The Lessons from World War II and the Allied Victory against Nazism

By Dr. Panagiotis Sfaelos*

76 years have passed since the end of World War II during which 50 million people lost their life. In May 1945, a black page in history closed with the defeat of Nazism and the occupation of Berlin by the Allied forces. The final end of the War was of course given in September 1945 with the capitulation of Japan after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 by the USA.

World War II was the result of geopolitical competition as well as a result of the Nazi theory of the superiority of Germans which led to the extermination of mainly Jews and other ethnic minorities (Slavs, Gypsies, etc.) in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Six million Jews found tragic death during World War II. The geopolitical theory of the so-called “living space”[1] cultivated during the interwar period in Germany mixed with Hitler’s racist ideology led to the creation of Nazi ideology. In a Germany defeated by World War I in great poverty and high unemployment due to the economic crisis of 1929, Hitler found ample social ground to propagate his criminal ideology by dragging the German people and leading them to the disaster.

The Allied forces (Britain, USA and USSR) became united in the face of common danger. After Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. Two years later, the Soviet Union entered the war after Nazi Germany invaded its territory on June 22, 1941, and the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. Greece made a significant contribution to the Allied victory by fighting the Axis powers with heroism, something that Winston Churchill also recognized. The Greeks not only defeated the Italian Fascists but also put up strong resistance to the German Nazis during their invasion in the Greek territory, which led Hitler to delay the German invasion of the Soviet Union. This event proved to be the catalyst for the defeat of the Nazi occupiers. Operation Barbarossa, which would make Hitler the ruler of Eurasia, was defeated by the Soviets. The Soviet Union lost 27 million people during World War II and achieved decisive victories in military operations, such as the legendary Battle of Stalingrad in January 1943.

The Battle of El Alamein and the defeat of the German General Rommel also played a key role in the Allied victory as it put an end to German hopes of occupying Egypt, controlling the Suez Canal and accessing oil wells in the Middle East. The Allied forces occupied North Africa from where they began the invasion of Sicily, which separated Italy from the Axis.

The most important historical lesson from World War II was that the Allied powers (USA, Britain, USSR), were united and achieved a heroic victory against Nazism. Millions of soldiers accomplished the impossible: they defeated a mighty Germany with Wehrmacht iron-clad divisions. The Allied victory was a victory of freedom and human dignity. The sacrifices of those who fought Nazism must not be wasted. During the war people died because of their color or origin. We must not allow this to happen again. In the post-war period, huge steps were taken to protect human rights under international treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, respect for human rights is not yet self-evident in all countries while democracy is threatened. Local wars have never stopped, leading to the huge humanitarian issue of immigration. Even today, there are neo-Nazi parties in Europe, which should be of particular concern to us.

The atrocities of Nazism made European leaders realize that nationalism and conflict lead nowhere and that the only solution to peace is the cooperation of peoples. So, they decided to build the EU as the only way to prosperity and peace in Europe. After all, the Allied victory was the result of multilateral cooperation. Therefore, peace is achieved with mutual compromises.

The end of World War II also marked the end of the nuclear age, with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki being used for the first time. After the end of World War II, the world entered the phase of the Cold War where the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, were fighting for supremacy on the planet while the nuclear power rivalry had reached epic proportions. After 1990 we moved to the US monopoly while today we have a multipolar global system where new superpowers such as Russia and China are emerging dynamically on the geopolitical chessboard.

Even today the clouds of war are strong in Ukraine where the US and Russia are competing for control of the region with the risk of leading to a US-Russia conflict with all that entails for international stability and world peace. The danger of historical revisionism is real and must be combated in order to preserve the historical memory of the common Allied victory against Nazism. Let’s hope that the suffering of World War II has become a lesson for the Great Powers and that we do not have a new global conflict which in the Nuclear Age can lead humanity to extinction. To prevent this tragic eventuality, the modern Great Powers (US, Russia, China, EU) must set aside the divisions and remember (especially the US and Russia) their constructive cooperation and unity in the common victory over Nazism in World War II.


[1] Representatives of the geopolitical theory of “living space” (Lebensraum), Friedrich Ratzel and Karl Haushoffer believed that states are living organisms that need vital space to survive and therefore must to expand geographically. In fact, Haushoffer was a teacher of the Nazi Rudolf Ess.

*Dr. Panagiotis Sfaelos is Journalist and Professor, Secretary General of the Association of European Journalists

(The article expresses exclusively personal views of the editor)

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