World War II was the deadliest conflict in global history. Millions died, most of them civilians. While there were many factors contributing to tensions in Europe in the 1930s, it was political unrest in Germany and the rise of fascism in many nations in Europe and the Soviet Union that set the stage for a conflict on a massive scale.
Why Did WWII Start?
In the aftermath of World War I, Germany found itself in a politically and economically precarious position. During the 1930s, Adolf Hitler rose to power in the nation with the popularity of his National Socialist Party. He became Chancellor of the Reich in 1933 and began to declare himself "Fuhrer" or Supreme Leader. He began to militarize the previously demilitarized nation and forge alliances with Japan and Italy in an effort to create Germany as a world power.
Hitler's vocal obsession with what he believed was the purity of the German race was what provoked him to initiate conflict. He believed that the Aryan race needed more land to expand and to do so, the displacement or "extermination" of citizens of the lesser genetic backgrounds was necessary. While there was mounting concern in Europe over Hitler's strategies and rhetoric, it was the German Army's invasion of Poland in 1939 that pushed Great Britain and France to declare war on the juggernaut nation. This was the beginning of World War II.
What Countries Were Involved In World War II?
While the conflict began between Germany, which had annexed Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and Great Britain and France, it soon expanded to include Italy and Russia, who had fascist sympathies and the latter of which had supported the invasion in Poland. Soon Germany was occupying Norway and Denmark and had moved through Belgium and the area known as the Netherlands.
Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary joined the Axis powers of Italy, Russia and Germany. Shortly thereafter, German troops invaded Yugoslavia and Greece. By 1941, the conflict had spread to the Pacific, where Japan's aggression was going unchecked, as it seized control of European colonial settlements in the region. It was the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor that finally induced the United States to join the conflict, with Congress declaring war on Japan. Shortly thereafter Germany and the remaining Axis powers declared war on the United States.
How Did World War II End?
World War II ended in 1945 with an Allied victory. At the Potsdam conference later that year, President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met to discuss the still existing conflict with Japan and to settle the affairs of Germany. The country was to be divided into four parcels of land controlled by the Allied powers of Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent, France.
Churchill and Truman required Stalin's support against Japan, leading them to agree to his demands. In early August of 1945, amid fears of an escalating and costly conflict in the Pacific, Truman dropped the first of two atomic bombs on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. A few days later Japan agreed to accept the Potsdam Conference terms and formally surrendered in early September.