We begin at the end of World War I.
After the defeat of the Central Powers, harsh conditions are imposed on the vanquished.
Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire are dismantled.
As per the Treaty of Versailles, Germany loses its colonies and many territories.
This particularly benefits Poland, which is recreated and obtains access to the sea, cutting Germany in two.
The German army must be limited to 100,000 men without heavy weaponry or an air force.
Finally, Germany and its allies are held solely responsible for the war and must pay all reparations.
The German people see the treaty as humiliation.
The only consolation for the country is, as there was no fighting on its territory, that its infrastructure and industry are intact.
Meanwhile, the victors too do not unanimously agree on the treaties.
In Italy, public anger mounts because the country does not obtain all territories promised by the Allies, in addition to suffering a high death toll of some 600,000 soldiers.
In the United States, the Senate goes against the wishes of President Woodrow Wilson and does not ratify the Treaty of Versailles resulting in the US not joining the new League of Nations.
This international organization is tasked with preserving peace and developing cooperation between nations.
However, Russia, which became the USSR after the Bolshevik revolution and civil war, is excluded from the League of Nations.
Weakened and frustrated by the loss of European territories, Russia finds itself isolated as the West fears an expansion of communism.
The United Kingdom focuses on its immense empire which covers almost a quarter of the land surface of the planet.
France, the northern regions of which are particularly hard hit by war, finds itself without strong allies in the effort of upholding the Treaty of Versailles, which is rejected by the German people.
In Germany, high debt and speculation on the Mark cause hyperinflation.
The country slows down payments for war reparations.
In reaction, France and Belgium, which count on these payments for their own reconstruction, send troops to occupy the Ruhr, a rich industrial region.
Hyperinflation reaches its peak.
$1, which in 1914 was worth around 4 marks, in November 1923 trades for 4,200,000,000,000 marks.
Some banknotes become less valuable than the paper on which they’re printed.
The United States and the United Kingdom propose a plan to adjust German debt and grant credit to the country so that it can revive its economy.
The United States then lends to Germany, which resumes payment of war indemnity to victors, which themselves are indebted to the United States by buying arms and equipment on credit during the war.
The United States thus becomes the backbone of the world economy.
After a year of reforms, Germany returns to growth.
Tensions eased and the country is even admitted to the League of Nations.
The global economy booms, with the United States leading the way.
The abundance of raw materials and the development of assembly-line work in factories accelerate production and lowers prices.
In Italy, Mussolini’s fascist party obtains full dictatorial power by banning all other political parties.
In New York, the Wall Street crash takes place and causes the most severe economic crisis of the 20th century.
Its repercussions are global.
Germany is badly hit with 30% of its population rendered unemployed and poverty exploding.
The government in power is held responsible for the situation, fuelling the rise of extremism.
In the legislative elections of 1932, the far-right NSDAP, also known as the Nazi party, wins.
Its president Adolf Hitler is placed as head of government.
In a short time, he eliminates all opposition and seizes absolute power.
The Weimar Republic is replaced by the 3rd Reich.
Hitler’s ambition is to unite the German peoples — who he considers “superior” — into a great nation.
He wants to annul the Treaty of Versailles and annihilate Jews and Marxists.
The country leaves the League of Nations, stops war reparation payments, and reinstates compulsory military service.
In reaction, France and the United Kingdom muster weak protest.
Hitler sees this as an opportunity to massively revive Germany’s military industry.
In 1935, Italy launches a policy of colonial expansion.
Its armies enter Abyssinia, an independent country and member of the League of Nations.
Despite occupying its capital, Italian forces face continued resistance and the exiled emperor of Abyssinia would never sign an armistice.
In Spain, a civil war pits Republicans against the nationalists of General Francisco Franco, who has the military support of Italy and Germany.
The two countries take the opportunity to seek a rapprochement and become allies by forming the Rome-Berlin Axis.
Germany also signs an alliance with the Empire of Japan which invaded Manchuria in 1931.
Japan now takes advantage of a civil war in China, pitting nationalists against communists, by declaring war on the country.
Japan seizes new territories and massacres the population.
In Austria, the local Nazi party after exerting much pressure succeeds in officially annexing the country to Germany.
Hitler now wants to seize Sudetenland, a Czechoslovak territory where 3.5 million Germans live.
