WWII, Socrates, Rwanda & personal boundaries
Brushing up on WWII
Causes, alliances and notable quotes
World War II (1939-1945)
The following series of about 6 posts will offer a very brief overview of WWII. This first post looks at the origins of the war, as well as the two primary alliances.
I’ve enjoyed brushing up on these events and details, as well as learning some new things; as my high school history teacher always told us: the more you learn about history, the more you realise you don’t know! So true!
- Causes & lead-up
- Alliances & key players
- Notable quotes
A personal note: The focus of these blogs is on information. In response to my generally matter-of-fact presentation below some could possibly think that I deal unfeelingly with all I describe, but that is not the case. Not at all. I feel very much the weight of the information I present, I abhor much of what I describe, and I have at length considered how such events affected the lives of those involved. I do not wish my enjoyment of academic inquiry and summarising to be taken as a trivialising of anything. My grandparents, who are British, lived through the war, and my one grandad, who is still alive, fought in it. I know that their experiences are not dealt with or even approached through writings like this, and that those experiences are important, profound, and require understanding conducive to healing.
A tangential thought: I remember in my second year of university watching footage of the Rwandan genocide in one lecture. I went back to my dorm room, drew the curtains, and didn’t step outside again for 36 hours. I realised then that I have certain limits, and so decided that while I love history, I need to find a way to study it that I can handle. I think this is why I’ve developed a love of macro history, wanting to look at maps, consider causes and factors, understand social movements, analyse global interactions and relations, and so forth.
Having said this, I do not like it when I am accused of wanting to stick my head in the ground and remain ignorant. Each of us is made differentlty, with different purposes. I do not consider it necessary or even helpful for me personally in my lifetime, even as an armchair historian, to know details about every past atrocity. It’s a truth that what is good or permissible for one person is not necessarily so for the next. That being the case, we should allow each other the freedom to learn and concern ourselves with the areas we know and feel are good and necessary to each of us. I am still an educated person with an enquiring mind, but I just make certain choices according to my understanding of myself.
I’ve shared this to perhaps encourage anyone who has been badgered into watching or reading things beyond their discretion – know yourself. You have been given wisdom to choose what you let enter through the dooway of your mind.
CAUSES & LEAD-UP
1919: Treaty of Versailles puts all blame for the Great War on Germany, takes away some of Germany’s border territories, and demands heavy reparation payments. Germany is ruined economically, and humiliated.
1929: The Great Depression adds insult to injury.
Extreme political groups are thus able to flourish. Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party is one of them.
1933: Von Hindenberg, Germany’s president, makes Hitler Chancellor.
1934: Nazis take complete control of Germany, ending all democratic proceedings. Hitler now a dictator.
1935: Germany rejects Treaty of Versailles and starts to consolidate power, building up army.
1936: Germany remilitarises the demilitarised zone of the Rhineland.
Britain, France and USA adopt policy of appeasement.
1938: Germany increases its territory
– Anschluss (German annexation of Austria)
– Germany allowed by France and Britain to take control of Sudetenland (industrialised border zone of Czechoslovakia that has 1/4 German population)
– Rome-Berlin Axis becomes military pact
– March: Germany invades Czechoslovakia, and conquers Czech part.
– Sept: German blitzkrieg of Poland. Anglo-Polish alliance means Britain declares war on Germany. France is Britain’s ally, therefore they too declare war on Germany.
Independently, Japan was struggling in the wake of Great Depression. It’s expanding population required more land, and it was too reliant on imported goods. It’s expansionist goals focused on China. During 30s took control of Manchurian region of China.
1936: Anti-Comintern Pact (an anti-communist pact) signed between Germany and Japan. (1937 Italy enters pact.)
1937: Second Sino-Japanese War starts when Japan invades deeper into China.
1940: Japan signs an alliance with Germany and Italy.
1941: Japan attacks Pearl Harbour on Hawaii. End of US policy of isolationism.
ALLIANCES & KEY PLAYERS
I give the names of each country’s political leaders, and then also just some of the military/other leaders that strike me as the most notable.
AXIS POWERS (Italy, Germany, Japan)
– Benito Mussolini (Il Duce)
– Adolf Hitler (Führer)
– Heinrich Himmler (architect of the Holocaust)
– Hermann Göring (Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Head of Gestapo, Hitler’s successor)
– Joseph Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda)
– Rudolf Hess (Depupty leader of Nazi party)
– Erwin Rommel (very successful military general)
– Hirohito (Emperor, reigned 1926 till death in ’89; posthumously known as Emperor Shōwa in Japan)
– Isoroku Yamamoto (Commander-in-Chief of Imperial Japanese Navy)
– Philippe Petain (Chief of The French State)
Other Axis countries
Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Thailand.
ALLIES (Britain, France, USA, USSR)
– Neville Chamberlain (Prime Minister, resigned 1940)
– Winston Churchill (Prime Minister, 1940-45)
– Clement Attlee (Prime Minister from July 1945)
– King George VI
– Bernard Montgomery (Field Marshal)
– Louis Mountbatten (Lord Mounbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Admiral of the Fleet)
– Charles de Gaulle (leader of the Free French and head of French government-in-exile)
– Joseph Stalin (General Secretary; Supreme Commander of Red Army)
– Georgy Zhukov (Marshal of the Soviet Union; led all Soviet forces at Battle of Berlin)
– Franklin D. Roosevelt (President)
– Harry S. Truman (became President after Roosevelt died in April 1945)
– Douglas MacArthur (Army General, called out of retirement in 1941; Supreme Commander of Allied forces in SW Pacific)
– Dwight D. Eisenhower (Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe)
Other Allied countries (not an exhaustive list)
Albania, Belgium, Brazil, British Empire and Commonwealth (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India), Greece, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Yugoslavia, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and Liberia.
Neutral countries (not an exhaustive list)
Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Vatican City.
Hitler, in Mein Kampf (1926):
“The right to possess soil can become a duty if without extension of its soil a great nation seems doomed to destruction. […] Germany will either be a world power or there will be no Germany.”
Mussolini, as quoted in E. Ludwig’s Talks with Mussolini (1932):
“Race? It is a feeling, not a reality. Ninety-five per cent, at least. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today.… National pride has no need of the delirium of race.”
Churchill, who was against appeasement, wrote to a friend in Sept 1938:
“We seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame. My feeling is that we shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later on even more adverse terms than at present.”
Churchill, May 1940 speech as PM to House of Commons:
“You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.”
Coming next: Day 2. War in the European Theatre
– War in Europe
– Notable quotes
– In focus: Battle of Kursk
– Quiz on Day 1’s content