Germany Invades Poland

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, France and Britain declared war on Germany. After conquering Poland, Germany attacked France. France fell in June 1940, and soon the Nazis overran most of the rest of Europe and North Africa. Only Britain, led by Winston Churchill, was not defeated.
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from the U.S. Holocaust Museum

View World War II historical film footage from the U.S. Holocaust Museum

Germany invades Poland - German film clip
Fall of Warsaw - British film clip
Swastika flag rises over Versailles and Paris - German film clip
Germans bomb Coventry, England - English film clip
Japan attacks Peal Harbor - American film clip
US enters WWI - Roosevelt's "date that shall live in infamy" speech
Truman declares Victory in Europe - American film clip
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Battle of Midway

Following the attack on Peal Harbor, Japanese armies rolled over Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the East Indies. The war in the Pacific was fought on land, at sea, and in the air. The turning point in the war in the Pacific came in June, 1942 at the Battle of Midway. In a four day battle fought between aircraft based on giant aircraft carriers, the U.S. destroyed hundreds of Japanese planes and regained control of the Pacific. The Japanese continued to fight on, however, even after the war in Europe ended.

Stalingrad

On June 22, 1941, four million troops poured over the Russian border. Within one month, over two and half million Russians had been killed, wounded or captured. The Germans made tremendous advances into Russia into portions of Moscow, Leningrad, and Stalingrad.

And then winter hit. The Germans were caught in summer uniforms, and it was a bitter, cold winter that year.

Stalin, using sheer force of numbers, threw another two million soldiers at the Germans.

Battle of Stalingrad 1942   photo courtesy of National Archive

The German offensive sputtered, and then stopped. The German army was about 1,800 miles away from home, and the railroads did not work.

In the spring of the next year (1943), another German offensive was launched especially around the approaches to Stalingrad. What followed can only be described as a nine-month titanic battle, with the result that the German Sixth Army in Russia was almost completely destroyed. That was the beginning of the end for Germany, but it would take three more years of desperate fighting, and millions and millions of people dead before it was all over.

D-Day

On D-Day, June 6, 1944 , General Dwight Eisenhower led U.S. and Allied troops in an invasion of Normandy, France. The armies fought their way through France and Belgium and into Germany while Russian troops fought from the east. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The Japanese fought on even after the war in Europe ended. Truman decided to use the newly developed atomic bomb to end the war quickly and prevent more U.S. casualties.  The Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, killing about 78,000 people and injuring 100,000 more. On August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killing another 40,000 people.

Anti-semitism

In part, the Nazi party gained popularity by disseminating anti-Jewish propaganda. Millions bought Hitler's book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which called for the removal of Jews from Germany.

With the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the party ordered anti-Jewish boycotts, staged book burnings, and enacted anti-Jewish legislation. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws defined Jews by blood and ordered the total separation of "Aryans" and "non-Aryans." On November 9, 1938, the Nazis destroyed synagogues and the shop windows of Jewish-owned stores throughout Germany and Austria (Kristallnacht).

Germany, 1936               llustration from an anti-Semitic children's book. The sign reads "Jews are not wanted here."
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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust

The Holocaust
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The Holocaust was the systematic persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were "unworthy of life." During the era of the Holocaust, the Nazis also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the handicapped, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others).

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe stood at over nine million. By 1945, close to two out of every three European Jews had been killed as part of the "Final Solution", the Nazi policy to murder the Jews of Europe.