War and Social Upheaval: World War II Aftermath


Figure 1.--NAZI Gemany created the greatetest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Thirty Years War (17th century). This began before the War with NAZI supression of anti-NAZIs and Jews. The NAZIs escalated the crisis after launching the War with barbaric policies in the East. Germans in turn fled the retribution raining down from Allied bombers. The Soviets began the relocation of the Polish people. And in the Reich there were an estimated 11 million people foreigners serving as slave labor. The Holocaust was only the most extreme of the humanitarian veises the Germans created. Only in the final year of the War did the tragedy the German people set in motion come back to Germany itself. Streams of German refugees streamded west fleeing the Red Army. Resources were limited to assist these people. Europe was in ruins. National economies were not functioning. Whole cities has been erased from the map. The Germans had begun this process in the East, but by the end of the War, Germany's own cities had been reduced to enormous piles of rubble. Here we see a scene in the Tiregarten Park railway station in Berlin in August, 1945, only a few months after the war ended. Two Red Cross nurses are speaking with displaced Germans. We think they have just arrived from the East because their cart has been disassembed, presumably to fit on a train. Strangely, a child's school book satchel is propped up against the cart handel. The United States through UNRRA was attempting to meet the humanitarian crisis, but the Germans were largely on their own. This looks to be a family. We see the mother, but the father seems to be missing. Men an older boys were expected to fight the advancing Red Army. Unfortunately we do not know this family's story. This photo was taken by the distinguished photographer, Fritz Eschen, who took many revealing photos of post-war Berlin recording the devastation of the city and the activities of the people who survived.

World War II in many ways fashioned the shape of our modern world, in both Europe and Asia. No one was sure how to treat Germany and Japan. The Axis countries were the most changed, but the Allies, including America, Britain, and the occupied countries were also changed. The United States in West Germany and Japan oversaw an occupation with changed the nature of German and Japanese society, rooying out NAZIism and militarism and fomenting the development of democratic political regimes and social structures. The results by all practical measures have been an overwealming success. Germany and Japan today as well as Italy are some of the most prosperous and democratic societies in the world. There were, however, major differences in the occupation policies in the two countries. Germany and Japan took different approaches to the War. Germany fully admitted to its culpability and accepted responsibility for the War. The Japanese newver fully admitted their responsibility or told the Japanese public just what their military did. Using the atmoic bomb attacks, Japan has adopted the stance of a victim of the War. Europe was awash with displaced persons uprooted by the NAZIs and Soviets. one result of the War was the creation of the United Nations. The War made the Soviet Union a superpower at the time that Europe was in shables. The ethnic cleansing that Hitler and Stalin commenced continued after the War. It left Europe an ethnically tidier region than brfore the War. Europe was in deperate condition, but to the surpise of almost everyone, within only a few years an amazing recovery began in the West that would bring unprecedented prosperity. In the Eastern Europe occupied by the Soviet Union, recovery proceeded more slowly and left the countries poor cousins to the vibrant west. The developing Cold War dividied Europe into two armed camps. America's decesion to remain this time meant that Western Europe would not be overwealmed by the Soviet colosus. In Asia, the Japanese Empire ws dismanteled. Manchuria was returned to China and the Civil War was fought to a conclusion with the Communists winning. Korea became independent and the Chinese Nationalists found refuge on Taiwan. War enpowered nationalist groups who in a short period of time ended colonialism. Many of these new countries were influenced by socialist economics and the seemingly rapid Communuist approach to development.

The Axis Countries

No one was sure how to treat defeated Germany and Japan. The Axis countries were the most changed, but the Allies, including America, Britain, and the occupied countries were also changed. The United States in West Germany and Japan oversaw an occupation with changed the nature of German and Japanese society, rooying out NAZIism and militarism and fomenting the development of democratic political regimes and social structures. The results by all practical measures have been an overwealming success. Germany and Japan today as well as Italy are some of the most prosperous and democratic societies in the world. There were, however, major differences in the occupation policies in the two countries. Germany and Japan took different approaches to the War. Germany fully admitted to its culpability and accepted responsibility for the War. The Japanese newver fully admitted their responsibility or told the Japanese public just what their military did. Using the atomic bomb attacks, Japan has adopted the stance of a victim of the War.

