US bombings between 1939 and 1945. (→  Allied bombs on Switzerland )

Around 1,000 Swiss citizens were interned in German concentration camps between 1933 and 1945, and at least 200 died. No violent confrontation has resulted in more Swiss fatalities in the last 200 years. (→  Swiss in Nazi concentration camps )

Turkey in World War II

Geographical location of today's Turkish province Hatay (marked in red)

During the Second World War, Turkey retained its neutrality after reaching an understanding in 1939 with the mandate power France on the annexation of the Syrian province of Hatay , a mandate of the League of Nations. France had complied with the Turkish demands for an end to its Syrian mandate in order to prevent Turkey from entering the war on the part of the German Reich. On February 23, 1945, when Germany's defeat was obvious, it declared war on the side of the Allies Germany and Japan in order to underline its claim to the province after the war, which until 1939 belonged to Syria under international law . The official position of Syria against this is up to the present (as of February 2011) that the vote in Hatay's parliament in 1939 on accession to Turkey was contrary to international law and that this province was part of Syria.

War in Asia and the Pacific

Japan's reorganization of East Asia

Japan had been involved in several wars before World War II. Under Tennō Yoshihito , Japan fought alongside the Allies in World War I , in which Japan was able to take over colonies of the German Empire , including part of German New Guinea ( Japanese mandate on the South Seas ). About ten years earlier, the dispute over supremacy in Manchuria and Korea had led to the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905).

In order to overcome the economic crisis that began in 1929, influential politicians and the military proposed territorial expansion for Japan. From the 1930s onwards, they gained increased control over the government, including the office of prime minister ; political opponents were persecuted and the media censored. The aggressive efforts for a reorganization of the Pacific region had the ostensible aim of ending the hegemony over the Asian countries and their colonies by western European states ( Pan-Asian movement ). In fact, it was the will to end Japan's economic difficulties by forcibly securing raw material and sales areas as well as settlement areas for emigrants.

The Japanese expansion was initially directed against the Republic of China . After the Mukden incident on September 15, 1931, which was presumably staged by the Japanese themselves, the Manchurian crisis broke out three days later , and in February 1932 a Japanese vassal state Manchukuo was established. After international protests over the proceedings in China, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933 ; In 1936 it joined the Anti-Comintern Pact .

Pacific War 1937–1942

On July 7, 1937, the incident occurred at the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing , which the Japanese army took as an opportunity to invade northern China without a declaration of war and to occupy the main ports along the entire Chinese coast. Since it occupied the hinterland of Hong Kong and Macau , it blocked almost the entire Chinese coast in order to cut off China's economic ties with overseas. These events are viewed by some historians as the very beginning of World War II. However, the war in China was very different from the war in Europe, which began on September 1, 1939. In the spring and summer of 1940, when the German Wehrmacht overran the Netherlands, Belgium and France and "almost brought Great Britain to its knees", there was no end in sight to the Asian war.

At the time, China was at a crossroads as the communists under Mao Zedong and the nationalists of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek fought for supremacy in the country. The communists had withdrawn to Yan'an after the Long March inland and intervened only occasionally in the fight against the Japanese.

Japanese troops in the capture of Tanyang , December 1937
Japanese fight near Canton , October 1938

Around December 8, 1937, Japanese troops reached Nanjing , the capital of the Kuomintang, and surrounded them. Chiang Kai-shek had the capital moved to distant Chongqing . During the occupation of the city, the Nanking massacre occurred over the next six weeks , in which at least 200,000 Chinese civilians and prisoners of war were murdered and around 42,000 women and girls of all ages were raped . "The reports of the murder and rape orgy shook the world." Public opinion in the West, particularly in the United States, turned sharply against Japan. In July 1939, the US government terminated an important trade treaty that had existed since 1911 that affected nearly a third of all Japanese imports. One way out of the increasing isolation seemed to be an alliance with Germany, which was advocated by the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop .

The way to Pearl Harbor was not a one-way street, but in the summer of 1940 the Japanese leadership took decisive steps so that the two wars in Europe and Asia merged into a single global conflagration. Japan took advantage of the defeat of the Western powers and blackmailed Great Britain and France in June 1940 to stop the vital aid deliveries to the Chinese nationalists via Burma and Indochina. The Dutch government-in-exile in London was pressured to export oil from the Dutch East Indies to Japan. It also used Wang Jingwei as the head of a puppet government in Nanking .

Prince Konoe Fumimaro , who became Prime Minister for the second time in July 1940 after the dramatic events in Europe, argued in a memorandum in the same year that the war in China would ultimately lead to a " Greater East Asian sphere of prosperity " made up of Japan, Manchukuo and China as well as former colonies of Great Britain, the Netherlands and France. The expression was coined by Matsuoka Yosuke , Foreign Minister in the second Konoe cabinet. The three-power pact with Germany and Italy of September 27, 1940 expanded the existing Anti-Comintern Pact to include mutual military support. In doing so, Japan rejected the neutrality it had announced in September 1939 and underlined its aggressive foreign policy, especially towards China. The pact was not directed against the Soviet Union, but was primarily intended to keep the United States out of the war. The US reaction quickly showed the baselessness of Matsuoka and Ribbentrop's claims that the Tripartite Pact would be a deterrent. In the White House , the view grew that Japan was an aggressive, bellicose power, an Asian counterpart to National Socialist Germany that had to be stopped. This view was confirmed when, in September 1940, while negotiations with the French were still underway, Japan forcibly occupied the northern part of French Indochina in two days of fighting. As early as the following month, the USA imposed a total ban on the export of iron and steel scrap to Japan, and Great Britain reopened the Burma Road for supplies to China.

The Japanese leadership wanted to exploit the defeats of France and the Netherlands as well as the expected defeat of Great Britain in the war against Germany to expand south (Indochina, Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong, Malaya and Singapore ). On June 25, 1940, Army Minister Shunroku Hata said to his staff: “Let's seize the golden opportunity! Nothing should stop us! ”With a Japanese seizure of the British, French and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, the possibility of a collapse of China would be within reach. The establishment of a Japanese hegemonic power in East Asia and the hegemony of a National Socialist Germany in Europe would also have meant that America would have faced an Old World ruled jointly by totalitarian powers, because at that time the Soviet Union seemed to have its sphere of influence with the Axis powers and Japan on peaceful ones Way to delineate.

Foreign Minister Hull (center) with the Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura (left) and the Special Envoy Saburō Kurusu (right) on the way to the White House , November 20, 1941

The year 1941 began with increased efforts by the US and Japan to avoid an impending war. At the same time, the Japanese’s plans for war and conquest for Southeast Asia were taking shape. In negotiations between the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull and the newly appointed Japanese ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura , the Japanese were prepared to forego any further action south if the Americans allowed them to subjugate China. But the refusal to give Japan a free hand in China should ultimately spark the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. On July 2, the decision was made in Japan to extend the territorial claim to Southeast Asia, where the rich natural resources of the Dutch and British colonies were a worthwhile destination. Two days after the occupation of the southern part of Indochina, which was used as a stepping stone for this southern expansion, the USA, Great Britain and its dominions, as well as the Dutch East Indies , froze Japanese foreign balances in their countries on July 26, 1941, in practically a total export embargo - also of petroleum - was the same. Because of this embargo, war remained the supposedly only alternative for Japan, because Japan's oil reserves would be depleted in two years at the latest. On November 5, 1941, the decision was made in Tokyo to start the war the following month with attacks on Pearl Harbor, Malaya and the Philippines. The strategic goal was to gain control of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific within eight months in order to be able to fight the United States for a longer period of time from this power base or to force it to a negotiated peace for Japan's advantage. At the same time, the conference participants expected that aid deliveries to China could be interrupted in the course of expansion. Last negotiations in Washington between Nomura, the special envoy Saburō Kurusu and Hull to avoid the war, failed because of Hull's uncompromising demand for the withdrawal of all Japanese troops from China and Indochina. In return, the US wanted to release the Japanese credit. Unsurprisingly , when Hull's ten-point program arrived in Tokyo on November 27, it was viewed as an ultimatum - practically an insult. The December 1, 1941 Imperial Conference stated that Japan could not tolerate the "extremely haughty, stubborn and disrespectful" attitude of the United States.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese planes, which had started from six aircraft carriers, sank five battleships in two waves, three of which could later be made afloat, and 14 other larger US warships. Vice Admiral Nagumo , the commander of the Kidō Butai aircraft carrier group , did not let a third wave of attacks rise because he was concerned about the location of the three absent US carriers who could lead a severe counter-attack. This decision left docks and shipyards, as well as supply and fuel depots, intact, allowing the US to rapidly rebuild its Pacific fleet over the next six months. The next day, the United States Congress declared war on Japan, which on the same day was followed by that of Great Britain, its Dominions, and the Netherlands. On December 10, the British battle cruiser Repulse and the modern battleship Prince of Wales , which had only been commissioned a few months earlier, were sunk by Japanese torpedo planes off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula . The sinking of the two capital ships was a clear sign of the looming loss of importance of such large warships in relation to land and sea-based air forces.

In the next few months the Japanese pushed further south and, ideologically prepared by the battle cry “Asia for the Asians”, occupied European colonies such as Hong Kong, parts of Burma and India , British Malaya, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies. In the Philippines , occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945, "1 million Filipinos [.] Were massacred by Japanese soldiers."

From Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender

Japan's sphere of influence in March 1942

Within four months (December – March), Japanese troops had taken large parts of Southeast Asia and a large part of the Pacific Islands with around 450 million people under their control. This was the greatest expansion of Japanese power in the history of the Empire. The conquests of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies were particularly important to Japan because they had rich ore deposits, extensive rubber production and large oil fields. 139,000 British, Australians and Indians had to surrender on February 15, 1942 in Singapore , the “Gibraltar of the East” and Great Britain's largest military base in Southeast Asia. The battle for Singapore is a symbol of the Japanese Blitzkrieg, later also the brutality of Japanese soldiers, because more than 11,000 of the Allied prisoners died of starvation and exhaustion during the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway . The invasion of Burma began on February 15, 1942. The Dutch East Indies were conquered in mid-March 1942. In the Philippines , General Douglas MacArthur soon had to evacuate Manila and retreat to Corregidor Island , where the last US troops surrendered on May 5, 1942. Nothing seemed to be able to stop the Japanese.

After the conquest of Rabaul on the north-eastern tip of the island of New Britain (January 1942), the Japanese had gained an excellent starting point for a further advance in the direction of the Eastern Pacific and the South Seas .

The Battle of the Coral Sea (early May 1942) ended in a draw (one sunken and one badly damaged aircraft carrier on either side), and the Japanese abandoned their intention to land at Port Moresby in southern New Guinea, leaving the Allies an apron north of Australia could hold. It was the first combined sea-air battle in naval war history. Despite the setback in the Coral Sea, the Japanese armed forces have so far been satisfied: 340,000 Allied soldiers had been captured and the Allied fleets had lost eight battleships, two aircraft carriers, seven cruisers and numerous smaller warships. In the Battle of Midway , in which Yamamoto assumed that the US Navy had only two carriers left - which he also imagined in the South Pacific - he believed he could challenge the remaining US Pacific fleet to a decisive battle. But thanks to their radio reconnaissance, the US fleet was informed in detail about the enemy's plans. The Japanese Navy lost four aircraft carriers and 200 aircraft with particularly experienced pilots and pilot trainers in air strikes by aircraft belonging to three US carriers. Their fleet had been so severely weakened that the Japanese superiority in sea-air warfare was lost. The battle "is rightly considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific ."

After the construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal , Japan could have threatened the Allied shipping traffic between the USA and Australia. In August 1942, the US Navy deployed its only remaining intact Marine Infantry Division ( USMC ) to capture the airfield, which quickly succeeded. The Japanese persistently tried to recapture the island. Only after months of fighting did the Allies finally succeed in asserting themselves on the island (→  Battle of Guadalcanal ). This success marked another turning point in favor of the United States, which now not only had more warships and aircraft, but was also tactically superior.

American landing at Rendova ( Solomon Islands ) on June 30, 1943

Very tough fighting took place from late 1942 to mid-1944 in New Guinea , the Solomon Islands , the Gilbert Islands , the Marshall Islands, and the Marianas . A successful tactical method was " island hopping ", in which the Americans bypassed the strong Japanese bases, for example the important Rabaul with its port and airfields, and fought their way, island by island, closer to the Japanese main island of Honshu .

Allied counter-offensive 1943–1945 in East Asia

At the beginning of 1943, the Americans succeeded in deciphering Japanese radio codes . This also increased the successes of the US submarines, whose steadily increasing successes played a major role in the victory over Japan. They torpedoed about a third of 686 Japanese warships. The Japanese Navy failed to develop an effective protection system for their transport shipping throughout the war. This was due to both the underestimation of the submarine danger in Japanese military doctrine and the great technological inferiority of Japan in the field of radar and underwater sound location. Above all, the resulting shortage of fuel made it necessary to station naval formations far outside the main combat areas, in the vicinity of fuel sources, which severely restricted the tactical and strategic options of the Japanese fleet.

In April 1943, from Guadalcanal, the Americans managed to shoot down five aircraft escorting Yamamoto's aircraft, which was on an inspection flight. Admiral Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Navy, was killed when his plane crashed into the jungle. The loss of this leadership and identification figure was a severe blow for the Japanese public (→  Operation Vengeance ).

In November 1943, shortly before the meeting with Stalin in Tehran, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed with Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo that the war against Japan, as well as that against Germany, should end with unconditional surrender. Chiang Kai-shek was recognized not only as the representative of China, but also as the head of state of a great power .

From 1944 the success of the American task forces began , which surprisingly appeared off the coast of Japan with fast carrier raids and attacked targets of all kinds almost at will. The Japanese responded by using kamikaze planes and manned Kaiten torpedoes. The high losses of US warships expected by the Japanese did not materialize.

