Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located in Poland, with small parts in the Czech Republic and Germany. Its area is about 40,000 km2, its population about 8,000,000. Silesia is located along the Oder River, it consists of Upper Silesia. The region is rich in mineral and natural resources, includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław; the biggest metropolitan area is the Upper Silesian metropolitan area, the centre of, Katowice. Parts of the Czech city of Ostrava fall within the borders of Silesia. Silesia's borders and national affiliation have changed over time, both when it was a hereditary possession of noble houses and after the rise of modern nation-states; the first known states to hold power there were those of Greater Moravia at the end of the 9th century and Bohemia early in the 10th century. In the 10th century, Silesia was incorporated into the early Polish state, after its division in the 12th century became a Piast duchy.
In the 14th century, it became a constituent part of the Bohemian Crown Lands under the Holy Roman Empire, which passed to the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in 1526. Most of Silesia was conquered by Prussia in 1742 and transferred from Austria to Prussia in the Treaty of Berlin. Silesia became, as a province of Prussia, a part of the German Empire and the subsequent Weimar Republic; the varied history with changing aristocratic possessions resulted in an abundance of castles in Silesia in the Jelenia Góra valley. After World War I, the easternmost part of this region, i.e. an eastern strip of Upper Silesia, was awarded to Poland by the Entente Powers after insurrections by Poles and the Upper Silesian plebiscite. The remaining former Austrian parts of Silesia were partitioned to Czechoslovakia, forming part of Czechoslovakia's German-settled Sudetenland region, are today part of the Czech Republic. In 1945, after World War II, the bulk of Silesia was transferred, on demands of the Polish delegation, to Polish jurisdiction by the Potsdam Agreement of the victorious Allied Powers and became part of Poland.
The small Lusatian strip west of the Oder–Neisse line, which had belonged to Silesia since 1815, remained in Germany. The largest town and cultural centre of this region is Görlitz. Most inhabitants of Silesia today speak the national languages of their respective countries, while before the population shifts after 1945, the majority of Silesia's population spoke German; the population of Upper Silesia is native, while Lower Silesia was settled by a German-speaking population before 1945. An ongoing debate exists whether Silesian speech should be considered a dialect of Polish or a separate language. A Lower Silesian German dialect is used, although today it is extinct, it is used by expellees who relocated to the remaining parts of Germany, as well as by Germans who stayed in their Lower Silesian home. The names of Silesia in the different languages most share their etymology—Latin and English: Silesia; the names all relate to the name of a mountain in mid-southern Silesia. The mountain served as a cultic place.
Ślęża is listed as one of the numerous Pre-Indo-European topographic names in the region. According to some Polish Slavists, the name Ślęża or Ślęż is directly related to the Old Slavic words ślęg or śląg, which means dampness, moisture, or humidity, they disagree with the hypothesis of an origin for the name Śląsk from the name of the Silings tribe, an etymology preferred by some German authors. In the fourth century BC, Celts entered Silesia, settling around Mount Ślęża near modern Wrocław, Oława, Strzelin. Germanic Lugii tribes were first recorded within Silesia in the 1st century. Slavic peoples arrived in the region around the 7th century, by the early ninth century, their settlements had stabilized. Local Slavs started to erect boundary structures like the Silesia Walls; the eastern border of Silesian settlement was situated to the west of the Bytom, east from Racibórz and Cieszyn. East of this line dwelt a related Slav tribe, the Vistulans, their northern border was in the valley of the Barycz River, north of.
The first known states in Silesia were Bohemia. In the 10th century, the Polish ruler Mieszko I of the Piast dynasty incorporated Silesia into the Polish state. During the Fragmentation of Poland and the rest of the country were divided among many independent duchies ruled by various Silesian dukes. During this time, German cultural and ethnic influence increased as a result of immigration from German-speaking parts of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1178, parts of the Duchy of Kraków around Bytom, Oświęcim, Chrzanów, Siewierz were transferred to the Silesian Piasts, although their population was Vistulan and not of Silesian descent. Between 1289 and 1292, Bohemian king Wenceslaus II became suzerain of some of the Upper Silesian duchies. Polish kings had not renounced their hereditary rights to Silesia until 1335; the province became part of the Bohemian Crown under the Holy Roman Empire, passed with that crown to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. In the 15th century
Karl I, Prince of Liechtenstein
Karl I, Prince of Liechtenstein, was the first member of the Liechtenstein family to become a Prince of Liechtenstein, thus he was the founder of the Princely Family of Liechtenstein. Karl was the elder son of Hartmann II, Baron of Liechtenstein and his wife Countess Anna Maria of Ortenburg. Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire appointed Karl as Chief Intendant, an important position at his court. Karl held this position until 1607. In a dispute over land between Rudolf II and the heir to the throne, Archduke Mathias, Karl sided with Mathias, who made Karl a hereditary prince in 1608, in thanks for Karl's aid. In 1614, Karl added the regency of the Duchy of Troppau to his possessions. In thanks for further aid at the Battle of White Mountain, Karl was appointed to the positions of proconsul and vice-regent of Bohemia in 1622, he was bestowed with the Order of the Golden Fleece, he gained the Duchy of Troppau on 28 December 1613 and the Silesian Duchy of Jägerndorf on 15 March 1622, along with much confiscated "rebel property", he commissioned the Ducal hat of Liechtenstein.
