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World War II commenced with the invasion of Poland by German troops on the 1st of September 1939. But the underlying causes of the war are not from a single military offensive, rather from the cumulative effects brought by economic depression experienced by the world during the 1930 's , and due to the peace treaties of the First World War .A combination of factors caused the outbreak of the war . First was the condition of Germany in the 1920 's second were the political and military ambitions of certain nations , particularly Germany , Italy ,Japan and Russia third was the apathetic tolerance of Western democracies and fourth was the misconception that a strong military machinery would ensure victory and then dictate a durable peace (Frederick, 1961).
After the defeat of Germany at the end of World War I, the nation found itself in desperate straits and the people were prepared to accept any leader who could alleviate and provide solutions to their persisting problems. The turmoil experienced by Germany was due to the conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles as she lost her overseas possessions, her military reduced and her Air Force dissolved, and she was to pay a huge sum in reparations to France and other nations Germany was facing bankruptcy and economic inflation. This is why the German public was enticed by the fierce oratory of an ex-soldier by the name of Adolf Hitler. His intentions of eliminating the Jews, of invading the whole of Europe, and building a 1000-year Reich would then be tried to realize. Because Hitler believed in superiority of the Aryan race, he sought to invade land for the purpose of lebensraum , or providing the German people land in order to proliferate (Enser, 1990). Together with the Fascist leader of Italy Benito Mussolini, Nazi Germany tried to conquer the world In the Asia, formerly known as the Far East.
The Imperial Government of Japan invaded Manchuria in the early 1930's. They launched a series of invasions and conquests to serve their program of expansionism and the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere campaign. The empire shared the Nazi and Fascist ideology of racial supremacy, and being at the opposite side of the world , it was convenient to divide territories between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. These were some of the initial pointers to the imminent explosion of the Second World War.
The world war two had very many and far reaching implications through out the world. In this paper, I will tackle three main consequences of the Second World War namely Social, political and economic consequences.
The League of Nations having failed to effectively stop the war, a new international alliance was considered in 1945 and later created. This is what came to be called the United Nations. This new body was also responsible for the initial acceptance of the establishment of a nation for the Jewish 1948. The establishment of Israel was in response to the holocaust. This body of nations operates within the parameters of the United Nations charter and the reason for its formation is out lined in the Preamble to the United Nations Charter. Unlike its predecessor the League of Nations, United Nations has taken a more active role in the world for instance providing humanitarian aid to nations in distress and fighting of diseases (Hogg, 1996). The United Nations also served as the role of a diplomatic front line during the time of cold war. The main advantage the United Nations has over the League of Nations is that it has super powers like the United States of America and the former Soviet Union now called Russia.
The high levels of destruction visited on Europe led to a sharp decline in the influence wielded by the great powers. The U.S had suffered very little in the course of the war and soon it had established itself as a formidable power in manufacturing. The end of the second world war as been taken by historical scholars to represent the end of United Kingdom's status as a global superpower. This catalyzed the eventual emergence of the Soviet Union and the United States. Friction had been on the increase between the two powers before the end of the war and when the Nazi Germany collapsed the relations became tenser (Keegan, 1989).
The areas which were under the occupation of the western allied troops were allowed democratic governments while the Soviet troops occupied territories were placed under communism. These included the territories of the former allies like Poland. They became satellite parts of the Soviet Union. Germany had been divided into four occupation zones. Those of Britain, U.S.A and France were united after few years into West Germany while the Soviet occupied region became the East Germany. Austria was once more separated from Germany and divided into four occupation zones as well. They eventually reunited to become the Republic of Austria. Although the partitioning had previously been informal, the relationship between the victors became so bad that the military demarcation lines became de facto boundaries of the two countries (Polmar et al, 1991). This deterioration in relations culminated in the cold war and emergence of two blocs namely Warsaw Pact and NATO. The partitioning of Europe, Germany and Berlin persisted until the crumbling of the Eastern Block in the years 1989/1990. The Berlin wall was eventually brought down in 1989.
By the time this war ended, the economy of Europe had collapsed and most of the European industrial infrastructure had been destroyed. Very many people had already been rendered jobless and the victorious Eastern nations demanded reparations from the losers. According to the Paris Peace treaty, the enemies of the Soviet Union notably Hungary, Finland and Romania, were ordered to pay $300,000,000 each to the soviets. For Italy, it had to pay $ 360,000,000 shared chiefly between Greece, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Enormous reparations from the occupied Germany were to be paid not by money or goods but through transfer of capital goods for instance the dismantled manufacturing plants (Reid, 1974).
