Nikolai Belov of the Red Army wrote in his diary at the end of 1942: ‘Yesterday I received a whole bunch of letters from Lidochka. I sense that she isn’t having an easy time back there with the little ones.’ Captain Belov understated his wife’s predicament. During the war, civilians suffered more than soldiers in many societies. Although statistics are drastically distorted by the mortality in Russia and China, it is notable that globally more non-combatants perished between 1939 and 1945 than uniformed participants.
More than any other aspect of the war, food or lack of it emphasized the relativity of suffering. Globally, far more people suffered serious hunger, or indeed died of starvation, than in any previous conflict, including World War I, because an unprecedented range of countries became battlefields, with consequent loss of agricultural production. Even the citizens of those countries which escaped famine found their diets severely restricted.
The mobilization of women was a critical social phenomenon of the war, most comprehensive in the Soviet Union, the US and Britain, although British historian Adam Tooze has shown that Germany also used female workers more widely than formerly supposed. The Japanese social ethos precluded the elevation of women to positions of responsibility, but they played a critical role in factories, and by 1944 provided half of Japan’s agricultural labor force. Pre-war Britain used female workers much less than the Soviet Union, but quickly conscripted them under the pressures of siege. Some thus found a fulfilment they had not known in peacetime. All female workers, however, remained severely disadvantaged by lower pay. All the combatant nations deployed women as nurses, a role many found rewarding. They also fulfilled vital administrative and support functions for Allied and Axis armed forces. They were treated with condescension by most senior officers, born into the nineteenth century.
The early portion of World War II had a curiously bifurcated impact on internal affairs in the Third Reich. On the one hand, the desire of the government to avoid at all costs any repetition of the collapse at home which it believed responsible for the defeat of 1918 made the regime most reluctant to ask for too high a level of sacrifice. Similarly, there was no total mobilization of either the population or the material resources of the country. Within the realm of German industry, a high level of consumer goods production continued well into the war, so that neither industrial facilities nor raw materials were directed overwhelmingly into war production until 1942. The country was even less inclined to mobilize the labor potential of its women.
What was called the ‘Phony War’ did not dramatically impinge on German life quickly, and the victory over Poland was especially popular in a country where anti-Polish sentiments were very strong. At the same time, there is good evidence that the British and French declarations of war produced a shock in the thinking of many Germans: in part due to memories of World War I, in part because many had come to believe the propaganda of the regime's earlier years that Germany wanted peace, not war, with the Western Powers. The very bad weather conditions of the winter of 1939-40 accentuated a feeling of unease in Germany during the first six months of war.
That feeling of unease would have been more widespread had the public known of the massive program for the killing of the elderly, the very sick, people with mental illness, and others, inaugurated in the first weeks of the war but only gradually coming to people's attention. The regime quickly found that it could count on the enthusiastic, willing, or reluctant support of thousands of doctors, nurses, administrators and other people. Secondly, in this process the regime developed the techniques for selecting categories of people out of a society for killing, carrying out the murders, and disposing of the bodies, while simultaneously acquiring a corps of individuals ready, willing, and experienced at the task of murdering others as a ‘regular job’ on a day after day after day basis. During 1940 and the first half of 1941, there was a slow but steady rise in popular unrest over this murder program, culminating in a public denunciation of it by Clemens August Count von Galen, the Bishop of Münster.
The summer of 1941, when the euthanasia program was somewhat reduced, was a time when the systematic murder of Jews was initiated, first in the newly occupied portions of the USSR and then in the rest of German-controlled Europe. The first mass deportations of Jews from Germany to places in the East where they were murdered began in October 1941. In the following years, the vast majority of those Jews who had not been able to leave pre-war Germany were deported and killed. Word soon seeped back of the mass killings in the East: Goebbels was distributing a letter from a soldier reporting on the mass killings in a propaganda collection of letters from the front.