He became a Catholic in 1599. In 1605, Karl established the first branch north of the Alps of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, at Feldsberg in Lower Austria, he was the 352nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria. He died in Prague. In 1600, Karl married Baroness of Boskovice and Černá Hora and Lady of Aussee, they had at least four children: Princess Anna Maria Franziska, married Maximilian, Prince of Dietrichstein. Princess Franziska Barbara, married Wenzel Werner of T'Serclaes, Count of Tilly. Prince Heinrich. Karl Eusebius, Prince of Liechtenstein. "Karl I, Prince of Liechtenstein", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 18, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1883, pp. 614– Article in the ABD Official biography
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process; the official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire; the Nazi regime ended. Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, on 30 January 1933; the NSDAP began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate its power. Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934 and Hitler became dictator of Germany by merging the offices and powers of the Chancellery and Presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler as sole Führer of Germany.
All power was centralised in Hitler's person and his word became the highest law. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Hitler's favour. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Nazis restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of Autobahnen; the return to economic stability boosted the regime's popularity. Racism antisemitism, was a central feature of the regime; the Germanic peoples were considered by the Nazis to be the master race, the purest branch of the Aryan race. Discrimination and persecution against Jews and Romani people began in earnest after the seizure of power; the first concentration camps were established in March 1933. Jews and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, liberals and communists were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. Christian churches and citizens that opposed Hitler's rule were oppressed, many leaders imprisoned.
Education focused on racial biology, population policy, fitness for military service. Career and educational opportunities for women were curtailed. Recreation and tourism were organised via the Strength Through Joy program, the 1936 Summer Olympics showcased Germany on the international stage. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made effective use of film, mass rallies, Hitler's hypnotic oratory to influence public opinion; the government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or discouraging others. The Nazi regime dominated neighbours through military threats in the years leading up to war. Nazi Germany made aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if these were not met, it seized Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. Germany signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR, invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, launching World War II in Europe. By early 1941, Germany controlled much of Europe. Reichskommissariats took control of conquered areas and a German administration was established in the remainder of Poland.
Germany exploited labour of both its occupied territories and its allies. In the Holocaust, millions of Jews and other peoples deemed undesirable by the state were imprisoned, murdered in Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, or shot. While the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was successful, the Soviet resurgence and entry of the US into the war meant the Wehrmacht lost the initiative on the Eastern Front in 1943 and by late 1944 had been pushed back to the pre-1939 border. Large-scale aerial bombing of Germany escalated in 1944 and the Axis powers were driven back in Eastern and Southern Europe. After the Allied invasion of France, Germany was conquered by the Soviet Union from the east and the other Allies from the west, capitulated in May 1945. Hitler's refusal to admit defeat led to massive destruction of German infrastructure and additional war-related deaths in the closing months of the war; the victorious Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put many of the surviving Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.
The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945, while common English terms are "Nazi Germany" and "Third Reich". The latter, adopted by Nazi propaganda as Drittes Reich, was first used in Das Dritte Reich, a 1923 book by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck; the book counted the Holy Roman Empire as the German Empire as the second. Germany was known as the Weimar Republic during the years 1919 to 1933, it was a republic with a semi-presidential system. The Weimar Republic faced numerous problems, including hyperinflation, political extremism, contentious relationships with the Allied victors of World War I, a series of failed attempts at coalition government by divided political parties. Severe setbacks to the German economy began after World War I ended because of reparations payments required under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles; the government printed money to make the payments and to repay the country's war debt, but the resulting hyperinflation led to inflated prices for consumer goods, economic chaos, food riots.
