** war and social upheaval: World War II -- aftermath in Axis countries

War and Social Upheaval: World War II Aftermath in Axis Countries

Figure 1.--A new generation emerged from post-War Germany, a generation that had no responsibility for the War. Yet as Germans they bore the taint of what the NAZIs had done in their name. In many cases their parents told them very little, but the issues were throughly discussed in school. Note the pile of bricks in the background. Piles like this could be found in every German city. It is the bricks salvaged from the remains of Germany's shattered cities.

The three principal Axis countries were Germany, Italy, and Japan. These three countries and the Soviet Union, were the countries primarily responsible for launching World War II. Each was treated very differently by the Allies. Germany was divided and subjected to a thorough process of De-Nazification including De-Nazification courts. The issue of war guit and war crimes were thoroughly dscussed in German schools. The Italians were largely allowed to deal with the Fascist on their own. While Japan was forced to accept unconditional surrender like Germany, in fact the Japanese were allowed to keep the Emperor and the the Government was not dismanteled like the NAZI Government. And as a result, the issues of war guilt and war crimes were never raised in Japnese schools. The United states also refused to permit the Soviet Union to participate in the occupation. There were war crimes and the United States imposed wide-spread reforms. Several Eastern European countries also joined the Axis with various degrees of compulsion by the NAZIs. Some like Slovakia were puppet states. Other like Romania and Bularia were forced into the Axis, both by the Soviets and Germans. Hungary was more of a willing participant. Each of these countries was occupied by the Soviet Union which proceeded to install Soviet-style regimes. There were also areas from neighboring countries that the NAZIs annexed to the Reich.


The United States along with Britain and France Japan oversaw an occupation with changed the nature of West German society. The German readily admitted their country's responsibility for the War and their horrendous acts of the NAZI regime. The Allies instituted a thorough going denazification process, a process which continues to this day in Germany. The Allies also attacked the militarism of the old Prussian junker class which the united German state was built around in 1870. The Allies completely dismantled the NAZI regime and during military occupation reconstructed an entirely new political structure. In some ways the process was simplified by the NAZIs who although opposed to democracy had gone a great way toward the breaking down of class barriers and weakening the power of the Prussian junkers. The Germans were not without a tradition of democracy and parliamentary politics. Given the NAZIs success in dominating the German people and the thourougness of that domination, it seems perhaps surprising how readily the Germans adopted democracy. Perhaps the totality of the NAZI defeat and the specter of Soviet totalitarianism looming across the border were major factors. What ever the reasons, the German took to political democracy and free-market economics. A relationship with America was forged in the Berlin Airlift (1948) and four decades of resistance to the Soviets and Warsaw pact. The results by all practical measures have been an overwhelming success. Germany today is one of the most prosperous and democratic societies in the world. Germany unlike Japan was also occupied by the Soviet Union. The Soviet occupation policies in eastern Germany were very different than those perused in the western occupation zone. Austria was separated from Germany after the War and occupied by the Soviets and Western Allies.


The NAZIs incorporated Austria into the Reich with the Anschluss (1938). This was was enormously popular action both in Austria and Germany. After the German surrender (May 1945), Austria was separated from Germany and occupation zones set up. Austrians began to complain saying that they were occupied by the NAZIs and should be treated as a liberated country, not a occupied country guilty of war crimes. In fact many Austrians were enthusiastic NAZIs and actively participated in the NAZI aggressioins and war crimes. The occupation was ended on the condition that Austria would be a neutral nation (1955) and the Soviets and Western Allies withdrew.

Other Areas Annexed to the Reich

As a result of the stunning German military successes early in the War, Germany occupied most of Wesern and Central Europe. They proceeded to annex occupied areas to the Reich. This included reas in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, France, and Yugoslavia. As a result of this, the citizens in these areas were confricted ito the German military. Here occupied Poland was a partial excetion. Germans or peopleclassified as Aryans were subject to cnscription. Those classified as Poles were not and manu were deported as part of the German program of Germaninizing the occupied areas.


The Allied Military Government (AMG) was first established in Sicily after the invasion (July 1943). The same basic system was used in Italy after the Armistace and Allied invasion (September 1943). The AMG attempted to cooperate with civilian authorities as much as possible. Article 37 of the Instrument of Surrender (September 29) gave the Allies the authority to establish a military government. The Allies created a Control Commission to administer the AMG (November 10, 1943). Italy sued for peace after the loss of Sicily and just before an Allied invasion (September 1943). There were secret negotiations which did not fool Hitler. Italy was treated differently by the Allies than Germany and Japan. The guilt for the War was laid on Mussolini and the Fascists and not on the new government established after Mussolini and the Fascist fell from power. The new Italian Government not only exited the War, but declared war on the Germans. The NAZIs also treated Italy differently, Hitler ordered Italy occupied by the Wehrmacht which quickly moved south, seriously depleting the German strategic reserves.Coming on the heels of the defeat at Kursk, the power of the Whermacht was seriously eroding, but still capable of executing an effective delaying action in Italy. Hitler also ordered the internment of much of the Italian Army. Most of the Italian Army was interned and transported to camps in the Reich. A daring NAZI special forces action freed Mussolini who was installed as a figurehead of a Fascist state set up in northern Italy. The Germans began rounding up Jews and there were attricities carried out against civilians. As a result, the Italian people treated the advancing Allied more like liberators than occupiers.

NAZI Allies

The Soviets also occupied the Eastern European countries that joined the Axis in the War, in some cases under duress: Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. There were also several NAZI created rump states such as Croatia and Slovakia. Spain dispatched a division to the Eastern Front, but never declared war on France, England, and America. Austria after the War was treated liked Germany and occupied by both the Soviets and Western Allies. The Soviet Red Army seized Vienna. Austrians after the War claimed that because of the Anchluss they were one of the occupied countries. Many Europeans, however, saw them as little different if not worse than the Germans. Many Austrians were enthusiastic NAZIs.


The United States in oversaw an occupation with changed the nature of German and Japanese society, rooting out German militarism and fomenting the development of democratic political regimes and social structures. Women were enfranchised and labor unions allowed to organize. The results by all practical measures have been an overwhelming success. Japan today is one of the most prosperous and democratic societies in the world. There were, however, major differences in the occupation policies pursued in Germany. The Imperial Government was not dismantled. Emperor Hirohito was allowed to remain on the Chrysanthemum Throne. Details on his involvement in the War suggest a participation that was far more extensive than admitted at the time, although he certainly acted with considerable courage to end the War. Japan did not and does not today admit the full extent of its responsibility for launching World War II. Many Japanese attempt to hide the extent of their country's war crimes. Here the list is long, led by the launching of aggressive war first against China (1937) and then the United States and Britain (1941). Specific examples include the terror bombing of undefended Chinese cities (Shanghai); massacres of Chinese civilians (the Rape of Nanking), use of biological and chancel weapons, mistreatment and massacres of Allied POWs (the Batan Death March), abuse of civilian internees, use of slave labor, conscription of civilian women for prostitution (Korean comfort women). Many Japanese today attempt to portray Japan in the role of a victim of the War as a result of the atomic bomb. Right wing groups in Japan today are promoting a new curriculum about the War.


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Created: April 23, 2003
Last updated: 6:49 AM 4/25/2011