In the battle for Saipan , which began in mid-June 1944 , combined with the battle in the Philippine Sea , the Japanese lost almost all aircraft used, including their crews, and three aircraft carriers through submarines. The loss of Saipan triggered a political earthquake in Japan: General Tojo's government had to resign and was replaced by a cabinet under General Koiso Kuniaki , who immediately lowered the conscription age to 17 years. At the end of October to the beginning of November 1944, during the landings on Leyte (Philippines), the sea ​​and air battle in the Gulf of Leyte broke out . Japan deployed most of its fleet, making the battles for Leyte the greatest naval battle of World War II. With four aircraft carriers, three battleships, ten cruisers and nine destroyers, the Japanese lost almost their entire remaining naval force.

Only after the conquest of the Mariana Islands in the summer of 1944, Japan was within the scope of the new Boeing B-29 of the USAAF . The US Air Force switched to nightly area bombing from relatively low altitudes on the predominantly wooden Japanese cities, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. The largest attack of its kind in Tokyo killed around 85,000 people on the night of March 9, 1945, more than any other air raid in World War II and almost as many as the atomic bombing raid on Hiroshima. Further air strikes destroyed numerous large Japanese cities by the end of the war.

During Operation Hailstone , the important Japanese naval base Truk on the Carolines was attacked on February 17, 1944 . Twelve torpedo bombers from the US carrier Enterprise were able to attack the Japanese ships lying in the lagoon during the first radar-based night attack. Despite heavy defensive fire, they could only shoot down one US aircraft. With losses of over 200,000 GRT and severe damage to the facilities, this attack is also known as the Pearl Harbor of the Japanese.

The reconquest of the Philippines turned out to be a long, costly, six-month campaign (October 1944 – March 1945). The US losses, 8,000 men, were offset by disproportionately higher Japanese losses, as was usually the case in the Pacific War: 190,000 Japanese were killed on the island of Luzon alone .

During the fighting on the Japanese islands of Iwojima and Okinawa , US ships were attacked by large numbers of kamikaze pilots. The U.S. Forces lost nearly 7,300 Marines and approximately 5,000 sailors and pilots. 36 US Navy ships sank and nearly 400 aircraft were destroyed. The Japanese lost 113,000 soldiers and around 7,800 aircraft with the kamikazes.

" Little Boy " at the US base in Tinian before loading into the B-29 bomber Enola Gay . Length: 3.2 m, diameter: 0.71 m, uranium mass: 38.4 kg
Hiroshima , after the atomic bomb was dropped, August 6, 1945

After the fighting on Iwojima and Okinawa, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 , using a B-29 bomber launched from Tinian . Shortly afterwards, on August 9th, the second was detonated over Nagasaki . In Hiroshima 70,000–80,000 people died immediately, in Nagasaki around 20,000.

The Soviet Union stood by its commitment at the Yalta Conference to start the war in Europe in the Far East and attack Japan and its allies 90 days after the end of the war in Europe. The Red Army complied with this to the day (August 8), after the neutrality pact with Japan had been terminated in April 1945 . With Operation August Storm , Manchuria was occupied. The conquered area was returned to the Republic of China by the Soviet Union in 1946 in accordance with the Allied war aims ( Cairo Declaration ).

A few days later, on August 15, 1945, the Japanese Tennō announced in a radio address ( Gyokuon-hōsō ) the surrender of Japan , which was signed on September 2 in Tokyo Bay on the USS Missouri .

The occupation of the main Japanese islands was carried out solely by US troops, while the other powers involved (Great Britain, Soviet Union and China) were involved in the occupation of the former Japanese outer areas.

The state of war between Japan and the Allies formally ended on April 28, 1952 with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty , albeit without the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union and India.

Strategic Aspects

The strategy historian Colin Gray interprets the Second World War with its operations on three continents on land, on water and in the air as a complex event that is permeated by an “elegant simplicity in its course and structure”. According to Gray, the two main theaters of war, the Eastern Front and the Pacific, were fundamentally independent of one another. However, important events such as the German declaration of war on the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor often produced links that were important to the war effort. What they had in common, above all, was that both campaigns were "huge siege operations". In addition, Gray classifies the Second World War as a war of attrition, despite an increased combined combat management compared to the First World War , such as the Blitzkrieg .

Aerial warfare

The Vistula bridges in Warsaw during German air raids, September 1939

During the raid on Poland , the air force had control of the air , as the Polish air force with their mostly outdated aircraft could offer little resistance. The air raids on Warsaw in September 1939 were mainly aimed at civilian targets. After the attack on the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg , the Luftwaffe completely destroyed the old town on May 14, 1940 in the bombing of Rotterdam .

In the first months of the Battle of Britain , the German attacks were directed exclusively against military targets such as air bases, naval bases and the systems of the chain-home radar chain. However, the units of the British Fighter Command were able to maintain their air superiority over the attackers. The air battle became more radical when the Luftwaffe flew a first attack on London on August 24, 1940 and Churchill ordered the bombing of Berlin in retaliation . Around 14,000 people had died in London by the end of the year.

Coventry city ​​center after the German air raid on November 14, 1940

On November 14, 1940, the Luftwaffe launched a heavy air raid on Coventry . At least 568 people were killed. In addition to vehicle and engine plants, thousands of homes were hit and the medieval St. Michael's Cathedral was destroyed. National Socialist propaganda invented the term " Coventrierens " for area bombing . From May 1940 the Royal Air Force attacked German cities (e.g. Munich Gladbach ) and industrial plants such as the Deurag-Nerag refinery (→  air raids on Hanover ) like a needle . After the Luftwaffe broke off the Battle of Britain in early 1941 and relocated a large part of its bombers and fighter planes to the east because of the planned attack on the Soviet Union , the RAF flew more night raids on German cities.

During the air raid on Belgrade on April 6, 1941, the city, which could only be poorly defended, was largely destroyed by the air force. The Luftwaffe played an important role in the German offensive against the Soviet Union , but could not decide the battle for Moscow or Stalingrad for the German side. German bombers and fighters were mostly only used to provide close air support to the army. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) launched the first bombing raid on Tokyo in April 1942 ; From August 1942, the USAAF's 8th Air Force began its own air raids in Europe.

Rows of houses burned out on Eilbeker Weg during the air raids on Hamburg in 1943/1945
February 1945: Victims of the air raids on the Altmarkt in Dresden

Since the bombing raids with a few planes showed high loss rates and mostly missed their target, the RAF started sending large bomber bombs to Germany in the spring of 1942 in order to destroy large areas of cities. On February 14, 1942, the British Air Ministry issued the " Area Bombing Directive ", which called for area attacks on civilian targets (inner city, residential areas and others). In it, Arthur Harris , the new commander in chief of the RAF Bomber Command, was informed that he could use his armed forces with immediate effect without any restriction: “ You are accordingly authorized to use your forces without restriction […] ”. In addition, Harris was informed that the operations should be focused on the morale of the enemy civil population - especially those of the industrial workers: “ It has been decided that the primary objective of your operations should be focused on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular the industrial workers ”. The moral bombing had the goal of not only destroying industrial facilities but also weakening the will of the population to resist. In addition, the dehousing paper , written six weeks later, laid down the strategic goals of the British air war against Germany.

The implementation of these goals began in 1942 with the air raids on Lübeck at the end of March and Rostock at the end of April . The first " Thousand-Bomber Attack " was directed against Cologne ( Operation Millennium ) at the end of May , followed by numerous attacks on cities in the Ruhr area . In January 1943, the Bomber Command flew the first major attack on Berlin. It was here that scout planes dropped target marker bombs for the first time . At the end of the same month, the USAAF also attacked submarine yards in Wilhelmshaven for the first time . In March 1943, the German arms center in Essen was attacked by the RAF and the Krupp-Gussstahlfabrik was badly hit, which delayed the production of the Tiger and Panther tanks , which led to the relocation of the Citadel near Kursk company . Goering withdrew more and more squadrons of hunters from the Eastern Front to protect German cities. The negative effects on the course of the war in the east are likely to have been much greater than the kills that the fighters could inflict on the Allied bombers. In that spring of 1943 the losses of the Allied bomber fleets became worrying. Not even a fifth of the RAF crews survived a cycle of 30 missions. The US 8th Air Force lost so many aircraft to kills that this year it was no longer able to establish the air superiority necessary for a successful invasion of Western Europe. In August 1943, Hamburg was destroyed in Operation Gomorrah , in which an estimated 34,000 people lost their lives in the firestorm . USAAF's daytime attacks were mostly focused on industrial targets, while RAF bombers bombed cities at night. The US bomber units initially suffered considerable losses, for example in the attacks against Schweinfurt and Essen. When long-range fighters ( P-38 , P-47 and P-51 ) increasingly accompanied the USAAF bombers from the spring of 1944 , the number of casualties fell significantly. With the massive air strikes, the Allies also hoped to generate increased resistance against the Nazi regime and thus to shorten the war.

B-17 Flying Fortress in the night sky over Europe

In the course of 1944, the Allied air superiority increased to such an extent that bombers flew into the Reich almost every day. During the Big Week in February 1944, selected targets of the German arms industry were attacked with 6,000 bombers by the RAF and USAAF. When the refineries and hydrogenation plants that were important to the war effort , including the Leunawerke , were heavily bombed from May 1944 onwards, the fuel supply for the army and, in particular, the air force was severely impaired. With the subsequent failure of 90% of German gasoline production, the war was "lost in terms of production technology" for the German Reich, according to Armaments Minister Albert Speer . The air raid on Ploiesti on August 19, 1944 destroyed another important source of fuel.

The heavy air raids on Dresden from February 13 to 15, 1945 killed between 22,700 and 25,000 people. To this day, they are the subject of controversial considerations between military necessity and a breach of the international law of war at the time . At the same time, until the end of March 1945, smaller cities such as Pforzheim , Swinemünde , Würzburg , Hanau , Hildesheim , Wesel and Paderborn were still largely destroyed. Around 600,000 Germans and 60,595 British died in the bombing war. Of the 125,000 RAF Bomber Command volunteers, more than 55,000 airmen have lost their lives, more than any other British military branch .

June 21, 1943: Start of an A4 rocket ( V2 ) from test stand VII of the Peenemünde Army Research Center on Usedom

With the two new developments of the V1 cruise missile and the V2 ballistic missile , the National Socialist leadership hoped for a “ miracle weapon ”. Since both had poor accuracy, they were unsuitable for the targeted destruction of military targets. From the started from June 1944 around 7,500 against England V1, more than half of the British anti-aircraft guns, the newly developed in the US radar - proximity fuse could use (proximity fuze) and shot down the fighter planes. But in the German population the hope of a turnaround towards the “ final victory ” could be awakened again or kept alive, for example in whispered propaganda: “Something else is to come! That’s not all. ”Their main function was to terrorize the British civilian population. By March 1945, around 3,200 A4 rockets had been shot down mainly on London and later the port of Antwerp .

In the Pacific War against Japan, the USAAF switched to area bombing from relatively low altitudes on Japanese cities after unsuccessful precision attacks from great heights. The US air raids on Tokyo in February and March 1945 almost completely destroyed the city, which consisted mostly of wooden houses, killing over 100,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the bombing of other large cities. The final point was the US atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. They were intended to force Japan to surrender militarily and to set a political sign of military strength in the emerging bloc confrontation.

Atlantic and submarine war

Karl Dönitz when the U 94 arrives in the port of Saint-Nazaire , June 1941
Operation Rhine Exercise , May 24, 1941
Construction of the submarine bunker in Lorient , April 1942

With the sinking of the British steamer Athenia on September 3, 1939, the German submarine war began in the Atlantic. Planned as a propaganda strike by Rear Admiral Karl Dönitz , Lieutenant Günther Prien succeeded in penetrating the bay of Scapa Flow with U 47 on October 14, 1939 and sinking the battleship Royal Oak of the British Navy in the main base of the Home Fleet , killing over 800 men Life came. While actions were mainly carried out by individual submarines up to the middle of 1940 , after the conquest of France from five submarine bases (initially provisional, later with massive bunkers) on the Atlantic coast, submarines were able to reach the areas of operation in the North Atlantic much faster and reach before the English Channel . The Allied convoys were due to lack of escort vessels ( escorts poorly secured). In addition, the U-boat commanders employed the tactics of a new nightly water attack, the only underwater targets be localized Allied ASDIC - sonars made ineffective.

The following sinkings by German submarines were cannibalized by the National Socialist propaganda ; many commanders were stylized as heroes and decorated with medals. The Allies lost 4.4 million GRT of shipping space in 1940 and 1941  , compared to only 1.2 and 2 million GRT of newbuildings.

In order to increase the pressure on the British supply transports and to support the submarine war, a squadron left Gotenhafen for the Atlantic in May 1941 . It consisted of the battleship Bismarck , which had just been put into service , the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen , which had also only been in service for a few months, and a few destroyers . The operation with the code name " Company Rhine Exercise" led to the sinking of the British battle cruiser HMS Hood on May 24, 1941 and ended three days later with the sinking of the Bismarck .

German submarines in the Brest bunker , 1942

After Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, Vice Admiral Dönitz dispatched long-range submarines to the east coast of the USA ( Operation Paukenschlag ), where they arrived in the first days of January 1942. The initially poorly organized US coastal defense was helpless in the face of the attacks on merchant shipping . As the defense increased in the spring, submarine commanders avoided the Caribbean and the South Atlantic . After torpedoing six Brazilian merchant ships there, killing almost 1,000 seamen and passengers, Brazil was the only South American state to declare war on the German Reich on August 22, 1942, and in 1944 sent an expeditionary force to Italy. Other German boats were operating in packs in the North Atlantic at the same time and were thus able to maintain the pressure on the convoys. This year there were several large convoy battles. In the autumn of the same year, the success of the submarines increased even further, as many Allied escorts were deployed to secure the transports to North Africa (material for Operation Torch ). In 1942, 8.2 million GRT were sunk by Allied shipping space; 7.2 million GRT were newly built (see below).

