End of the War
On 7th May 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies in France, ending World War II and the Third Reich. Although, the surrender had to be re-staged on the 9th May 1945 in Berlin, Germany, due to fears of conspiracy theories like before. Following D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy, the Germans were fighting a defensive war on two fronts, and were pushed back to France and then Germany. On the Eastern Front, following the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943, the German Army had been pushed into retreat. By the 17th January 1945, Soviet troops had liberated Warsaw, the capital of Poland. Upon news of the surrender, Victory in Europe was celebrated as the war had ended on the continent.
Even after victory in Europe, the war continued in the Pacific Theatre between the USA and Japan. American forces had made a slow, but steady push toward Japan. The USA suffered many losses and the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa of 1945 were among the bloodiest of the war. On the 6th August 1945, the USA dropped an atomic bomb on the manufacturing city of Hiroshima, immediately killing an estimated 80,000 people. Tens of thousands later died of radiation exposure. When Japan failed to immediately surrender after this, the USA detonated another more powerful bomb on Nagasaki three days later, that killed 35,000 instantly and another 50,000 in its aftermath. On the 15th August, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced Japans surrender and on the 2nd September the USA accepted Japans formal surrender.
Why did Germany lose the war?
At the start of 1939, Germany was in a strong position with their Blitzkrieg offensive and agreement with the U.S.S.R, which saw them quickly seize territory. However, the war was long and drawn out and there were four main factors why Germany lost the war:
- Poor productivity of the German war economy
Germanys economy could not support the volume of goods needed to sustain the front. Richard Evans writes, in Germany ‘by 1944, 75 percent of GDP was being devoted to the war in comparison to 60 percent in the Soviet Union and 55 percent in Britain’ [Richard Evans, The Third Reich at War, (England: Penguin Group, 2008), p333]. Throughout the war, Germany became desperately short of fuel, coal and food.
- Weak supply lines to maintain German solders
In 1941, Germany invaded the U.S.S.R and aimed to use the Blitzkrieg tactic it employed in France. However, the topography was very different and the German Army advanced on very slow, overextended supply lines. The supply delays hindered the advance and affected the soldiers on the front line. Alongside the Soviet advances, the Germans retreated.
- A war on two fronts for Germany
After the invasion of the U.S.S.R, Germany was fighting a war on two fronts against the Allies. This meant they could not dedicate all their resources to one line or another, putting them at a disadvantage. Following the Allies D-Day offensive and the simultaneous Soviet offensive Operation Bagration, Germany had to retreat.
- Lack of strong leadership in Germany
At the end of the war, Hitler became more and more reclusive, retreating to the bunker under the Reich chancellery in Berlin. The destruction and loss caused by the war also would have diminished morale of the German people, who were losing their faith in leadership. On the 30th April 1945, Hitler committed suicide and this signposted the end of the Nazi Regime.
- Entry of the U.S.A and U.S.S.R
In 1941 the U.S.A and U.S.S.R joined the war, each with their own motives. This meant the Allies acquired more resources in the way of money, weaponry and soldiers. The Soviets were considered inferior and backwards, however when they entered the war they proved they were a considerable force – converting their economy for war and enlisting women. Moreover, the American led Lend-Lease programme in 1938 provided aid in various forms to the Allies, and was greatly expanded in March 1941. Britain received thirty-one billion dollars of aid, and the Soviet Union received eleven billion dollars, which would have greatly helped the Allies war effort.
Society after the War
In the immediate aftermath of the war, numerous cities were destroyed and damaged from prolonged battle, while many economies were indebted. On the 8th May 1945, Victory in Europe was celebrated with jubilation. Wartime rationing remained due to shortages of food and raw materials – referred to as the Age of Austerity. There was some hope however, as most adults were employed and there was a renewed sense of optimism and change, especially with the Labour Government in Britain.
The nuclear arsenal however employed against Japan would cause anxiety, as nations now had a new weapon to contend with, a weapon that could be used at a distance and cause significant damage. This directly contributed to the Cold War that was already brewing. Despite the Allies working together to end the war, tensions were growing as they decided what to do in victory, and how to punish Germany. As before, there were calls to divide Germany and to remove its power and authority to prevent further warfare.