World War II Conferences

The Allies held a series of conferences during World War II. Most were concerned primarily with fightging the war against the Axis. The last two conferences, Yalta and Potsdam, addressed the question of the post-War aftermath. The Yalta Conference was held when it was clear that the Germans were defeated, but not yet clear just when the War against Japan would end. The future of Poland would be the most contentious issue. The Potsdam Conference was held after the NAZI surrender near Berlin in the hear of occupied Germany. Poland had been a contenious effort between the Western Allies and Soviets during the War. It continued to be a contentious issue after the War. Japan was not yet defeated and Stalin renewed his pledge to enbter the War against Japan. The Trinity test of the atomic bomb (July 1945) took place during the Potsdam Conference . Truman informed Stalin of the sucessful test and noted that Stalin was not surprised. (Stalin of course been kept informed of the Manhattan Project by Soviet spy rings in America.) The Potsdam Declaation warned the Japanese of the destruction to come. The Japanese Government wanted to end the War. But the Government controlled by the military continued to believe that they could avoid surrender and most importantly occupation.

United Nations

One result of the War was the creation of the United Nations. President Roosevelt as a young politican and vice presidebtial candidate had been a dervent supporter of President Wilson's League of Nations. The strength of American isolationism prevented Rossevelt after his election to the presidency to brininging the United States into the League of Nations (1933). Isolationism was shsttered by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941). As a result, President Roosevelt began using the termn United Nations in the fight against the Axis. And at an early point began to conceive of an international organization to replace the League of Nations--the United Nations. The League of Nations failed in the face of Fascism. Its successor was the United Nations established after World War II. The name "United Nations" was created by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was first used in the "Declaration by United Nations" (January 1, 1942) a few weeks after the United states entered World War II. Representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to pursue the war against the Axis powers weho launced the War in both Europe and Asia. (The Soviet Union haf joined the NAZIs in launching the War, but ws forced to swich sides when the NAZIs invaded.) Representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter (September 1945). The delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks, United States (August-October 1944). The Charter was signed by the representatives of the 50 countries (June 26, 1945). There were great hopes for the new organization.

Humanitarian Crisis

A vast humanitarian crisis developed during the War. It was largely created by the Germans and Japanese. It was a crisus engineered by the Germans. It was not just a matter of inattention, but state policy executed through the Hunger Plan. It was more a matter of incompetence on the part of the Japanese. Millions perished. The Allies after the War were left to prevent an even greater disaster. Thec Germans and Japanese had denined food to people. By the end if the War the huge damage done to both agricukltural infrabnstructure abd the transportation system threatened poor harvests and the ability to transport harbests into the cities. Much of Europe was in ruins after the War. The economies were not functioning. There had been enormous destruction of Europe's physical plant. There were shortages of everything. The most serious shortage was food. There were also shortages of clothing, medicine, and other needed supplies. Millions had been killed or incapitated. Europe was awash with displaced persons uprooted by the NAZIs and Soviets. The resettlment of these people proved more complicated than expected. Many Jews could not return home. And the Allies found that many Soviet citizens as well as citizens of occupied countries did not want to go home. And the end of the War resulted in a new wave of displaced persons as the Soviets deported Poles west and the countries of Eastern abnd Central Europe deporeted their German minorities that had not alredy fled with the retreating Wehrmacht. President Roosevelt from an early point in the War understood that something would have to be done, as in World Warr I, to overt a humanitarian disaster. The President like other Americans did not fully understand the extent of the NAZIs crimes, but he helped found the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) (1943). Whiile having the United Nations name, the United Nations did not yet exist. UNRRA was largely created and funded by the United States, although the British despite their weakened economy, also provided substantial support. TheSoviet Union did little despite its vast agricultural potential. UNRRA began planning for the liberation of Europe and would achieve a miacle in the chaos of a devestated Europe after the NAZIs were defeated. UNRRA operated extesively in occupied Germany, but primarily in camps for Displaced Persons, meaning the 11 million non-Germans who had been tranported to thecReich for forced and slave lbor during the war. UNRRA did not provide assistance to ethnic Germans. They were on their own. There was also a humanitarian crisis in Asia. UNRRA was also active in China and Taiwan.

