Large parts of the city of Breslau (now called Wrocław) were destroyed in the Second World War.
The Second World War
lasted from 1939 to 1945. It began on 1 September 1939, when German troops invaded neighbouring Poland. The National Socialists
, who had taken power in Germany under the leadership of the dictator Adolf Hitler
, wanted Germany to become large and powerful again. They no longer wanted to accept the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, which restricted Germany’s power after the First World War
. Poland was the first country to be occupied by German troops.
Germany was allied with Italy and Japan (they were called the “Axis powers”). The opponents of the Axis were, above all, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the USA. Altogether 27 nations were involved in this world war. In Europe, almost all countries were directly affected by the war. At first, the German troops managed to conquer most European countries. But Germany was unable to defeat its enemies. In 1941, the USA joined in the war against Germany. Together with the other Allies, they liberated the regions that had been occupied by the German armies. The German troops were defeated. The dictator committed suicide in Berlin on 30 April, 1945. Germany surrendered, and a ceasefire came into effect on 9 May 1945.
But that did not mean an end to the Second World War. Japan was still waging war against the USA in Asia. It was not until early September 1945, after American bombers had dropped atom bombs on the large Japanese cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, that the Japanese government surrendered. Many hundreds of thousands of people were killed or severely injured in these attacks.
Altogether, the Second World War claimed over 60 million lives. More than six million Jews were murdered by the Germans. The Sinti and Roma peoples
and other minorities were persecuted and killed.
Germany, which had lost the war, was at first occupied by the troops of the four victorious allies, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the USA and France. Then the country was divided into the Federal Republic
of Germany and the German Democratic Republic
. Another consequence of the war was the division of Europe into two power blocs under the leadership of the USA and the Soviet Union. This post-
war order only ended in 1990 with the collapse of the GDR and the Soviet Union.
Gerd Schneider/ Christiane Toyka-Seid