There was also a separate reparations agreement to the western victors which was mainly made up of machinery, free coal deliveries and dismantled plants with most of them going towards paying reparations to France and a few of them going to Britain. In addition, Germany and Italy paid through provision of forced labor with 100,000 for Britain and 700,000 for France. The USA was content to just appropriate the German patents and also take all the German company assets which were in the USA. The intellectual reparations such as blue prints and patents which were taken by the USA and the United Kingdom amounted to almost $10 billion dollars which using the year 2006 exchange rates was around 100 billion (Wheal et al, 1996).
Another program of taking German Scientific Scholars as well as technicians was used so as to deny the Soviet Union their expertise. Eventually, the U.S. stopped the shipment of the dismantled factories from its zone of occupation due to increase in friction with Russia. Part of this problem was caused by the refusal by Russia to supply the Western occupation with food surplus from the eastern zone of occupation which initially had been the bread basket of Germany as a whole. The western allies dismantling of industry in Ruhr and the Saar area was almost complete by 1950 (Friedl, 1996).
The initial plan by the United States was to strip Germany of all the industrial resources which would be required for war. It had proposed the removal of Silesia and Ruhr from Germany. Also the German speaking parts of Alsace-Loraine were to once again be placed under French occupation because they were Germany's main sources of iron and coal. Equipments had been removed from 708 manufacturing plants and the production of reduced by up to 6,700,000 tons by the year 1950. There was a rule that not help was to be accorded to Germany which would help it rebuild the economy except for the minimum required to avoid starvation. The results of these actions were soon apparent. Germany had been for long the industrial power house of Europe and its power curtailed the general recovery of Europe. The prolonged scarcity also led to considerable expenses by the occupying powers which had been obligated to do their best to make up the most of short falls (Hogg, 1996).
It was however soon realized that it was impossible to reconstruct Europe when Germany was in deep poverty. The marshal plan called for the U.S. Congress to allocate billions of dollars to aid in the reconstruction efforts in Europe. Part of this effort was geared towards building global capitalism in order to activate post war reconstruction. To aid in this endeavor, Bretton Woods System was put into action after the war. Germany received barely half of what Britain received but it was eventually forced to repay most of the money. However this meant that the occupation policy had officially been changed and hence the western Germany could embark on its reconstruction efforts. The East German population had been excluded and their attempt to revolt against the Russian occupation was quickly suppressed (Wheal et al, 1996).
The most notable of the social consequences is the increased participation of women in the labor force so as to fill the void left by men during the war. However, this changed in the decades following the war hence forcing many to go back to their families. The advancing red army left a huge trail of raped girls and women of diverse ages behind them. Due to the trauma caused by these beastly acts, the attitude of East German women towards sex changed greatly hence leading to social problems between men and women. The Russian authorities however, dispute the occurrence of this event. The German soldiers also left very many war children behind them in Nations like Denmark and France which had been occupied for long periods of time. When the war ended, these mothers and their children suffered recriminations. In Norway the situation was much worse and the children of German paternity suffered a great deal (Friedl, 1996).
The casualties suffered by the nations which were involved in the combat had impact on the demographic profiles of the post war populations. For example, one study arrived at the conclusion the male to female sex ratio in the Bavaria state of Germany had fallen to as low as 60 % for those between the ages of 21 and 23 in 1946. In addition, the births out of wedlock increased from between 10 to 15% during the interwar years to 22% when the war ended. The increase in out of wedlock births was attributed to a change in the marriage market which had been caused by the decline in the sex ratio (Reid, 1974).
The Soviet scorched earthed policy which entailed destruction of food sources to cut supplies to the German forces also greatly affected families and hunger became common place. The necessities of war also influenced the American fashion with the war production board dictating the styles for civilian clothing that would conserve metal and cloth for the war effort. For instance, the menswear was rid of vests, cuffs on pants and elbow patches on the jackets. In addition, the women's clothing had to rely on fewer materials with skirts becoming narrower and much shorter. The federal government also compelled the citizens to cut on food stuffs and other consumer goods. For example, the Americans needed ration cards in order to buy items like sugar, gasoline, coffee and meat. This rationing eventually left many Americans frustrated. As a result, they had money to spend but there were few goods available for purchase (Keegan, 1989). The frustration kept mounting until the end of the war when the industries went back to the production of consumer goods and the Americans embarked on a buying spree of unprecedented proportions. After this, America now enjoyed a higher over all standard of living and full employment. This situation was replicated in almost every country which took part in the war effort.