At the end of 1942, British cryptanalysts in Bletchley Park near London succeeded in breaking the ENIGMA- encrypted radio traffic of the German submarines again . The decryption of German radio traffic, underwater sound location of ships and radar location from airplanes resulted in a catastrophic situation for the German submarines from 1943 onwards. In May 1943, the Allies were able to take full advantage of the improvement in the technical equipment of the escort ships with radar, ASDIC sonar devices, automatic radio direction finders ( Huff-Duff ) and Hedgehog grenade launchers, as well as their air superiority with escort aircraft carriers , so that in that month 43 German submarines were sunk. Grand Admiral Dönitz then temporarily stopped the submarine war on May 20. "This marked a decisive turning point in the naval war in favor of the Allies."

After the Allies landed in Normandy at the beginning of June 1944, some of the German submarine bases on the French Atlantic coast were soon lost; some could be defended as severed fortresses until the end of the war (including Lorient , St. Nazaire and La Rochelle ). The submarines were pushed back into the North and Baltic Seas and Norwegian coastal waters or operated more frequently off the British east coast. The then most modern type XXI submarine was no longer used until the end of the war. When the announcement of the imminent surrender of the Wehrmacht became known, Operation Rainbow was started on May 4, 1945 : Although Dönitz's order on that day was to surrender all ships, most of the submarines were sunk by their crews themselves. Most of the other boats called at British or US ports after May 8th.

Shipping space balance of the trade war:

year Loss of
German submarines
Allied balance sheet
(newbuildings - sunk tonnage)
1939 9 - 478,000 GRT
1940 21 - 3,188,000 GRT
1941 34 - 2,414,000 GRT
1942 88 - 1,063,000 GRT
1943 225 + 10,974,000 GRT
1944 247 + 11,927,000 GRT
1945 132 + 3,376,000 GRT
total 782 + 19,134,000 GRT

Deliveries of war materials to the Soviet Union

Deliveries of war materials from Great Britain and the USA to the Soviet Union (in tons) via:

Pacific North Atlantic Black
1941 13,502 139,299 153,977 - - 360.778
1942 705.259 734.02o 949.711 - 64.107 2,453,097
1943 1,606,979 2,388,577 681.043 - 117,946 4,794,545
1944 1,788,864 2,848,181 1,452,775 - 127,802 6,217,622
1945 44,513 2,079,320 726.725 680.723 142,538 3,673,819
total 4,159,117 8,243,397 3,694,231 680.723 452.393 17,499,861
percent 23.8% 47.1% 22.7% 3.9% 2.5% 100%

Political Aspects

War crimes

Execution of alleged partisans by members of the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union, September 1941

In the course of the war, numerous war crimes against Jews, Sinti and Roma and Eastern Europeans were committed by German troops , following appropriate orders . More than a million people died of starvation during the Leningrad blockade . Over three million Soviet prisoners of war died in German assembly camps . No preparations had been made for their living accommodation and supplies, although as early as March 1941 the Wehrmacht High Command had expected two to three million Soviet prisoners of war for the weeks after the attack, the summer and autumn of 1941. The Wehrmacht let them starve to death out of indifference or deliberately ; they died of illness, abuse, forced labor, or were murdered.

Opening of a mass grave near Katyn , March 1943

Axis and Allied forces committed rape in most of the war-hit countries. 5,349 soldiers were convicted of sex crimes in the Wehrmacht. How large the number of rape actually committed by soldiers of the Wehrmacht was, can not be reliably estimated due to the lack of interest of the Wehrmacht leadership in criminal prosecutions and the “dry source situation”.

One can only speculate about the extent of the sexual assaults by soldiers of the Red Army during their advance on German territory, since there are no even approximately reliable findings about it. The statistician Gerhard Reichling estimates that 1.9 million German women and girls were raped by men of the Red Army during the advance to Berlin, 1.4 million of them in the former eastern regions, during their flight and expulsion and 500,000 in the Soviet Union Occupation zone. Historians like Norman Naimark estimate tens of thousands, more likely hundreds of thousands, and possibly up to two million victims.

Catherine Merridale estimates the victims of rape by members of the Red Army at "tens, most likely hundreds of thousands of German women and girls". There is currently no adequate basis for estimating the number of German women who were raped by soldiers of the Western Allies.

Questioning of a Chinese "comfort woman" in Rangoon , August 8, 1945

Japan acted particularly brutally against the Chinese . This resulted in war crimes by Japanese soldiers in the Republic of China ( Nanking massacre ) and cruel medical experiments on prisoners. According to Chinese figures, between five and ten million Chinese civilians are said to have been killed. The bombing of Shanghai in 1937 marked the beginning of the Japanese campaign of conquest through Southeast Asia . The campaign cost the lives of around 20 million people by 1945. The Unit 731 conducted in camps cruel experiments on prisoners; Japanese human experiments with biological pathogens on the Chinese have become known. From 1932 to 1945 women and girls were raped by Japanese soldiers in occupied territories. The exact number of rapes has never been determined. Only in a few cases, such as the mass rapes during the Nanking massacre, are more detailed investigations available. The women and girls who were raped were often killed after they were raped. There was no prosecution by the Japanese military judiciary . It is estimated that between 1932 and 1945 the Japanese army abducted 100,000 to 300,000 girls and women, mostly between the ages of 14 and 25, as “ comfort women(ian-fu) in military brothels . About 100,000 of them came from the Japanese colony of Korea . There were also girls and women from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia and also from Japan. The women and girls had to serve around 30 to 40 soldiers every day. By the end of the war, around 70 percent of these women had died of disease, torture or starvation. Thousands of "comfort women" were murdered in the last weeks of the war. The total number of civilians killed by the Japanese in connection with their armed habitat policies is estimated at six to more than 14 million people.

After the end of the Second World War, 24 Germans were indicted in the Nuremberg trial of the main war criminals, twelve of whom were sentenced to death by hanging and two were acquitted. In twelve follow- up trials, 185 people from the National Socialist leadership, doctors, lawyers and business leaders and officers from the Wehrmacht High Command were indicted, 24 of whom were sentenced to death by hanging (of which twelve were mitigated in prison terms), and 35 were acquitted. For the first time in history, politicians, the military and other leaders had to answer personally for planning and waging a war of aggression and for crimes against humanity . Criticized by many German politicians in the post-war period as the judiciary of victories , these processes are now considered the basis for modern international criminal law . In a further 745 war crimes trials , including in Hamburg, Dachau and Rastatt, at least 677 death sentences were pronounced, of which 212 were commuted to prison terms. The majority of war criminals in the SS and Wehrmacht were never brought to justice.

Major Japanese war criminals were tried in the Tokyo trials by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East . These trials resulted in seven death sentences, 16 life sentences and two long sentences. In subsequent trials, 984 death sentences were passed and 920 were carried out, 3,716 people were sentenced to prison terms and 1,000 were found not guilty.

Mass murders in the German sphere of influence

Arrest of Jews in Poland, September 1939

The disenfranchisement and persecution of the Jewish minority was an immanent part of National Socialist politics. At the same time as the expansion of the war through the attack on the Soviet Union, the attitude towards the minority towards the extermination policy became radicalized. In areas occupied by the Wehrmacht in Eastern Europe, Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD , police reserve units and Wehrmacht units murdered thousands of Jews under the pretext of fighting partisans . On December 18, 1941, Himmler noted in his service calendar that in response to his inquiries, Hitler had confirmed the previous actions of the Einsatzgruppen and ordered: “To exterminate the Jewish question / as partisans”.

The " Commissar Order" of June 6, 1941 caused Wehrmacht units and Einsatzgruppen to kill around 5000 prisoners of war Red Army soldiers with actual or assumed political functions. In an order from Heydrich to the Einsatzgruppen (July 17, 1941), Jews were automatically equated with political commissars. By December 1941, according to partisan and commissioner orders, Einsatzgruppen and soldiers of the Wehrmacht had murdered around half a million people, almost 99 percent of them were Jews. In many places, Wehrmacht units supported the task forces logistically. Even before the campaign in the east began, there were instructions calling for “ruthless and energetic crackdown, especially against Bolshevik agitators, militants, saboteurs and Jews”. The reality of the war went even further, when entire villages in the rear of the army were often burned down and all residents were ruthlessly shot if they were suspected of having given partisans shelter and food, while the partisans themselves disappeared back into the woods in good time .

Glasses from murdered Jews in Auschwitz ( Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum ). Photo from 2012
Murdered prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp , taken after its liberation, April 1945

At the end of 1941 / beginning of 1942, six extermination camps were set up in occupied Poland ( Auschwitz-Birkenau , Majdanek , Kulmhof and, for “ Aktion Reinhardt ”, Belzec , Sobibor and Treblinka ). In Birkenau (Auschwitz II) a new killing agent was used that had already been tested on a smaller scale by the doctors in the euthanasia program: crystallized hydrocyanic acid ( Zyklon B ). At the end of 1942, of the 2.3 million Jews living in the Generalgouvernement, there were less than 300,000. In some countries (for example in Denmark, where the Danish Jews were rescued ), the government and / or the population opposed the deportation and murder of their fellow Jews.

Around 200,000 Germans, most of them members of the Einsatzgruppen and other SS formations, were involved in the mass murders . By the summer of 1943 at the latest, the vast majority of Germans at least expected that the Jews living under Nazi rule should be killed. Many were aware of mass murders in Eastern Europe .

At least 13 million (probably around 15 million) civilians were murdered by Einsatzgruppen, members of the SS , the police , soldiers of the Waffen-SS , the Wehrmacht and allied forces of the Axis powers, such as the Croatian Ustaše . Most of the mass murders took place in the rear of the Eastern Front on Soviet territory and in Eastern Poland (at least twelve million). Of the approximately 15 million civilians murdered in Europe, more than 6.2 million were of Jewish descent, furthermore at least 220,000 Sinti and Roma , around 275,000 victims of "euthanasia" as well as homosexuals , Jehovah's Witnesses and Freemasons . Doctors were also involved in the murder of the mentally ill. In the General Government, in the occupied Soviet territories, in Yugoslavia and in France, countless partisans were not treated according to international martial law. There were also numerous hostage shootings in all occupied countries.

The liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet soldiers on January 27, 1945 has been the official " Day of Remembrance of the Victims of National Socialism " in the Federal Republic since 1996 ; This date has also been thought of internationally since 2005. In the USA there has been the Days of Remembrance since 1980, which lasts one week. In Israel, Yom HaScho'a ("Day of Remembrance of the Shoah and Heroism") is a serious national holiday.

Jews murdered in Europe by country of origin (numbers in 1000, rounded up or down):

Poland SU Hungary Roman. Lit. Dtld. CSR NL Frank. Lett. Yugo. East. Greek Belg. Ital. Lux. total
2 900 1,300 564 270 220 165 150 102 78 67 66 65 60 28 7th 1 6 043

Ian Kershaw wrote in To Hell and Back in 2015 that around 5.5 million Jews perished in the course of the NSDAP's anti-Semitic extermination policy after the escape routes to the USA or Palestine were blocked as a result of the World War.

Civilian population

Shooting of hostages in Bochnia (southern Poland), December 18, 1939
Murdered civilians near Minsk , 1943
Rescue of victims in Berlin after a bomb attack, April 8, 1944

Of all the participating states, the Soviet Union suffered the most civilian casualties. The example of Leningrad illustrates the extent of the starving deaths of millions: After the city was surrounded by German troops in early September 1941, the population could no longer be adequately supplied. By the summer of 1942, around 470,000 people had died during the Leningrad blockade . The starving people aged so quickly that even close relatives no longer recognized them. First pigeons and gulls were eaten, then cats and dogs. (Not even Pavlov's famous test dogs in the Physiological Institute were spared.). Estimates of the total number of victims range from 700,000 to 1,100,000 at the end of the blockade on January 27, 1944.

In other countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe occupied by German troops (Poland, Serbia , Greece), the local population also had to pay a very high blood toll because there, especially in Poland, “a war of extermination was being waged” as well , in Serbia and Greece Hostage shootings as part of the actual or alleged fight against partisans .

In the occupied countries of Northern and Western Europe (Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Northern and Western France, British Channel Islands), the German Reich was keen to present itself as the “correct occupying power” for political and military reasons yet the discipline of the troop and saved resources. But even there, people who were classified as “racially inferior” and all those who the occupation regime judged to be resistant were never treated “correctly”. Since no soldier in the world was paid as lavishly as the German in World War II, they “literally bought the countries of Europe empty”. They sent millions and millions of field post parcels from the front home. “Shoes from North Africa, velvet and silk from France, liqueur and coffee, tobacco from Greece, honey and bacon from Russia, herring en masse from Norway.” The addressees were mainly women. In the occupied part of France, the German soldiers were nicknamed “doryphores” (“Colorado beetles”), who eat everything bald. The purchasing power of the German soldiers was strengthened by the fact that the favorable exchange rate for the Reichsmark was set in Berlin. "Now you can buy all sorts of things for our money again," wrote one soldier. The occupying power transported food, consumer goods and industrial products to Germany "in order to feed the Germans in the Reich and keep them happy." As a result, prices rose in the German-occupied countries; little by little, almost everything was rationed. The black market flourished. Individual branches and individuals earned well from the Germans. Renault was able to quintuple its sales by 1942 thanks to the Wehrmacht's motorization program. Many construction companies also made a large turnover and profit by building barracks, roads, airfields and other things for the occupying power.

The war initially had no direct negative consequences for the German population. Although almost all everyday goods were rationed with ration cards or purchase vouchers, there was no shortage of goods in the first years of the war. This was mainly due to the fact that, mostly to the detriment of the local population, many products and raw materials were transferred from the occupied countries to the Reich territory. 95 percent of Germans were among the beneficiaries. They did not see National Socialism as a system of bondage and terror, but as a regime of social warmth, a kind of "feel-good dictatorship." B. the German soccer championship 1943/44 could take place completely. It wasn't until late 1944 that most of the sport had to be canceled. The increasing Allied air raids on German cities from the beginning of 1942 and the “ totalization ” of warfare in the following year had direct effects on the German civilian population .

