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An abbreviated history of WWI, 75 years later

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The second global conflict saw 85 million lives lost, including 45,400 Canadians.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

It’s now been 75 years since one of the greatest conflicts in world history came to an end.

The Second World War saw the deaths of 85 million people, 45,400 Canadians, over a six-year span. The war was mainly fought in the Pacific and Europe, with conflicts also in mainland Asia and more.

The war was fought between two sides, the Allied powers and the Axis. The former won, and consisted of Great Britain, its colonies – including Canada – the United States, the Soviet Union, France and others.

The Axis mainly consisted of Germany, Japan and Italy.

While all out conflict began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, the roots of the war go all the way back to the end of World War I in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles.

While the treaty brought about an end to what was, at the time, the world’s most violent conflict, it left Germany without an army, and in an economic state similar to the Great Depression, which was not set to hit the rest of the world until 1929.

This left many in the country disgruntled. So, when Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known as the Nazis, rose to power in March 1933, it was in part due to the disgruntled nature of the German people, who felt powerless.

While the rest of the world was struggling economically, Hitler and the Nazis were able to rebuild the German military, and the economy even thrived.

However, the führer had other plans, and began invading other European nations one-by-one.

Beginning with a pseudo-invasion of Austria, things escalated finally when the German army marched into Poland, causing Great Britain and its allies to once again declare war on Germany.

As the war escalated and other nations, such as Canada, joined the Allies, Germany was quickly joined by Italy.

Then, after years of fighting, most of Europe had been taken by Germany, leaving Britain as its last line of defense.

As the Battle of Britain raged on, the United States had managed to stay out of the conflict. That is, until Dec. 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, forcing the United States into action.

The devastating attack on the American navy brought them out of the shadows, and put pressure on the Axis.

With the help of the Americans, the Allied soldiers gained an extra step, and with the Soviet Union joining the Allies a few months earlier, the Germans began to be overwhelmed as they were now fighting a war from two sides.

With the British led invasion of German-occupied France on D-Day on June 6, 1944, Canadian soldiers landed on the shores of Juno Beach, successfully taking their portion of the shoreline.

Total casualties that day exceeded 10,000 soldiers, including 1,074 Canadians, 359 of whom lost their lives that day.

As the allies took back several key European countries, the Germans began to get more and more desperate, enacting the Final Solution, which would have seen the completion of the genocide of all European Jews given the proper amount of time.

Finally, on May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally after Hitler’s suicide alongside his wife, Eva Braun, only a few days beforehand. Italy had surrendered on Sept. 8, 1943, only a couple of months after the death of dictator Benito Mussolini.

Then, on Aug. 14, 1945, Japan surrendered after the dropping of two atomic bombs by the Americans on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In all, 85 million people died during the war, including 45,400 Canadian soldiers.

As it has now been 75 years since the end of World War II, people across Canada are taking a moment to remember those who gave their lives fighting in Europe.