A World in Flames: A Short History of the Second World War in Europe and Asia, 1939-1945

By Martin Kitchen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Conclusion

The Allies had every reason to rejoice at the news of the German Supreme Command's surrender at Rheims on 7 May and the Japanese capitulation on 14 August. They had fought a successful war for a good cause. Horrifying newsreels of the liberation of the concentration camps revealed that the reality of Nazi rule was infinitely worse than anything that the most lurid propagandist could possibly invent. Few questioned that Hitler and his cronies were wicked men bent on world conquest and that the pursuit of his downfall was the cause of all good men. Similarly, most people agreed that Japan was a brutally aggressive power which had to be stopped and the murderous occupation policies in China, the perfidy of Pearl Harbor and the humiliation of Singapore revenged. Germany and Japan were destroyed, their cities levelled, their economies shattered and their sovereignty destroyed. Their surrender was unconditional, the victory of the Allies total.

It soon became apparent, however, that this glorious victory for the Allied cause created at least as many problems as it solved. For Britain, six years of war had resulted in a catastrophic level of external disinvestment and industry was run down and desperately short of investment capital. On 21 August President Truman suddenly cut off Lend-Lease and Britain faced what Keynes called a 'financial Dunkirk'. The Americans gave Britain a loan, but the terms were harsh. The British Government was obliged to ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement and thus had to accept the convertibility of sterling into dollars, a liberalization of the sterling area and the lifting of restrictions on American exports to Britain. The much- vaunted 'special relationship' with the United States appeared to be

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