The manpower of the men called up for the Wehrmacht was partially replaced by prisoners of war and forced laborers from Western and Eastern Europe. From April to December 1942 alone, around 1.3 million civilian workers, half men and half women with an average age of around 20 years, were brought to Germany. In addition, there were 450,000 Soviet prisoners of war in 1942. Most of these civilian workers and prisoners of war were employed in industry. When armaments workers were increasingly called up for military service since late autumn, the German war economy lacked 1.5 million workers in the first half of 1943, which could not be compensated for by the increased service obligation of women. Between the beginning of 1943 and the end of the war, another 2.5 million civilian workers and prisoners of war were brought to Germany. In August 1944, more than seven million “foreign workers” were working in Germany, mostly against their will and under increasingly brutal conditions. At the beginning of 1945 a quarter of all employees in the German economy were of foreign origin. Only through their use and that of prisoners of war was it possible for the German Reich to continue the war, which without it would have been lost in spring 1942 at the latest. The deployment of foreigners in agriculture also made it possible to keep the supply situation of the German population at a high level until the last phase of the war, which was decisive for the population's loyalty to the regime.

From October 1944, the Volkssturm , that is, “all men aged 16 to 60 who are capable of arms”, was called up to serve at the front. The cultural scene was maintained throughout the war, in particular films such as “ Die Feuerzangenbowle ” served to diversify and distract from everyday life in the war. But war fatigue, overwork and exhaustion, as well as the feeling that one was helplessly exposed to the events, made the aversion to the Nazi regime stronger in autumn 1944. Hitler himself came under criticism because he had conjured up such suffering. An outward sign of this was that the greeting " Heil Hitler " now disappeared. For the civilian population in the east of the empire, the effects of the war culminated with the invasion and occupation by the Red Army. In the west, the invasion of British and US troops was largely noted with relief by the German population.

War propaganda and propaganda war


Around 20 billion war leaflets were dropped behind enemy lines in Europe during World War II, and it can be assumed that the majority of the inhabitants of the countries involved in the war were reached by the leaflet contents.

German propaganda

Anti-Semitic exhibition in Paris, September 1941
Waffen SS propaganda poster for Dutch

Even before the Second World War, propaganda companies had been set up in the Wehrmacht that were supposed to get the German population in the mood for the events of the war in the interests of the Nazi regime. War reporting by radio and newsreel served information, Nazi propaganda and other purposes (e.g. belief in the final victory ; see also propaganda film ). The German newsreel reported positively on the progress of the war before the main film. Leni Riefenstahl followed the troops in Poland with a “special film troop”. Misery and suffering, dying and death were largely ignored in all media. The national comrades read the same newspapers, saw the same newsreels, heard the same Wehrmacht reports . It was a mixture of documentary and entertainment; the real images of war also conveyed false images of war.

During the war Goebbels conjured up the imminent final victory in the synchronized media and glorified the successes of the Wehrmacht by presenting future positions of the German army as already achieved. He also predicted the capture of cities that were actually captured a few days later. Furthermore, Goebbels ridiculed opponents of Germany: He characterized Winston Churchill , for example, as a "drunkard" and thus emulated Hitler; in public speeches he liked to repeat his characterization of Churchill as a "gossip" or "lying subject" or "lazy person of the first order".

The Nazi leadership justified the campaign against the Soviet Union with the "defense of the West against Bolshevism " and against the " Jewish-Bolshevik subhumans ". In a proclamation read by officers, the attack in the early morning of June 22nd was declared to the soldiers of the (new) Eastern Front as "the safeguarding of Europe and thus the salvation of all". In 1942 the SS had the brochure Der Untermensch published, which depicted the Russians as racially inferior with inflammatory articles and grimaceous pictures.

The international illustrated signal was published from 1940 to 1945, reached a maximum circulation of 2.5 million copies and was at times printed in 20 languages. It had eight color pages and promoted a “New Order” in Europe with the alleged aim of defending against Bolshevism . The Pariser Zeitung (1941-1944), with a German and a French edition, published articles by well-known French personalities such as Alphonse de Châteaubriant , Georges Oltramare , Lucien Rebatet and tried to spread pro-German sympathies primarily through Germany's cultural aura. There were also many other publications that spread the German perspective abroad.

In August 1942, Goebbels expressed concern in a propaganda statement that “the German people are currently lulling themselves into the belief that the military events in the east [...] would lead to an early end of the war”. Only after the defeat in Stalingrad (at the end of January 1943) can we speak of a "low point in the mood" in the German population. On February 18, 1943 Goebbels called on the German population in the Sportpalast speech for total war . But despite initially positive reactions from the population, it only achieved its purpose of mobilizing human and material resources to a limited extent; its effect quickly wore off. In the further course of the Nazi propaganda demanded the will of the population to resist "until the final victory", against the "Anglo-American bomb terror" and the "frenzied vengeance" of the Red Army more and more, the closer the Allies advanced to the imperial borders.

British and American propaganda

War Production Board propaganda poster

In Great Britain, too, propaganda was made against the war opponent. In 1940 Churchill succeeded in several famous speeches, including the " blood-sweat-and-tears speech " and its sequel ( We Shall Fight on the Beaches ) , to win the consent of the British people for war and resistance against Germany. Consequently, he had the so-called peace offer, the "appeal to reason, also in England", which Hitler addressed to Great Britain in his Reichstag speech of July 19, 1940, rejected within an hour.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war in December 1941, the USA highlighted the double threat from West and East, so to speak the danger of a two-front war from the US point of view. In 1942 they brought out a magazine called Victory (analogous to the German magazine Signal ).

Radio propaganda

The Second World War began in Europe with a fake, allegedly Polish attack on the Gleiwitz transmitter on the evening of August 31, 1939. The next day the German population was informed every hour by special radio reports that the Fuhrer had ordered the Wehrmacht to invade Poland. Just as it started with a lie on the radio, it also ended with a lie on the radio: On May 1, 1945, in the evening, Dönitz announced Hitler's death via the Hamburg German broadcaster . This overtook him "at the head of his troops".

Reference to the ban on listening to foreign broadcasters, which was included with every Volksempfänger when purchasing it

In Germany, since the beginning of the war, the ordinance on extraordinary broadcasting measures threatened listening to foreign stations with severe penalties. In the UK, on ​​the other hand, listening to German stations was allowed. During the war, the number of propaganda broadcasts increased in all participating countries. On the German side, British and American immigrants who sympathized with Nazi politics were hired to address the British in English. The most famous presenter was " Axis Sally ", whose programs were broadcast by Großdeutscher Rundfunk . Goebbels also launched the international radio broadcaster “ Germany Calling ”, the moderators of which, above all the Irish-American National Socialist William Joyce , became known under the nickname “ Lord Haw-Haw ”. The American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow created a new form of broadcasting in 1940 by reporting in live reports for the CBS directly from London , which was bombed by the Air Force . His programs "This is London" captivated millions of listeners in the USA to the radios and contributed to suppressing the isolationist mood in the USA. In May 1942, the BBC first broadcast credible reports of the murder of Polish Jews. Because listening to so-called enemy radio stations was strictly forbidden in Germany, almost no one who knew about the radio passed on his knowledge to others - if he did, he could face the death penalty even "in particularly serious cases". The weekly reports in the “Weltchronik” by Jean Rudolf von Salis on the Swiss national broadcaster Beromünster were viewed by millions of listeners in Central Europe as an objective assessment of the political and military situation in Europe. What is certain is that the Nazi regime did not succeed in fully implementing its view of things. In May 1942, the BBC broadcast credible reports of the murder of Polish Jews, which were re-broadcast a month later on June 26th.

The German Wehrmacht report was broadcast daily on Großdeutscher Rundfunk at noon before the following news. In addition, there were special reports about outstanding successes that were introduced on the radio with fanfare . Wehrmacht reports also mentioned combat operations by the enemy armed forces, for example the Allied air strikes on war targets and cities in the Reich. They had an official character and were the authoritative source for commenting on the war in the media. According to archivist Erich Murawski in 1962, the Wehrmacht reports sent in 2080 are a mixture of sober military reports and political propaganda and are therefore regarded by historians as a valuable and questionable secondary source. The report was in a concise form; more detailed and sometimes exaggerated when successes were reported. They largely avoided direct false reports, operated with omissions, tendentious highlighting, trivializing as well as glossing over and covering up. Current studies emphasize the propagandistic character of the Wehrmacht report. The German military historian Jörg Echternkamp calls the practice of portraying the "euphemistic" straightening of the front "in the Wehrmacht report" in a series of propagandistic statements that "hide" the "true facts" of the course of the war.

During the war in East Asia, from 1943 onwards, the Japanese increasingly relied on radio propaganda against the Americans by broadcasting "The Zero Hour" on Radio Tokyo . For the predominantly female moderators who spoke American with a Japanese accent, the term Tokyo Rose became established in GI parlance .

Resistance to National Socialism

Kurt Huber , member of the “White Rose” resistance group, executed in 1943
Julius Leber , member of the "Kreisau Circle" resistance group, in 1944 before the People's Court , executed in 1945

The majority of the German population was initially skeptical about the beginning of the war, but then let themselves be blinded by the subsequent reports of victory. Fear of punishment, few people dared to speak out actively against the war. The centers of civil resistance were the “ White Rose ” (1942/43), the “ Kreisau Circle ” (1940/44) and the “ Red Chapel ” (1933/42).

Although the Wehrmacht was in principle behind Hitler's ideas and supported his conduct of the war, from 1943 onwards some generals clearly saw the inevitable defeat and therefore opted for an armistice in order to give the Wehrmacht and the German population time to regroup the army and reorganize the state. On July 20, 1944 , some resistance members carried out an assassination attempt on Hitler in the Führer headquarters "Wolfsschanze". The attempt to kill Hitler failed, as did the subsequent attempt at a coup in Berlin (→  Operation Valkyrie ). The assassins were executed. A few soldiers rejected the war for ideological reasons and tried to shorten it by means of sabotage. The vast majority continued to fight until the end. Numerous German soldiers and aid organizations (including the police reserve) took part in war crimes, which provoked or encouraged resistance from the population in the occupied territories.

In Denmark (→  Danish Resistance ) the population perceived the German occupation as "nightmare", as the king said. In the Netherlands, the Germans disarmed the police there because they feared an uprising. The pro-German movement of Vidkun Quisling in Norway was not followed by a mass movement of the population, the majority rejected the German occupation. The sharpest forms of Western European resistance were in France, where the Resistance , also known as the Maquis (after the Mediterranean scrub "maquis"), fought against the German occupation.

Resistance movements were stronger in Southeastern and Eastern Europe: Large partisan armies fought in the Soviet Union, Greece (→  ELAS ), Albania and Yugoslavia (→ Marshal Tito ). The Polish “Home Army” could only hope for little outside support. The partisans often emerged victorious from the constant guerrilla war against the German occupiers. Towards the end of the war, larger areas could be liberated from the German occupiers, for example in Yugoslavia, where Tito subsequently took power, or in Greece, where the hegemony of ELAS collided with British interests and led to the Greek civil war . German troops moved into Albania, which had been under Italian occupation from 1939 to September 1943.

International block formation

With the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany and Japan in 1936, the foundation stone was laid for what would later become the Germany-Japan-Italy axis . After the Hitler-Stalin Pact, relations with Japan initially worsened, but because Japan hoped to gain access to the French , Dutch and British colonies in Asia, it entered into the three-power pact with Germany and Italy at the end of September 1940 , which five Southeast European countries joined . Japan took the initiative in June 1940; But it was only after Hitler realized that it would not be possible to militarily eliminate Great Britain through an invasion that he was ready to conclude an alliance with Japan. With this, the three partners undertook to support each other if one of the partners were to be attacked by a power "that is not currently involved in the European war or the Sino-Japanese conflict." should affect the political status "that currently exists between the three contracting parties and Soviet Russia", it became clear that the treaty was primarily intended to deter the United States from entering the war.

Great Britain was able to prevent a German invasion in the Battle of Britain in the autumn of 1940 and relied on economic and military support from the USA. In particular, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to turn the USA into the “arsenal of democracy” against Nazi Germany for reasons of power politics and ideology . In 1941 Great Britain received 50 destroyers to defend against German submarines on the basis of the “ destroyer-for-base agreement ” . In August 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt met on a British warship in Argentia Bay ( Newfoundland ) and proclaimed the Atlantic Charter : Rejection of all territorial changes without the consent of the peoples concerned and the right of all peoples to the form of government under which they want to live. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan. Germany and Italy then declared war on the USA without being obliged to do so under contract law (see above) . The European and East Asian wars had become a world war.

Allied War Conferences

Chiang Kai-shek, Roosevelt and Churchill in Cairo , November 25, 1943
Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in Tehran , November 28, 1943

At the Arcadia Conference (December 1941 / January 1942 in Washington) Churchill and Roosevelt agreed the most important decision to first eliminate the German threat: “Germany first”. In Casablanca (January 1943) they agreed to first end the war in North Africa with the conquest of Tunisia in the summer of 1943 and then to continue in Sicily and southern Italy. The invasion of Western Europe was postponed to 1944. During the Quadrant Conference in Québec (August 1943), Operation Overlord (Invasion of Normandy) was decided and General Frederick E. Morgan was commissioned to draw up a detailed plan. In Cairo , Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek agreed to continue the war in East Asia until Japan's unconditional surrender. At the Moscow Foreign Ministers Conference (October 19 to November 1, 1943), Hull , Eden and Molotov coordinated further cooperation, discussed the entry of the USSR into the war against Japan and, among other things, formulated the Moscow Declaration: Demilitarization, Denazification, Democratization and Decentralization of Germany. The subject of the Tehran Conference (November 28 to December 1, 1943) was the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin on how to proceed in the European theater of war in 1944 and the time after an Allied victory over Germany. In Yalta (February 1945) Germany was divided into four zones of occupation. Zones of influence were agreed for East Central Europe and the Balkans. Stalin promised that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan two months after the German surrender. At the Potsdam Conference , the demarcation of borders in Europe and the German reparations payments , the administration of occupied Germany and the ongoing Pacific War were to be discussed.

