The Germans fought a
(“lightning war”) or tank-led assaults followed by motorized
infantrymen and then foot soldiers.
The Nazi war was not just a grab for land and raw materials; it was also a crusade for a new
order based on race.
Throughout Europe, Hitler established puppet governments that complied with deportation
orders against Jews and dissidents. HIs new order made Europe a giant police state.
It gave rise to collaborators, who worked with the Germans; resistance fighters, who
opposed German occupiers for varying reasons; and a wide range of options in between, as
people struggled to make their way and take care of their families as best they could.
In the east, the tide turned against the Germans and their collaborators after the ferocious
battles of Stalingrad in 1942-1943 and Kursk in 1943. Once the Soviet army blundered the
initial German assault, it launchd a massive counteroffensive This move initiate the defeat of
the German war effort on the Eastern Front, but full retreat took another 2 years as the Soviets
drove Hitler’s army slowly westward.
The spectacular D-Day landing of western Allied forces in Normandy on June 6, 1944, initiated
defeat in the west.
On April 30, 1945, as Soviet and Anglo-American forces converged on Berlin, Hitler committed
suicide. Days later, Germany surrendered unconditionally.
The Bitter Costs of War
The war in Europe had devastating human and material costs.
This was particularly the case in eastern Europe, where German forces leveled more than
70,000 Soviet villages, obliterated one-third of the Soviet Union’s wealth, and inflicted 7 million
Soviet military deaths and at least 20 million civilian deaths.
German bombing of British cities, such as London, took a heavy toll on civilians and buildings,
as did Allied bombing of war plants and Axis cities like Dresden and Tokyo.
Tens of millions were left homeless.