Which countries fought against Hitler in World War II?

Second World War

The Second World War lasted from 1939 to 1945. This war is considered the worst in history: Over 60 million people lost their lives. A particularly large number of the victims of this war were not soldiers, but ordinary residents. They died by guns, starved to death, or were deliberately murdered. This includes six million Jews.

Germany was then ruled by the National Socialists. Their boss, Adolf Hitler, had already occupied several countries before the actual war. In 1939 he signed a treaty with the Soviet Union. This made him feel powerful enough to conquer Poland. But France and Great Britain did not want to allow that and so it came to war. Germany later attacked other countries, such as the Soviet Union. The countries that fought against Germany and its allies are called allies.

In East Asia, Japan conquered many countries and a large part of China. Japan was allied with Germany. From 1941, Japan also fought against the United States. The war in Asia ended when the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan: Japan gave up and was occupied by the US.

The war ended in 1945. Germany, Japan and their allies were defeated or had joined the allies. They got new governments. The war changed a lot in Europe and Asia. In the end, the United States and the Soviet Union were the most powerful states in the world.

How did the war come about?

A map of Europe in 1942. Germany, its allies and all the countries that were occupied by them are colored blue. The countries in red were still free and fought as allies against Germany.

After the First World War, the German economy fared badly. Germany had lost a lot of land in the Treaty of Versailles and had to pay the victorious powers a lot of money to repair the war damage. From 1923 onwards there was an upswing, but the global economic crisis wiped out much of it.

Many dissatisfied people voted for Adolf Hitler, who promised them work and prosperity. In 1933 he managed to come to power. This started the time of National Socialism. The economy was looking up. More and more people found work and could afford a better life.

Hitler wanted to regain the lost territories and conquer further parts of Europe. Germany made many weapons without having any money for them. The money was later to be stolen from the conquered countries. Hitler was also a skilled politician: even before the war he managed to occupy Austria, among other things.

Italy also wanted to enlarge its territory in a similar way. Fascism ruled there under Benito Mussolini. The Soviet Union also armed itself because it wanted the whole world to become communist. Other countries like Great Britain wanted to disarm instead because weapons were expensive. Great Britain was also hit hard by the global economic crisis.

In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a treaty, the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Hitler and the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin secretly divided Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union also supplied Germany with raw materials such as oil and iron, which are needed for a war.

On September 1, 1939, German soldiers attacked Poland. Great Britain and France were horrified and declared war on Germany. After a few weeks the Soviet army advanced west. Poland soon had to give up and was split up. The Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, as well as parts of Finland and Romania.

How did the war go?

A German V2 rocket in 1943. The V2 was the first rocket in space. Towards the end of the war, such missiles killed thousands of people in London and Antwerp. 20,000 workers who had been forced to work were killed during construction.

Unlike in the First World War, not only horses but many trucks and tanks were used. There were also more planes. The pilots not only fought each other, but also shot at cities or enemy soldiers. At sea, the British, Japanese and Americans used aircraft carriers as runways for fighter planes. There were also many submarines.

Completely new weapons were also invented: With the radar, the British could see German aircraft from afar, when they could not be seen with the telescope. Sonar works in a similar way: a ship can use it to recognize other ships and also submarines. The atom bomb was a particularly powerful weapon. It was only developed at the end of the war. A single one could destroy an entire city.

On the coast of France, 1944. American and British soldiers came in from Great Britain in small boats. German soldiers wait for them on the beach to shoot them.

Germany, Italy and their allies had conquered large parts of Europe, the Soviet Union and North Africa. France, Poland, Yugoslavia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway were occupied. Great Britain, on the other hand, remained free. The Nazis tried to conquer the country with air raids and caused a lot of destruction. But the British opposed it and so Hitler abandoned his plan.

In the occupied countries, some people fought against the occupiers, not as an army, but secretly in small groups. This is called the "resistance". In most cases, however, they did not succeed in getting rid of the occupiers. Nevertheless, they disturbed the enemy with their actions and saved the lives of many people who were hunted by the Nazis. In Germany, too, there were resistance fighters who disagreed with the Nazis and resisted.

The USA initially stayed out of the war. But they delivered weapons to Great Britain with which it could wage war. Then at the end of 1941, Japan and Germany declared war on the United States. The US now manufactured many weapons and also helped the Soviet Union, which was fighting against Germany. It was not until 1944, however, that the USA and Great Britain dared the great attack on the French coast. Operation Overlord came about. The German soldiers had to withdraw.

In the east, too, the German soldiers were pushed back. In 1942 there was a decisive battle near the city of Stalingrad. At the end of 1944, Soviet soldiers reached Germany. But Adolf Hitler didn't want to give up. Eventually he killed himself in Berlin. On May 8, 1945, the German army command admitted its defeat.

In Europe the war ended, but in Asia it went on. In the summer of 1945 the Americans reached a group of islands near Japan. At that time, huge areas of Asia were still occupied by the Japanese. Because of the threat of a long and bloody war, the Americans decided to drop two atomic bombs on the two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The cities were completely destroyed. Shortly afterwards, Japen also gave up.

What were the consequences of the war?

The photo shows Russians fleeing Leningrad in 1942. Today the city is called St. Petersburg. The city was besieged for a long time by German soldiers. During that time, around a million people died of starvation or disease.

As in any war, many soldiers were killed by gunfire, bombs and poisonous gas. In the occupied territories, the people who resisted were killed. In the Soviet Union in particular, many people were mistreated or killed by the National Socialists for no reason. The German and Japanese leaderships forced their soldiers to continue fighting even when it was clear that the enemy was much stronger and would win. Instead of giving up, many continued to fight until they died. This prolonged the war and cost many lives on both sides.

The many aircraft bombs left entire cities in ruins. This was particularly the case in Germany at the end of the war. The Allies had bombed cities in Germany for months. They hoped that the Germans would give up sooner, but Hitler forbade it. Many people who were not soldiers died in this way. Many roads, bridges and other important structures such as power plants were also in ruins.

The Nazis thought Jews were bad people. That is why they abducted Jews from all over Europe. Many homosexuals and Roma felt the same way. They were sent to concentration camps and had to work there. Hard work, little food, and disease should weaken and die. Germany later murdered many Jews and other undesirable people on the spot.

When the Soviet Union conquered Eastern Europe, 15 million Germans who lived in the German eastern territories were expelled or had to flee. In doing so, they were often treated very cruelly. Germany lost a fifth of its territory after the end of the war: most of it is now part of Poland.

When Germany and Japan were defeated, the Allies occupied many territories. The most important were West Germany and the west of the city of Berlin. The Soviet Union occupied eastern Germany and made the GDR out of it. This also included East Berlin. West Berlin lay like an island in the GDR. The two parts of Berlin were later separated by a wall that lasted until 1989. It was not until 1990 that Germany was reunified.

The Soviet Union also occupied the states of the Eastern Bloc. In China, the communists soon came to power. In the south of Asia, the Europeans lost many colonies. Indonesia, for example, has now become its own independent state. This country was previously part of the Netherlands.

How do people feel about the war today?

Some German politicians and high-ranking soldiers came to court in Nuremberg. In the picture you can see American soldiers guarding them.

Today there are monuments and places all over the world where the Second World War is remembered. In Canada, for example, there are monuments to soldiers who fought in Europe and Asia. Other monuments remember the victims of war and tyranny. The United Nations and also the European Union were founded so that the peoples could work together in peace.

September 2nd is still an important day of remembrance for the end of the war. In many places the bells ring and there are commemorations. There has been no war in Western Europe for over 75 years. This is unique in the history of Europe.


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