Consequences of the war and victims

Casualty numbers

Human losses of the Second World War
In the St Nazaire Raid on March 28, 1942 in Saint-Nazaire fallen British soldier
Red Army soldiers killed in the Battle of Cholm , January - June 1942
List of names of the fallen, military cemetery in Toila , Estonia, with 1,500 German and 600 Estonian fallen soldiers of the Second World War

It is estimated that over 65 million people were killed during World War II. More civilians were killed than soldiers in combat operations. The Soviet Union was hardest hit with around 27 million people killed, around half of them as soldiers, of whom three million died in German captivity. The Soviet casualty figures include around 650,000 soldiers killed in the Baltic states annexed by the USSR in 1939/40.

Basically, figures on the dead in the World War are often methodologically unsecured estimates that are given differently in the literature. The following table is based on data from the tenth volume of the series The German Reich and the Second World War 2008 published by the Military History Research Office , unless otherwise specified . This does not include neutral states and colonies. The estimates given are mostly based on official information from the respective governments. The number of war deaths in the countries listed in the table results in a total of around 66 million, including at least 59% civilians.

country soldiers Civilians total
Australia 30,000 30,000
Belgium 10,000 50,000 60,000
Brazil 463 1,000 1,463
Bulgaria 32,000 32,000
China 3,500,000 10,000,000 13,500,000
Denmark 500 1,500 2,000
Germany 5,318,000 1,170,000 6,488,000
Finland 89,000 2,700 00091,700
France 210,000 150,000 360,000
Greece 20,000 160,000 180,000
Great Britain 270,825 62,000 332.825
India 24,338 3,000,000 3,024,338
Italy 240,000 60,000 300,000
Japan 2,060,000 1,700,000 3,760,000
Yugoslavia 410,000 1,280,000 1,690,000
Canada 42,042 1,148 43,190
Luxembourg 2,944 657 3,601
Malta 1,000 1,000
New Zealand 10,000 10,000
Netherlands 22,000 198,000 220,000
Norway 7,500 2,500 10,000
Austria 100,000 130,000 230,000
Philippines 57,000 943,000 1,000,000
Poland 300,000 5,700,000 6,000,000
Romania 378,000 378,000
Soviet Union 13,000,000 14,000,000 27,000,000
Spain 4,500 4,500
South Africa 9,000 9,000
Czechoslovakia 20,000 70,000 90,000
Hungary 360,000 590,000 950,000
United States 407.316 407.316
War invalid begging in Essen , 1948

Of the 5.7 million prisoners of war in the Red Army, 3.3 million died, most of them starved to death, but also fell victim to illness, mistreatment, shootings or imprisonment in a special camp . This means that nearly 58% of Soviet prisoners of war died in German captivity. The number of Western Allied prisoners of war who died in German custody was proportionally much lower. Of the 1.8 million French soldiers who were taken prisoner in Germany, almost 50,000 died, that is 2.8%. Of the 3.1 million German prisoners of war in Soviet custody, 1.1 million (35%) perished. China, where the war began with Japanese aggression in mid-1937, suffered the second highest death toll with around 14 million people killed in the war. But in India too, more than two million civilians died of starvation in 1943 and 1944, most of them in Bengal , after rice imports from Japanese-occupied Burma stopped.

To the many wounded must be added numerous soldiers condemned as deserters who were depressed or insane and therefore unable to serve in the army, and who were nevertheless sentenced in order to “maintain the morale of the troops”. This happened not only in Germany, but also in other countries involved in the war.

There were many dead civilians from bombing large cities such as Chongqing , Warsaw , Coventry , London , Cologne , Düsseldorf , Hamburg , Tokyo , Dresden and the Ruhr area . A great many civilians were killed in the battles for Stalingrad , Breslau and Koenigsberg , during the Leningrad blockade and the starvation of Kharkov . The sinking of the refugee ships Armenija , Wilhelm Gustloff , Goya , Steuben and Cap Arcona claimed tens of thousands of victims. In the harsh winter of 1944/45, in penal camps in the Soviet Union and during the violent evictions of people after the war, countless other people died (for example Sudeten Germans as a result of the Beneš decrees ).

Many people were unable to flee from the Nazi regime because states (such as the USA or Switzerland) temporarily closed their borders and did not grant asylum to refugees (including Jewish).

The two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki directly or indirectly killed more than 230,000 people by the end of 1945.

Prisoners of War and Forced Laborers

Forced laborers building the Valentin submarine bunker in Bremen, 1944.

A total of 11 million members of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS became prisoners of war, 7.7 million of them on the side of the Western powers and 3.3 million on the side of the USSR.

To forced labor under the Nazi regime million people were employed almost everywhere in the German Reich and the occupied territories between seven and eleven. Some of them worked in factories next to concentration camp prisoners under similarly inhumane conditions, and to a lesser extent the living conditions were similar to those of the craftsman and farming families who gave work. Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel , who was appointed as the highest responsible for them, was sentenced to death and executed in 1946 as part of the Nuremberg Trials. After the end of the war, German prisoners of war were also obliged to do forced labor as part of the reparations payments, especially in the Soviet Union (until 1956), but also in Western Europe.

After the end of the war there were 6.5–12 million people in Europe designated as “ displaced persons ”, the majority of whom were liberated prisoners of war, forced laborers from formerly occupied countries and concentration camp prisoners. These were housed in so-called DP camps until they were repatriated or admitted to third countries .

Material damage and war costs

The grave of a Polish soldier, Warsaw Uprising , 1944

The material damage was also enormous. In Germany around four million people lost their homes and 400 million cubic meters of rubble had to be cleared away. In Cologne, where 750,000 people lived before the war, there were only 40,000. The " rubble women " became a symbol of clearing up and rebuilding. The German Reich had lost territory of 114,549 km², which corresponded to 24.3% of the 1939 territory. Around 12 million Germans lost their homeland. Two million homes were destroyed in France, three in Japan and six in the Soviet Union. Almost half of the railroad tracks were damaged: 34,000 km in Germany, 50,000 km in Japan, 37,000 km in France.

The later victorious powers assumed in the final protocol of Yalta that the German Reich had caused damage of 20 billion dollars in Europe. In relation to the annual national product, the damage in Germany (4.8 billion dollars) was 140 percent, in France (2.1 billion dollars) 130 percent, in Poland (2 billion dollars) 300 percent and in the USSR ($ 12.8 billion) at 250 percent. The Soviet Union should therefore receive reparations worth $ 10 billion.

In 1942, Germany's expenditure on warfare amounted to RM 140 billion (equivalent to EUR 564 billion today). This was set against only Reich receipts amounting to 69 billion RM (today: 278 billion EUR). The rest was funded by new bonds . The war costs of the German Reich (e.g. military pay for millions of soldiers, war widow pensions and the production costs for armaments) totaled 156 billion dollars at the end of the war (for comparison: USA: 206 billion dollars, Great Britain: 78 billion dollars) . Germany's war costs (156 billion dollars) and its war damage (4.8 billion dollars) (see above) resulted in the gigantic sum of 160.8 billion dollars (corresponding to today's purchasing power and adjusted for inflation: 2.3 trillion US dollars).


As a result of the Second World War, Germany, Italy and Japan left the group of major military powers. The western European states of France, the Netherlands and Great Britain were weakened to such an extent that they had to give up their colonial empires in the decades following the end of the war. In their place came the USA and the Soviet Union as new world powers and, due to nuclear armament, as so-called superpowers .


Four zones of occupation, Berlin, the Saar area and the German eastern areas under Polish and Soviet administration, 1945.
→ Zones of occupation in Austria

After the end of the Second World War in Europe, the victorious powers discussed the future of Europe and Germany in Potsdam in July and August 1945. The direction of the decisions taken in Potsdam had already been indicated at the Yalta Conference in February 1945.

Germany was divided into four zones of occupation ; its eastern territories ( Pomerania , Silesia , East Prussia ) were placed under the administration of Poland and the Soviet Union , subject to a final peace settlement . This gave Poland a new border in the west ( Oder-Neisse line ) and in the east. The Sudetenland incorporated by Germany through the provisions of the Munich Agreement of 1938 fell back to Czechoslovakia , as the de facto annexation in the course of the " smashing of the rest of Czech Republic " by the German Reich was subsequently declared null and void. Austria was restored as a state - the later victorious powers had already announced this in the Moscow Declaration in 1943 - and also divided into four zones of occupation until it became independent with the Austrian State Treaty in 1955 .

According to various reports, between 12 and 14 million Germans (Silesians, Sudeten Germans , East Prussia, Pomerania, East Saxony (Reichenau district), East Brandenburgers, Danube Swabians and Danzigers) were expelled from their ancestral homeland due to the de facto decision to reduce Germany's territory (→  Flucht) and expulsion of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe 1945–1950 ). For a long time, the death toll was given as 2 million or even more. Recent studies show that this two million figure was calculated as the result of population balances, while secured personal data based on death reports lead to a number of around 500,000 victims. 3.5 million Poles lost their homeland due to the subsequent shift to the west of the Polish eastern border.

Negotiating room for the Nuremberg Trials, September 30, 1946

The German and Japanese war crimes were tried in several trials (for example the Nuremberg Trials ). The Stuttgart confession of guilt by some leading Protestant Christians to failures during the Nazi era in October 1945 remained a rare exception in the incipient denazification process forced by the Allies .

Berliners dismantle a dead horse, May 1945

The largely destroyed cities and the lack of food - especially the lack of raw materials and fertilizers - caused a life of poverty among the population. Because many men had died in the war or had been taken prisoner , "rubble women" had to clear the rubble in the cities. The importance of this is, however, more and more doubted by research. Groceries were only available through food stamps or from their own cultivation, which is why city dwellers drove en masse to the countryside to exchange goods for groceries. In addition, leading German business companies around the world lost important patents and trademarks at the time . This situation only changed as a result of the worldwide post-war boom , which in Germany was often referred to as the economic miracle .

Against all odds and at an astonishing pace, a new Europe was formed which was divided into itself, but whose parts soon rested on more solid foundations than could have been imagined immediately after the end of the war. Amid the permanent physical and moral scars left by the world war, the possibility arose of a Europe that would be more stable and prosperous than people could ever have imagined.

Asia and Pacific

Japan had to return the occupied Pacific islands to Australia and Great Britain; it continued to lose Korea, Formosa ( Taiwan ), South Sakhalin , the Kuril Islands and the Japanese South Sea Mandate Area with the Caroline Islands , the Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands . The Allied occupation of Japan ended with the 1951 Peace Treaty of San Francisco , which restored Japan's sovereignty. Some Japanese islands, including the Ryūkyū Islands , remained under American military administration until 1972. The Chinese Civil War flared up again in 1945 and led to the division of China into what is now the People 's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) by 1949 .

Founding of the United Nations

Founding of the United Nations, 25./26. June 1945

With the establishment of the United Nations Organization (UNO) at the San Francisco Conference and the entry into force of the UN Charter on October 24, 1945, an attempt was made to transform the informal war alliance of the anti-Hitler coalition into a permanent institution To transform maintaining world peace. The initiative for this came largely from the late US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The core of the charter was the creation of a system that would enable the peaceful settlement of disputes and controlled intervention in the event of violations, as well as promoting international cooperation. A special role as guarantor of world peace was provided for the main victorious powers USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and China, which received permanent seats and a right of veto in the Security Council of the United Nations . On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed, on the basis of which further internationally binding human rights treaties later emerged, including the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide .

Block formation and the Cold War

World War II flowed relatively seamlessly into the Cold War in both Europe and Asia. Even during the war there were differences between the Soviet Union and the Western allies, which were not emphasized in favor of the common goal. The Soviet Union was not solely to blame for these differences. The atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki sparked an arms race between the United States and the USSR. Likewise, the great expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence to the west and the constant communist advance in East Asia were not only a result of the Second World War, but also a reason for the Cold War.

NATO and Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, 1949 to 1990

In a 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill first publicly used the image of the “ Iron Curtain ” to describe the now divided Europe. From around 1947 onwards there were increasing tensions between the former allies ( Truman doctrine , two-camp theory ). While the Western powers promoted parliamentary democracy in their zones of influence , the Soviet Union established so-called people 's democracies in the states of Eastern Europe under the leadership of the Communists . As a result, tensions intensified and led to irreconcilable opposition between the former allies, the long-lasting division of Germany and Europe, and the beginning of the Cold War. In 1949 NATO was founded; as a reaction to the West German rearmament and the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to NATO (1955), the Warsaw Pact followed as a counterpart to the so-called Eastern bloc states . With the collapse of the Eastern European dictatorships in the wake of the revolutions in 1989 , German reunification and the restoration of the right of self-determination of the peoples of the former Soviet republics following the dissolution of the Soviet Union , further after-effects of the Second World War were eliminated.

Further succession conflicts

Colonial Powers and Colonial Territories 1945

Further succession conflicts directly or indirectly related to the Second World War were:

These and other conflicts were on the one hand in connection with the beginning of the bloc confrontation as conflicts over spheres of influence in a newly designed world situation, on the other hand with the increasing incipient decolonization .

In parts of Eastern Europe, such as the Baltic States, Poland and the Ukraine, there were underground actions against Sovietization and Stalinization led by nationalist organizations ( Waldbrüder , OUN ) even before the end of the war . After Stalin's death in March 1953, the resistance against the established systems of Soviet communist character erupted in several popular uprisings that were suppressed by the Red Army ( uprising of June 17, 1953 in the GDR, Hungarian uprising in 1956).

