Project ‘Lessons of the Second World War’
(Start date of the project: 17.05.2021. Date of completion: 17.05.2022).
The project aims to draw public attention to the tragic results and main lessons of the Second World War.
It cannot be denied that war is evil. Not only the direct participants, but also civilians suffer from it. In the occupied territories, people die from bombing, in the rear they die of hunger and disease. The soldiers return home with a disfigured psyche. And yet, military engineers continue to improve the methods of destruction. With each new clash, there are more and more victims. This is contrary to the essence of human existence. In ancient times, people fought for survival. What makes civilized people use war as a way to resolve conflicts, who do not need to kill opponents for food?
Nikolai Berdyaev wrote that war does not create evil, it reveals it. He argued that violence is generated by the inner disease of humanity and manifests itself as a rash on the body. You can get rid of external symptoms for a while, but if the disease itself is not treated, the rash will appear again. This reasoning is a hundred years old, but in our time they remain topical. Until now, history has known the names of several fanatics who armed themselves for the sake of conquest. They pumped up their people with propaganda, instilled hatred in immature souls. The rest dreamed of a peaceful life and did not imagine that soon the unsteady happiness would come to an end. With the onset of the industrial era, conflicts have become global.
In 1914, the First World War broke out, caused by the rivalry between the capitalists. Military operations have acquired an unprecedented scale, they unfolded on land, sea and even in the air. In Europe, battles took place in France and Germany, in the Baltic States and Poland, in the Balkans and the Caucasus. The signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty put an end to the global conflict. As a result, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman and British empires collapsed, new national states appeared, revolutions took place in Russia and Germany. Human tragedies are lost behind historical calculations: orphaned children, broken families, crippled souls. More than 70 million people have been drafted into the fighting armies, many of whom have returned home disabled. About 10 million soldiers were killed, while civilian casualties were approximately 11 million.
Still, life triumphs over death: people began to adapt to the new world. Industry, transport and culture developed, life and fashion changed. To prevent military conflicts, the League of Nations was formed. However, healing did not come, the rash began to appear again on the body of humanity. In the thirties of the XX century, it acquired an ugly, disgusting character. The idea of national exclusivity led to a new war.
The time between the two wars is often referred to not as peace, but as a truce. Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany paid reparations to the victorious countries. Production recovered slowly. With Hitler's rise to power, the situation changed. The militarization of the economy began, unemployment fell, and wages rose. Nazi ideology spread like a contagious disease. Under the influence of propaganda, the Germans demanded revenge for the defeat in the last war. The League of Nations turned out to be untenable: the German government ignored the sanctions imposed on the country. The contradictions between European states untied Hitler's hands; on September 1, 1939, he invaded Poland. The Second World War began.
The Nazis had an advantage in weapons and manpower. The plans for conducting offensive operations were developed in advance. By the summer of 1940, the Germans had occupied Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. A year later, all the countries of Western and Central Europe submitted to Nazi Germany. At the same time, Italy and Japan joined the invaders. The war spread to other continents.
The successes of the first period turned Hitler's head. On June 22, 1941, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. The calculation here was for a lightning-fast seizure of territory. By the fall of 1941, the Germans approached Moscow. It seemed that the blitzkrieg had succeeded again. However, during the fierce fighting in November-December 1941, the Soviet people defended Moscow, the Red Army went on the offensive. Germany was caught up in an exhausting war. An agreement was reached between the USSR and Great Britain on joint actions. Thanks to this, it was possible to prevent the creation of fascist military bases in the Middle East. Under Lend-Lease, the United States supplied the allies with weapons, equipment, food, and medicine. An alliance was formed: the USSR successfully conducted ground offensive operations, Great Britain had an advantage in the air force, and production was established in the United States. The intelligence services of the countries of the Anti-Hitler coalition also interacted. In the territory occupied by the enemy, a Resistance movement took shape.
The final turning point occurred in February 1943 at Stalingrad, where the Nazi troops suffered a crushing defeat. The expulsion of enemy troops from the territory of the Soviet Union began. At the Tehran Conference of 1943, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to open a second front in Europe. In June 1944, the Allies launched the Normandy Landing Operation. The Red Army was advancing from the east, and Anglo-American troops from the west. The states of Europe were liberated from the fascist dictatorship. In the spring of 1945, the Allies met on the Elbe. On May 8, Germany signed the Act of Unconditional Surrender. The war continued in the east, where the United States opposed Japan. In August, Soviet troops launched an offensive in Northeast China. By September, the Kwantung Army was defeated. On September 2, 1945, representatives of the headquarters of the Japanese emperor signed an act of unconditional surrender. Thus ended the most destructive war in human history.
The war had a huge impact on the fate of mankind. Military operations took place on the territory of forty states. 110 million people were mobilized. Human losses amounted to about 65 million people, a significant part of whom are civilians. The Soviet Union lost about 26 million citizens. Great damage was inflicted on Poland, China, Japan and Germany. Behind the calculations of numbers, the suffering of ordinary people disappears, who died of hunger and cold in concentration camps and occupied cities, died on the battlefields. At the Nuremberg Trials, the main Nazis were sentenced to death. The perpetrators received different terms of imprisonment. Territorial changes have taken place in Europe and Asia. The restoration of the destroyed states began. To maintain world peace, the United Nations was formed. But has humanity learned the lessons of war?
In the second half of the 20th century, two opposing systems emerged. A rampant arms race began. Weapons of mass destruction produced over the years can destroy life on the planet. Politicians call nuclear bombs a deterrent, but more and more rulers are emerging brandishing a nuclear baton. Disagreements arise among developed countries as well. Authoritarian regimes try to tarnish the idea of democratic development. The financial interests of big business hinder the containment of aggression. The dispute over the contribution of different states to the victory over Nazi Germany is escalating. It's time for people to stop and think in what kind of world descendants will live.
82 years have passed since the outbreak of World War II. But mankind is gradually forgetting the main lessons of this tragedy. Nationalist and fascist organizations are re-emerging. Extremist associations are emerging in some countries. To understand the nature of Nazism, one must investigate the causes, study the events and understand the consequences of this tragedy. Without a thorough analysis of the events of World War II, it will be impossible to understand the scale of the catastrophe that happened.
Within the framework of the project “Main Lessons of the Second World War”, the United Europe Foundation draws public attention to this problem and helps to rethink history. After all, people who do not remember the past are doomed to relive it again. We will tell you about the scale of the catastrophe and introduce you to a modern assessment of the consequences of the war. For successful development, society needs a sober view of historical events. It's time to understand that nations and nationalities are like puzzles: they complement the overall picture, make it more colorful. Fanaticism or the idea of any exclusivity distorts perception, impoverishes people. Economic and cultural ties between the Russian Federation and the European Union countries are of great importance, because Russia is also Europe. The peoples need to remember the main lesson of the Second World War - only through joint efforts can we fight the world's evil.