The Second World War: Europe, 1939-1943 - Vol. 2

The Second World War: Europe, 1939-1943 - Vol. 2

The Second World War: Europe, 1939-1943 - Vol. 2

The Second World War: Europe, 1939-1943 - Vol. 2

Synopsis

While many of the participants were the same as the First World War, this conflict was far more than a re-match of 1914-1918. The Second World War was even more destructive than the first and the added ideological element meant that this war was far more cruel. This book details the first four years of the war in Europe. It discusses how and why Hitler's resurgent Germany plunged into war, and examines the German successes against Poland, France, and the Low Countries.

Excerpt

At 11.00 am on 11 November 1918, the First World War came to an end. the combined forces of Great Britain, France, Italy, and the usa had defeated the armies of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. This war cost the lives of around 7 million combatants and a further 7 million civilians, although exact totals are difficult to ascertain. During the four years between 1914 and 1918, the 'Great War,' as it was being referred to even during the fighting, redefined the parameters of the experience of war.

The First World War was the first true 'industrial' war, where the nineteenth-century advances in technology and modes of production were harnessed to an insatiable war machine-with terrifying results. the impact of new and more efficient killing methods, backed by virtually the whole social, political, and economic infrastructure of the warring nations, produced a war of destruction unparalleled in human history. the cost of victory was such that in terms of casualty figures alone there was little to choose between winner and loser. At all levels of society-politicians, generals, ordinary soldiers, and the civilian population-there was a belief and a hope that this was the 'war to end all wars' and that in this fashion the tremendous sacrifice would not have been in vain.

Of course, tragically, the Great War did not prove to be the end of war. Instead, in many ways the Great War typified the future of war and not its past. the manner in which the war was fought, with an emphasis on the full utilization of all available resources and the involvement of the whole populace, pointed the way forward and offered a glimpse of how wars might be fought in years to come.

To those who witnessed the Armistice in 1918, the possibility of another major European conflict within their lifetime must have seemed an unimaginable horror, yet that was precisely what was to happen. Despite the shock of the Great War, of the endless lists of dead and wounded published daily in newspapers across Britain, Germany, and France, despite the widespread revulsion at war itself that the Great War engendered, Europe had barely 20 years of peace to enjoy. in 1939 Europe was plunged again into a major conflagration, and this time the cost, incredibly, would be even higher than 1914-18 in lives, in property, and, significantly, in morality.

As with the First World War, the Second World War began in Europe as a result of the actions of an aggressive Germany. Where the Second World War differed markedly from its predecessor, however, was in why the war was fought. the Second World War was not fought for material aggrandizement or for power-political advantage, although these factors had a considerable bearing on the course of the war. Fundamentally, the Second World War was fought because of political ideas-ideologies.

Political extremism in post-First World War Germany brought to power Adolf Hitler, a man convinced of his own infallibility and almost divine calling to lead Germany to victory in a race war that would establish the Germans in their rightful position of preeminence in a new global order. Hitler intended to lead the German people in a war of conquest in which the inherent superiority of the German race would be demonstrated and Germany's racial and ideological competitors would be destroyed, leaving Germany at the helm of a unified Europe. This ideological dimension underpinned the reasons for the fighting and also exercised an enormous bearing on how the fighting was conducted.

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