Effects of World War II

Effects of World War II

The effects of World War II had far-reaching implications for the international community. Many millions of lives had been lost as a result of the war. Germany was divided into four quadrants, which were controlled by the Allied Powers — the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.The war can be identified to varying degrees as the catalyst for many continental, national and local phenomena, such as the redrawing of European borders, the birth of the United Kingdom's welfare state, the communist takeover of China and Eastern Europe, the creation of Israel, and the divisions of Germany and Korea. In addition, many organizations have roots in the Second World War; for example, the United Nations, the World Bank, the WTO, and the IMF. Technologies, such as nuclear fission, the computer and the jet engine, also appeared during this period.

A multipolar world was replaced by a bipolar one dominated by the two most powerful victors, the United States and Soviet Union, which became known as the superpowers.

Europe in ruins

At the end of the war, millions of refugees were homeless, the European economy had collapsed, and most of the European industrial infrastructure was destroyed.

Border revisions and population transfers

As a result of the new borders drawn by the victorious nations, large populations suddenly found themselves in hostile territory.

The main beneficiary of these revisions was the Soviet Union, which expanded its borders at the expense of Germany, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Japan. The Soviet Union also acquired the three independent states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which had declared their neutrality before the outbreak of World War II. The Baltic states were occupied and annexed early in the war in agreement with the Nazis via the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, then re-conquered in 1944. The Soviet Union also attempted to establish a separate government in that portion of Iran it had controlled during the war.

A minor temporary beneficiary was France, which in 1947 annexed the German state of Saar as a nominally independent protectorate under French economic control. Poland was compensated for its losses to the Soviet Union by receiving most of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line, including the industrial regions of Silesia. In total Germany lost roughly a quarter of her territory.

Numerous Germans were expelled, mostly from the ceded German territories and from the Sudetenland. Many died, and historians debate to this day the death rate. Several hundreds of thousands of Poles, and Japanese were also expelled.

The repatriation—pursuant to the terms of the Yalta Conference—of two million Russian soldiers who had come under the control of advancing American and British forces, resulted for the most part in their deaths.Fact|date=August 2007


The eastern victors demanded payment of war reparations from the defeated nations, and in the Paris Peace Treaty, the Soviet Union's enemies—Hungary, Finland and Romania—were required to pay $300,000,000 each to the Soviet Union. Italy was required to pay $360,000,000, shared chiefly between Greece, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. The much larger reparations from occupied Germany to Russia were to be paid not by goods or money but by the transfer of capital goods, such as dismantled manufacturing plants. A separate reparation was 3,000,000 German former prisoners of war, as well as many civilians, that were forced to labor in Russia. Some did not get to return until well into the 1950s.

Reparations to the western victors consisted mainly of free coal deliveries as well as of machinery and dismantled factories, of which the majority went to France, with some going to Britain. Germany and Italy also paid in the form of POW-provided forced labor; 100,000 in Britain and 700,000 in France. The U.S settled for appropriating German patents as well as all German company assets in the U.S. The "intellectual reparations", such as patents and blueprints, taken by the U.S. and the UK amounted to close to $10 billion, equivalent of around $100 billion in 2006 terms. [Norman M. Naimark The Russians in Germany pg. 206] The program of also acquiring German scientists and technicians for the U.S. was also used to deny the expertise of German scientists to the Soviet Union. [Norman M. Naimark The Russians in Germany pg. 206]

The U.S. eventually stopped the shipment of dismantled factories from the U.S. zone of occupation east because of increasing friction with Russia, part of which was caused by Russian refusal to provide the western occupation zones with surplus food from the eastern occupation zone which had been the breadbasket of Germany. Western Allied dismantling of industry in the Saar area and Ruhr area was virtually completed by 1950.

Plans for Germany

The initial plans proposed by the United States were harsh. The Morgenthau Plan of 1944 called for stripping Germany of the industrial resources required for war. The main industrial areas of the Ruhr and Silesia were to be removed from Germany, as were Germany's main sources of coal and iron, namely Saar and the German speaking parts of Alsace-Lorraine, which were to be once again under French occupation.

While the Morgenthau Plan was never implemented in its original form, it did end up greatly influencing events. Most notable was this influence seen through its toned-down offshoots. Examples of these are the Potsdam Conference, Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067, and the industrial plans for Germany.