France and the United Kingdom, trying to avoid a new war, betray their Czechoslovak ally by authorizing the invasion of the territory.
6 months later, however, Germany violates the agreement and invades the entire country. Slovakia becomes a German satellite state.
Hungary, which lost two-thirds of its territory after WWI, allies with Germany.
Hitler now eyes the Polish corridor.
An ultimatum is issued to Poland, which rejects it.
France and the United Kingdom then announce they would support Poland in case of a German invasion.
Meanwhile, Italy invades Albania, while in Asia, a border incident between Manchukuo – dominated by Japan –
and Mongolia – a Soviet ally – is followed by a battle between the Japanese and Soviet armies.
Despite its alliance with Japan, Germany does not intervene as the country is preparing to invade Poland.
Germany even signs a nonaggression pact with the USSR.
A secret protocol delimits the spheres of influence of the two powers in Poland and Eastern Europe.
After its defeat, Japan abandons its westward expansion and instead focuses its attention on the south.
On September 1, Germany attacks Poland without a formal declaration of war.
In reaction, France and the United Kingdom declare war on Germany.
Polish armies are quickly overwhelmed by Germany’s new combat strategy known as the Blitzkrieg.
It involves concentrating maximum force on certain points to quickly break through a front line,
surrounding enemy pockets, and neutralizing them.
Despite German forces being concentrated in the East, Allies do not take advantage and remain stationed at the borders, instead of preparing for attrition warfare as it did during WWI.
The Soviet Union, by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, invades eastern Poland.
The two powers prevail and occupy the country.
The USSR then focuses on Finland.
When the latter refuses to renegotiate the border, which Russia considers a threat to Leningrad due to its proximity, the Red Army begins an invasion.
But it faces greater resistance than expected, and despite its clear numerical superiority, the USSR struggles to win.
Finally, peace is signed and the border is pushed back.
But the Winter War proves to be a fiasco for the USSR, which does not go unnoticed by Hitler who sees it as a weakness of the Red Army.
In the West, the Allies threaten an important iron supply route that passes through Norway and supplies 50% of German industry.
In reaction, Germany invades Denmark and Norway.
Maintaining its momentum, the Reich launches an invasion of Benelux.
The French and British, who fear a new Schlieffen plan — similar to World War I — send quickly a large part of their forces to the north to form a common front with Belgian and Dutch armies.
But Germany, as it did in Poland, launches a blitzkrieg.
After massively bombarding a weak point, its Panzer tanks pierce the front line and head for the Sea, which they reach within a week. 1.5 million Allied soldiers are surrounded.
In a few days, more than 330,000 British and French troops are evacuated via the port of Dunkirk, which is taken over on June 4.
German armies then charge Paris.
Italy takes advantage to declare war on France, opening a new front in the south.
The new head of the French government, Marshal Philippe Pétain is forced to ask for an armistice.
But General Charles De Gaulle, exiled in London, calls on the French to continue the fight.
After signing the armistice, Pétain’s government moves to Vichy, with the South East and French colonies remaining under his control.
Germany occupies the north and the Atlantic coast.
The British begin to capture and destroy French ships.
In the East, the USSR, still in alignment with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, seizes Baltic countries and Bessarabia without any battles.
Hitler now wants to invade Britain.
But the island is too well defended by the Royal Navy, so aerial attacks are launched.
The British RAF and the German Luftwaffe regularly clash, causing heavy losses on both sides.
But the British fleet regenerates faster than Germany’s, forcing it to review its strategy.
British air force installations then become the target of bombardment.
On the night of August 24, a German plane misses its intended target and bombards a district of London.
In retaliation, Britain bombs Berlin the following day.
Hitler is furious.
The battle takes a new turn.
Both camps begin targeting cities.
Despite London being regularly bombed, the Germans do not succeed in dominating the war.
Hitler then plans to abandon this front to shift focus to the USSR.
On September 27, Japan joins Germany and Italy in signing the Tripartite Pact.
Despite their alliance, Germany and Italy are not fighting the same war.
Mussolini concentrates his forces on the conquest of new colonies:
from Libya to Egypt, Italian East Africa to British Somaliland, and from Albania to Greece.
But it is a failure for his troops who retreat against the British and Greek armies, while the Royal Navy dominates over the Italian fleet.
