USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

The European War

Beginning with the Nazis’ attack on Poland in September, 1939, the war in Europe can be broken down into three distinctive phases. The first phase lasted from the fall of 1939 until the spring of 1941 and consisted of Germany’s assertion of domination over the whole of the European continent through a series of Blitzkrieg attacks on Poland, Holland, Belgium, and France and preparations for an assault on England following a massive campaign of aerial bombing of the island. This first phase was conducted under the protective insurance of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. The second phase of the European War began with Hitler’s violation of the agreement with Stalin and the Nazis’ full-scale invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. This invasion, which resulted in the largest war in human history, was to be the culmination of the Nazi imperial policy and the necessary precondition to Germany’s radical plan of transforming the “East” in its racist and hierarchical vision of the future. The third phase of the war began in June of 1944 with the re-opening of the Western front in France through the allied invasion of Normandy. One can see quite clearly by this division into phases (and certainly different historians would divide it differently) that the preponderance of warfare occurred on the Russian front. From June 1941 to June 1944 the Red Army essentially battled the Nazis alone.

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