Processing and reception

The massive scale of the Second World War was reflected in several languages. In German it is often referred to as “the war”. Similarly, in the German and in other languages, the term is for a relatively long and prosperous time of peace that followed the war in industrialized countries, postwar (English: postwar period ) as a linguistic distinction emerged to war events that have rarely been applied to other wars. In addition, war-related terms from their native language have found their way into the languages ​​of other former combatants, for example “ Blitzkrieg ”, “ Morale bombing ”, “ Baedeker Blitz ” or “ Ketsu-go ”.

Some historians speak of a second Thirty Years' War , by which they mean the period between 1914 and 1945, because the Second World War cannot be understood without the course and consequences of the First World War. The leadership of the Nazi state did everything to prevent a defeat like 1918 by stabilizing the home front and radicalizing the conduct of the war. The stab-in-the-back legend , dictated peace at Versailles and militant anti-Semitism prepared the ground for the aggressive Nazi foreign policy aimed at reorganizing Europe throughout the interwar period. Both wars also have in common that the enemy has been "demonized" by enemy images and the line between soldiers and civilians has been blurred. On the other hand, there are also important differences: for example the uniqueness of the Second World War, which lies in the civilization breach of the Shoah , or the almost unhesitating use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians such as in Hamburg and Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. De Gaulle first spoke in September 1941 in a radio address from London of “la nouvelle Guerre de Trente Ans”.

The scholarly reappraisal of the Second World War was first undertaken by American historians. About 300 former German officers also worked for the " Historical Division " on the basis of their own experience and the documentary material that has been handed down . Their work was also influenced by numerous memoirs of prominent war veterans. By 1961, around 216 war memoirs had appeared in book form, which shaped the public image of the war in the 1950s. Manstein's (see above) first autobiography entitled Verlorene Siege (1955) had a circulation of 30,000 copies by 1961. He ignored war crimes and the murders of European Jews. B., in a similar way also Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus or Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz in their biographies.

World war visualization

Contemporary color photographs


Feature films


See also

Portal: Imperialism and World Wars  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of imperialism and world wars
Portal: Pacific War  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of the Pacific War


