The End of World War II and its Aftermath

When World War II Ended Quizlet

World War II was the largest, most geographically widespread military conflict in history. It lasted from 1939 to 1945.

At the end of it, Germany and Japan were defeated. In May of 1945, Hitler killed himself and the Allied forces of America, Britain and Russia occupied Berlin. This is known as VE Day or Victory in Europe.

1. The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact

In the summer of 1939, just a week before World War II was set to begin, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop signed the pact in Moscow. It formally guaranteed ten years of peaceful coexistence between the two countries, and said that any disputes would be resolved through negotiations.

But the pact contained secret clauses that allowed Germany to invade Poland virtually unopposed by the Soviet army, and allow it to deal with Britain and France on one front without having to fight the Soviets on a second front in the east.

But could Russia’s poor military response to Hitler’s invasion be attributed solely to Stalin’s regime and his penchant for killing millions through famine and purges?

2. The Battle of Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest urban combats in history. According to Rutgers University historian Jochen Hellbeck, Hitler believed he could take the city—now called Volgograd—quickly and with minimal casualties. To that end, he ordered his troops to remain in the city.

But Soviet generals Georgy Zhukov and Aleksandr Vasilevsky had surrounded the city with what was in essence a defensive ring. Without access to supplies, the trapped German forces slowly starved. Meanwhile, the Soviet air force destroyed a number of German planes. In addition, the Soviets used their own women and children to reinforce the city’s defenses. This practice was known as “female manning” or “female auxiliary” units. It was a controversial strategy but proved effective in slowing the advancing German Wehrmacht.

3. The Battle of Berlin

The final assault against Hitler and the Third Reich began on April 16th 1945, when massive Soviet forces encircled Berlin. The city’s garrison consisted of several depleted Army and Waffen-SS divisions, backed by police, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and a handful of women’s auxiliary units.

The defenders were faced with two full Soviet army groups attacking from the north and south, along with hundreds of thousands of advancing Red Army tankettes and infantry. Despite this huge imbalance in force, the Germans held surprising advantages in equipment and experience.

Nevertheless, they were not going to be able to hold out for very long. In just over a week, the occupying Soviet troops took the city. This event marked the apocalyptic end of Hitler’s Germany.

4. The Surrender of Germany

On May 7, 1945, Gen. Alfred Jodl signed a document unconditionally surrendering German military forces. The act of surrender was to take effect the following day, at which point hostilities would officially end in Europe—one minute past midnight, May 8, 1945 (British Double Summer Time).

Earlier that morning, Jodl had been approached by General Bedell Smith, chief of staff of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Smith explained to Jodl that signing the document now would not only honor the military but also protect officers from the so-called stab-in-the-back argument, which could be used by Nazi extremists to justify future aggression.

After some debate, Jodl agreed to sign the instrument of surrender. This included the division of Germany and Berlin into four occupational zones controlled by Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States; reparations for war damage; and a promise that the Soviets would enter the war against Japan soon after the defeat of Germany.

5. The Treaty of Potsdam

After Germany surrendered, the victorious leaders of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union met at Potsdam to discuss peace settlements. The conference began on July 17 and lasted until August 2. US President Harry Truman was the only new leader at the meeting; British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee had stepped down from their posts, with Churchill returning to England for elections and Attlee taking his place at the conference.

The conference hammered out several difficult decisions. One was the Potsdam Declaration, which outlined the terms for Japan’s surrender. It demanded that Japanese sovereignty be limited to its home islands, war criminals be prosecuted, the authoritarian government end, and that its military be disarmed. It also warned that if Japan did not surrender, the United States, Britain and China would invade and “promptly” destroy the country.

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