Reference has been made to the prisoners of war and other foreign workers brought into Germany during World War II. This eventually massive program began with Polish prisoners and came to include over one million French prisoners and about one million Soviet prisoners of war. The latter, together with another million who agreed to serve as auxiliaries with the German army, constituted the survivors of over five million captured Red Army soldiers; the over three million others having been murdered or allowed to starve to death. To these must be added approximately four to five million additional forced laborers, most of them impressed or kidnapped in the Soviet Union, with smaller contingents from Poland, France, and other portions of German-occupied Europe. These forced or enslaved workers came to play a critical role in the German war economy.
The administrative chaos which had been developing in the years before the war was, if anything, accentuated during the conflict. Some superfluous agencies were dissolved; von Ribbentrop's private foreign office, for example, was abolished two years after its head became Foreign Minister of Germany. But for every agency ended, at least ten new ones sprang up, and all struggled for power and jurisdiction with each other. This confusion was characteristic not only of the military hierarchy and the civilian administration; it also extended to a project especially dear to Hitler: the transformation of Germany's urban landscape. A whole series of cities was to be completely restructured - not only Berlin but a long list of others; none were completed.
Under the ambitious leadership of Heinrich Himmler, the SS was expanding its authority. The SS and police apparatus took over more and more functions from the courts, operated independently in the occupied territories, and built up an industrial empire originally based largely on the concentration camp system. The internal rivalries, which characterized the SS like all other aspects of the Third Reich, should not be allowed to obscure its cohesion in dealings with other segments of society. Its economic role was growing at the expense of private industry and of the economic structure which Albert Speer, with his sharp elbows and the personal support of Hitler, was steadily building up. The military force of the SS, the Waffen SS, grew steadily in spite of very heavy casualties.
The old rivals of the SS, the brown-shirted SA and the regular Nazi Party organization, came to play significant roles in wartime Germany in two opposite ways. On the one hand, they were utilized to assist in the mobilization of the public. In this process, the party, like the SS, grew more influential in the last year of war. Under the vigorous leadership of Martin Bormann, the central offices of the party gained vastly greater power. On the other hand, there is good evidence that the party organization became something of a lightning rod for whatever discontent and dissatisfaction existed in the country.
One party formation was not affected by the developing alienation from the Nazi Party in the latter years of the war. The increasing devastation caused by Allied bombing made the population more dependent on the relief agencies of the government, and of these the National Socialist Welfare Organization (NSV) was by far the most important. Bombed out urban families turned to the welfare organization for help, and if they were occasionally disconcerted by the blood and bullet holes which marked some of the clothing distributed to them, they were grateful all the same.
The public supported the German war effort with a high degree of coherence. There was some apprehension in the first winter of war followed by jubilation in 1940 and increasing apprehension about the length of the war in 1941 and thereafter. The propaganda machinery helped sustain public morale in the face of growing troubles and unease. The bombing at first caused morale to drop, but after a while appeared to cause more apathy than anything else. People concentrated on survival and the most immediate concerns. In the last two years of war, hope for the effects of new weapons provided some solace, but fear of defeat was ever present.
Already before the war, there were some who had their doubts about the National Socialist system; and although the war not surprisingly brought a cohesiveness to a country with which its citizens identified, there continued to be important elements which were highly critical of the system. In many cases their criticism was further stimulated by what they saw and heard of atrocities carried out in the occupied territories as well as at home.Though some became opponents of the regime as it was obviously on the way to defeat, it would be grossly unfair to disregard the fact that many turned against it in the years of apparent triumph.
Several projects for killing Hitler failed; that of 20 July 1944 was the most likely to succeed because it had been prepared with some care and included provision for a procedure to take over power in Germany and the occupied territories she still held at that time. By a narrow margin, the bomb itself went off but did not kill Hitler. Most of those in positions of any significance who had been opposed to the regime were uncovered as a result of this attempted coup and killed; some committed suicide lest they reveal too much when tortured; a tiny number survived.
The population, combining fear and apathy with devotion and hope, continued to support the regime up until the final days of the war. Only as Allied troops appeared in Germany itself did substantial numbers turn their backs on the system. As the last illusions disappeared, relief over the end of bombing and fighting mingled with fear of the Russians and the future, anxiety over food and the fate of loved ones, but above all the daily struggle for survival. As for the National Socialist Party, even before its leaders fled, committed suicide, or were arrested, it fast lost the hold it had once held on the faith of millions.