When the government defaulted on their reparations payments in January 1923, French troops occupied German industrial areas along the Ruhr and widespread civil unrest followed. The National Socialist German Workers' Party (National
The Sudetenland is the historical German name for the northern and western areas of former Czechoslovakia which were inhabited by Sudeten Germans. These German speakers had predominated in the border districts of Bohemia and Czech Silesia from the time of the Austrian Empire; the word "Sudetenland" did not come into being until the early part of the 20th century and did not come to prominence until over a decade into the century, after the First World War, when the German-dominated Austria-Hungary was dismembered and the Sudeten Germans found themselves living in the new country of Czechoslovakia. The Sudeten crisis of 1938 was provoked by the Pan-Germanist demands of Germany that the Sudetenland be annexed to Germany, which happened after the Munich Agreement. Part of the borderland was annexed by Poland; when Czechoslovakia was reconstituted after the Second World War, the Sudeten Germans were expelled and the region today is inhabited exclusively by Czech speakers. The word Sudetenland is a German compound of Land, meaning "country", Sudeten, the name of the Sudeten Mountains, which run along the northern Czech border and Lower Silesia.
The Sudetenland encompassed areas well beyond those mountains, however. Parts of the now Czech regions of Karlovy Vary, Olomouc, Moravia-Silesia, Ústí nad Labem are within the area called Sudetenland; the areas known as the Sudetenland never formed a single historical region, which makes it difficult to distinguish the history of the Sudetenland apart from that of Bohemia, until the advent of nationalism in the 19th century. The Celtic and Boii tribes settled there and the region was first mentioned on the map of Ptolemaios in the 2nd century AD; the Germanic tribe of the Marcomanni dominated the entire core of the region in centuries. Those tribes built cities like Brno, but moved west during the Migration Period. In the 7th century AD Slavic people were united under Samo's realm. In the High Middle Ages Germans settled into the less populated border region. In the Middle Ages the regions situated on the mountainous border of the Duchy and the Kingdom of Bohemia had since the Migration Period been settled by western Slavic Czechs.
Along the Bohemian Forest in the west, the Czech lands bordered on the German Slavic tribes stem duchies of Bavaria and Franconia. In the course of the Ostsiedlung German settlement from the 13th century onwards continued to move into the Upper Lusatia region and the duchies of Silesia north of the Sudetes mountain range. From as early as the second half of the 13th century onwards these Bohemian border regions were settled by ethnic Germans, who were invited by the Přemyslid Bohemian kings — by Ottokar II and Wenceslaus II. After the extinction of the Přemyslid dynasty in 1306, the Bohemian nobility backed John of Luxembourg as king against his rival Duke Henry of Carinthia. In 1322 King John of Bohemia acquired the Imperial Egerland region in the west and was able to vassalize most of the Piast Silesian duchies, acknowledged by King Casimir III of Poland by the 1335 Treaty of Trentschin, his son, Bohemian King Charles IV, was elected King of the Romans in 1346 and crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1355.
He added the Lusatias to the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, which comprised large territories with a significant German population. In the hilly border regions German settlers established major manufactures of forest glass; the situation of the German population was aggravated by the Hussite Wars, though there were some Germans among the Hussite insurgents. By Germans settled the hilly Bohemian border regions as well as the cities of the lowlands; the city of Prague had a German-speaking majority from the last third of the 17th century until 1860, but after 1910 the proportion of German speakers had decreased to 6.7% of the population. From the Luxembourgs, the rule over Bohemia passed through George of Podiebrad to the Jagiellon dynasty and to the House of Habsburg in 1526. Both Czech and German Bohemians suffered in the Thirty Years War. Bohemia lost 70% of its population. From the defeat of the Bohemian Revolt that collapsed at the 1620 Battle of White Mountain, the Habsburgs integrated the Kingdom of Bohemia into their monarchy.