In occupied Germany, the Morgenthau plan lived on in the U.S. occupation directive JCS 1067 and in the Allied "industrial disarmament" plans, designed to reduce German economic might and to destroy Germany's capability to wage war by complete or partial de-industrialization and restrictions imposed on utilization of remaining production capacity. The first industrial plan for Germany, signed in 1946, required the destruction of 1,500 manufacturing plants. The purpose of this was to lower German heavy industry output to roughly 50% of its 1938 level. By 1950, after the virtual completion of the by then much watered-out "level of industry" plans, equipment had been removed from 706 manufacturing plants in the west and steel production capacity had been reduced by 6,700,000 tons. [Frederick H. Gareau "Morgenthau's Plan for Industrial Disarmament in Germany" The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Jun., 1961), pp. 517-534]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 (JCS 1067), which governed U.S. policy in Germany from April 1945 until July 1947, stated that no help was to be given to the Germans in rebuilding their nation, save for the minimum required to mitigate starvation.

These policies were however to some degree counteracted by the military governor of the U.S. zone in Germany, General Lucius D. Clay, who did his best to use whatever loopholes the directives allowed for, particularly for actions that would reduce “unrest” and “famine“. This slowed down the rate factories were being destroyed and increased the food rations to 1,500 calories per day (half the normal UK rations).

The problems brought on by these types of policies became apparent to many after a year of occupation. Germany had long been the industrial giant of Europe, and its poverty held back the general European recovery. The continued scarcity in Germany also led to considerable expenses for the occupying powers, which were obligated to try to make up the most important shortfalls.

The Western powers' worst fear was that the poverty and hunger would drive the Germans to communism. General Clay stated "There is no choice between being a communist on 1,500 calories a day and a believer in democracy on a thousand".

After lobbying by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and George Marshall, the Truman administration finally realized that economic recovery in Europe could not go forward without the reconstruction of the German industrial base on which it had previously had been dependent. [ [http://www.usip.org/pubs/peaceworks/pwks49.pdf Ray Salvatore Jennings "The Road Ahead: Lessons in Nation Building from Japan, Germany, and Afghanistan for Postwar Iraq] May 2003, Peaceworks No. 49 pg.15] In July 1947, President Truman rescinded on "national security grounds" [ [http://www.usip.org/pubs/peaceworks/pwks49.pdf Ray Salvatore Jennings “The Road Ahead: Lessons in Nation Building from Japan, Germany, and Afghanistan for Postwar Iraq] May 2003, Peaceworks No. 49 pg.15] the punitive JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces of occupation in Germany to "take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany." It was replaced by JCS 1779, which instead stressed that " [a] n orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany." [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,887417,00.html Pas de Pagaille!] Time Magazine July 28, 1947.]

Marshall Plan

In view of the continued poverty and famine in Europe, and with the onset of the Cold War that made it important to bring as much of Germany as possible into the western camp, it became apparent that a change of policy was required. The most notable example of this change was a plan established by United States Secretary of State George Marshall, the "European Recovery Program", better known as the Marshall Plan, which called for the U.S. Congress to allocate billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Europe. Also as part of the effort to rebuild global capitalism and spur post-war reconstruction, the Bretton Woods system was put into effect after the war.

For Western Germany, the psychological impact of the Marshall Plan was large. In monetary terms, Germany received only half of what Britain received; in addition, Germany was eventually forced to repay the majority of the money. But it meant that the occupation policy was officially changed, and thus the West German people finally could start rebuilding their new nation. The East German population were not included, and their attempt to revolt against the Russians a few years later was quickly put down.

In the Netherlands the Bakker-Schut Plan to demand a huge monetary compensation and even to annex a part of Germany that would have doubled the country's size was dropped. But many Germans living in the Netherlands were declared 'hostile subjects' and put into a concentration camp in an operation called Black Tulip. A total of 3,691 Germans were ultimately deported.

Closely related was the Monnet Plan of French bureaucrat Jean Monnet that proposed giving France control over the German coal areas of the Ruhr and Saar and using these resources to bring France to 150% of prewar industrial production.

End of European Imperialism

The destruction of Europe and the destruction of a significant portion of the United Kingdom's cities (via aerial bombing) would also ruin the reputation of the imperial nations in the eyes of their colonies. Coupled with the enormous expense incurred in the war, an empire was perceived to be an unnecessarily expensive possession. Thus this would provoke the rapid decolonization process that would see the empires of the United Kingdom, France and others swept away.

Nationalist tendencies helped India and Pakistan become independent from the British Empire in August 1947. Soon Malaysia and other South East Asian colonies also became independent. The Netherlands lost Dutch East Indies, and France lost Indochina. In just a few decades, most Asian and African colonies were independent.