Generally speaking, Italy's population entered the war with an attitude similar to that felt by the countries invaded by the Axis. They had not wanted to enter the conflict, might be pleased by the appearance of quick triumph followed by an even quicker end to the war in 1940, but were basically as a people in a position worse than any other. Mussolini and a minute number of others were enthusiastic about attacking France, Greece, and Yugoslavia, but finding anyone in the country who genuinely believed Italy's future would be served by sending thousands of soldiers to fight on the southern part of the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, or by Italy's declaration of war on the United States, would have been a difficult task.
As that war went from a short time of early success for Germany to a string of defeats for Italy, popular attitudes and morale fell. The German rescue operation in early 1941 may have saved the regime at home as it saved the remnants of Italy's empire in North Africa and Albania, but it did nothing for the regime's reputation. Occupation zones in France, Yugoslavia and Greece, allotted to Italy by the Germans, brought troubles rather than advantages. The Italian zones in all three countries produced endless friction with the Germans over the reluctance of the Italian occupation authorities to hand over the Jews there to be murdered.
The privations of war thus came to a society that saw little purpose to the sacrifices being imposed on it; the air raids, though small at first, significantly affected morale; and the casualties had a double sting. One of Mussolini's favorite devices for running the country, the periodic replacement of incompetent ministers and Fascist Party officials by others who were usually even less qualified, hollowed out the Fascist Party in the very years when it was most needed if the country were to be held together in the war. The astonishing thing under these circumstances is not that the Italian people failed to live up to the martial standard which Mussolini set for them but that the home front held together as long as it did.
Shortly after the successful Allied landing on Sicily, the actions of dissidents among the leaders of the Fascist Party coincided with the plotting of a group of court officials and military men around the King. The 25 July 1943 vote in the Fascist Grand Council precipitated not only the resignation and arrest of Mussolini, but the swift collapse of the Fascist Party and system in Italy. In a few hours, it turned out that whatever earlier gains Fascism might have made among the population, there was practically nothing left of it after three years of war.
The southern portion of Italy was occupied by the Allies who slowly fought their way up the peninsula. The central and northern part was occupied by the Germans who also quickly seized Albania and the Italian islands on the Aegean as well as the Italian occupation zones in France, Yugoslavia and Greece. In the portion of Italy which remained under German control, the latter exercised effective authority. They ran the area as an occupied territory and, now free to act as they wished, did what they could to round up Jews for deportation to death camps. In this they were aided by some old Fascists who had long wanted to emulate the Germans in this regard, but were hindered by other Italians who hid or in other ways protected their fellow citizens.
The Duce was rescued from Italian captivity by a German airborne operation and installed in northern Italy. There he attempted to establish a new Fascist regime under German auspices. They tried hard to raise a new army to fight alongside their Axis partner, and to court public support by a variety of semi-socialist measures. This shadow system, officially called the Italian Social Republic, and often referred to as the Republic of Salò, may have been a reflection of Mussolini's dreams of earlier years, but it was too obviously a client of the hated Germans; and the Duce himself was no longer the rousing speaker of earlier days.
As the German hold on the area behind the front line collapsed, the partisans there not only seized control of ever greater territory, but also caught Mussolini and his mistress and shot both of them. These partisans were a portion of a large resistance movement which blossomed in the part of Italy which remained under German control after the front line stabilized between Rome and Naples in the late fall of 1943.
As the Allied troops drove north in 1944 and 1945, the liberated areas came under the control of the restructured Italian government. The resistance formations were disarmed, and new political parties came to the fore. The Communist Party came to inherit a large part of the working class and many former Fascists. On the other hand, as a successor of the ‘Popular’ Party of the pre-Fascist era, the Christian Democrats became the mass party of the center and moderate right. They played a major role in the resistance; and the new moderate left government of the resistance hero Ferruccio Parri which began in June 1945 was succeeded by the first of a long series of Cabinets led by a Christian Democrat. After the war, the Italian monarchy was abolished by a popular plebiscit.
