The 10 Consequences of World War II
Between 1939 and 1945 one of the most important historical events of modern times took place, an event that we must never forget due to its importance and in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes that were made then. We are talking about the Second World War, a war on an international scale that produced millions of deaths and in which horrors such as the Holocaust and major war crimes were experienced.
The scale of the conflict, which would begin with the invasion of Poland by Hitler and the Nazis and end with the surrender of Japanese forces following the destruction caused by the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would take many lives and have a major impact on both Europe and the rest of the globe.
That’s what we’re going to talk about in this article: the consequences of World War II .
The Second World War: A Brief Historical Review
The Second World War was a violent conflict involving more than a hundred countries around the world and resulting in millions of deaths which began when Germany, where shortly before Hitler and the Nazis had seized power, invaded Poland (justifying itself in an attack by the Poles). Shortly afterwards, the United Kingdom and France declared war on the Germans, joined by countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Although probably the best known fascist force of that war was Nazi Germany ruled by Hitler , there were also other forces and countries that allied themselves with him forming the Tripartite Pact or Axis Pact in 1940.
In addition to Nazi Germany, the fascist front would be formed by Italy ruled by Mussolini (who would initially play an important part in the conflict but would later act only jointly with the Germans), and the Empire of Japan commanded by the emperor (whose participation is well known and would ultimately lead to the entry of the United States into the contest after the attack on Pearl Harbor).
These three countries would be allied in the Tripartite Pact or Axis Pact , but also many other states would have some collaboration with it: Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Slovak Republic would also eventually join.
In the case of Spain, despite the fact that Francoism was an ally of Nazism and also had some involvement during the war through the Blue Division, its role was very minor due to not wanting to get involved in another war after the Spanish Civil War immediately before the conflict.
As far as Russia is concerned, it initially declared itself neutral and signed a non-aggression agreement with the Nazis, but it would join the Allies when in 1941 Hitler violated that agreement and began to invade Soviet territory. As for the United States, although it provided supplies to the British it would initially remain neutral, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Roosevelt decided to declare war on Japan, Germany and Italy .
These two important annexations to the Allied forces would ultimately succeed, not without great effort and with the loss of millions of lives, in turning the tide of the war until the withdrawal and subsequent surrender of first Italy (in 1943) and then Germany in 1945 (with Hitler committing suicide shortly before that surrender). Finally, in the face of the bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan would surrender that same year.
The main consequences of the Second World War
The consequences of the Second World War have been many and varied . For example, from these ended up creating institutions designed to prevent the emergence of new crimes against humanity and that today survive. Among the main consequences are the following.
1. Human losses
The most important and serious consequence of the conflict was the great amount of human losses, quantified in at least 50 million deaths but could easily reach 60. A large majority of these victims were civilians, and their deaths were not only due to the direct action of armies (crossfire, bombing, genocide or persecution) but also derived from the famine, loss of homes and poverty that followed the war.
But beyond the victims generated by the war, in this war too it is worth highlighting the persecution and systematic elimination of large population groups by means of concentration camps and other forms of extermination by the Nazis. Its main target in this sense was the Jewish people, with an estimated six million citizens killed for belonging to this group.
Other victims of persecution and murder were homosexuals, gypsies and communists , as well as artists, intellectuals and all those whom the government considered a threat to society, including men, women and children of any age. The disabled and people with mental disorders were also targeted for elimination.
Other horrors such as medical experimentation on humans and vivisections were also committed in Nazi-occupied territory, as well as a large number of bombings of civilians by both sides.
2. Creation of the UN and the Declaration of Human Rights
After the end of the war and in anticipation of other similar events, an international conference would be formed in which about 50 countries would participate and which would end up generating the current United Nations Organization, replacing the failed League of Nations established after the First World War.
The UN would therefore arise with the objective of maintaining international peace , provoking positive and friendly relations between countries, fostering international cooperation and promoting the efforts of different nations to achieve these goals.
In December 1948 they published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , which stipulates about thirty articles that establish the basic rights of every human being, which must be respected at the international level.
3. The search for responsibility: the Nuremberg trials
During the war and after the surrender of the Axis countries, many officers and high commanders were captured by the Allies. Once the war was over, the level of responsibility of part of the Nazi leadership would be decided in the so-called Nuremberg trials.
