Detailed Timeline of
World War II (1939 – 1945)
Devastation of Europe, Change in
Global Balance of Power
Go to European
History Interactive Map
II Interactive Map
World War II on Each Country
Allies Defeat Germans in Battle of the
Bulge (Jan, 1945): Ending in January of
’45 with a resounding German defeat, it opens the floodgates of Allied
forces into Germany. The Allies would enter Berlin in late April. The
Germans surrendered to the Western Allies on May 7.
(Feb, 1945): The three heads of state of the USSR (Stalin),
United Kingdom (Churchill) and the United States (Eisenhowser) meet to
determine the fate of post-war Europe, as it became clear that an Allied
victory was imminent. Points of Agreement: (1) Division of Germany and
Austria into four occupied zones. (2) German reparations, including slave
labor of Nazi soldiers. (3) New Poland and Germany borders, where the USSR
would retain East Poland, and Poland would gain East Germany.
(4) Nazi war criminals prosecuted. (5) Denazification and demilitarization of Germany.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Austria Conquered, Beginning of 10-Year
Allied Occupation (1945): As the
Western Allies (UK, USA, French) closed in from the west, and the USSR
Red Army closed in from the East, prominent Austrians declared Austria
as separate from Germany. As a result, the Allies were far more gentle
with their handling of Austria compared to Germany. The Allies occupied
Austria for 10 years following the war, giving Austria its complete
sovereignty in 1955.
Allies Conquer Remainder of Italy
(1945): Allies advance steadily into
the Nazi-held NW corner of Italy in the spring of ’45. The Nazis
negotiate a surrender with the Allies on May 2.
Denmark and Norway Liberated from
Germans (1945): With the Allies closing
in on its homeland, German troops were forced to withdraw from Norway in
1945. The Soviets drove remaining Nazi forces out of Denmark as well.
Both nations were liberated before Germany’s surrender in May of ’45.
Allies Maintain Advantage in Battle of
the Atlantic Until End of War (1945):
Battles at sea continue until the surrender of Germany in May of ’45.
The remainder of Germany’s naval fleet is turned over to the Allies upon
its surrender in the war.
Finland Expels Germans
(April, 1945): After signing a peace
treaty with the USSR in September of ’44, Finland turns its military
focus against the Nazi troops that still remain within its borders,
driving the last of the Nazis out of Finland by April of ’45. When
Germany attacked the USSR in 1941, Finland joined the Axis Powers, since
it then shared a common enemy in Russia, which had attempted to invade
Finland in 1939. As part of this new alliance, Finland allowed Nazi
troops to be stationed on its own land to help with the invasion of the
USSR. Despite Nazi attempts to assume control over the Finnish
government and its army, Finland remained independent and democratic
during the war. It also protected its Jewish population against Nazi
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Battle of Berlin Begins
(April, 1945): The Soviet army enters
Berlin in mid-April, just a few weeks before the Western Allies (US, UK,
France). Hitler and most of his closest advisors and cabinet members
would commit suicide just before the Soviets took complete control of
Nazi Germany Surrender
(May 2, 1945): The Nazis surrendered on
May 2, but pockets of resistance continued, primarily as some troops
attempted to make their way west to be captured by the Western Allies,
who were less harsh in their treatment of captured Germans than the
(1945): Soviets drive out the Germans,
setting up a provincial Czechoslovakian government in the interim.
Loss of East Germany to Poland
(1945): With Poland’s urging, the USSR
demands a massive territorial transfer of much of East Germany to
Poland. Since the Soviets redistributed large amounts of East Poland to
Belarus and Ukraine, it insisted that a large portion of German
territory was needed to provide Poles with sufficient living space.
Furthermore, it was argued that large portions of this land historically
belonged to Poland, Finally, the Odor River was determined to be the
most sensible border, since it provided a natural boundary, and
presented a much shorter boundary than other proposals. The Western
Allies (UK, USA, France) objected initially, but finally relented.