Web links

Commons : World War II  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : World War II category with subcategories  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Second World War  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Takuma Melber: "In Asia the world war began in 1931". Kölner Stadtanzeiger, July 17th, 2017, interview with Michael Hesse.
  2. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 11.
  3. See Ian Kershaw: Fall of Hell. Europe 1914 to 1949 . DVA, Munich 2016, pp. 476–486.
  4. South African, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, Polish, Brazilian, Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian troops were also involved in fighting in southern and western Europe. France and Italy officially sided with the Allies from October 1943 .
  5. Ian Kershaw: Fall into Hell. Europe 1914 to 1949. DVA, Munich 2016, p. 474.
  6. ^ Rolf Fischer: Second World War. Cologne 2014, p. 297.
  7. ^ Richard Overy: Total War II: The Second World War. In: Charles Townshend (Ed.): The Oxford History of Modern War. Oxford University Press , Oxford 2005, p. 139.
  8. ^ Gerhard Schreiber: The Second World War. 5th edition, CH Beck, Munich 2013, p. 8.
  9. Ernst Piper : Alfred Rosenberg. Hitler's chief ideologist. Munich 2005, p. 521.
  10. ^ A b Richard Overy: Total War II: The Second World War. In: Charles Townshend (Ed.): The Oxford History of Modern War. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, p. 140.
  11. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Key decisions in World War II. Munich 2008, p. 77.
  12. On the conclusion of peace and the unsolved problems see for example Jörn Leonhard : Der überforderte Frieden. Versailles and the world 1918–1923. Munich 2018.
  13. ^ Wilhelm Treue: Documentation: Hitler's memorandum on the four-year plan. In: Quarterly Books for Contemporary History . 3rd year, 1955, No. 2, pp. 184-210, here pp. 206 and 210 ( online , PDF); see Rolf-Dieter Müller: The Second World War. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004 ( Handbook of German History ; Volume 21), pp. 55 and 109 f.
  14. See Hoßbach transcript .
  15. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 801.
  16. The Great Ploetz . Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 1166.
  17. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 169.
  18. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 170.
  19. ^ Colin Gray: War, Peace and International Relations - An Introduction to Strategic History. Routledge, Abingdon 2007, p. 170.
  20. Jürgen Förster : Hitler's decision to go to war against the Soviet Union . In: Military History Research Office (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 4. Stuttgart 1983, pp. 3-37, here p. 29.
  21. ^ Richard Overy: Total War II: The Second World War. In: Charles Townshend (Ed.): The Oxford History of Modern War. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, p. 146 f.
  22. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 802.
  24. ↑ In 1944/45 there were two Italian "states", the Repubblica Sociale Italiana ( RSI , with Salò on Lake Garda as the seat of government and Mussolini as head of state) and the Regno d 'Italia (Kingdom of Italy with the capital Rome and Pietro Badoglio as prime minister). Exact numbers of the respective armed forces are not known.
  25. ^ Mark Harrison: The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison. Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-78503-0 , pp. 1-2.
  26. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 817.
    Note: In contrast to those of the Axis powers , the British and US fleets were distributed across two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.
  28. Bernd-Jürgen Wendt: Germany 1933-1945. The Third Empire". History manual. Torch bearer, Hanover 1995, ISBN 3-7716-2209-3 , p. 487.
  29. Donald Cameron Watt: How War Came. The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938-1939. Pantheon Books, New York 1989, p. 479.
  30. See files on German foreign policy 1918–1945 , Series D, Volume VII M 70604, p. 397, 1946; ed. v. Representatives of the victorious powers USA, Great Britain and France.
  31. ^ Arnulf Scriba: The attack on Poland 1939 , LeMO on the website of the German Historical Museum from May 19, 2015.
  32. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 35 f.
  33. ^ A b c Heinrich August Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars. CH Beck, Munich 2011, p. 894 f.
  34. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 48.
  35. See Daniel Costelle & Isabelle Clarke: The War. People in World War II. Munich 2010, p. 31.
  36. Rolf-Dieter Müller : The bombing war 1939–1945 , p. 55 ( online )
  37. Cynical paraphrase for kill / murder.
  38. Cf. French: "drôle de guerre" = "comical war", English: "phoney war" = "war of words" or "sham war". For example, on September 3, six million leaflets were dropped over Germany by British planes. Quote from HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 899.
  39. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 56. Beevor quotes Adam Tooze: Economy of Destruction: The History of the Economy under National Socialism. Bonn 2007, p. 384.
  40. See Peter Longerich: Hitler. Biography. Munich 2015, p. 710.
  41. It was a reaction to the impending danger of another great European war. See HA Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. Munich 2011, p. 367 f.
  42. ^ Carl van Dyke: The Soviet Invasion of Finland 1939-40 . London 1997, p. 55.
  43. Cf. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Causes, outbreak, course, consequences . Bath, UK, p. 33.
  44. Note: A Soviet rifle regiment comprised approx. 450 soldiers.
  45. Cf. Carl van Dyke: The Soviet Invasion of Finland 1939-40 . London 1997, pp. 100 and 123.
  46. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, pp. 58 & 64.
  47. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 901.
  48. Alexander Lüdeke: "The Second World War." Bath (Uk) 2007, p. 33.
  49. The influence of the Gulf Stream or its continuation, the North Atlantic Current , is still noticeable in the Barents Sea, while the Gulf of Bothnia to the south (between Finland and Sweden) freezes over in winter due to its lower salt water content.
  50. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 93.
  51. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. P. 907.
  52. See Rolf Fischer: Second World War. Cologne 2014, p. 64 f.
  53. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. P. 908.
  54. The Great Ploetz . Freiburg im Breisgau 2008, p. 1062.
  55. ^ Karl-Heinz Frieser : Blitzkrieg legend. The western campaign in 1940. (Military History Research Office) Oldenbourg, Munich 2012, p. 71.
  56. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. Munich 2011, p. 909.
  57. All figures based on Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 138.
  58. See Ian Kershaw: Fall of Hell. Europe 1914 to 1949. DVA, Munich 2016, p. 529.
  59. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. Stuttgart 2000, p. 403.
  60. Also called " Lakeitel " because of his subservience to Hitler . Rolf-Dieter Müller: Hitler's Wehrmacht. 1935-1945. Munich 2012, p. 26.
  61. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p 50. Later, after Stalingrad (1943), was the whisper joke , the term to " Gröfaz " as an ironic allusion to Hitler's military defeats garbled .
  62. a b c H. A. Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. Munich 2011, p. 916.
  63. Presentation of the accompanying circumstances with Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 404 f.
  64. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945 . Stuttgart 2000, p. 405.
  65. Tanks were not used.
  66. Danielle Costelle, Isabelle Clarke: The War. People in World War II. Bucher, Munich 2010, p. 48 (French edition: "Apocalypse". Editions Acropole, Paris 2009). The British government demanded the extradition of these pilots to no avail. After the armistice between Germany and France, they were released and sent on new missions - against England.
  67. MGFA (Ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Stuttgart 1990, Volume 6, p. 1095.
  68. See Peter Longerich: Hitler. Biography. Siedler, Munich 2015, p. 727.
  69. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 150.
  70. Three battleships, seven cruisers, 29 destroyers and 20 submarines. Cf. Rolf Fischer: The Second World War. Cologne 2014, p. 159.
  71. On the peace offer see Ian Kershaw : Hitler. 1936-1945. Stuttgart 2000, p. 411.
  72. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Key decisions in World War II. Munich 2008, pp. 97, 102.
  73. (Musée de l'Armée, Paris)
  74. ^ London Appeal, June 18, 1940.
  75. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 145.
  76. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 101.
  77. Siegfried Müller: Butterflies of Death in Dance. The Battle of Britain from the perspective of those involved. FAZ , December 3, 2005, p. 44.
  78. Cf. A. Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 156.
  79. FAZ, December 3, 2005, p. 44.
  80. ^ Website of the German Historical Museum , accessed on July 11, 2011.
  81. The British retaliated against Hamburg in 1943 with Operation Gomorrah and spoke of " hamburgisation ".
  82. a b c Jörg Friedrich: The fire. Germany in the bombing war 1940–1945. Propylaea, Munich 2002, p. 73.
  83. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 69.
  84. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 114.
  85. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 96.
  86. ^ Center for the Study of War, State and Society , accessed December 20, 2015.
  87. Lothar Gruchmann : The Second World War. Warfare and Politics. 8th edition, dtv, Munich 1985 (1967), p. 87.
  88. See Peter Longerich: Hitler. Biography. Munich 2015, p. 741. Longerich refers to W. Michalka: Ribbentrop und die deutsche Weltpolitik 1933–1940. Munich 1980, p. 286ff.
  89. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. Warfare and Politics. 8th edition, dtv, Munich 1985 (1967), pp. 96-99.
  90. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. Stuttgart 2000, p. 444 and A. Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2012, p. 173. Kershaw and Beevor refer to Halder's war diary . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1962–1964, vol. 2, p. 158. Halder recorded remarks that were passed on by Hitler's army adjutant Gerhard Engel . (Note from Kershaw).
  91. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. Warfare and Politics. 8th edition, dtv, Munich 1985 (1967), pp. 99-101.
  92. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 445.
  93. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. Warfare and Politics. 8th edition, dtv, Munich 1985 (1967), p. 95 f.
  94. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 179.
  95. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 170.
  96. See Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 170 f.
  97. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 484.
  98. The victims could hardly be estimated, the number was somewhere between 1,500 and 30,000 dead. Quote from Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 188.
  99. ^ Gerhard Schreiber: The Second World War. 5th edition, Munich 2013, p. 53.
  100. ^ Wilhelm Keitel (Chief of the Wehrmacht High Command), Alfred Jodl (Chief of the Wehrmacht Command Staff), Walther von Brauchitsch (Commander-in-Chief of the Army), Erich Raeder (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy), Franz Halder (Chief of Staff).
  101. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller: The Second World War. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, p. 112.
  102. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 156.
  103. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 96 f., 101 f .; Rolf-Dieter Müller: The Second World War. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004 (= Handbook of German History; Volume 21), pp. 113–116.
  104. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. Stuttgart 2000, pp. 690 f. Detailed minutes of the conversation in: VJH für Zeitgeschichte (1993), no. 1, pp. 117-137.
  105. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. Stuttgart 2000, p. 417.
  106. See Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 473. (Kershaw refers to Halders KTB, vol. 2, p. 335ff.)
  107. See Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 473 f.
  108. ^ Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway
  109. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller: On the side of the Wehrmacht. Hitler's foreign helpers in the “Crusade against Bolshevism” 1941–1945. Augsburg 2013, p. 113.
  110. ^ Ernst Klink: The war against the Soviet Union up to the turn of 1941/42. The operation management. In: The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 4. Ed. Military History Research Office . DVA, Stuttgart 1983, pp. 451-712, here pp. 451 f., Also on the following.
  111. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points . Munich 2008, p. 310.
  112. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 941.
  113. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 118.
  114. ^ Matti Klinge: An overview of the history of Finland. Otava, Helsinki 1995, ISBN 951-113822-7 , p. 123 f.
  115. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 945.
  116. Peter Longerich: “Hitler. Biography. "Siedler, Munich 2015, p. 784.
  117. Cf. Rolf-Dieter Müller: The Second World War. Stuttgart 2004 (Handbook of German History; Volume 21), pp. 108–154.
  118. ^ Richard Overy: Russian War 1941-1945. Rowohlt, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-498-05032-X , p. 127.
  119. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 219.
  120. Rolf-Dieter Müller: The enemy is in the east. Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 2013, pp. 240, 244, 245, 247, 248 f.
  121. Directive No. 21 (Barbarossa case) .
  122. Bodo Scheurig: Henning von Tresckow. A biography. Stalling, Oldenburg 1973, p. 119.
  123. Gerd R. Ueberschär: The failure of the "Operation Barbarossa". In: Gerd R. Ueberschär and Wolfram Wette: The German attack on the Soviet Union: "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. Frankfurt am Main 2011, p. 120.
  124. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller : The Second World War. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-60021-3 . ( Handbook of German History ; Volume 21), p. 154 f.
  125. Quotation from Henrik Eberle: Hitler's World Wars. How the private became a general. Hamburg 2014, pp. 252f.
  126. As a Gotenland, the Crimea was to become a German settlement area for South Tyroleans , connected to the German Empire by a Reichsautobahn.
  127. Cf. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 133.
  128. ^ Statement by Field Marshal Paulus in the Nuremberg Trial . Afternoon session on Monday, February 11, 1946 (day 56) . Published in: The Trial of the Major War Criminals at the Nuremberg International Court of Justice. Nuremberg 1947, Volume 7, pp. 283-310. Here (1942) Hitler used the expression "liquidate" in the sense of "end".
  129. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 409.
  130. These withdrawals suggest that the Soviet leadership had reacted to the emergency landing of a German general staff officer on June 19, 1942, who was carrying maps of the first phase of the German summer offensive.
  131. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 694 f.
  132. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 423.
  133. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 695.
  134. Quotation from W. Michalka (ed.): The Third Reich. Vol. 2 (dtv-dokumente), Munich 1985, p. 78.
  135. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 696.
  136. After the unsuccessful attack on Dieppe on August 19, soldiers of the Red Army reacted cynically: When they opened a can of American beef, they snapped: "Well, let's open the second front." Quote from Antony Beevor: The second World War. Berlin 2014, p. 391. Here Beevor gives a quote from Vol. III of Ilja Ehrenburg's memoirs (German 1978) .
  137. Richard Overy : Russia's War. 1941-1945 . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-498-05032-X , pp. 302–304, quotation p. 303 f.
  138. Bodo Scheurig: Henning von Tresckow. A biography. Stalling, Oldenburg 1973, p. 124.
  139. On the leadership crisis see Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 134; Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, pp. 699-701.
  140. Only passed on orally to commanders, version dated June 6, 1941.
  141. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 536.
  142. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. Warfare and Politics. 8th edition, dtv, Munich 1985, p. 174.
  143. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 298.
  144. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 974.
  145. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 975.
  146. Walther Hubatsch : The end of Army Group Africa . In: Percy Ernst Schramm (Ed.): War diary of the High Command of the Wehrmacht . Bonn undated, Volume 6, p. 1606.
  147. Sven Felix Kellerhoff : The Afrikakorps went under with a "Heia Safari". In: . May 12, 2013, accessed June 9, 2015 .
  148. Approximately 9,000 km / 4,860 nm less.
  149. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, pp. 979-981.
  150. ^ A b c Heinrich August Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars. CH Beck, Munich 2011, pp. 1057, 1060, 1062.
  151. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 553.
  152. U. a. Australia, France, India, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia, USA.
  153. Daniel Costelle, Isabelle Clarke: The War. People in World War II. Bucher Verlag, Munich 2010, p. 184.
  154. a b c H. A. Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 1067.
  155. S. a. TV documentary about the FEB (Força Expeditionária Brasileira) on YouTube .
  156. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 423.
  157. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 457. Numbers ibid.
  158. GEO Epoch Panorama No. 6 (2015): The Second World War , p. 90.
  159. Cf. Heinz Boberach: Change of mood of the German population. In: Wolfram Wette / Gerd R. Ueberschär (Ed.): Stalingrad. Myth and Reality of a Battle. 4th edition, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 65 f.
  160. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 537.
  161. See Rolf Fischer: Second World War. Cologne 2014, p. 183.
  162. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 1057.
  163. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 979.
  164. Numbers according to GEO EPOCHE. COLLECTION No. 14. The SECOND WORLD WAR in Europe. 1939-1945, p. 143.
  165. On Overlord see Jörg Echternkamp : The Second World War. CH Beck, Munich 2010, p. 102.
  166. See Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. Stuttgart 2000, p. 844 f.
  167. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2012, p. 700.
  168. ^ Stephan Burgdorff / Klaus Wiegrefe (ed.): The 2nd World War. Turning point in German history. Goldmann, Munich 2007, p. 312 f.
  169. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. CH Beck, Munich 2011, p. 1109.
  170. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff (2020): Hitler's last major offensive ended in disaster
  171. Ian Kershaw: The End. Fight to the end. Nazi Germany 1944/45. Munich 2011, p. 414.
  172. Ian Kershaw: The End. Fight to the end. Nazi Germany 1944/45. Munich 2011, p. 417. There (note 9) many other, also exonerating, evidence on the behavior of French colonial troops. See a. Freudenstadt #Role in the “Third Reich” and World War II .
  173. See Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. Munich 1985, p. 445.
  174. ^ Stephan Burgdorff / Klaus Wiegrefe (ed.): The 2nd World War. Turning point in German history. Goldmann, Munich 2007, p. 19.
  175. ^ Website of the municipality of Bologna : Polish 2nd Corps and the liberation of Emilia Romagna. (PDF; 95 kB).
  176. S. a. the speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on August 1, 2019 with reference to Ewa Faryaszewska and her photographs from the Warsaw uprising.
  177. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 839.
  178. Ian Kershaw: The End. Fight to the end. Nazi Germany 1944/45. DVA, Munich 2011, p. 418 f.
  179. “The careful preparation of the detonation by SS troops has been proven. But who finally carried out the demolition is still unknown. ”(Harald Neckelmann: Anhalter Bunker Berlin. Berlin Story Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-95723-031-7 , p. 67.)
  180. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg im Breisgau 2008, p. 838.
  181. Irene Gerlach: Federal Republic of Germany. Development, structures and actors of a political system. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-531-16265-2 , p. 25.
  182. ^ Text of the speech on the website of the Office of the Federal President; Weizsäcker speech. In: Torben Fischer, Matthias N. Lorenz (Hrsg.): Lexicon of 'coping with the past' in Germany. Debate and discourse history of National Socialism after 1945. 3rd edition, Bielefeld 2015, ISBN 978-3-8376-2366-6 , pp. 253-256.
  183. Eunan O'Halpin: Irish neutrality in the Second World War . In: Neville Wylie (Ed.): European neutrals and non-belligerents during the Second World War . Cambridge University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 0-521-64358-9 , pp. 283-303 (English).
  184. Fernando Rosas: Portuguese neutrality in the Second World War . In: Neville Wylie (Ed.): European neutrals and non-belligerents during the Second World War . Cambridge University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 0-521-64358-9 , pp. 268-282 (English).
  185. ^ Paul A. Levine: Swedish neutrality during the Second World War: tactical success or moral compromise? In: Neville Wylie (Ed.): European neutrals and non-belligerents during the Second World War . Cambridge University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 0-521-64358-9 , pp. 304-330 (English).
  186. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: Switzerland 39–45: War in a neutral country . 2nd Edition. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 978-3-87943-510-4 .
  187. ^ Neville Wylie: Switzerland: a neutral of distinction? In: Neville Wylie (Ed.): European neutrals and non-belligerents during the Second World War . Cambridge University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 0-521-64358-9 , pp. 331-354 (English).
  188. Elena Hernandez Sandoica, Enrique Moradiellos: Spain and the Second World War, 1939-1945 . In: Neville Wylie (Ed.): European neutrals and non-belligerents during the Second World War . Cambridge University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 0-521-64358-9 , pp. 241-267 (English).
  189. See Hans Senn: Second World War. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . January 11, 2015 , accessed June 4, 2019 .
  190. The Great Ploetz . Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 996.