During the subsequent Counter-Reformation, less populated areas were resettled with Catholic Germans from the Austrian lands. From 1627 the Habsburgs enforced the so-called Verneuerte Landesordnung and one of its consequences was that German according to mother tongue became the primary and official language while Czech declined to a secondary role in the Empire. In 1749 Austrian Empire enforced German as the official language again. Emperor Joseph II in 1780 renounced the coronation ceremony as Bohemian king and unsuccessfully tried to push German through as sole official language in all Habsburg lands. German cultural in
Bamberg is a town in Upper Franconia, Germany, on the river Regnitz close to its confluence with the river Main. A large part of the town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. During the post-Roman centuries of Germanic migration and settlement, the region afterwards included in the Diocese of Bamberg was inhabited for the most part by Slavs; the town, first mentioned in 902, grew up by the castle Babenberch which gave its name to the Babenberg family. On their extinction it passed to the Saxon house; the area was Christianized chiefly by the monks of the Benedictine Fulda Abbey, the land was under the spiritual authority of the Diocese of Würzburg. In 1007, Holy Roman Emperor Henry II made Bamberg a family inheritance, the seat of a separate diocese; the Emperor's purpose in this was to make the Diocese of Würzburg less unwieldy in size and to give Christianity a firmer footing in the districts of Franconia, east of Bamberg. In 1008, after long negotiations with the Bishops of Würzburg and Eichstätt, who were to cede portions of their dioceses, the boundaries of the new diocese were defined, Pope John XVIII granted the papal confirmation in the same year.
Henry II ordered the building of a new cathedral, consecrated 6 May 1012. The church was enriched with gifts from the pope, Henry had it dedicated in honor of him. In 1017 Henry founded Michaelsberg Abbey on the Michaelsberg, near Bamberg, a Benedictine abbey for the training of the clergy; the emperor and his wife Kunigunde gave large temporal possessions to the new diocese, it received many privileges out of which grew the secular power of the bishop. Pope Benedict VIII visited Bamberg in 1020 to meet Henry II for discussions concerning the Holy Roman Empire. While he was here he placed the diocese in direct dependence on the Holy See, he personally consecrated some of Bamberg's churches. For a short time Bamberg was the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. Henry and Kunigunde were both buried in the cathedral. From the middle of the 13th century onward the bishops were princes of the Empire and ruled Bamberg, overseeing the construction of monumental buildings. In 1248 and 1260 the see obtained large portions of the estates of the Counts of Meran through purchase and through the appropriation of extinguished fiefs.
The old Bishopric of Bamberg was composed of an unbroken territory extending from Schlüsselfeld in a northeasterly direction to the Franconian Forest, possessed in addition estates in the Duchies of Carinthia and Salzburg, in the Nordgau, in Thuringia, on the Danube. By the changes resulting from the Reformation, the territory of this see was reduced nearly one half in extent. Since 1279 the coat of arms of the city of Bamberg is known in form of a seal; the witch trials of the 17th century claimed about one thousand victims in Bamberg, reaching a climax between 1626 and 1631, under the rule of Prince-Bishop Johann Georg II Fuchs von Dornheim. The famous Drudenhaus, built in 1627, is no longer standing today. In 1647, the University of Bamberg was founded as Academia Bambergensis. Bambrzy are German Poles who are descended from settlers from the Bamberg area who settled in villages around Poznań in the years 1719–1753. In 1759, the possessions and jurisdictions of the diocese situated in Austria were sold to that state.
When the secularization of church lands took place the diocese covered 3,305 km2 and had a population of 207,000. Bamberg thus lost its independence in 1802, becoming part of Bavaria in 1803. Bamberg was first connected to the German rail system in 1844, an important part of its infrastructure since. After a communist uprising took control over Bavaria in the years following World War I, the state government fled to Bamberg and stayed there for two years before the Bavarian capital of Munich was retaken by Freikorps units; the first republican constitution of Bavaria was passed in Bamberg, becoming known as the Bamberger Verfassung. In February 1926 Bamberg served as the venue for the Bamberg Conference, convened by Adolf Hitler in his attempt to foster unity and to stifle dissent within the then-young Nazi party. Bamberg was chosen for its location in Upper Franconia, reasonably close to the residences of the members of the dissident northern Nazi faction but still within Bavaria. In 1973, the town celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of its founding.
