Dhaka, Bangladesh
80th anniversary of World War II: Lessons for humankind

80th anniversary of World War II: Lessons for humankind

By Maxim Dobrokhotov

1st September, 2019 marked the 80-th year since the beginning of The Second World War. This bloodiest and most destructive war in the history of mankind raged for six years. Armies from 61 countries with a total population of 1 billion 700 million people, that is 80% of the total population of the planet, took to the guns. The war operations engulfed 40 countries. This war claimed the lives of over 60 million people and the worst thing of all is that the number of deaths among civilians exceeded that of those killed in active combat by a number of times. The preceding events When explaining about the causes and sources of The Second World War, historians point out that in 1918 the First World War did not end with peace but with a truce, that is, the first round of global confrontation was completed, and in 1939 the second began. After the First World War, many European states disappeared from the political map and new ones were formed. Those who had won did not want to part with their acquisitions and the vanquished wanted to recover their losses. The rivalry between European states became even more acute. Germany, which had been defeated, was offended by the terms of the Versailles Peace Accord of 1918 and did not want to put up with the will of the victors - England and France. Dictatorial regimes became a significant factor for the preparation of the future war. They began to multiply in Europe in the prewar years at an amazing rate. Dictators established themselves in their countries, developing armies for calming down their peoples but with further aims of capturing new territories. The attack of fascist Italy on Ethiopia in 1935, the fascist insurrection of General Franco in 1936, the ensuing civil war in Spain and also the beginning of Japanese invasion on China were a prelude to the conflagration of the new World War. There was also another important factor. That is the emergence of the Soviet Union (USSR), which in strength marched the Russian Empire. Also the USSR was posing the danger of the spread of socialist ideas which West European countries would never tolerate. The beginning of the Second World War was preceded by many different diplomatic and political factors. The Versailles agreements were never acceptable to Germany. In the wake of economic and political crises in that country, in 1933 power was passed on to the Nazis led by Hitler. With which words can someone characterize the Hitler regime, a regime that had set its goal to establish its domination of the whole world by any means, criminal, inhuman, brutal, barbaric, racist, treacherous, mean...? There are not enough definitions by which to denounce the essence of the Hitler clique that killed millions of people not only at the battlefields but also in the gas chambers of concentration camps which had been set up by Nazis and in burned-down occupied cities and villages. The Nazis established not only a powerful modern army, but also a bloc of fascist states which became their allies in Europe. Towards the beginning of the war, final positioning of the warring forces was done. On one side, the aggressive bloc the base of which was formed by Germany, Italy and Japan, while on the other - Great Britain, France and the United States of America. In all that, at that moment the basic desire of Great Britain and France was to fend off the threat of the German aggression from their countries and to direct it to the East. They very much wanted to push Nazism into collision with the USSR. This policy led to the fact that, despite all efforts made by the USSR, it was not possible to avert the war. Culmination of the policy of appeasement which shook the political situation in Europe and, in fact, which pushed for the outbreak of the war, was the Munich Agreement that was signed in September 1938 between Britain, France, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Under this agreement, Czechoslovakia was forced to "voluntarily" cede part of its territory to Germany. A year later, in March 1939, this country was wholly occupied and ceased to exist as a state. Poland and Hungary had also participated in dividing Czechoslovakia. Evidently, it was then that Hitler felt a complete impunity. This was the beginning and Poland was next in Hitler's plans. The protracted attempts of the Soviet Union to persuade the governments of Britain and France to conclude an agreement on mutual assistance in the event of an aggression were in vain. Here is what the famous English historian N. Ferguson writes in this regard: "When the Soviets proposed a tripartite alliance of Britain, France and Russia in order to protect not only themselves, but also their immediate neighbors from German aggression, they were refused. Chamberlain flew three times to Germany to meet Hitler, but he never even thought about flying to Moscow. He even refused to send his minister Eden there, let alone Churchill as a special envoy. Only at the end of May1939 preliminary consultations began, but they proceeded extremely slowly. And only in August, the British and French military delegations went to Moscow by sea, not by air, and