  191. Peter Kamber: Shots on the Liberators, the "air guerrilla" of Switzerland against the Allies 1943-45 , Zurich, Rotpunktverlag, 1993, p. 126. ( PDF ; in better quality see [1] ).
  192. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 653.
  193. Jörg Krummenacher: Swiss people also died in the Nazis' concentration camps - there has not yet been a memorial for them In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of August 10, 2018.
  194. Peer Teuwsen: Swiss concentration camp victims were forgotten for a long time. Now, for the first time, there is a secured list of victims In: NZZ on Sunday October 26, 2019
  195. Nazis killed over 200 Swiss people in concentration camps In: Blick online from October 27, 2019
  196. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. dtv, Munich 1985, p. 153.
  197. a b Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 121.
  198. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 129. Number of victims according to Kershaw, ibid.
  199. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 132.
  200. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, pp. 121 and 145.
  201. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 142 f.
  202. Article 5 (PDF; 448 kB) of the three-power pact between Germany, Italy and Japan of September 27, 1940 ( RGBl. 1940 II, p. 280 f.)
  203. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 157.
  204. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 161.
  205. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 145.
  206. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. dtv, Munich 1985, p. 155.
  207. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. dtv, Munich 1985, p. 158.
  208. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, pp. 459-461.
  209. U. a. Withdrawal from China and Indochina, recognition of Chiang Kai-shek as Chinese head of government and termination of the three-power pact .
  210. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 465 f.
  211. Quoted from Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Munich 2008, p. 468.
  212. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 291.
  213. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 815.
  214. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 245 f.
  215. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2012, p. 297.
  216. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. Beck, Munich 2011, p. 1069.
  217. See W. Churchill: Hinge of Fate. Boston 1950, p. 81. (German: "Schicksalswende." Vol. 4 of The Second World War. Frankfurt 1985.)
  218. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 248.
  219. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK), p. 250 f.
  220. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 252 f.
  221. Winston S. Churchill: The Second World War. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 629 (first edition Bern 1948).
  222. See James Jones : The Thin Red Line. Autobiographical novel, New York 1962; Filmed in 1998 under the title The Narrow Ridge by Terrence Malick .
  223. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 257 f.
  224. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. 8th edition, Munich 1985, p. 499 f.
  225. See section on Allied War Conferences below .
  226. ^ A b Heinrich August Winkler: History of the West. The time of the world wars 1914–1945. Beck, Munich 2011, p. 1070.
  227. a b Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 264.
  228. H. A, Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 1070.
  229. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 263.
  230. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 1070 f.
  231. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 268 f.
  232. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 267.
  233. ^ Colin Gray: War, Peace and International Relations - An Introduction to Strategic History. Routledge, Oxon 2007, p. 127.
  234. Christoph Kucklich: Firestorm. The bombing war against Germany. Hamburg 2003, p. 130 f .; Gerhard Schreiber: The Second World War. Munich 2013, p. 48.
  235. Jörg Friedrich: The fire. Germany in the bombing war 1940–1945 , p. 83.
  236. Robin Neillands: The War of the Bombers. Arthur Harris and the Allied bomber offensive 1939–1945. Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-86124-547-7 .
  237. Also called light bombs / Christmas trees / Christmas trees .
  238. a b c d Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 515 f.
  239. ^ Adelbert Reif : Albert Speer. Controversy about a German phenomenon. Bernard & Graefe, Munich 1978, p. 73.
    Percy Ernst Schramm : Hitler as a military leader. Findings and experiences from the war diary of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. Athenaeum, Frankfurt am Main 1965, p. 36.Battle
    for fuel , Der Spiegel 14/1964 of April 1, 1964, p. 61.
  240. ^ Stefan Burgdorff / Klaus Wiegrefe (eds.): The 2nd World War. Turning point in German history. Goldmann, Munich 2007, p. 245.
  241. Matthew White Twentieth Century Atlas - Death Tolls: United Kingdom .
  242. Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 269.
  243. The research discourse revolves around the question of what weight had which motive. Overview and references from Bernd W. Kubbig: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the role of natural scientists. (1995) .
  244. See also U-boat war badge (1939) .
  245. a b The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 828.
  246. ^ Rolf Fischer: Second World War. Cologne, 2014, p. 187.
  247. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 810. As you can see, the Allies used the access routes of all oceans for logistical support of the Soviet Union - in this respect also a world war in the literal sense.
  248. From there, continue along the Persian Corridor .
  249. a b Deliveries from the US west coast to Soviet ports were made on ships under the Soviet flag, which were not attacked by Japanese submarines due to the lack of a state of war with the Soviet Union.
  250. Christian Streit: No comrades. The Wehrmacht and the Soviet prisoners of war 1941–1945. Bonn 1997 [1978], p. 76, with references; Rüdiger Overmans : The prisoner-of-war policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. In: The German War Society 1939-1945. Second half volume: Exploitation, Interpretations, Exclusion. Edited by Jörg Echternkamp on behalf of the Military History Research Office. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2005 (=  The German Reich and the Second World War , Vol. 9/2), ISBN 3-421-06528-4 , pp. 729–875, here pp. 804 f.
  251. Birgit Beck: mass rapes as war crimes. In: Wolfram Wette, Gerd R. Ueberschär (Ed.): War crimes in the 20th century. Primus, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-89678-417-X , pp. 406-418, here p. 409.
  252. Birgit Beck: Wehrmacht and sexual violence. Sex crimes before German military courts 1939–1945. Schöningh, Paderborn 2004, ISBN 3-506-71726-X , p. 326 f.
  253. Birthe Kundrus: Only half the story. Women in the Wehrmacht between 1939 and 1945 - A research report. In: The Wehrmacht. Myth and Reality. Published by Rolf-Dieter Müller and Hans-Erich Volkmann on behalf of the Military History Research Office. R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , pp. 719-735, here p. 734.
  254. Silke Satjukow : Occupiers. »The Russians« in Germany 1945–1994. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-525-36380-5 , p. 45.
  255. Barbara Johr: The events in numbers. In: Helke Sander and Barbara Johr (eds.): Liberators and Liberated. War, rape, children. A. Kunstmann, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-88897-060-1 , p. 58.
  256. Norman M. Naimark: The Russians in Germany. The Soviet occupation zone 1945 to 1949. Ullstein, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-548-26549-9 , p. 169 f.
  257. Catherine Merridale: Ivan's War. The Red Army 1939–1945. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-10-048450-9 , p. 348.
  258. Barbara Johr: The events in numbers. In: Helke Sander and Barbara Johr (eds.): Liberators and Liberated. War, rape, children. A. Kunstmann, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-88897-060-1 , p. 61.
  259. Research International e. V. (Ed.): Our victims do not count - The Third World in World War II. Association A, Berlin / Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-935936-26-5 .
  260. ^ Widespread Incidents of Rape. In: Japanese Imperialism and the Massacre in Nanjing , Chapter X.
  261. ^ A Debt of Blood: An Eyewitness Account of the Barbarous Acts of the Japanese Invaders in Nanjing. In: Dagong Daily, Wuhan edition. February 7, 1938. Military Commission of the Kuomintang, Political Department: A True Record of the Atrocities Committed by the Invading Japanese Army. July 1938.
  262. Daniela Rechenberger: No victims? No culprit? To illustrate the "Comfort Women problem" in the Japanese media. In: Antje Hilbig / Claudia Kajatin / Ingrid Miethe (ed.): Women and violence. Würzburg 2003, pp. 105–115, notes p. 106.
  263. Kazuko Watanabe: Trafficking in Women's bodies, then and now. The issue of military "comfort women". In: Women's studies quarterly 27 (1999), New York, pp. 19–31, notes p. 21. Recherche International e. V. (Ed.): Our victims do not count - The Third World in World War II. Association A, Berlin / Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-935936-26-5 , pp. 219-225.
  264. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 1069 (6 million). Gerhard Schreiber: The Second World War. 5th edition, Munich 2013, p. 84 (14 million).
  265. War crimes trials in the Soviet occupation zone and in Poland are not included in this overview.
  266. ^ Rolf Fischer: Second World War. Cologne 2014, p. 296.
  267. Peter Witte and others (eds.): The service calendar of Heinrich Himmler 1941/42. Hans Christians Verlag, Hamburg 1999, p. 3. For the following see z. B. Hannes Heer / Klaus Naumann (eds.): War of extermination. Crimes of the Wehrmacht from 1941 to 1944. Frankfurt am Main 1997; Walter Manoschek (ed.): The Wehrmacht in the race war. The war of annihilation behind the front. Vienna 1996.
  268. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 960.
  269. Alexander Ý: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 117.
  270. ^ Jörn Hasenclever: Wehrmacht and occupation policy in the Soviet Union. The commanders of the rear army areas 1941–1943. Schöningh, Paderborn 2010, pp. 364, 384.
  271. Friedrich Battenberg: The European Age of the Jews. WBG, Darmstadt 1990, p. 299.
  272. ^ Battenberg: Age. 1990, p. 300.
  273. Alexander Brakel: The Holocaust. P. 108.
  274. We're talking about 200,000 perpetrators. In: . November 9, 2011, accessed December 25, 2014 . The inter alia (Ed.): The persecution and murder of European Jews by National Socialist Germany 1933–1945. Volume 7: Soviet Union with annexed areas I. Oldenbourg, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-486-58911-5 .
  275. See Bernward Dörner : The Germans and the Holocaust. What nobody wanted to know, but everyone could know. Propylaen, Berlin 2007. Dörner differentiates between tens of thousands of direct and hundreds of thousands of indirect perpetrators and far more eyewitnesses and confidants.
  276. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi era 1939–1945. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-15158-5 , p. 153.
  277. Der Große Ploetz (Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 818) refers to Wolfgang Benz ( Dimension des Genocide. The number of Jewish victims of National Socialism. Munich 1991) and gives the number of murdered Jews as 6,268,223. In this total, however, the murdered Jews from Norway, Denmark, Albania and 401 of the murdered Austrian Jews are missing, so that the number of murdered Jews in Europe would amount to at least 6,270,089.
  278. ^ HA Winkler: History of the West. Munich 2011, p. 1051.
  279. Alexander Brakel: The Holocaust. Persecution of the Jews and genocide. Augsburg 2012, p. 178.
  280. Figures based on Rolf Fischer: Illustrated Atlas of the Second World War . KOMET Verlag, Cologne 2014, p. 147.
  281. Sa Ian Kershaw: Descent into Hell. Europe 1914 to 1949. DVA, Munich 2016, p. 562.
  282. Cf. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 332.
  283. Johannes Hürter: Hitler's Army Leader. The German commanders-in-chief in the war against the Soviet Union in 1941/42. Oldenbourg, Munich 2006, p. 500.
  284. Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 9.
  285. Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 10.
  286. Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 145: 75 Marks Sold = 310 EUR (number refers to January of this year.) Tax-free with full board + 100 Marks per month = 410 EUR permitted transfers by field post from home.
  287. Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 143.
  288. a b Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 148.
  289. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 153.
  290. Cf. Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 149 f.
  291. Ebba D. Drolshagen: The friendly enemy. Wehrmacht soldiers in occupied Europe. Droemer Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 155. The Norwegian word for “war profiteers” literally means “barracks barons” (ibid.).
  292. See Stephan Burgdorff / Klaus Wiegrefe: The 2nd World War. Turning point in German history. Goldmann, Munich 2007, p. 176.
  293. ^ Stephan Burgdorff, Klaus Wiegrefe: The 2nd World War. Turning point in German history. Goldmann, Munich 2007, p. 176.
  294. ^ Arnd Krüger : Germany and Sport in World War II. In: Can. Journal of the History of Sport. 1993, 24: 1, 52-62.
  295. Ulrich Herbert : History of the policy on foreigners in Germany. Seasonal workers, forced laborers, guest workers, refugees. CH Beck, Munich 2001, pp. 142-147.
  296. Ian Kershaw: The End. Fight to the end. Nazi Germany 1944/45. DVA, Munich 2011, p. 187.
  297. Flyer propaganda ( Memento of May 12, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on May 20, 2015.
  298. Jörg Echternkamp: The 101 Most Important Questions - The Second World War. Munich 2010, p. 76 f. (Section “Was the Second World War a media war?”).
  299. Georg Gruber: War hero annihilatingly beaten , Deutschlandfunk , contribution from July 26, 2005.
  300. Text in: Christian Huber: The end before eyes. Soldiers talk about the Second World War. Rosenheim 2012, ISBN 978-3-475-54135-3 , p. 13.
  301. German Press ( Memento of May 8, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  302. Joseph Goebbels, quoted from Aristotle A. Kallis: The decline of interpretation power. National Socialist propaganda in the course of the war. In: Jörg Echternkamp (Ed.): The German War Society 1939–1945. Exploitation, interpretation, exclusion. Volume 9/2: The German Reich and the Second World War. Edited by the Military History Research Office. DVA, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-421-06528-4 , pp. 203-250, here p. 231 f.
  303. Aristotle A. Kallis: The decline of the power of interpretation. National Socialist propaganda in the course of the war. P. 231 f.
  304. Aristotle A. Kallis: The decline of the power of interpretation. P. 235.
  305. Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945. DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 411.
  306. According to the web archive, in 1943 it could not come close to the German (typographical) model. ( Memento from November 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  307. Antony Beevor: “The Second World War.” Bertelsmann, Munich 2014, p. 859.
  308. Willi A. Boelcke : The power of the radio. World politics and international broadcasting 1924–1976. Frankfurt a. M. 1982, p. 458.
  309. ^ Martin A. Doherty: Nazi Wireless Propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British Public Opinion in the Second World War. Edinburgh UP, Edinburgh 2000, pp. 7-19.
  310. Philip M. Seib: Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America into War. Potomac Books, Inc., Washington, DC, 2006, ISBN 1-59797-012-3 , Preface, p. IX.
  311. First BBC reports on the mass murder of Jews .
  312. Strictly speaking, there was only one positive list of permitted transmitters. It was forbidden to listen to all stations not mentioned there: → Stations without a listening ban
  313. "Ordinance on Extraordinary Broadcasting Measures" (1939), quoted in Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Bath (UK) 2007, p. 141. - p. A. German digital library
  314. See article Jean Rudolf von Salis in the NDB
  315. Jörg Echternkamp: The 101 Most Important Questions - The Second World War. Munich 2010, p. 101.
  316. Erich Murawski: The German Wehrmacht Report 1939-1945, a contribution to the investigation of intellectual warfare. Boldt, Boppard am Rhein 1962, foreword by the director of the Federal Archives Dr. Karl G. Bruchmann, S. V.
  317. See Murawski, Wehrmachtbericht , pp. 1–3, pp. 116 f., 121 f .; The Israeli historian Daniel Uziel, who works at the Yad Vashem memorial , sees the main problem of Murawski's study in addition to a lack of sources available at the time as “the uncritical approach [Murawski's] approach to his subject,” see Daniel Uziel: The Propaganda Warriors. The Wehrmacht and the Consolidation of the German Home Front . Peter Lang, Oxford et al. 2008, p. 12 f., 388: “The book's main problem is its uncritical approach to the subject.”
  318. ^ Daniel Uziel: The Propaganda Warriors. The Wehrmacht and the Consolidation of the German Home Front . Peter Lang, Oxford et al. 2008, p. 12 f., 388.
  319. Jörg Echternkamp : Dossier. The second World War. War ideology, propaganda and mass culture. Edited by Federal Agency for Civic Education , April 30, 2015.
  320. Lothar Gruchmann: The Second World War. dtv, Munich 1985, p. 95 f.
  321. Also known under the term “4 D's”: demilitarization, denazification, democratization and decentralization.
  322. Rolf-Dieter Müller (Ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War, Volume 10: The collapse of the German Empire in 1945. Half volume 2: The consequences of the Second World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-421-04338-2 , The human losses in the Second World War (map with graphic / table), without page number, back cover sheet (= last double page before the back of the book). Sources given there: Der Große Ploetz 2008; Oxford Compendium; Overmans, German Military Losses; Mourik, balance sheet .
  323. About 1000 sailors and passengers of torpedoed Brazilian merchant ships in the South Atlantic (1942) + 463 fallen soldiers of the Força Expedicionária Brasileira with over 25,000 men on the Allied side in Italy (1944/45). Sources: Hernâni Donato: Dicionário dos Batalhas Brasileiras. ISBN 85-348-0034-0 , 1996, p. 214 and Der Große Ploetz . Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 1329.
  324. a b c The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 843.
  325. a b The civilians killed were sailors: The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 843.
  326. Including 1,306,186 missing soldiers. Source: The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 839. Total number of fallen and missing soldiers according to MGFA (2012).
  327. Most of the civilians as victims of bomb attacks. Quote from I. Kershaw: Fall into hell. Europe 1914 to 1949. Munich 2015, p. 473.
  328. Including more than two million starvation deaths in Bengal in 1943/44; see the following section.
  329. Dunja Melcic (Ed.): “The War in Yugoslavia. Handbook on Prehistory, Course and Consequences ”. Wiesbaden 2007, p. 187. Melcic names 1.027 million Yugoslav war deaths in WWII.
  330. Peter M. Quadflieg : "Zwangssoldaten" and "Ons Jongen". Eupen-Malmedy and Luxembourg as recruiting areas for the German Wehrmacht in World War II. Aachen 2008, ISBN 978-3-8322-7078-0 .
  331. ^ As a result of> 3000 Italian and German air raids in 1941/42.
  332. The losses of the states annexed by the USSR in 1939/40 are included in the Soviet total: 144,000 soldiers killed for Estonia, 209,000 for Latvia and 302,000 for Lithuania. Information according to: Karl-Volker Neugebauer (Ed.): Basic course in German military history. On behalf of the Military History Research Office. Vol. 2. Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58845-3 , p. 435.
  333. Fallen and missing volunteers of the División Azul ( vulgo : Blue Division ), which took part in the war against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943 as the 250th Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht.
  334. Christian Streit: No Comrades: The Wehrmacht and the Soviet Prisoners of War 1941–1945. Reissue. Bonn 1997, ISBN 3-8012-5023-7 , pp. 10 and 244 ff.
  335. ^ Rüdiger Overmans: The prisoner-of-war policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. In: The German War Society 1939-1945. Volume 9. Second half volume: Exploitation, interpretations, exclusion. On behalf of the Military History Research Office, ed. by Jörg Echternkamp. DVA, Munich 2005 (=  The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume 9/2), pp. 729–875, here p. 770.
  336. ^ Albrecht Lehmann : Captivity and homecoming. German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. CH Beck, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-406-31518-6 , p. 29. According to Gerhard Schreiber ( The Second World War . 5th ed., 2013, p. 121) it was only 12%.
  337. ^ Johannes H. Voigt : India in the Second World War . DVA, Stuttgart 1978, p. 304.
  338. See a. The big Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 871.
  339. ^ German forced laborers after 1945
  340. Cf. on the following Jörg Echternkamp: The 101 most important questions - The Second World War. CH Beck, Munich 2010, pp. 141 f. And 146 f.
  341. Otto Dann : Nation and Nationalism in Germany 1770–1990 . Munich 1993 p. 402.
  342. See Flight and Expulsion of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe 1945–1950 .
  343. For comparison: In 2011 the national debt of the Federal Republic of Germany was 79% of GDP.
  344. Ralf Berhorst: The price of peace. In: The Second World War - Part 2. 1943–1945. GEO epoch No. 44, Hamburg 2010, p. 128.
  345. Figures refer to January of the current year. (Exchange rate on August 24, 2021: 1 USD = 0.85 EUR ).
  346. ^ Rüdiger Overmans: German military losses in World War II. R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, pp. 298-300.
  348. See Ian Kershaw: Fall of Hell. Europe 1914 to 1949. DVA, Munich 2016, p. 703.
  349. Note: China's seat in the Security Council was initially held by the Republic of China or Republic of China (Taiwan) , until the seat was transferred to the People's Republic of China in 1971 as part of the US-Chinese rapprochement policy .
  350. On the Second 30 Years War see Jörg Echternkamp: The 101 Most Important Questions - The Second World War. CH Beck, Munich 2010, p. 137 f.
  351. ^ Antoine Prost, Jay Winter: Penser la Grande Guerre. Un essai d'historiographie . Paris 2004, p. 33.
  352. Cf. Jörg Hillmann : Geschrittene Legenden . In: Military & History . Special issue No. 4 (2017), p. 78 f.