Germany is forced to intervene to prevent the Mediterranean Basin from falling entirely into British hands.
Another aim is protecting Romanian oil which is vital for Germany.
A German army is sent to Libya, while another head for the Balkans.
After Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, it is now Bulgaria’s turn to join the Axis.
Yugoslavia and Greece are then invaded within a few weeks.
On June 22, Germany and its allies launch a surprise military invasion
— the largest in history — against the USSR, which passes de facto into the Allied camp.
Finland takes the opportunity to join the offensive and try to recover its lost territories.
On paper, nothing can stop the Wehrmacht, which is by far the best army in the world.
Blitzkriegs are launched on a large scale, allowing the capture of some 3 million soldiers who would be tortured and starved in camps.
While behind the front lines, German mobile militias are tasked with massacring Jews and Bolsheviks.
To support the USSR, the Allies open a supply route via the Caucasus.
But the route seems threatened by the Shah of Iran who shows sympathies towards Germany.
The USSR and the United Kingdom then decide to invade the country.
In the USSR, the German advance is slowed down due to the sheer vastness of the battlefield and the bad state of roads.
Also, the Germans underestimated the Red Army, which despite heavy losses, regenerates quickly with the arrival of new troops from the East, where a non-aggression treaty was signed with Japan.
A new front is created at the gates of Moscow, after which German troops suffer a knock-out punch falling from the sky.
In a few days, temperatures drop below -30 degrees Celsius.
Badly equipped, German forces suffer while the Soviets counterattack and push back the front line which is then stabilized.
What Hitler feared is happening: some 80% of his army would find itself stuck in attrition warfare.
On the Asian front, to counter Japan’s expansionist policy, the United States imposes an embargo on oil and steel, essential resources for the country’s industry and army.
However, in the south-east of the continent, in the European colonies, there are large reserves of oil, iron, and rubber.
With European powers preoccupied with the war on the old continent, Japan thinks it can quickly seize these lands.
The only threat in the region is the United States and mainly its powerful Pacific fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor.
Japan decides to strike hard and by surprise to delay as much as possible any military intervention by the United States.
On December 7, without a declaration of war, the Japanese air force bombs the military port of Pearl Harbor.
The offensive is successful, although damage is limited.
The United States, which already supplies the United Kingdom, the USSR, and China with arms, join the Allies.
But they would need a few months to repair their fleet, accelerate their arms race and enter the Pacific.
Japan takes advantage of this delay to successfully begin its conquest of Southeast Asia.
Civilians are largely targeted throughout the war.
Japan massacres populations in conquered countries.
In Europe, Nazi concentration camps, initially intended to lock up political opponents, became killing factories.
Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and people with disabilities being exterminated there.
In occupied territories as well as in Germany, pockets of resistance organize.
In Western Europe, resistance is mainly non-violent, manifesting via strikes, refusal to collaborate, propaganda, sabotage, and intelligence.
In the East, mainly in Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, and in the occupied Soviet territories, militias launch guerrilla warfare against the invaders.
In the Atlantic Ocean, German submarines — called U-boats — attempt to blockade Britain by sinking commercial ships that supply the island.
The United States, for its part, secretly embarks on research to develop atomic weapons.
Also, the country now gets ready to engage in the Pacific.
In 2 months, two decisive battles put an end to Japanese expansion.
On the Eastern Front, Hitler launches a new offensive, this time focused only towards the south, targeting the important oil reserves of the Caucasus and cutting off the Allied supply route.
Axis troops quickly reach the gates of Stalingrad, but the industrial city is fiercely defended by the Soviets.
In the South Pacific, Allied forces, with the United States in the lead launch a counter-attack, the objective being to move from island to island all the way to Japan.
Also, the United States uses submarines to sink ships that transport resources to Japan.
In Egypt, British troops win a decisive battle that definitively pushes Italo-German forces out of the country.
While in the West, and Allied landing allows the rapid capture of French colonies.
In retaliation, the Germans and Italians invade Vichy France.
In the USSR, as the 6th German Army managed to seize with great difficulty 90% of Stalingrad, a Soviet counterattack takes place outside the city.
They drive out Romanian troops, who form the rear flanks and surround the 300,000 German soldiers in the city.
