World War II -  1939-45

World War II, also called the Second World War, was a global war. It took place from 1939–1945. Most of the world's countries, including all the great powers, fought as part of two military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war was fought as a "total war", meaning all resources a country had were used in the war, even those that didn't belong to the army, such as factories.


It involved more countries, cost more money, and killed more people than any other war in human history. Between 30 and 50 million people died. The majority were civilians.


The start of the war is usually said to be the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. France and Britain reacted to the German invasion of Poland by declaring war on Germany. By 1941, most of Europe was under German control. Only Britain remained fighting against the Axis in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic. In June 1941, the Axis Powers invaded the Soviet Union, starting the largest theatre of war in history. This would harm the Axis military power greatly. In December 1941, Japan attacked Western colonies in the Pacific.


The Japanese victories were stopped in 1942, and the European Axis victories were also stopped by 1943, both in North Africa and in the Soviet Union. After that, the Allies started to fight back from all sides. The Axis lost North Africa and, starting in 1943, were forced to defend Italy. In 1944, the Allies invaded France, heading towards Germany, while the Soviets kept closing in from the East. Germany surrendered in May 1945. Japan formally surrendered on 2 September 1945. The war ended with the Allied victory.


After the war, the United Nations was set up to develop support between countries and to prevent future wars.  


Greece, France and Poland were among many countries that were invaded and taken over by Germany. British people were also badly affected during the war – many young men were conscripted to fight overseas and many British cities and towns were bombed by German planes. Both Spain and Ireland were officially neutral during the war, but many young men volunteered to fight and many lost their lives.


World War II resulted in mass migration to other countries by people who feared for their lives. As Germany invaded and conquered many European countries, millions of Jewish people were forced to flee their homelands to avoid being murdered by the Nazi regime. Before and during the war Jewish refugees fled countries such as Germany, Poland, Greece, France and Holland. Jews were granted asylum in countries including USA, Canada, Britain and Palestine.


Nazi leaders organised the mass murder of millions of ‘undesirables’ including Jews, Slavs, Poles, Spanish Republicans, black Germans and gypsies in concentration camps such as Auschwitz. In addition people with disabilities and learning difficulties were murdered as the Nazis considered them to be inferior. Many Germans were killed by the Nazis.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Persecution of Thessaloniki Jews