The exhilaration of standing alone in the face of a dictator who had overrun Western Europe after all British efforts to avoid war altogether had failed cemented a temporary political alliance of all political parties, except for the Communists, behind a coalition government led and inspired by Winston Churchill. Subsequent years brought new allies but also, especially in the spring and last month of 1941 and the first half of 1942, a series of setbacks and defeats.
The home front in the United Kingdom, was affected by the war in innumerable ways. The direct impact of bombing was dramatic in 1940 and 1941; it resumed in the ‘Baby Blitz’ of the early months of 1944; and then began again in June 1944 with the German V-1 and V-2 weapons which in many ways had a morale effect out of all proportion to their actual destructiveness. This impact on British morale was related to the very length of the conflict and the disappointing reality that early victory had not followed upon the successful defiance of the German onslaught of 1940.
In the background of all British life was the high level of mobilization. Out of a total work force of about 22 million in 1944-45, five million were serving in the armed forces; almost a third of the men from 14 to 64 were in uniform. With most workers who were not in military service involved in war production of some sort, with tight rationing in effect for years, and with very high levels of taxation, life became and remained dreary and difficult for most. Even at this extremely high level of manpower, aided by industrial and financial mobilization, the country could carry on the war only because of massive assistance from the United States and large lending by the Dominions and India.
As the tide of war changed visibly in favor of the Allies, both government and people turned increasingly to consideration of the post-war world. The last general election, that of 1935, receded into an ever more distant past; there would have to be one when the war ended, and that idea by itself pointed both to the future and to the last post-war period. Then, there had been the hope for a new England, a ‘land fit for heroes’ as the slogan had put it. But those hopes had been disappointed. The country eventually made a better economic recovery from the depression of the 1930s, but many ordinary people did not see it that way. The nation's leaders looked cold and hard to them, and it was this image that hovered over the future.
Although Churchill had become the focus of popular attention in the great crisis of 1940 and was increasingly identified with Britain's role as a member of a victorious alliance, it was only in that role that many people saw him. When the coalition government dissolved in the acid of renewed party strife as the end of war in Europe came near, a caretaker government replaced it. The elections which followed produced a landslide for the Labour Party, and Britain would take part in the final stage of World War II and enter the post-war world under a new government. Clement Atlee became the new Prime Minister.
Canada, the largest of the Dominions, played a significant role in the war on land, at sea, and in the air. On land, she contributed major troop contingents, primarily in the European theater. At sea, her forces played a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic. In the air, Canada not only built up a substantial air force of her own but provided the training arrangements for thousands of air crew members for the Royal Air Force. In the process, the country changed internally as well. The economy was greatly stimulated by the massive investment in new factories and means of transportation and communication.
In both Australia and New Zealand, the war had somewhat similar repercussions. Both felt deserted by the home country in their hour of greatest danger; both looked more to the United States for their defense in the face of any future threat. In the meantime, the war had placed very heavy burdens on the two Dominions. The mobilization of manpower interfered with economic development, especially in Australia; but in other ways, the war also hastened the process of building up home industries while the former trading ties with England were largely suspended.
The Union of South Africa, as it was then called, provided important raw materials as well as troops to the Allied cause, but the initial division about entering the war had continuing implications for the Union. The extreme Afrikaaner nationalists sympathized with Nazi Germany and hoped for a compromise peace, if not a German victory. At the same time as soldiers from South Africa helped to defeat the advocates of extreme racism in the fighting, the supporters of similar views grew in strength among the white population in the Union. They would win the election of 1948 and set the country on a new course which imitated that of the oppressors whom South African troops had helped defeat in 1945.
In all of Britain's colonial possessions, the war stirred nationalist sentiments. The defeat of the attempted Japanese invasion of India in 1944 in no way silenced the continued agitation for change. The force of this agitation was dramatically enhanced by a horrendous famine. Caused by the disruption of trade, shipping shortages, and the extraordinary incompetence of the British administration, the 1943 famine in Bengal cost about 1.5 million lives and in a way destroyed whatever legitimacy British rule might have had in the eyes of the survivors. The demands for Indian independence would be met under Clement Attlee.