they were led by "middle-level officers." In summer of 1939 the Polish government committed a grave mistake when it refused the USSR proposal to allow Soviet forces to pass through its territory with the aim of preventing the German aggression in the event of its invasion of Poland. Earlier on the USSR had also got a refusal for similar proposals to Czechoslovakia and Romania. In such a situation, having found out that it had been left alone before the obvious danger of aggression, in 1939 the USSR had no alternative but to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany- known as the "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact". Those who are now trying to "rewrite" history and claim that it was this pact that pushed Hitler to war, for some reason "forget" about the Munich Agreement of 1938. In fact, this pact enabled the Soviet Union to hold back Hitler's attack for almost two years and to strengthen the defense capability of Soviet forces. Furthermore, the treaty facilitated the conclusion of neutrality pact with Japan which had a subsequent importance for the USSR in the battles against German fascism. The beginning of the war On 1st September, 1939, after a provocation carried out by German "secret services" military operations began against Poland. Two days later, England and France declared war against Germany. They were immediately supported by Canada, New Zealand and Australia, India and the Union of South Africa. The capture of Poland turned into a world war. But Poland did not receive a real help that it needed so much. Two German armies consisting of 62 divisions occupied a big part of Poland in just two weeks. The government of that country fled to Romania. Heroism of the Polish soldiers was not enough to defend the country. 0n 17 th September the USSR deployed its forces in Western Ukraine and took back Western Belorussia which had belonged to the Russian Empire before the First World War. That is how 80 years ago, on 1st September,1939 the first stage of the Second World War began. Until May 1940, England and France had not changed their policies, hoping that Germany would continue its offensive only to the East. But things did not turn out that way. The most important events of The Second World War In April 1940 Denmark fell in the path of the German army and Norway followed suit immediately. The German army carried out the attack on France through its neighboring countries - The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The French fortifications of "Maginot line" of defense could not withstand it and already on 20th May Germans reached the English Channel. The armies of Holland and Belgium capitulated. The French fleet was defeated. French, British and Belgian forces which had been blockaded by the Germans in the region of the French port of Dunkirk were evacuated to England. The French government fled from Paris and signed an act of surrender. Next in line was the United Kingdom. The Germans formed a blockade of the island and went on to bombard English cities with bombs dropped from airplanes. The steadfast defense of the island in 1940 (Battle for England) briefly restrained the aggression. During this time war began to unwind in the Balkans. On 1stApril, 1940 the fascists seized Bulgaria while on 6th April they took Greece and Yugoslavia. As a result, the whole of Western and Central Europe now fell under Hitler's rule. From Europe, the war spread on to other parts of the world. Italian-German troops launched an offensive in North Africa, and in the fall of 1941 it was planned to begin the conquest of the Middle East and India with a farther joining of German and Japanese troops. And in the worked-out directive No. 32 the German militarism assumed that, having solved the British problem and having defeated the USSR, it would have eliminated the influence of the Anglo-Saxons on the American continent. Germany began preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union. This attack began on 22nd June, 1941, and with it, the second phase of the war began. For the destruction of the Soviet Union, Germany and its allies deployed an invasion army of unprecedented magnitude in history. It consisted of 182 divisions and 20 brigades (about 5 million people, 4.4 thousand tanks, 4.4 thousand airplanes, more than 47 thousand guns and mortars, 246 ships). Germany was supported by Romania, Finland and Hungary while Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain, Portugal and Turkey rendered assistance. The Soviet Union was not fully prepared to repulse this invasion. And so, summer and autumn of 1941 were most critical for the country. The Soviet Army suffered huge losses in the first months of the battles. The fascist troops were able to advance from 850 to 1200 kilometers into Soviet territory. The city of Leningrad was blockaded, the Germans were able to get closer to the capital - Moscow, large parts of Donbass and the Crimea were seized and the Baltic Sea region was occupied. But the war against the Soviet Union did not go as Hitler and his generals had wished. The plan of a "lightning" capture of Moscow and Leningrad failed. The defeat of Germans in the battle of Moscow destroyed the myth of the invincibility of their army. Such "blitzkrieg" of