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Overview of World War II (1939-1945)

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World War II Participants

YouTube World War II Overview 11:21

World War II (WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved about 30 countries — including all the great powers — forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. In a state of total war, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities. Tens of millions of people died due to genocides (including the Holocaust), premeditated death from starvation, massacres, and disease. Aircraft played a major role in the conflict, including in the use of strategic bombing of population centres, and the only uses of nuclear weapons in war.

Even though many countries were directly involved almost every country was in some way affected.Wikipedia, World War II

World War II was the largest event of this type in human history. It dates are considered from 1939 to 1945. Monuments to the War in the Czech Republic say 1938 to 1945 because they were annexed by Germany 1 year earlier.

Wkikpedia World War II General Statements

Wkikpedia Displaced Persons Camps in Europe

World War II (short version) Questions

  1. How does World War 2 compare to other major conflicts or wars in the history of the world?
  2. In 1922 Germany experienced hyperinflation. What do you think hyperinflation was and why did it damage Germany so badly?
  3. German economy in the 1930's:
    1. What happened to Germany’s economy and its unemployment rate in 1932?
    2. The bad economic conditions in Germany opened the door for the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. What do you think Hitler promised the people of Germany?
  4. Foreign Policy
    1. What was Germany’s major foreign policy goal in 1934?
    2. b) Why do you think this policy was sure to lead to conflict? Explain your answer.
  5. Italy and Germany after 1922
    1. After 1922 who ruled Italy and what type of government was it?
    2. Italy expanded their territory by taking over which country?
    3. What do you think Italy and Germany had in common that led to make an alliance with each other?
  6. In the late 1930’s Spain struggled though a civil war. Which countries supported the rise of their Future dictator Franco?
  7. Japan
    1. Where did Japan expand in 1937?
    2. What was the brutal side of their expansion? Give 3 specific examples of what the armies did.
  8. List in order the countries/ territories taken over by Germany.
    1. _____________________________________
    2. _____________________________________
    3. _____________________________________
    4. _____________________________________
    5. _____________________________________
    6. _____________________________________(When this country was taken over World War II started)
    7. Most of the rest of Western Europe was taken over soon after.
  9. War Tactics
    1. What was the Blitzkrieg? (1940)
    2. Why do you think it was so effective?
  10. In 1940 The British withdrew their troops from France. Why do you think they did that?
  11. Combatants:
    1. What major countries form the Axis powers?
    2. b) What major countries form the Allies?
  12. Resistance groups form in all countries occupied by the Nazis. Give 2 examples of what these groups do.
  13. On June 22, 1941 Operation Barbarossa is launched. What is its goal?
  14. What siege/battle did the Nazis launch in 1941 that ended up with over 1 million dead?
  15. What did the Japanese do in December 1941 that brought the United States into the war?
  16. Japan continued to conquer more countries. Where were these countries?
  17. Name 3 specific crimes against humanity the Japanese carried out?
  18. What was the purpose of the concentration camps set up by the Nazis across Europe?
  19. What was the Atlantic Wall and what was its purpose? (Note: you can still see parts of this defense system today)
  20. Which countries did the Allies recapture in Africa when they first invaded?
  21. The Eastern Front
    1. In 1943 where did the Nazis experience their first major military setback?
    2. What significance did this setback have for the direction of the war?
  22. In 1943 where did the Allies (including Canadians) launch their first invasion of Europe?
  23. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in huge numbers on the beaches of Normandy. This was called D Day. What was the importance of D Day for the war?
  24. What organization was formed as a result of the war ending?
  25. Endings
    1. What happened in Germany on April 30, 1945?
    2. What is the impact of this event of April 30?
    3. What happened on May 8, 1945?
  26. The USSR and the United States joined forces to defeat Japan. Finally atomic bombs were dropped on 2 Japanese cities.
    1. Name the two cities.
    2. The two bombs forced Japan to surrender. When did that happen?
  27. Overall
    1. What is the approximate death toll from the war?
    2. What category of people were killed in the greatest number?
  28. What happened to many German prisoners of war?
  29. At the end of World War II which two countries emerged as the superpowers of the world?


  1. Name three important events in World War II. Explain what significance each one had for the war and the history of the world.
  2. Why do you think more civilians died in the war than soldiers? Explain your reasoning.
  3. Why do you think there were so many human rights abuses and barbaric atrocities that took place in the war when it didn’t help anyone win the war?

Overview Maps

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Battle of the St Lawrence, Dieppe, D-Day on Juno Beach Normandy, Netherlands

These are the locations where Canada had its most significant contribution in World War II.

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Battle of the Atlantic

Halifax was the central control location for the battle of the Atlantic in North America. Liverpool was the control location in Britain. Convoy bound ship assembled in Halifax and other joined from the south and Montreal as the convoy moved out from Halifax.

The ultimate cost of victory in this vast area of operations was sobering: Between 1939 and 1945, 3,500 Allied merchant ships (14.5 million gross tons) and 175 Allied warships were sunk, and 72,200 Allied naval and merchant seamen lost their lives.

The Germans lost 783 U-boats and approximately 30,000 sailors, three quarters of Germany's 40,000-man submarine force.

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North Atlantic Ferry Routes

Aircraft were ferried over the North Atlantic Ocean from 1940 to 1945. Dorval Airport in Montreal was a common starting point. stopovers were Gander NL, Good Bay NL, Greenland, Iceland, then on to Britain.

Some World War II Statistics:

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Casualties by Country By TheShadowed at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Countries involved: 30
  • Personnel Involved: 100 million
  • Casualties: 70 million to 85 million
  • Displaced Persons: 11 million
  • At the close of hostilities in Europe, Dwight D Eisenhower (Supreme Allied Commander in Europe) commanded over ten million troops. This did not include the war in the Pacific.
  • Casualties due to: Military action, Holocaust, Disease, Starvation.

Outcomes of World War II

  • Resulted in: Total redistribution of Territories, a world wide acceptance of the genocide perpetrated by Nazis, the formation of the United Nations
  • USA and Russia emerging as world powers
  • Canada emerging as one of the most important world nations. This was primarily because the European Nations were destroyed and financially bankrupt.

Wkikpedia World War II General Statements

Wkikpedia Displaced Persons Camps in Europe

The Holocaust

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Railway lines leading to the Birkenau Extermination Camp in German occupied Poland

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the World War II genocide of the European Jews. Between 1941 and 1945, across German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews, around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population. The murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings; by a policy of extermination through work in concentration camps; and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps, chiefly Auschwitz, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka in occupied Poland.

Wkikpedia The Holocaust

YouTube Band of Brothers Liberation of a Nazi Death Camp (5:48)

YouTube The Holocaust (1:40:14) - Very Long

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Bodies in a Grave by Alex Colville 1946

Alex Colville is a world renown Canadian artist. During World War II he was assigned as an artist with the Canadian Army. He made drawings of the horrors of the liberated Bergen-Belsen Camp and after the war painted several images including this one.

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