Germans Lose East Prussia
(1945): The Soviets divide East Prussia
between Lithuania, Poland and Russia.
Forced Expulsions of German People
(1945): Approximately 14 million
Germans living in re-appointed East German territories were forcibly
deported to inside the newly-contracted German borders. The Soviet and
Poland soldiers that drove them out of the former German lands were
often brutal in their treatment of German migrants, committing acts of
rape and murder. Up to 2 million Germans were killed or went missing as
a result of the forced expulsions. The USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia
argued the necessity of the forced expulsions based on the following
reasons: 1) Belief that ethnically-homogenous nation states would enjoy
greater peace, 2) Germans had proven to be a menace, 3) Need to make
sufficient space available for those that had been overrun by Germans,
especially Poland and Czechoslovakia.
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U.S. Defeats Japan
(1945): Throughout 1945, the Allies
continued to close in on Japan, achieving victory after victory, and
moving in closer to the Japanese mainland. When Japan refused to accept
Allied terms in July of ’45, the U.S. proceeded with plans to use a
nuclear bomb to force Japan into submission. Hiroshima was bombed first
on August 6, then Nagasaki on August 9, killing roughly 220,000 of
primarily civilians. More nuclear bombings were planned in the event
that Japan still refused to surrender. Japan announced its surrender on
August 15. The U.S. argued that the loss of American and Asian life
would have been far greater if the war were to rage on. The contrarian
argument is that Japan was near the point of surrender anyway. The
justification of these nuclear attacks is a hotly debated controversey
to this day.
Simmering Internal Strife in Greece
(1945): Acts of violence seen in 1944
are reduced in 1945. The democratic factions and communist factions sign
a peace treaty, attempting to peacefully arrive at a solution. However,
the factions only grew further apart, and isolated incidents of violence
continued, spurring the full-scale Greek Civil war beginning in 1946.
Expanded Soviet Bloc
(1945): The Soviet (Eastern) Bloc was a
collection of nations that were militarily and economically tied to (and
dominated by) the Soviet Union. After WWII, the USSR was supposed to
allow the Eastern European nations it conquered to re-establish their
independence as democratic republics. However, they refused to follow
through with their promise to fellow Allied nations, and engineered the
emergence of communist-style governments in captured nations through
intimidation and rigged elections. The Soviet Union chose to pursue its
own national agenda, which dictated a vast amount of buffer territory to
the west to protect itself from its greatest national security threat.
Since 1812, Russia had been invaded on three separate occasions from the
west (Napoleonic France, Germany in WWI and Nazi Germany in WWII). By
expanding its sphere of influence westward, Russia intended to prevent
potential future attacks from a western power.
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Separation Into West & East Germany
(1945): The Allies originally intended
to combine all the occupied zones into a single political entity,
governed by a counsil represented by of each of the Allied nations
(USSR, UK, USA, France). However, differences and distrust between the
three Western Allies and the USSR continued to widen after the war. As
the Cold War tensions escalated, the willingness to collaborate in
Germany diminished. By 1949, it was clear that a unified German state
operated under Allied control would not materialize. Therefore, in 1949,
the three Western Allies combined their respective occupied territories
into “West Germany”. The USSR would retain control over their area of
occupation, forming “East Germany”. Tensions would run high between the
two “Germanies”, as it served as a pawn between the “Western Powers” and
the USSR during the Cold War. Germany would not be reunified until 1990,
after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Jewish Migrations to Palestine
(1945): Jewish migrations to Palestine
accelerate due to persecutions in Europe, which continue even after
Allies free Jews from Nazis. Jews were believed to be cooperating with
communists, as many Jews were attracted to communism. The UK imposes a
limit to the number of Jews allowed to settle in Palestine, due to
protests by Arabs. By 1945, most Jews, and the U.S., support unlimited
immigration, and the creation of a Jewish state. As a result of the
UK-imposed ban on immigration, Jews begin to immigrate illegally, which
results in arrests, and subsequent Jewish revolts against the British.