Hitler as in Western Europe did not work in Russia. It was at this time when all military forces in the world began to unite against fascism. Churchill and Roosevelt officially announced that they would support the Soviet Union, and on 12th July, the USSR and Britain concluded an agreement. On 2nd August the United States pledged to provide economic and military assistance to the Soviet Army. On 14th August England and the USA promulgated the Atlantic Charter (The Atlantic Charter) which the USSR joined. In September, Soviet and British troops occupied Iran in order to prevent the creation of fascist bases in the East. In December 1941, the military situation in the Pacific deteriorated. The Japanese attacked the American naval base of Pearl Harbor. The Americans declared war against Italy, Japan and Germany. In the Pacific, in Southeast Asia and in North Africa, at first, not everything was in favor of the Allies. Japan seized part of China, French Indochina, Malaya, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Forces of the army and navy of Great Britain, Holland and the United States suffered great losses in the Java operations. As a result of the battles that began in 1940 in North Africa and particularly as a result of the victory at El-Alamein at the end of 1942, the Anglo-American troops were able to rout the Germans and Italians from Egypt, Ethiopia and the Maghreb in May,1943. Fighting alongside their forces there were also soldiers recruited in African colonies, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India as well as the French and Greeks. The total number of servicemen from the Union of South Africa and the African colonies of England, France and Belgium, drawn, as in 1914, into an "alien" war and sent to North Africa and Southeast Asia was approximately 1.4 million people. Nearly 290 thousand of them were from East Africa, including 100 thousand from Tanganyika. The third stage of the war is considered to be crucial. Military operations at this stage differed in scale and intensity. The opening of the Second Front in Western Europe kept on being postponed indefinitely, and Germans then thrust all their might to gain a strategic initiative on the Eastern Front, that is against Russia. The fate of the whole world war was decided in the battle for Stalingrad on the Russian river Volga and in the grand tank- battle in the fields near Kursk in the heart of Russia. With tension and hope, the world closely followed up progress of these battles which were unparalleled in their scope and bitterness. In the Battle of Stalingrad (17thJuly, 1942 - 2ndFebruary, 1943) the two sides deployed a total of more than 2.1 million soldiers, tens of thousands of artillery guns and thousands of tanks and aircraft. Both sides suffered huge losses but the Soviet Army won and a crucial turn in the course of the war happened. In summer of 1943, with a hope of regaining the strategic initiative, Germany worked out an offensive tank operation in central Russia. The tank battle at Kursk (5thJuly - 23rdAugust, 1943), due to its scale, power and deployed resources, tension, outcome, military and political consequences, became one of the key battles of the Second World War. It is considered the largest tank battle in world history. It involved about 2 million people, 6 thousand tanks, 4 thousand aircraft and it paved the way for the great Red Army offensive of the year 1944-45. The crack in the course of the war which was started at Stalingrad came into complete break in the Battles for Kursk as well as Dnieper. The shattering victories of the Soviet troops in 1943 became a strong mobilizing stimulus for the whole world, for activation of the struggle against Nazism and fascism. Nevertheless, active action of the Allies on the Western Front was still distant. (To be continued) (From previous yesterday's issue) They were waiting for further weakening of the German forces which were engaged in severe battles on Russian territory. On 25thJuly, 1943 Italy quit the war and the Italian fascist government was liquidated. The new government now declared war against Hitler. The fascist union began to fall apart. In June 1944, the Soviet Army began operations to liberate Eastern European states. It became clear to everyone, and above all to the German generals themselves, that Germany had lost the war. On 6thJune, at last the Second Front was opened. 156 thousand soldiers from the USA, England and Canada landed on the west coast of France - in Normandy. More active action of the Western allies now began. At the end of April, 1945 the Soviet Army entered the "den of the nazi beast" - Berlin and hoisted the Red Flag of Victory over the roof of Reichstag - parliament building of Germany. So the joint actions of countries constituting the anti-Hitler coalition led to total defeat of Nazi troops and final surrender of Germany. However, war in the Far East and in Southeast Asia raged on. Japanese forces continued to threaten the Soviet border. The end of the war against Germany enabled the US to strengthen its forces which were fighting against Japan. The Soviet Union, loyal to its obligations set with its allies, transferred its divisions to the Far East and within 15 days in August 1945 defeated the Japanese troops in Manchuria. The war in the Far East and in territories of Southeast Asia ended on 2nd September, 1945. In this war the United States used nuclear weapons against Japan. Results and effects of the Second World War Victory over fascism should be considered as the main result of the Second World War. The threat of enslavement and partial extermination of mankind disappeared. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the German army and suffered the greatest losses as the Nazis had deployed two thirds of their troops on the Eastern Front. More than 26 million Soviet people perished. The aggressors and their accomplices burned down and destroyed 1,710 cities and towns, more than 70,000 villages, completely or partially destroyed 1.5 million buildings and structures as well as 31,850 industrial enterprises. 25 million people lost their homes. Loss and destruction did not bypass any nation. More than 6 million people died in Poland and 5.5 million in Germany. The British Empire lost 4 million 190 thousand people, the French Empire - 2 million 685 thousand people, the United States - 1 million 421 thousand people. A huge part of the European Jewish population was wiped out. Many millions of people perished in China, Indonesia and Indochina. 2.5 million Japanese died. The list of sad data can go on and on. This war could have led to the collapse of civilization. Through court proceedings at Nurnberg the world condemned the war criminals and the fascist ideology. Victory in the war promoted the Soviet Union to the rank of the world leading powers prompted the rise of its authority and prestige on the international arena. The social transformation in Asia and Africa accelerated and the processes of decolonization on these continents received a strong impetus. A new political map of the planet emerged, there occurred a social split of Europe, which again divided the world into two camps and became a cause of extreme tension. The political and social polarization in the world magnified, confrontation of liberal and socialist models which is commonly called the "cold war", intensified. This is a multifaceted struggle for geopolitical interests which the former allies of Russia began to wage against it almost immediately after the end of the World War. Today, even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, this struggle is still intensifying. The world is witnessing attempts of Western countries to rewrite the history of the Second World War. The main objects of the "revision" are the most important problems of the war - the history of the pre-war period, the war skills of the Soviet Army command, the role and importance of the various fronts, Soviet losses in the war, the price of victory, etc. Falsifications on these and other problems spread through circulation of millions of copies of books, articles, were aired on television and radio programs and in movies. The purpose of all this is to belittle Russia's moral and political authority on the international arena, isolate it, and for this purpose, present the Soviet Union alongside with Germany as being responsible for unleashing the war, belittle the contribution of the USSR and its army in the defeat of the fascist bloc and at the same time glorify the role of the Western allies in the anti-Hitler coalition in achieving victory. But if the new generations of people won't know the truth about this war, if they won't understand the danger to world peace being posed by those who are trying to glorify the Nazis, then the world may again be on the verge of a great tragedy ... Based on results and effects of the Second World War, we can name its main lessons: o A Third World War should not be allowed as there will be no winners in it but only ruins of civilization will result; o The deepening crisis of mistrust between states should never be tolerated since lack of collective security will give rise to a situation of gradual drawing of mankind into war or localized conflicts; o Based on the bitter experience of the war, it is impossible to pursue a policy of "appeasement" of the aggressor, unprincipled deals and secret protocols, to erase the difference between democracy, fascism and neo-nazism as that creates conditions for emergence of armed conflicts; o It is impossible to ensure your own country's security at the expense of other countries and that it is necessary to constantly maintain the interdependence of politics and morals; o It is unacceptable to set up totalitarian regimes with their ideology and practice, militarism, imperial ambitions and formation of aggressive military blocs, as this can lead to a large international conflict. Mankind has no right to allow the tragedy of "collective suicide" to recur. Any global problems of mankind, first of all preservation of peace, can and should be solved only through joint efforts, even despite serious contradictions that exist in the modern world. Since the beginning of the Second World War 80 years have passed, but we should never forget about it. It is one of the most important events in the history of mankind, an event that determined the course of this history and therefore disputes about it will not subside through many years to come.

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