The United States was transformed by World War II in various ways, some of which were recognized at the time, but others only came under scrutiny decades later. Whatever the confusions attending the beginnings of military and economic mobilization, there was a rapid and drastic economic expansion which quickly absorbed the remaining unemployed workers and unused factories still left idle by the depression. Massive government investments added enormously to the nation's industrial plant. Some existing plant capacity was converted from peacetime functions to war production, but much of the vast industrial system was new.
In a negative way, the anxiety over the war with Japan led to the forced evacuation of Japanese and Americans of Japanese descent from California and the western portions of Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. Deprived of their rights and their property, these victims of fears aroused by Japanese actions, war hysteria and racial prejudice were herded into camps, called ‘relocation centers’, from which they were not released until late in the war.
The preconceptions of the American public also hindered the full utilization of women in the war effort. Millions were drawn into industrial and other work related to the war, if only by replacing men in the service, but there were real limits on the levels to which they could rise. The American military was even slower to accept women. In the face of ever more obvious shortages of men, and pressure from patriotic women who wished to serve, the armed forces slowly and reluctantly relented.
In President Roosevelt's thinking, the most important element of post-war planning was to ensure public support for a wider, more active role to be played by the US in international affairs, including participation in a world organization. Influenced by the disasters which had overtaken the Wilson administration in the 1918 and 1920 elections and which had turned the country in directions that Roosevelt, together with increasing numbers of Americans, believed had contributed to the outbreak of another world war, the President was determined to do things differently.
By the time Japan attacked Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States, the country had been at war continuously for almost four years. The conflict with China, which Japan had begun in July 1937, had already absorbed enormous resources. Whatever could be saved in the periods when a quiet stalemate replaced bursts of heavy fighting had been expended in bouts of border fighting with the Soviet Union in 1938 and 1939, both of which Japan lost. The country which expanded the war in December 1941 was, therefore, one which had already placed its people and its economy under severe strains. The enormous and quick victories exhilarated the home front, silenced the doubters, and made the leaders dizzy with success. Nothing seemed impossible.
At home, the setbacks of the summer of 1942 were concealed from the public and even from many in the government. The continued successes in Burma obscured the checks Japan's forces were encountering in New Guinea and the Solomons in the second half of 1942. Although the Tokyo raid of April 1942 had been a shock, it was only the public admission of defeat in the Aleutians in May 1943 that began to show the Japanese people that all was not going well. At home, the regime operated relatively leniently. In the newly conquered empire, however, the story was very different. Japanese policy in the occupied territories looked in the first place to the elimination of any and all European influence: only Japan was to draw on the resources and to control the future of the expanded empire.
Unlike the people of China, Poland, Britain, and Germany, which sustained heavy bombing early in the war, this was not the case for the Japanese. The air raids of 1943 and 1944 were small and had a minimal impact on the population as a whole. Far more significant in their effects on the daily lives of the Japanese were the lengthening casualty lists from the fronts, the ever greater stringency of rationing and shortages, and the sense of worry about a war that by 1944 had been going on for seven years with no end in sight. But unlike in Germany, Italy and their satellites, there was little resistance to official policy in Japan. It was the stepping up of the bombing in early 1945 which brought devastation to the cities of Japan.
In China, as in Japan, war had been a fact of life and death since 1937. By December 1941, very large portions of the country were under Japanese occupation, and these included the most important industrial areas, ports, and major urban centers. In the countryside of the area under nominal Japanese control, Communist guerillas drew increasing support from the peasantry. In unoccupied China, inflation added to the other woes of a torn country. The central government had only the most tenuous hold on the provinces, in which local military leaders starved their own troops, generally avoided fighting the Japanese, and exploited the peasantry. The regime of Chiang Kai-shek was both corrupt and ineffective, expecting the other enemies of Japan, especially the United States, to defeat China's enemy.
The Japanese offensive of 1944 in China struck at Nationalist forces which were simply no longer ready to fight. They fled or surrendered, and the Japanese army captured a number of the newly built American air bases, thus further depleting China of its resources. Until the very end of the war, Nationalist control was limited to the interior of China and was tenuous even there. Only a portion of the area lost in 1944 was recovered in the first half of 1945. When Japan surrendered, therefore, Chiang's international position was secure, but his domestic power was fragile.
