10 eye-opening facts about World War 2
Learn about this hugely important event in British history…
In September 1939, Britain entered into what would become the world’s most devastating war to date. Learn all about the events that changed the lives of millions in our World War 2 facts….
World War 2 facts
1. World War 2 was a battle between two groups of countries
– the “Allies” and the “Axis“. The major Allied Powers were Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States. The major Axis Powers were Germany, Italy and Japan.
2. Before World War 2 began, Germany was ruled by a man named Adolf Hitler
Together with the Nazi Party, he wanted Germany to rule Europe. To gain more land and power, on 1 September 1939 German troops invaded Poland. After Hitler refused to stop the invasion, Britain and France declared war on Germany – World War II had begun.
3. During the course of the war, German forces advanced through Europe
By the summer of 1941 they had invaded France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Greece, Yugoslavia* and the USSR*.
4. Millions of Germans were imprisoned and killed because they didn’t fit the image of the ‘perfect’ German
Hitler wanted to create what he thought was the “best” and strongest race – and to the Nazi Party, this excluded certain groups, such as Jews, Gypsies and those with physical and mental disabilities. In an attempt to eliminate a “racial enemy” outside of Germany, such groups were also persecuted in the countries invaded by German forces.
5. The group most heavily targeted by the Nazis were the Jews
Around six million Jewish people were killed during World War 2 in one of history’s most terrible events – the Holocaust. Racist in his views, Hitler blamed Jewish people for Germany losing World War I and claimed they were dangerous to German people and society.
6. Around the same time that Germany fought for power in Europe, Japan wanted to control Asia and the Pacific
In 1937 (before World War 2 had officially begun) under Emperor Hirohito, Japan attacked China, bringing the two nations into years of conflict.
7. The US didn’t join the war until 1941, when Japan attacked the United States
– at their Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On 8 December 1941 (the very next day), the US declared War on Japan and, in turn, its German allies.
8. Some countries remained ‘neutral’ in World War 2
Such countries were Spain, Sweden and Switzerland – who chose not to join either side.
9. The Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945
In 1944, an Allied army crossed from Britain to free France from Nazi rule. One year later, Allied armies invaded Germany, forcing the Germans to surrender. After nuclear attacks on Japan’s major cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan also surrendered to Allied forces in August the same year. World War 2 had ended.
10. Around 64 million people died in World War 2
With thanks to Dr. Matthew Thomas from the National Army Museum and Ian Kikuchi from the Imperial War Museum, London.
*Yugoslavia was a country established in 1918 in south-east Europe, which included modern-day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
*USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union) was a former country which included modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Estonia, as well as other socialist states.