War Crimes Trials

T he primary war crime trials were the International Military Tribunals in Germany and Japan. There were no international tribunals in Italy. There were also national trials in the occupied countries that focused more on local collaborators. The International War Crimes Trials introduced a new concept in international law, making the planning, preparing, initiating, or waging of war of aggression a crime. After World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nurenberg (composed of a judge from Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) tried NAZI leaders. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, at Tokyo (composed of a judge from Australia, Britain, Canada, (Nationalist) China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, and the United States) tried Japanese leaders. Both tribunals stressed in their proceedings that laubching a war of aggression "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime". The two tribunals established the principle that only high government officials actually formulating or influencing governmental policy can be charged with "crimes against peace. Thus soldiers in an army who have a legal obligation to follow the orders of their government can not be procecuted for crimes against peace while the political leaders and ranking generals could. Low ranking individual could, however, be procecuted for individual acts of atroicities such as the murder of civilians. All of the occupied countries tried local collaborators. The Soviets controlled the trials in Eastern Europe. The trials in Western Europe wee conducted like the International Tribunals as real trials with judicial safeguards. Trials in Asia were more varied.

Children in Post-War Europe

Children were a special category of displaced persons after the War, a heart wereking one and difficult to deal with because so many bparents were lost. Jewish childrern were a special category, but very few mananaged to survive. Children were especially vulnerable to the Holocaust. Children were also caught up in German anti-partisan campaigns. Many children were affected by the loss of their parents. This could be because their parents were killed in the fighting or caught up in NAZI sweeps to secure forced labor for the war industries. Some were kidnapped by the NAZIs as part of the SS Lebensborn porogram. Other had fathers who were soldiers and killed in the War or held as POWs after the War. In Eastern Europe trhere were often no organized group to assist them. American aid as in Workd War I played a key role in saving countless lives. Some mothers or other family members were unwilling to care for them. Even id mothers did care for them, they often lacked the supervision and support supplied by a father. Schools all over Europe were destroyed. This was a major preoblem in German whose cities were piles of rubble.

The Allies

The Allies after the War had very different experiences. America was strengthened by the War. It had been very costly, but after some post-War adjustments, the United States went on to a period of dramatic economic growth accompaied by a significant increase in personal income and living standards. The experience in Britain was very diffeent. The War had also been very costly for Britain as it was for America. Britain decided, however, to pursue fundanental socialist reforms. The result was that the British economy was adversely affected. Even though Germany and Japan had been devestated by the War, their economies recovered very rapidly after the War. Britain had the highrst standard of living in Europe before the War. As a result of the post-War German Econimic Miracle, living standards in Germany eclipsed those in Britain during the 1950s. France was occupied by the Germans and exploited econimically. There was some destruction from the fighting. France ended the War with its physucal plant, except for the transportation system, largely in tact.

Soviet Union

The War made the Soviet Union a superpower at the time that Europe was in shables. Stalin decided rather than liberate Eastern Europe, he would create a Soviet Empire and installed repressive Soviet police states. The occupied areas of Western Soviet Union were a shamles. Vurtually any thing of economic value was destroyed By Stalins slah and burn orders, the fighting, and the Germans as they retreated. Stalin declined, however, to accept American Marshall Plan aid because of strings that woukd have required an acceptance of democracy in Eastern Europe. Economic conditions in the Soviet Union were difficult, but gradually conditions improved as factories were rebuilt and collective farms back into production. Many in the developing world watching the Soviet victory over the NAZIs and rapid indistrialization concluded that Soviet style planned economics was the economic waveof the future. Few realized that the factories and farms of the Soviet Union were inefficent, often turning out products worth less than the raw materials used to produce them.