Bamberg is located in Franconia, 63 km north of Nuremberg by railway and 101 km east of Würzburg by rail. It is situated on 3 km before it flows into the Main river, its geography is shaped by the Regnitz and by the foothills of the Steigerwald, part of the German uplands. From northeast to southwest, the town is divided into first the Regnitz plain one large and several small islands formed by two arms of the Regnitz, the part of town on the hills, the "Hill Town". Bamberg extends over seven hills, each crowned by a beautiful church; this has led to Bamberg being called the "Franconian Rome" — although a running joke among Bamberg's tour guides is to refer to Rome instead as the "Italian Bamberg". The hills are Cathedral Hill, Kaulberg/Obere Pfarre, Jakobsberg, Altenburger Hill and Abtsberg. Climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, there is adequate rainfall year-round; the Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb", with a certain continental influence as indicated by average winter
Ostrava is a city in the north-east of the Czech Republic and is the capital of the Moravian-Silesian Region. It is 15 km from the border with Poland, at the meeting point of four rivers: the Odra, Ostravice and Lučina. In terms of both population and area Ostrava is the third largest city in the Czech Republic, the second largest city in Moravia, the largest city in Czech Silesia, it straddles the border of the two historic provinces of Silesia. The population was around 300,000 in 2013; the wider conurbation – which includes the towns of Bohumín, Havířov, Karviná, Orlová, Petřvald and Rychvald – is home to about 500,000 people, making it the largest urban area in the Czech Republic apart from the capital, Prague. Ostrava grew in importance due to its position at the heart of a major coalfield, becoming an important industrial centre, it was known as the country's "steel heart" thanks to its status as a coal-mining and metallurgical centre, but since the Velvet Revolution it has undergone radical and far-reaching changes to its economic base.
Industries have been restructured, the last coal was mined in the city in 1994. However, remnants of the city's industrial past are visible in the Lower Vítkovice area, a former coal-mining, coke production and ironworks complex in the city centre which retains its historic industrial architecture. Lower Vítkovice has applied for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Since the 1990s Ostrava has been transformed into a modern cultural city, with numerous theatres and other cultural facilities. Various cultural and sporting events take place in Ostrava throughout the year, including the Colours of Ostrava music festival, the Janáček May classical music festival, the Summer Shakespeare Festival and NATO Days. Ostrava is home to two public universities: the VŠB-Technical University and the University of Ostrava. In 2014 Ostrava was a European City of Sport; the city co-hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2004 and 2015. The city's coat of arms features a blue shield with a rearing silver horse standing on a green lawn.
The horse wears a red coverlet. At the top right of the shield there is a golden rose with a red core; the horse in the coat-of-arms wears no bridle. The oldest known depiction of this coat-of-arms is on a seal dating from 1426; the first coloured version dates from 1728. The horse is interpreted as a symbol of Ostrava's position on a major trade route, or as a figure taken from the coat-of-arms of Ostrava's first vogt, while the golden rose comes from the family coat-of-arms of the bishop of Olomouc Stanislav Thurzo; this explanation is supported by most modern literature. Another theory suggests that the Bishop granted Ostrava the right to use the horse in its coat-of-arms out of gratitude for the assistance that the town provided to the people of the Bishop's estate in Hukvaldy when the estate was being looted and pillaged; the help came so that the pillagers did not have time to attach bridles to their horses before making their escape. There is a legend which tells of a siege of Ostrava during which the besieged townspeople released unbridled horses to run in circles around the town.
This is said to have confused the attacking armies so much. In 2008, Ostrava's new marketing logo was unveiled. Designed by Studio Najbrt, the logo "OSTRAVA!!!" is used in public presentations of the city both in the Czech Republic and abroad. The three exclamation marks are meant to symbolise the dynamism and self-confidence of Ostrava and its people; the light blue colour of the city's name is based on the heraldic tradition, while the exclamation marks are a contrasting darker blue. The first written mention of Slezská Ostrava dates from 1229; the first mention of Moravian Ostrava describes it as a township. Ostrava grew up from which it took its name; this river still divides the city into two main parts: Silesian Ostrava. The settlement occupied a strategic position on the border between the two historical provinces of Moravia and Silesia, on the ancient trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic known as the Amber Road; this location helped the town to flourish. However, Ostrava began to decline in importance after the Thirty Years’ War, when it was occupied by Swedish forces from 1621–1645.
A turning point in Ostrava's history came in 1763 with the discovery of extensive deposits of high-quality bituminous coal on the Silesian bank of the Ostravice River. In 1828 the owner of the local estates, Archbishop Rudolf Jan of Olomouc, established an ironworks, named after him as the Rudolfshütte; the ironworks passed into the ownership of the Rothschild family, became known as the Vítkovice Ironworks. This company became the driving force behind Ostrava's industrial boom. By the second half of the 20th century the city was nicknamed the country's "steel heart". After the Second World War and the liberation of Ostrava by the Red Army, the city entered its greatest period of expansion; the new housing projects were on a small scale, focused on the Poruba district and featuring architecture in the Socialist realist style. The authorities built larger-scale developments of prefabricated apartment blocks in Poruba and created a series of satellite estates to the south of the city; the city centre was depopulated and people were moved out to the suburbs.
This was part of a long-term plan to
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo