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It's known as the 'good war', the struggle against fascism and genocide by the free democracies, the triumph of good over an evil which had infused Germany and Japan.But, as you might expect of the single largest conflict in history, World War Two wasn't so simple.
In terms of Europe, Russia generally holds that the ' Great Patriotic War' began on June 22nd 1941 with Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of Russia) while Western Europe uses September 1st 1939, the German invasion of Poland.Both use the date of Germany's unconditional surrender as the end in Europe, but the Western Allies accepted the surrender on May 8th and the Russian May 9th 1945.Despite featuring Nazi Germany, the media's most famous 'baddies', the opposing alliances aren't clear either thanks to some fluid politics.The bulk of the European war was fought by the fascist ' Axis' of Germany and Italy against the uneasy alliance of France, the British Empire, the United States and Communist Russia with numerous small contributors on both sides.However, Russia began the war by seizing and suppressing Poland in allegiance with Germany in 1939 - albeit having first tried to find support against Germany from the western nations – until Germany invaded Russia in 1941, while an Italy freed from fascist rulers joined the Allies in 1943.All across Europe over fifty million combatants fought, with over ten million causalities and equal that number of civilian deaths.
The immediate trigger for war was the Nazi invasion of Poland, a conquest too far for the allied nations who had seen Austrian and Czech lands subsumed into the Reich already.
The driving force was unquestionably Hitler, who wanted war and racial domination.
But argument rages about the wider background, the political, cultural and economic climate which allowed Hitler into power to begin with.
Many start in 1918 with the end of World War One and the Treaty of Versailles, whose 'war guilt' and rampant anti-German clauses has led some to say another war was inevitable, or even that world wars one and two are part of the same conflict, albeit with a large ceasefire in the middle.
Hitler certainly played on German beliefs that they had been betrayed and treated unfairly at the war's end.
The Allied Occupation of Germany which ended World War Two prevented a repeat.