For the Soviet Union, the ordeal of war was in many ways even worse than for China. In the occupied areas, German policies and practices were in general more severe than those followed by Japan. The fact that the Red Army drove the Germans out in prolonged and bitter fighting meant that the destruction in the liberated areas was enormous, with the retreating Germans doing what they could to cart off or destroy whatever they were forced to give up. The intensity of the fighting on the Eastern Front also implied a total mobilization of the Soviet home front. People and resources were drawn into the conflict on a scale matched by none of the other major belligerents. The enormous casualties reached into every home even as the already low pre-war economy imposed terrible privations.
The maintenance of cohesion and the revival of hope and pride can be seen in part as a reaction to the course of the fighting. In World War I, the Russian armies had first defeated the Austrians, then been defeated by the Germans, then had their front ripped open in 1915, and had thereafter been driven back ever further in a series of see-saw battles. In World War II, on the other hand, the biggest defeats came at the beginning, but from then on, in spite of a major retreat in the south in 1942 and occasional setbacks — some of them serious — the tide of battle moved steadily the other way.
The brutalities of their own regime, including the forced deportations of whole nationality groups suspected of collaborating with the invader, paled by comparison with the horrors imposed by the Germans. The people had seen an alternative to their own system and knew they did not want it. There was hope, which would be cruelly disappointed, that a victorious regime would deal more kindly and leniently with its people, who had suffered and accomplished so much. But for all who survived, the war remained a dominating memory.
The portion of the African continent which saw the earliest fighting was also the first to see it end. In the northeastern corner, Ethiopia was conquered by Italy in 1935-36 and was thereafter the scene of some guerilla warfare against the Italians and later the base for the Italian conquest of British Somaliland: in the winter of 1940-41 the British armed forces defeated all the Italian forces, liberated Ethiopia and British Somaliland and occupied Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. There was considerable destruction from the fighting in a few places, but on the whole the damage was very localized. The war years actually brought some economic development to these territories: their importance to the Allied war effort along major oceanic supply routes led to some improvement in port and transportation facilities being made.
The tides of battle which moved back and forth across Egypt and Libya took place for the most part in desert and rocky terrain of little economic value, but there was extreme damage to the towns along the east Libyan coast. The local population in both territories suffered as a result of the dislocations of war, but both also benefited in the long run from large-scale construction of airports and other facilities. In Egypt, however, there were other developments as well. Egyptian nationalists resented continued British dominance of their country, while King Farouk and some officers in the Egyptian army, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, hoped for a German victory and were in touch with the Germans.
In Northwest Africa, only Tunisia suffered serious damage from the fighting in 1942-43. The French Vichy regime had kept control before that time and Charles de Gaulle did so afterwards, but the whole concept of rule by France had been called into question by both the population there and President Roosevelt, who ostentatiously met with local dignitaries.
In Latin America, the years of war brought several significant changes. With the exception of Argentina, the countries of the Western Hemisphere joined the Allies. Their economic ties to Germany were largely broken by the Allied blockade, and only in the summer of 1940, when it looked briefly as if Germany might win, was there serious consideration of new ties with the Axis in the post-war years. Only Brazil sent troops to the front, in this case to Italy, and those involved with that effort in some instances came to play major roles in post-war Brazilian politics. As for the war years themselves, the possibilities for economic development were largely negated by local ineffectiveness and the incompetence of United States dignitaries sent there.
The collapse of France in 1940 and the fighting of 1941 provided an enormous stimulus to the independence movement in Syria. Whatever the hopes of the French for continued domination of this important area acquired at the end of World War I, there was really not the slightest chance of reestablishing rule from Paris. Syrian nationalist aspirations could not be subdued, even by shelling Damascus. The independence of Syria and an enlarged Lebanon were ensured by the war.