The immense destruction wrought over the course of the war caused a sharp decline in the influence of the great powers. After the war, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States both became formidable forces. The U.S. suffered very little during the war and because of military and industrial exports became a formidable manufacturing power. This led to a period of wealth and prosperity for the U.S. in the fields of industry, agriculture and technology.

While the homeland of the United States was untouched by the war, quite the opposite was true in the Soviet Union. At the height of the Axis advance in 1941, the Wehrmacht got within 20 kilometers (12.5 mi) of Moscow. Although the Nazis were pushed back from Moscow by Soviet winter counter thrusts in early 1942, the Wehrmacht's Operation Blue in summer 1942 pushed Russian forces northeast of the Black Sea to Stalingrad and southeast of the Black Sea to the approaches to Grozny at the foot the Caucasus Mountains. Therefore the Germans controlled all of Soviet territory west of Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad, from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus. During the initial German invasion, Operation Barbarossa, the use of scorched earth tactics by both sides left the western portion of the Soviet Union almost totally destroyed. Agricultural land was burned, livestock exterminated, infrastructure dismantled or destroyed and entire towns flattened. All of this land was part of more battles as the Red Army swept west in 1943-1944. Although the Soviets were able to salvage some heavy industry and ship it to safer areas around the Ural Mountains, much of the USSR's pre-war industry fell into the hands of the Germans.

The Soviet Union also suffered unprecedented casualties. From 1941 to 1945 the Red Army lost over 10 million killed and more than 18 million wounded. Civilian losses were also immense; most estimates range from 14 to 17 million civilians killed. Most civilians in the occupied lands in the western USSR were either shot or left to starve or freeze to death by the Germans. Additionally, the majority of Holocaust victims, as well as the perpetration of the Holocaust, were from the Eastern Front. The total deaths resulting from the war amounted to roughly fourteen percent of the USSR's and sixteen percent of Poland's total pre-war population. By comparison, the United States lost about 0.3% of its total pre-war population.Fact|date=August 2007

Because of the immense loss of life and the destruction of land and industrial capacity, the USSR was at an economic and (because of the American use of atomic weapons on Japan) strategic disadvantage relative to the United States. The USSR was, however, in a better economic and strategic position than any other continental European power. By the end of the war in 1945 the Red Army was very large, battle-tested and occupied all of Eastern and Central Europe as well as what was to become East Germany. In areas they occupied, the Red Army installed governments they felt would be friendly towards the USSR. Given the tremendous suffering of the Soviet people during the war, Soviet leadership wanted a "buffer zone" of friendly governments between Russia and Western European nations.


European Union

The European Union grew out of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was founded in 1951 by the six founding members: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (the Benelux countries) and West Germany, France and Italy. Its purpose was to pool the steel and coal resources of the member states, and to support the economies of the participating economies. As a side effect, the ECSC helped diffuse tensions between countries which had recently been enemies in the war. In time this economic merger grew, adding members and broadening in scope, to become the European Economic Community, and later the European Union.

United Nations

Because the League of Nations had failed to actively prevent the war, in 1945 a new international alliance was considered and then created, the United Nations (UN). The UN also was responsible for the initial creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, in part as a response to the Holocaust.

The UN operates within the parameters of the United Nations Charter, and the reason for the UN’s formation is outlined in the Preamble to the United Nations Charter. Unlike its predecessor, the United Nations has taken a more active role in the world, such as fighting diseases and providing humanitarian aid to nations in distress. The UN also served as the diplomatic front line during the Cold War. The biggest advantage the United Nations has over the League of Nations is the presence of world superpowers such as the United States and Russia, for the League had little actual international power because of the absence of these nations.

Cold War

The end of World War II is seen by many as marking the end of the United Kingdom's position as a global superpower and the catalyst for the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as the dominant powers in the world. Friction had been building up between the two before the end of the war, and with the collapse of Nazi Germany relations spiraled downward.

In the areas occupied by Western Allied troops, pre-war governments were re-established or new democratic governments were created; in the areas occupied by Soviet troops, including the territories of former Allies such as Poland, communist states were created. These became satellites of the Soviet Union.

Germany was partitioned into four zones of occupation. The American, British and French zones were grouped a few years later into West Germany and the Soviet zone became East Germany. Austria was once again separated from Germany and it, too, was divided into four zones of occupation, which eventually reunited and became the republic of Austria. Korea was divided in half along the 38th parallel.