Other Countries


Ethnic Cleansing

The ethnic cleansing that Hitler and Stalin commenced continued after the War. The countries of Eastern and Cebtral Europe expelled their German minorities. Many had left with the Wehrmacht, but many had attempted to stay. The Siviets expelled Poles living in areas they annexed west to the Poland that was reconstituted with areas of eastern Germany. It left Europe an ethnically tidier region than brfore the War. One exceotion was Yugoslavia. Marshal Tito put a stop to ethnic fighting. As would later be seen, he did not end ethnic tensuions, but he prevent any exoression of those tensions. For much of the post-War period, Yugoslavia was the most ethnically diverse country in Europe.

European Recovery

World War II was the largest and most cataclysmic war in human history. It was the first truly world war. Tere had earlier been devestation on a local level, but never as much destruction and loss of life on a global scle. And in contrast to World War II, it was civilians who suffered more than the military. The destruction and loss of life was on a scale never before exerienced by humanity. Europe was in deperate condition after the War. Again famine and starvatin was ony prevented by American food aid. Econonomists believed that it would take Europe and other devestated countries a generation to recover. To the surpise of almost everyone, however, within only a few years an amazing recovery began, although it was highly varried. The immediate post-Wars years were very difficult. This began to change about 1948, in part because of American aid and policy ininitatives. Most surprising of all was the starteling pace of recovry in Germany and Japan, countries with cities that were left piles of rubble and cinders after the War. There was also a rapid pace of recovery in Western Europe. We notice similar deveopments in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway. Britain here lagged behind its European counterparts and in the post-War era, Britain declined from being the European country with the highest standard of living to one with relatively low per-capita income levels. Overall, the recovery however, would bring unprecedented prosperity to Europe and Japan. The countries not only recovered, but soared above pre-War profuction and prosperity levels. The major excption was Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. The Soviets expected the economic benefits of Communism to propel liing standards to unprecedented levels. Just the opposite proved the case as the European Economic Miracle left the Sviet Union and its Eastern European Empire far behind. This was, however, not immediately apparent to all as the Cold War Iron Curtain established by Stalin prevented a free flow of information.

Cold War

The developing Cold War dividied Europe into two armed camps. America's decesion to remain this time meant that Western Europe would not be overwealmed by the Soviet colosus. The United States and its allies following World War II fought a 45-year struggle war with the Soviet Union and China. The War pitted the ideals of Western democracy and free enterprise against totalitarian states with command economies. At stake was the future social order of mankind. Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman when he became president in April 1945 began taking a stronger approach to the Soviets, disturbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which meant Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. American and European democracies sharply criticised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself with Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the War on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Western Europe. President Truman decided to support Western Europe economically (the Marshall Plan) and militarily (NATO). The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The first major episode was the soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. Berlin was during much of the Cold War a focal point of the conflict. The Soviets brutally suppressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), and Czechoslovakia (1978). There were proxy wars and competition for influence in developing countries, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unbalanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. The most dangerous point of the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). There were efforts to pursue detente during the 1970s. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms. It was the example of the West, especially the success of free market economics and political democracy that defeated Communism. Not all historians agree that the Cold War was necessary and that the foundation of Western democracy was at stake.

Asia

The aftermath of World War II was very different in Asia than Europe. The Europe that Hitler and Stalin sought out to conquer was a patchwork of indepedent states. Many were newly independent states, but independent never-the-less. Asia wa an area that had been extensively colonized by European countries. Thus liberation from the Japanese had a different meaning than was the case in Europe, especially Western Europe. In Asia, the Japanese Empire was dismanteled. Manchuria was returned to China. Korea became independentm but divided. War enpowered nationalist groups who in a short period of time ended colonialism. India was the first country to achieve independence. Many of these new countries were influenced by socialist economics and the seemingly rapid Communuist approach to development. Thus the economic prosperity that was widely expected after independence was slow to arrive. The Chinese fought out the Civil War to a conclusion with the Communists winning. The , and the Chinese Nationalists found refuge on Taiwan. Asia also became a battle ground in the Cold War.






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Created: 8:45 AM 8/14/2010
Last updated: 3:14 PM 7/10/2014