Iran had been inclined toward Germany before the war and during its initial years. Trade ties and worry about British and Russian imperial expansion had contributed to this orientation. From the summer of 1941, the country was occupied by British and Russian forces, but there was an increasing American presence with the building up of the supply route across Iran to the Soviet Union. This enabled the Iranians to play off the Americans against the Russian and British occupying powers. This would be especially important when, at the end of the war, the Russians were inclined to keep their troops in the country. Once the revolt of 1941 had been suppressed by British troops, Iraq was ruled by a regime which collaborated with the Allies. The urge to throw off all outside influence, and especially that of the British, remained, however, and would reassert itself not long after the war.
In Northern Europe, Denmark and Norway remained under German control from April 1940 until the surrender of May 1945. In the case of Denmark, the German invasion came so quickly that there was no resistance and no opportunity for the government, and especially the King, to flee. Given the acquiescence of the administrative apparatus, it was easier for the Germans to run the undamaged country by supervising it rather than controlling it directly. In August 1943 the Germans proclaimed a military emergency, and the Danish government was effectively removed. Ironically this stimulated rather than inhibited resistance. In Norway, resistance to the Germans grew slowly but steadily and was encouraged rather than halted by the ruthless measures taken to suppress it.
Like Denmark and Norway, Luxembourg was intended to be incorporated into Germany. Occupied in May 1940, the Grand Duchy was considered a Germanic area. The Grand Duchess and the ministers escaped before the Germans could seize them, and formed a government-in-exile. Until the winter of 1944-45, when the Grand Duchy was first liberated and then became the scene of bitter fighting during the German Ardennes offensive, the people looked forward to a German defeat which could only be brought about by others. There were instances of resistance and of German repression, but Allied victory brought a return to independence.
The German invasion of 1940 quickly overran the Netherlands, and in spite of the terrible bombing of Rotterdam, most of the country was not devastated in the rapidly moving fighting. The Germans saw the Dutch as fellow Germanic people and expected to reassimilate them into Germany proper— but at the same time to exploit their economy and possibly also their colonial empire. Hitler wanted to replace the military administration as quickly as possible and did so, installing as the Reich's commissioner Arthur Seyss-Inquart. He tried to utilize the Dutch administrative apparatus, integrate the country into the German economy, and prepare its people for their future as Germans.
Belgium, like the Netherlands, was headed for inclusion in Germany, but with altered borders. General Alexander von Falkenhausen proceeded to run the least oppressive of all the German occupation administrations. Himself an opponent of Hitler and National Socialism, he tried to assert military rule against the economic and police agencies, to keep the exactions within reason, and to avoid or limit the sorts of horrors inflicted on other occupied peoples.
The armistice of June 1940, which provided for the French government to continue to direct the administration in all of France, was broken before it was signed by the removal of Alsace and Lorraine and their effective annexation to Germany. Beginning in 1940, hundreds of thousands were deported from the two provinces. The majority of the remaining country was to be occupied by German troops while the southeastern quarter was left unoccupied for the time being. It was in the little town of Vichy in the unoccupied zone that the new government of France was temporarily located, and it came to be known as the Vichy government. In November 1942, the Germans occupied the formerly unoccupied zone and allowed the Italians to occupy a portion of it. In September 1943, with the Italian surrender, the Germans took over the Italian zone as well.
Inside German-occupied France, a small number resisted the authorities, but they were handicapped by the surveillance of the Germans. There was, in addition, a reluctance to take actions which might provoke a brutal occupier to take massive measures of retaliation against the population when liberation was obviously in the distant future. Some support was provided by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). In spite of all setbacks, resistance grew, stimulated by German measures, bythe fact that the tide was clearly turning in the war, and by the growing experience of the French themselves and of the British and eventually the Americans in aiding them.
In the old core area of Czechoslovakia, called the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, German rule was indirect but looked to a future in which the Czechs would be partly Germanized, and partly expelled or exterminated. In the meantime, they could work for German victory. Not all of them shared the puppet President Emu Hâcha's joy at the German victory over France. Some in the country did begin to organize resistance. But this was on a very small scale. Slovakia was allowed a temporary respite as a puppet state whose treatment might serve to encourage other governments in southeast Europe to cooperate with Germany. The special treatment for the Germans living there, however, pointed to a future in which the Slavic element would be expected to vanish.
