The invasion of Poland by Hitler in September 1939 prompted the United Kingdom and France to declare war on Germany, kicking off World War II history. The fight would claim more lives and destroy more land and property worldwide in the next six years than any previous conflict. Six million Jews were among the 45-60 million people executed in Nazi concentration camps as part of Hitler’s wicked “Final Solution,” now known as the Holocaust.
In The Years Preceding Up To World War II
The defoliation of the Great War (as World War I was then known) had significantly destabilized Europe, and World War II arose out of concerns left unsolved by that previous battle in many ways. Political and industrial instability in Germany and lingering anger of the Versailles Treaty’s strict terms spurred Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power and the growth of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, abbreviated as NSDAP in German and the Nazi Party in English.
The Start Of World War II (1939)
Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin acknowledged the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in late August 1939, causing panic in London and Paris. Hitler had long planned an invasion of Poland, a country to which the United Kingdom and France had pledged military support if Germany attacked. Because of the agreement with Stalin, Hitler would not have to fight two wars once he invaded Poland, and he would have Soviet support in capturing and splitting the country.
In The West, World War II (1940-41)
On April 9, 1940, Germany attacked Norway and conquered Denmark simultaneously, and the war officially began. On May 10, German forces launched a “blitzkrieg,” or rapid war, that rushed across Belgium and the Netherlands. Three days later, Hitler’s troops traversed the Meuse River and attacked French forces at Sedan, which was at the northern end of the Maginot Line, a complex network of fortifications built after World War I and thought to be impregnable. In fact, with their tanks and planes, the Germans burst through the barrier and went to the rear, leaving it ineffective. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was evacuated from Dunkirk by water in late May, but French forces in the south put up a brave fight. On June 10, with France on the point of collapse, Italy’s fascist ruler Benito Mussolini established the Pact of Steel with Hitler, and Italy declared war on France and Britain.
On June 14, German soldiers occupied Paris; two nights later, a new administration led by Marshal Philippe Petain (France’s World War I hero) demanded an armistice. Hitler shifted his focus to Britain, which benefited from being separated from the Continent by the English Channel as a defensive advantage. That is all about World War II history.