While there are doubts as to whether or not the trial was properly conducted and whether the court was sufficiently valid as it was not impartial, the trial was conducted and would end up acquitting some of the defendants, sending some of them to prison with different sentences and condemning many of the Nazi leaders to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In spite of this, many Nazis fled to other countries , not knowing the whereabouts or the final destination of many of them (in fact, even today some cases are discovered punctually). Groups also emerged to hunt them down in retaliation for the deaths of loved ones.
4. Economic impact and reconstruction
The Second World War was a very virulent conflict with a great impact on the whole fabric of society, including the economic and even the urban environment. During the war many cities were practically swept off the map , losing for example Warsaw about 80% of its buildings and having to be rebuilt.
On top of that, communications and European industry (with the exception of the highly developed armaments industry) had fallen, something that would generate a high level of poverty. Goods and services practically disappeared.
Agriculture also suffered: many crops were lost and in some areas the fields were even riddled with mines. This generated famine and caused an even higher number of deaths .
Fortunately, the United States approved the so-called Marshall Plan, which helped to alleviate the state of post-war Europe and regenerate its economy.
5. Creation of the two big blocks: USA vs USSR
Despite the great number of lives lost, countries like the United States managed to make the end of the war favourable to them, managing to become the greatest power in the world . Likewise, the Soviet Union managed to annex a large number of territories, even though its economy would never be as good as the American one.
With the European powers practically destroyed, they would end up forming two large blocs of countries, either annexed or allied, which would generate two clearly differentiated ideological blocs that would eventually be confronted, represented by the two remaining superpowers: the capitalist bloc headed by the US and the communist bloc of the USSR . The first one would mainly be made up of the majority of Western European countries, while the second one would occupy the majority of Eastern Europe.
6. The rise of the military industry and the atomic bomb
The war brought about the need to devote most resources to the military industry, which became the main and most important type of industry at that time and in the immediate aftermath of the war. In fact, the arms race would continue between the two great superpowers , in the so-called Cold War.
Another of the great milestones in the progress of this industry was the creation of the atomic bomb in the United States, which would ultimately lead to the surrender of Japan and would later also succeed in building the Soviet Union. This was one of the consequences of the Second World War with the greatest impact on geopolitics.
7. Invention of the first computer
Another indirect consequence of the Second World War is that during this war the Turing machine was invented in order to be able to decode the codes used by the Nazis in their telecommunications, being the beginning of computing and serving as a starting point for the creation of computers and computing.
8. Border changes and creation of the State of Israel
The end of the war brought with it a restructuring of the borders of many countries, as well as the creation of some new ones. For example Germany would be divided into four blocks corresponding to Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom . Russia annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, together with part of the aforementioned Germany and Poland.
Austria and Czechoslovakia became independent again, as did Albania. China would regain from Japan all its territories occupied during the war. Italy would lose all its colonies. America would be left with part of germany, numerous islands in the pacific. Korea would be divided into North and South, the former being Soviet and the latter American .
In addition to these and other changes, probably the most relevant and well-known is the creation of the State of Israel, being granted to the Jewish people a part of the territory until then belonging to Palestine and including the city of Jerusalem, despite the fact that since then there have been great conflicts between Israel and Palestine.
9. Cultural changes
Culture was also severely punished during the conflict: damaged infrastructure, stolen art, destroyed educational institutions… During the first post-war years illiteracy grew largely in Europe, although little by little in the following decades mass schooling would begin to be implemented and access to university would be facilitated.
The United States was one of the exceptions, developing among others the film industry and starting to monopolize fashion and culture worldwide . In painting, stages such as expressionism emerged, as well as works that spoke of the harshness of war, such as Picasso’s Guernica.
10. The role of women and minorities
Little by little, previously invisible groups such as women or ethnic minorities would begin to gain more relevance.
In the case of women, the recruitment of men for war meant that, just as in the First World War, it was women who had to carry out tasks until then considered masculine, something that would gradually make them more valid and that the feminist movements were increasingly gaining power , to the point of achieving female suffrage in more and more territories. In the case of ethnic minorities, the process was slower.
- History classes.com (n.d.). The Second World War. Digital journal of History and Social Sciences. [Online]. Available at: http://www.claseshistoria.com/2guerramundial/consecuencias-demograficas.html.
- Sommerville, Donald (2008). The Complete Illustrated History of World War Two: An Authoritative Account of the Deadliest Conflict in Human History with Analysis of Decisive Encounters and Landmark Engagements. p. 5.
- Yépez, A. (2011). Universal History. Caracas: Larense.