On September the 1st this year, the world marks the 80th year since the start of the 2nd World War. It is important for the new generation to know the truth of the war or else they won’t understand the looming danger over world peace.
After six years (1939 to 1945) of war, which claimed the lives of over 60 million people, it was victory over fascism, newpolitical map emerged and social transformation occurred in Africa and Asia accelerating the process of decolonization in the two continents.
Statistics in the facts and history books reveal that this bloodiest and most destructive war in history involved armies from 61 countries with a total population of 1 billion 700 million people, that is 80 per cent of the total population of the planet (then estimated at 2.1billion) took to the guns. The war operations engulfed 40 countries. Over 60 million people perished andthe worst thing of all is that the number of deaths among civilians exceeded by far that of those killed in active combat.
The preceding events
Historians point to the fact that the 2nd WorldWar took firm roots from the 1st (1914 to 1918) which did not end with peace but with a truce through Versailles Peace Accord of 1918. Britain and France, who were victors, did not want to part with their acquisitions and the vanquished, Germany, wanted to recover losses.
What transpired after World War I, according to history,is that dictatorial regimes began to multiply in Europeignitingthe flames of the eruption of a new war. The attack of Ethiopia by fascist Italy in 1935, the fascist insurrection of General Francisco Franco in 1936 and the ensuing civil war in Spain were a prelude to the conflagration of the World War.
Another important factor was the emergence of the USSR (now the Russian Federation which assumed the rights and obligations of the Soviet Union after the political changes of 1991). In the eyes of the politicians in the west then,it posed a real danger of the spread of socialist ideas which West European countries would never tolerate.
In Germany, in the wake of economic and political crises in that country after World War I, power was passed on to the Nazis (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist Workers Party of Germany), NSDAP, Nazi Party) led by Adolf Hitler in 1933.
The Hitler regime had set its goal to establish its domination of the whole world by whatever means. The Nazis established a powerful modern army, but also a fascist bloc the base of which was formed by Germany, Italy and Japan. To counterbalance this bloc were Great Britain, France and the United States. In all that, at that moment the basic desire of Great Britain and France was to fend off the threat of the German aggression from their countries and to, possibly, direct it to the East.
The beginning of The World War II
In September 1938, Britain, France, fascist Italy and Nazi German, signed the infamous Munich Agreement ostensibly to appease Germany. Under this agreement, Czechoslovakia was forced to “voluntarily” cede part of its territory to Germany. But a year later, in March 1939, the country was wholly occupied and ceased to exist as a state.
This was the beginning and Poland was next in Hitler’s plans. The protracted attempts by the Soviet Union to persuade the governments of Britain and France to conclude an agreement on mutual assistance in the event of an aggression were in vain.
Here is what the famous English historian Niall Campbell Ferguson writes in this regard: “When the Soviets proposed a tripartite alliance of Britain, France and Russia in order to protect not only themselves, but also their immediate neighbours from German aggression, they were refused…”
Having found out that it had been left alone in the obvious danger of aggression in 1939 the USSR was forced to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany- known as the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” in the names of their then foreign ministersVyacheslav Molotov of the USSR and Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany.
Those who are now trying to “rewrite” history and claim that it was this pact that pushed Hitler to war, for some reason, “forget” about the 1938 Munich Agreement. In fact, this treaty enabled the Soviet Union to hold back Hitler’s attack for almost two years.
So, 80 years ago September 1, 1939, the first stage of the 2nd World War began. Germany attacked Poland. The capture of Poland turned into a world war.
In April 1940 Denmark fell in the path of the German army and Norway followed suit immediately. The German army carried out an attack on France through its neighboring countries - The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. On 20th May the Germans reached the English Channel.
The armies of Holland and Belgium capitulated. On 1stApril,1940 the fascists seized Bulgaria while on 6th April they took Greece and Yugoslavia.
