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In what ways can the Second World War (1939-1945) be regarded as the turning point of the history of Europe?

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In what ways can the Second World War (1939-1945) be regarded as the turning point of the history of Europe?

        The Second World War was a virtual global war which involved most of the world’s nations and great powers. It was the most destructive war in history-37.6 million people died in the war. The war impact and long-term aftermath was regarded as the turning point of the history of Europe in respects of peacekeeping, rise of two superpowers, fall of totalitarianism and development of democracy, the decline of colonialism and the women status.

        The Second World War contributed to the establishment of the United Nations, and replaced the previous corrupted League of Nations. The League of Nations was the peacekeeping organization before the Second World War which was founded in 1919. It was condemned by virtue of its defects and drawbacks which could not prevent the outbreak of the Second World War. Despite some success in settling disputes among small nations, the League was unable to stop the aggression which involved more than one great power. For example, it failed to preclude the aggression of Italy in 1936 and 1939, and the German invasion of Poland in 1939. The League also had its basic weaknesses of the requirement of a unanimous vote for major decisions, the limited funds to enforce its decisions, the lack of a global membership etc. The shortcomings of the League had paved the way to the outbreak of the Second World War. The events of the two world wars revealed the ineffectiveness of the League as a peacekeeping body. Because of the vast war destruction during the Second World War, many countries realize the importance of international cooperation in keeping peace and they perceived the failure of the League of Nations was a vital factor in contributing the outbreak of the war. The only real hope for lasting peace seemed to be some sort of collective security through an international organization. The United Nations (UN) was therefore established in 1945. The UN made considerable improvements over the League of Nations. For example, the UN did not require a unanimous vote for decision making. Its specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank were the international organizations which lasted until now and had great success. It showed that the Second World War was a paramount turning point in the respect of the peacekeeping body.  

        The Second World War led to the rise of the USA and the USSR and beginning of the Cold War, which divided Europe into two camps. While most of the European countries suffered from the Second World War, the US and the USSR grew in strength and became two superpowers. The economy of the US grew rapidly because of the First World War. She was the creditor as she made use of her neutrality to trade with countries during the war. During the Second World War, her economy even proliferated. All types of her industries boosted and her GNP reached an unprecedented level. The invention of the world’s first atomic bomb also showed that she became a superpower after the wars. On the other hand, the USSR withdrew from the First World War because of the heavy financial burden. The government was overthrown and the Russian established the world’s first communist state. During the Second World War, the USSR stove to develop her heavy industries, producing a large number of weapons and airplanes. She gained much after the war. Together with the US, she grew into a superpower after the Second World War. However, the two superpowers had dichotomy in ideological, political and economic aspects, and they both aimed at dominating the whole world. The differences led to the beginning of the Cold War, and therefore, the Second World War could be regarded as a turning point to the history of Europe as the Cold War posed a new threat to the world peace.

        Another turning point in the history of Europe triggered by the Second World War was the fall of totalitarianism in Germany and Italy and led to further development of democracy. Before the Second World War, Nazism was the prevailing idea in Germany. Hitler, the Nazi leader, upheld aggressive expansionist foreign policy which directly led to the outbreak of the Second World War. For example, Hitler started a rearmament programme, basing on national conscription and military build-up in 1935, and he occupied the demilitarized Rhineland province in the following year. The German invasion of Poland in 1939 inflamed the beginning of war. On the other hand, Fascism in Italy was another kind of totalitarianism in Europe. Mussolini, the leader of Italy, signed the Pact of Steel with Germany in 1939 which turned the Rome-Berlin Axis into a military alliance. Germany and Italy were regarded a great threat to the European peace before the Second World War. However, Italy and Germany were defeated during and after the Second World War in 1942 and 1945 respectively. Italy had to cede land to both France and Yugoslavia and gave up all her colonial possessions. Germany was divided into four zones, which were under the rule of the Second World War the USA, the USSA, Britain and France. The totalitarianism in both Germany and Italy was permanently destroyed. They were no long a threat to world peace. After the Second World War, the disastrous effects prompted by the idea of totalitarianism were conspicuous. Therefore, the Second World War led to further development of democracy, which could ensure a certain extent of peace. More and more people regarded democracy as the best way of governing a nation after the Second World War. It could be seen that the Second World War was a watershed of totalitarianism to democracy in European history, and the international status of Germany and Italy.

        The Second World War had led to the decline of colonialism and the promotion of national independence. Before the Second World War, nationalism was considerably confined in the European states, probably because the literacy rates of these countries were higher. Great powers such as Britain and France made the weak and backward countries in Africa and Southeast Asia as their colonies. The Second World War had aroused the national feelings of many colonial people and the people there revolted to struggle for their independence. During and immediately after the Second World War, independence movements flourished. For example, the British and the French were driven out of most of their colonies in Africa by German and Italian troops. Moreover, the United Nations began to put pressure on the European states t give freedom to their colonies after the Second World War. Decolonization was thus swept across Asia and Africa in the 1950s and 60s. By the 1960s, 18 nations in Asia had gained independence. These marked the decline of colonialism and the victory of nationalism. Therefore, the Second World War was a turning point in the history of Europe as it marked the end of the colonial era.

        The Second World War was a turning point for women because, for the first time, women were allowed to join the military, fly planes in noncombat missions, and work in munitions factories and other war-related industries. Before the Second World War women were thought of as just housewives, but after the war, they were seen as capable of "men's" work. WACs, WASPs, and Rosie the Riveters proved that they were capable and reliable. The Rosie the Riveters helped the United States defeat the Axis Powers in the Second World War by producing tanks, guns, artillery pieces, warships, and ammunition. Women were not confined to traditional roles but, instead, created new paths for women to follow. Women’s lives and status after the war signified an important trend in the post-war world.

The Second World War was regarded as the turning point of the history of Europe as it had long-term impact on the development of different respects of the history, by which it had influenced the prospect of humankind in the 20th century.

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