After two months of resistance, they are forced to surrender.
In Africa, the last Axis troops are defeated.
The Allies control the continent and now set their sights on southern Europe.
A first landing takes place in Sicily.
On the Eastern Front, Hitler tries to maintain the upper hand by launching a new offensive on Kursk, which leads to the biggest tank battle in history.
Under pressure, Stalin urges his allies to open a new front in the West.
The United Kingdom and the United States first want to weaken and demoralize Germany by intensifying the bombing of industrial centers and cities.
Hamburg, the country’s second city, is largely razed to the ground.
In Kursk, despite heavy losses, the Soviets prevail and gain the upper hand over the Germans.
In Italy, after the fall of Mussolini, a British landing threatens the country.
The new government signs an armistice with the Allies.
But the Germans anticipate this scenario and quickly take control of Italian territories.
With an Allied victory now seeming possible, Stalin for the USSR, Churchill for the United Kingdom, and Roosevelt for the United States meet in Tehran to prepare for the end of the war.
The three leaders agree to coordinate better, to soon open a second front in Europe via two landings in France,
and to provide military support to the Communist resistance led by Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia.
In the east, the siege of Leningrad ends after 872 days, claiming the lives of at least 1 million civilians.
In the West, after the bombing of German factories that produce coal-based synthetic fuel, Allies are ready to open a new front.
The biggest military landing in history allows troops largely from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to gain a foothold in Normandy, while the USSR for its part launches a huge offensive which in two months pushes the Germans back by 600km.
In France, while a second landing takes place in the South, General de Gaulle enters a liberated Paris.
On multiple fronts, Allied advances liberate countries one by one.
Only the Yugoslav resistance drives out the German troops of its own accord.
Again, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt come together to prepare for the postwar period.
Roosevelt obtains the future creation of the United Nations which would replace the League of Nations.
Countries that declare war on Germany before March 1 would be allowed to be part of it, which causes a wave of war declarations with little consequence.
It is also decided to recreate Poland.
But Stalin refuses to cede conquered territories.
Polish territory would therefore be moved to the West to the detriment of Germany, which itself would be divided and occupied by the victors.
The USSR swears to also declare war on Japan after Germany surrenders.
The last 4 months of the Reich prove to be the deadliest.
In concentration camps, on battlefields, and among populations, on average, 30,000 people die every day.
Berlin is finally surrounded by the Soviets.
Hitler who had taken refuge in his bunker commits suicide 2 days before the fall of the city.
The capitulation of the 3rd Reich is signed in Reims on May 7 and ratified in Berlin the following day.
In Potsdam, the victors decide the fate of the vanquished. Italy loses its colonies.
Germany, as expected, is divided and occupied, while the east of the country becomes Polish.
The new frontiers of the continent would result in large-scale ethnic cleansing.
Polish and German minorities would be driven to their new country.
Finally, an ultimatum is issued to Japan, demanding its unconditional surrender.
Japan ignores the ultimatum.
The country is heavily bombed by the United States for several months.
More than 60 large industrial cities had already been devastated.
The United States then drops 2 atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while the USSR begins invading Manchukuo, southern Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.
Finally, on September 2, Japan surrenders.
The country would be occupied by the United States until 1952.
In the West, the USSR and the United States agree on a provisional division of Korea.
Finally, in Indochina, the French regain control of their former colony
but face opposition by some Vietnamese groups claiming independence.
Colonial empires worldwide are weakened as independence movements gain momentum, provoked by heavy involvement in war and high death tolls.
World War II is the deadliest war in history, with an estimated 75 million deaths, of which 66% are civilians.
The Soviet Union and China are by far the most affected, while in China civil war resumes between Communists and Nationalists.
In Europe, almost 3 million tonnes of bombs were used, devastating the continent.
Many cities are destroyed, mainly in Germany.
The continent finds itself divided with the East under Soviet influence and the West under US influence.
For the first time, Germany and France would come together to revive the economy and preserve peace by creating the European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor of the European Union.
At the international level, the United Nations is created and tasked with preserving peace.
Other international organizations such as NATO, the IMF, and the World Bank are also created.
From an energy point of view, the great powers begin a nuclear race and scramble to control global oil resources.
Rivalry accelerates between the USSR and the United States.
The two superpowers would embark upon a Cold War.