The Second World War engulfed the people of many countries in Europe. The conflict saw devastating battles, widespread destruction and an unprecedented industrial genocide. Its repercussions continue to be felt today.

By 1941, German forces had conquered Poland, swept across western and southern Europe, and invaded the Soviet Union. People across Europe struggled to adapt to living under German occupation, forced to make hard choices between active resistance, acquiescence, or collaboration. Nazi racial theories brought about systematic genocide, while millions endured brutal forced labour.


British infantry ride on Sherman tanks in Holland

British infantry riding on a Sherman tank in Holland, 24 September 1944.

From 1942 to 1943, the tide of battle changed decisively. The Soviet Army fought increasingly exhausted Axis forces on the Eastern Front and Allied armies invaded Italy. Allied aircraft bombarded German cities with ever greater intensity. In summer 1944 Allied forces invaded France, and a Soviet offensive overwhelmed the Germans in Eastern Europe. In May 1945 the Soviet Red Army captured Berlin and Germany surrendered.

From the war emerged a new political order, dividing Europe between Soviet and Western influence. Germany was partitioned by its conquerors and was not reunified until 1989.

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