History of World War II

History of World War II

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The history of World War II spanned the period from 1939 to 1945. It involved most of the world’s countries and two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis powers. More than 30 countries threw their entire military, economic, industrial, and scientific resources into the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources and targets. Aircraft enabled the strategic bombing of population centers and the atomic attacks on Japan. This was by far the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in up to 85 million deaths. Most were civilians. Tens of millions of people died in the Holocaust and other genocides, and from starvation, mass murder, and disease. After the war, Germany and Japan were occupied by the victors, and war crimes tribunals were held.

World War II changed the political alignment and social structure of the globe. The United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. Great powers—China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—became the permanent members of its Security Council. The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century-long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonization of Africa and Asia. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery and expansion. Political and economic integration, especially in Europe, began as an effort to forestall future hostilities, end pre-war enmities, and forge a sense of common identity.

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World War II Index | Prelude: Diplomatic Revolution | Germany: Anti-Semitism Nazi Empire: Economic ExploitationResistanceRole of Hitler | Holocaust: SS and the EinsatzgruppenGypsy HolocaustDeath Camps | Japan | Poland | Soviet Union: Homefront | United States | Aggression: GermanyJapan | A New Kind of WarTotal War | Grand Alliance | Britain | France | Early Axis Victories | Early Allied Victories | Allied Invasion of Europe | Defeat of the Third Reich | Defeat of Japan

World War II: Index


Prelude: Diplomatic Recognition


Germany: Nazi Empire

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Nazi Empire: Economic Exploitation

Nazi Empire: Resistance

Nazi Empire: Role of Hitler

Anti-Semitism in Germany


Holocaust: SS and the Einsatzgruppen

Holocaust: Gypsy Holocaust

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Holocaust: Death Camps



Soviet Union

Soviet Union: Home Front

United States

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Aggression: Germany

Aggression: Japan

Aggression: A New Kind of War

Total War

Grand Alliance

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Early Axis Victories

Early Allied Victories

Allied Invasion of Europe

Defeat of the Third Reich

Defeat of Japan

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