The partitions were initially informal, but as the relationship between the victors deteriorated, the military lines of demarcation became the de facto country boundaries. The Cold War had begun, and soon two blocs emerged: NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The partitioning of Europe and Germany and Berlin persisted until the crumbling of the Eastern Bloc in 1989/1990. The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989.


The massive research and development involved in the Manhattan Project in order to quickly achieve a working nuclear weapon design greatly impacted the scientific community, among other things creating a network of national laboratories in the United States. In addition, the pressing for numerous calculations for various things like codebreaking (Colossus) and ballistics tables kick-started the development of electronic computer technology.

Social effects

One of the social effects which affected almost all participants to a certain degree was the increased participation of women in the workforce (where they took the place of many men during the war years), though this was somewhat reduced in the decades following the war, as changing society forced many to return to home and family.

According to historian Antony Beevor, amongst others, in his book "Berlin - The Downfall 1945" the advancing Red Army had left a massive trail of raped women and girls of all ages behind them. More than 2,000,000 were victims of rape, often repeatedly. This continued for several years. As a result of this trauma East German women's attitude towards sex was affected for a long time, and it caused social problems between men and women. Russian authorities dispute the event. [cite web|url=http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-23-2002-20908.asp|title=www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-23-2002-20908.asp |accessdate=2007-02-26]

The German soldiers left many war children behind in nations such as France and Denmark, which were occupied for an extended period. After the war, the children and their mothers often suffered recriminations. The situation was worst in Norway, where the “Tyskerunger“ (German-kids) suffered, and still suffer, abuse. [cite web|url=http://hnn.us/comments/7983.html|title=hnn.us/comments/7983.html |accessdate=2007-02-26] [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/1691452.stm|title=news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/1691452.stm |accessdate=2007-02-26]

The casualties experienced by the combatant nations impacted the demographic profile of the post war populations. One study [ [http://econ.korea.ac.kr/~ri/WorkingPapers/W0730.pdf | Michael Kvasnicka and Dirk Bethmann "WORLD WAR II, MISSING MEN, AND OUT-OF-WEDLOCK CHILDBEARING] 1-Oct-2007, THE INSTITUTE OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH, KOREA UNIVERSITY, Discussion Paper No. 07-30] found that the male to female sex ratio in the German state of Bavaria fell as low as 60% for the most severly affected age cohort (those between 21 and 23 years old in 1946). This same study found that out-of-wedlock births spiked from approximately 10-15% during the inter-war years up to 22% at the end of the war. This increase in out-of-wedlock births was attributed to a change in the marriage market caused by the decline in the sex-ratio.

Military effects

In the military sphere, World War II marked the coming of age of airpower. Advanced aircraft and guided missiles (developed late in the war) made the battleship, once the queen of the world's oceans, and fixed fortifications such as coastal artillery obsolete. While the pendulum continues to swing in this never-ending competition, air powers are now a full partner in any military action.

The war was the high-water mark for mass armies. While huge conscript armies were seen again (during the Korean War and in several African conflicts), after this victory the major powers relied upon small highly-trained and well-equipped militaries.

Perhaps most important of all, World War II ushered in the nuclear era, with the dropping of the first atomic bombs on the Japanese of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Trials for war crimes

After the war, many high-ranking Germans were prosecuted for war crimes, as well as the mass murder of the Holocaust committed mainly on the area of General Government, in the Nuremberg trials. Similarly Japanese leaders were prosecuted in the Tokyo War Crime Trial. Although the deliberate targeting of civilians was already defined as a war crime and it had been used extensively by both sides, most notably in Poland, Britain, Germany and Japan, those responsible were never tried for it. In other countries, notably in Finland, the Allies demanded the political leadership to be prosecuted in "war-responsibility trials"

Defeat of Japan

The defeat of Japan, and its occupation by Allied Forces, led to a westernization of Japan that was more far-reaching than might otherwise have occurred. Japan quickly modernized into a strong, western-style market and industrial economy, a boom that was to continue well into the 1990s and 2000s.

See also

*Aftermath of World War I
*Black Tulip — the eviction of Germans from the Netherlands after the war
*Consequences of German Nazism
*The rehabilitation of Germany after World War II
*Japanese post-war economic miracle



•Glantz, David M and House, Jonathan. "When Titans Clashed; How the Red Army Stopped Hitler." University Press of Kansas, 1995. "ISBN 0-7006-0899-0"
*Norman M. Naimark "The Russians in Germany; A History of the Soviet Zone of occupation, 1945-1949." Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-78406-5

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