As a result, the whole of Western and Central Europe now fell under Hitler’s rule. From Europe, the war spread on to other parts of the world. Italian-German troops launched an offensive in North Africa, and in the fall of 1941 it was planned to begin the conquest of the Middle East and India with a further joining of German and Japanese troops.
The attack on the Soviet Union and halting of the NAZI invasion
The German attack on the Soviet Union began on 22nd June, 1941, and therefore the second phase of the war began. For the destruction of the Soviet Union, Germany and its allies deployed an invasion army of unprecedented magnitude in history.
But the war against the Soviet Union did not go as Hitler and his generals had wished. The plan of a “lightning” capture of Moscow and Leningrad failed.
In December 1941, the military situation in the Pacific deteriorated. The Japanese attacked the American naval base of Pearl Harbor. Americans declared war against Italy, Japan and Germany. Japan seized part of China, French Indochina, Malaya, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Forces of the army and navy of Great Britain, Holland and the United States suffered great losses in the Java operations.
As a result of the battles that began in 1940 in North Africa, the Anglo-American troops were able to rout the Germans and Italians from Egypt, Ethiopia and the Maghreb in May,1943.
Approximately 1.4 million African soldiers were recruited from colonies and protectorates to fight in the “alien” war in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Among them were about 100 thousand from the then Tanganyika.
In fact, the fate of the whole world war was decided in the battle for Stalingrad on the Russian river Volga July 1942 to February 1943 and in the grand tank- battle in the fields near Kursk in the heart of Russia. In the Battle of Stalingrad the two sides deployed a total of more than 2.1 million soldiers, tens of thousands of guns and thousands of tanks and aircraft.
The tank battle at Kursk between July and August 1943 involved about 2 million people, 6 thousand tanks, 4 thousand aircraft and it paved the way for the great Red Army offensive of the year 1944-45.
On 25th July, 1943 Italy quit the war and the Italian fascist government was liquidated. The new government now declared war against Hitler. The fascist union began to fall apart.
In June 1944, the Red Army began operations to liberate Eastern European states. It became clear to everyone, and above all to the German generals themselves, that Germany had lost the war. On 6thJune, at last the Second Front was opened. 156 thousand soldiers from the USA, England and Canada landed on the west coast of France - in Normandy being one of the most active actions of the Western allies.
At the end of April,1945 the Red Army entered the “den of the Nazi beast” — Berlin and hoisted the Red Banner over the Reichstag. So the joint action of countries constituting the anti-Hitler coalition led to the total defeat of the German troops and the final surrender of Germany.
The war in the Far East and in territories of Southeast Asia ended on 2nd September, 1945. In this war the United States used nuclear weapons against Japan.
The end results and effects: death, destruction and now falsification
According to checked available data, in the Soviet Union alone, 26 million people perished and 25 million others were made homeless. In Poland more than 6 million people died and in Germany 5.5 million. The British Empire lost 4 million 190 thousand people, the French Empire - 2 million 685 thousand people, the United States - 1 million 4,121 thousand people. Many millions of people perished in China, Indonesia and Indochina. 2.5 million Japanese died.
However, we are now witnessing consistent efforts towards what is called “revision” of what had happened during World War II. It is done through newspaper articles, books, movies and radio and TV programs. It is very clear that intention is to belittle the political and moral authority of the Soviet Union which actually suffered the greatest losses in the war. Clearly it was the Soviet Red Army that managed to halt the marauding German forces and successfully drove them backfrom inside Russia to Berlin. Ruins from bombardments in German by the American military in the allied western forces well after Hitler had already succumbed are there for everybody to see.
From the results and effects of the World War II, we have also learned quite a number of lessons. Among them: first, third World War should not be allowed as there will be no winners; secondly, totalitarian regimes normally with imperial ambitions, should not be allowed; thirdly, there should be collective security because it is impossible to ensure your own country’s security at the expense of other countries and fourthly the deepening mistrust between states should not be tolerated.
The article has been prepared based on materials obtained from open sources and the author is a Tanzanian veteran journalist and editor. He can be reached through mobile&WhatsApp: 0754-388418.