World War II

Approaching OmahaThis page is not to give you an entire history of WWII, but just a brief overview. Resources on WWII can be find in many places online. You will read through some of these for your final assignment for this lesson. Please read through the information below and then proceed to the Lesson 1 Assignment Page.

Buildup to War

Following his rise to power in 1934, Hitler quickly began preparing for war. He had visions of making Germany the greatest country in the world again, and his forst steps were to take back land that he felt should belong to Germany. For nearly six years he was able to break the long-standing Treaty of Versaille that ended WWI. In that time, he rebuilt Germany's army, navy, and air force, grabbed land and whole countries he felt belonged to a German Empire, and implemented laws that began what came to be known as the Holocaust. Until 1939, out of fear for a new war, France, Germany, and Russia (then called the Soviet Union) allowed Hitler to have want he wanted. That ended in September 1939 when Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland, and two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. In days the world was at war.

The Nazis Storm Europe

Animated map of WII in Europe

Again, whole books have been written about the war. What you need to know is that Poland fell within days to the German war machine. A month later, Hitler set his army against France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark. These countries fell within a couple of months. Next came Norway, parts of Africa, and the Balkans. Hitler later set his eyes on Russia, and by the end of 1941, The Hitler controlled nearly all of Europe except Great Britain and a few neutral countries. See the map below to help you visualize the state of the Europe at that time. 

Europe under Nazi domination

The War Turns

Map of WWII in Europe

With the help of a bitter Russian winter and America's entrance in the war by 1942, the war begins to turn against Hitler. Soviet forces are able to stop the German advance at Stalingrad, and beginning 1942, Hitler's army is on the defensive for the rest of the war. Slowly, the Allies push from all directions. First the Soviets in Russia. Then the US and Great Britain in North Africa and Italy. Finally, in 1944, Allied forces invade France and Germany fights a losing battle on both an East and West Front. By April 1945 Soviet forces reach the German capital of Berlin where Hitler kills himself and the war ends in Europe.

The map to the right gives a good overview of the war as it progressed in Europe. Click on it to view at full size. 


The Cost of War

While in the end Hitler is defeated and peace returns to Europe and the rest of the world, the price has already been paid. By the end, more than 50 million people have died as a result of Hitler's war. The Soviet Union suffered the greatest loss, while Poland and Germany paid a high price too. See the table and chart below to get a better understanding of the amount of life lost during WWII.