In Hungary, the governments operating under the Regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy, tried to combine participation in the war on a limited basis with independence from Germany. The Hungarians wanted to take back even more of the territory they had lost to Romania after World War I than they had received at the hands of Hitler and Mussolini in 1940; they feared that a greater contribution by Romania to the Axis war effort would prejudice their standing with Berlin when they turned to the war they really wanted to fight, the one with Romania. By 1944 the country was occupied by the Germans, who installed a puppet government.
Romania was treated with special care by the Germans because of its important oil resources. The fact that production was steadily falling made the Romanian government both unable and unwilling to increase deliveries to the Axis as much as the latter desired. A major concern of the government of Marshal Ion Antonescu was, therefore, to obtain real payment for what was sent and to keep from pumping too much. Inside the country, the Romanian administration carried on as before. The areas lost to the Soviet Union in 1940 were temporarily recovered, and Romania also administered an additional portion of the Ukraine known as Transnistria. The Romanian government was also hoping to recover the territories lost to Hungary. In 1944, as the Red Army approached, a coup removed the Antonescu government, and Romania declared war against Germany.
Bulgaria joined Germany in the hope of territorial aggrandizement at the expense of its Romanian, Yugoslav, and Greek neighbors and was rewarded by substantial grants of land from each. What the Germans expected in return was delivered by Sofia: cooperation in the German campaign of spring 1941 against Greece and Yugoslavia. Thereafter, the major interests of Berlin were in the position of Bulgaria as a possible spring-board against Turkey, contributions toward their problem of pacifying insurgencies in occupied Yugoslavia, and the turning over of Bulgaria's Jews. On the first two of these the Bulgarians were willing to cooperate. On the third issue, the Bulgarians allowed the Germans to have most of the Jews in the occupied portions of Greece and Yugoslavia assigned to her, but refused to sanction the deportation of pre-war Bulgaria's Jews. After the war, the Red Army occupied the country and Bulgaria became a communist state.
Upon the German invasion in 1941, large portions of land in the north of Yugoslavia were directly annexed to Germany. Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria also annexed parts of the country while the rest remained under German and Italian occupation. In Croatia the extreme Croatian nationalists, the Ustasha of Ante Pavelic, were put in charge. They were determined to expel or exterminate all Serbs, Muslims, and Jews in the area under their control. In German-occupied Serbia, the major economic aim of the Germans, the exploitation of the Bor copper mines, was attained, but all else quickly sank into an administrative chaos. After the war, Yugoslavia too became a communist state under the leadership of former resistance leader Josip Broz Tito.
The German invasion of Greece in April 1941 led to its defeat and occupation. A part was turned over to Bulgaria and a portion of the northwest was annexed to Albania. The bulk of Greece was placed under Italian occupation, although the northeast, including the port city of Salonika, most of Crete, several of the Aegean Islands, and a tip of land southeast of Athens came under German occupation. After the Italian surrender, the previously Italian-controlled area came under German occupation. A series of collaborationist regimes ran the country for the Italians and Germans. At the end of the war the monarchy was reinstated, following a civil war that ended in 1949.
No country was affected more dramatically by World War II than Poland. In 1939, huge portions of the country were annexed to Germany. Nazi policy aimed at maximum economic exploitation of the material and human resources after the killing of the intellectual, political, and religious leadership. Although there were local massacres of Jews as well as other measures of persecution in the first two years of German occupation, the mass murder program got under way in the summer of 1941. Poland was also home to the largest anti-Nazi resistance movement in Europe: the Polish Home Army, or AK. They organized a massive uprising in 1944, the biggest in all of Europe. After the war the country became a communist state.
One great geo-economic fact looms over the history of World War II: the Axis powers could not eliminate the entire Western Hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa as a resource domain available to the Allies. The enormous industrial and agricultural productivity of the United States and of the British Commonwealth, including its non-white colonies, which largely deferred their demands for independence, remained outside Axis reach. World War II was a conflict of resources as well as ideologies, in both its causes and conduct. No natural resource was as essential as fossil fuels. The Allies won the war because they had fossil fuels and because they prevented the Axis powers from turning the fossil fuels of occupied countries into war-winning resources.