Second World War

Article

October 20, 2021

The Second World War saw, between 1939 and 1945, the so-called Axis powers and the Allies who, as already happened to the belligerents of the First World War, fought each other on a large part of the planet; the conflict began on 1 September 1939 with the attack of Nazi Germany on Poland and ended, in the European theater, on 8 May 1945 with the German surrender and, in the Asian one, on the following 2 September with the surrender of the Japanese Empire after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Considered the largest armed conflict in history, it cost humanity six years of suffering, destruction and massacres, with a total death estimate ranging between 55 and 60 million individuals; the civilian populations found themselves involved in the operations to a hitherto unknown extent, and were indeed the declared target of bombings, reprisals, persecutions, deportations and exterminations. In particular, the Third Reich carried out the Holocaust with engineering methods to annihilate, among others, populations of Jewish origin or ethnicity, also pursuing a policy of ethnic-political reorganization of Central-Eastern Europe which provided for the destruction or deportation. of entire Slavic populations, of gypsies and of all those whom the Nazi regime considered "undesirable" or enemies of the Aryan race. At the end of the war, Europe, reduced to a heap of rubble, completed the process of involution that began with the First World War and definitively lost its political-economic world primacy, which was largely assumed by the United States of America. They were opposed by the Soviet Union, the other great superpower forged by the conflict, in a tense international geopolitical balance that was later defined as the Cold War. The tremendous destruction of the war led to the birth of the United Nations Organization (UN), which took place at the end of the San Francisco Conference on June 26, 1945.

The historical context

Japanese expansionism in Asia

The period following the First World War saw the complete affirmation of the Japanese Empire as a great power: after having incorporated part of the German colonies of the Pacific Ocean and having taken control of several lucrative trade routes in the basin, with the Naval Treaty of Washington on February 6, 1922, Japan obtained the right to dispose of the third largest battle fleet in the world, a condition that guaranteed it military superiority as its strongest contenders (the United States and the United Kingdom) had to divide their fleets between Pacific and Atlantic. The outbreak of the Great Depression in 1929 prompted the country to change its economic focus, previously concentrated on trade with the United States, and to look more interested in Asian markets; excluded from the colonial divisions of the nineteenth century, Japan considered itself deprived of access to the rich resources of Asia by the European powers and decided to compensate for this state of affairs with a series of aggressive maneuvers of territorial expansion. Japan's slide towards a policy of imperialism was favored by a strong militarization of Japanese society, which began as early as the mid-twenties: the pervasiveness of the military, capable of conditioning national political life through the actions of the powerful secret police forces (the Tokubetsu Kōtō Keisatsu) and military (the Kempeitai), became exemplary in the field of education of the new generations, through the destination as teachers in public schools of numerous officers of the army remained without positions. The influence of the military in society led to the recovery of the medieval philosophical concept of the Gekokujō, according to which a lower officer can disobey the higher orders if he deems it morally right; as well as escalating into a series of bloody but failures

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