As soon as UK pulls out in 1948, being helpless to defuse the situation,
the Jewish state of Israel is declared. This is immediately followed by
an Arab-coalition invasion. The Arab-Israeli War ended in 1949 with an
Israeli victory, and the confirmation of Israel as a sovereign state.
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|Further Understanding of World War II
Nazi Germany: Truly an
Throughout history, it is rare to see a
power that has both fanatical intentions along with the military might
to carry them out on such a large scale. In the past, there have
certainly been expanding threats that were insatiable in their appetites
for conquest, such as the Greeks, Romans, Muslim caliphates, Mongols,
Ottomans and Napoleon’s France. However, even these nations were often
no worse (perhaps even better in cases) than the existing regimes they
conquered. The main crime was the warfare that ensued between existing
regimes and the expansionary threats. But once rule had been
established, conquered subjects were often assimilated into the
political system, even as equals or near-equals in many instances, and
with fair to substantial autonomy. Certainly there were atrocities
carried out by conquering powers before the Nazi regime, but nothing
comparable to the Nazi crimes against humanity, and often nothing above
and beyond what the general public faced under the receding regime. Nazi
Germany, was truly diabolical in its treatment of conquered peoples,
including its own citizens deemed to be “undesirable”. They forced
millions into slave camps, systematically exterminating Jewish and even
Polish populations, as well as other “undesirables” including religious
figures, handicapped, darker races, homosexuals, etc. The
Atlantic-African Slave Trade was perhaps greater in its harmful impact
(tens of millions enslaved over the course of 4+ centuries), but the
Holocaust is unique in the number of people slaughtered with cold
calculation in such a short period of time.
How could such an unprecedented evil arise? 1) Technology –
deadlier weaponry and more efficient means to rapidly kill large numbers
of people. 2) Dense Populations – warfare and atrocities were made much
more deadly (in terms of death rates) due to large numbers of victims in
comparatively tighter proximities. 3) Mass Media –enabled a cult of
personality (such as Hitler), with such extremist ideas, to spread
propaganda to an enormous audience. Since television and radio
broadcasts were so new, they had a greater persuasive effect than is
How were such detestable acts justified? Hatred for the Jewish
people existed throughout Europe, and especially in Germany, long before
Hitler rose to prominence. With the Germans, the hatred stemmed from
perceived religious, social, physical and nationalistic differences.
Throughout history, Christian leaders had always stoked the fires of
contempt against the people believed to be responsible for the death of
their lord Jesus Christ. The Jews were also viewed as a peculiar people,
that tended to isolate themselves from the general European community.
Through falsified “scientific” studies, Jews were also deemed to be
anatomically inferior. This dehumanization made persecution seem morally
acceptable. Finally, Jews were wrongfully perceived to be responsible
for Germany’s premature surrender in WWI. As a highly prideful people,
the Jews served as the perfect scapegoat to explain away their WWI
failings and subsequent inter-war predicament.
Hitler: The “right” trigger at the “right” time. Hitler then came
along and pulled all of these levers to bring hatred for Jews and other
“undesirables” to a boiling point. Despite their defeated disposition
after their WWI loss, Germany still sat on a wealth of industrial and
military might, along with vast raw and human resources. When Hitler
mobilized these resource to their advantage, Germany again began to
rise, while the rest of Europe sank during the Global Depression. As a
result, Hitler’s political currency rose tremendously, to iconic status,
which enabled him to carry out his “Final Solution” with the support of
a nation. He was also able to establish himself as politically
untouchable and authoritatively secure, which gave him dictatorial
powers, making opposition to his plans a life-threatening proposition.
World War II on Each Country
Post-War Era (1945 – 1989)
World War II (1944)
Go to European
History Interactive Map
II Interactive Map