Consequences of World War II


  • Effect on Germany: Germany defeated, and the Nazi regime brought down. Its leaders were tried for crimes against humanity. Hitler escaped trial and committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. German cities were in ruins from a massive bombing campaign. Germany was divided into 4 zones of occupation by the victorious powers, pending a more permanent political settlement.
  • Effect on Japan: Japan also was in ruins from extensive bombing. Prominent military leaders were tried and convicted of war crimes, but the emperor was allowed to retain his position. Japan was temporarily placed under U.S. military rule.
  • Effect on England: England was devastated by the war, having experienced extensive bombing during the 1940 blitz by the Germans. The economy depended for recovery upon aid from the United States. England rapidly phased out most of its remaining imperial holdings (decolonisation).
  • Effect on France: France would be compelled to dismantle its colonial empire in the years following the war. This was a particularly traumatic in Algeria and in Vietnam where they fought prolonged to maintain their colonial control. England and France were replaced by US and USSR.
  • Effect on Russia: Although USSR was devasted, they built a large and powerful army, which occupied most of Eastern Europe at the end of the war. It became one of two super-powers.
  • The United States economy benefited the most and new industrial complexes were built all over the United States. U.S. had also become the leading military power.


The weakness of England and France, the two major European imperial powers, provided opportunities for the decolonisation.

New technology, developed during the war to fight disease, would, when applied to the non-European world, result in sharply lower mortality rates and soaring population growth.

World War II gave impetus to the renewal of Wilson’s vision of an international organization to keep the peace. In June 1945, 51 nations were represented at the founding conference in San Francisco. In October 1945, the United Nations was officially established. Unlike the League of Nations, the UN had the full support of United States and USSR.

To protect the world economy, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and General Agreement on Trade and Tariff were setup. There was a determination to avoid the mistakes of the interwar years which had exacerbated the Great Depression.

The Devastation of Europe and Japan

Europe in Ruins

Close to 40 million Europeans had died—two-thirds of them civilians. The Blitz left blackened ruins in London. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was almost wiped from the face of the earth. Millions found themselves in the wrong country when the postwar treaties changed national borders.

Agriculture was disrupted. Most able-bodied men had served in the military and the women had worked in war production. With the transportation system destroyed, the meager harvests often did not reach the cities. Thousands died as famine and disease spread through the bombed-out cities.

Despairing Europeans often blamed their leaders for the war and its aftermath. Once the Germans had lost, some pre-war governments—like those in Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Norway—returned quickly. After the war, the Communist Party promised change, and millions were ready to listen.

In both France and Italy, Communist Party membership skyrocketed. The Communists made huge gains in the first postwar elections. Anxious to speed up a political takeover, the Communists staged a series of violent strikes. Alarmed French and Italians reacted by voting for anti-Communist parties. But communist membership they declined even more so as the economies of France and Italy began to recover.

In 1946, an International Military Tribunal representing 23 nations put Nazi war criminals on trial in Nuremberg, Germany. In the first of the Nuremberg Trials, 22 Nazi leaders were charged with waging a war of aggression. They were also accused of violating the laws of war and of committing “crimes against humanity”—the murder of 11 million people.

The Effects of Defeat in Japan

The defeat suffered by Japan in World War II left the country in ruins. Cities were turned into ruins. The Allies had stripped Japan of its colonial empire. General Douglas MacArthur, now supreme commander for the Allied powers, accepted the Japanese surrender, leaving the Japanese with only a small police force.

In February 1946, MacArthur and his American political advisers drew up a new constitution. The Japanese accepted the constitution. The people elected a two-house parliament, called the Diet. A prime minister chosen by a majority of the Diet led the government. A constitutional bill of rights protected basic freedoms. One more key provision—Article 9—stated that the Japanese could no longer make war. They could only fight if attacked.

In September 1951, the United States and 48 other nations signed a formal peace treaty with Japan. The treaty officially ended the war. Japanese also agreed to continue U.S. military protection for their country. Both became allies.


  • Untold destruction of men and money. It has been estimated that in the war more than 1.5 crore people were killed cumulatively, with war expenses of over one-lakh crore rupees. One-fourth of national wealth of Russia was spent in the war, similarly, Germany, France and Poland also suffered heavy losses.
  • Began a fresh momentum to the nationalist movements in Asia and Africa and they forced the colonial powers to grant them independence. Thus, India, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya and Egypt gained independence from the British.
  • Thirdly, Second World War led to the emergence of two super-powers i.e., USA & USSR.
  • Fourthly, the havoc and destruction caused by war made the main leaders of the world felt the need of evolving a more effective international organization to prevent future wars (UNO)
  • Fifthly, the war caused acute scarcity of foodstuffs and other essential goods, which resulted in unprecedented rise in prices.
  • Sixthly, the war contributed to the sharpening of controversy between communism and democracy. They tried to attract underdeveloped countries to their ideologies by throwing them powerful baits.


Three trends

1. The first of these trends was the beginning of the de facto partition of the continent into two antagonistic political, socio-economic, and military blocs, (communist and non-communist) each tied to the power that had liberated it from German occupation.

2. The second was the beginning of the decline of the overseas colonial empires of the major European powers, notably those of Great Britain and France.

3. The third trend was the disintegration of West Asia.

The ‘iron curtain’

Winston Churchill’s speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on 5 March unveiled the memorable metaphor of an ‘iron curtain’ – separating the free peoples of western Europe from the oppressed peoples of Moscow’s satellites to the east.

Several US senators found the belligerent tone of his remarks toward Moscow ‘shocking’. This negative reaction at the time reflected the fact that many Americans still believed that it would be possible to work with their wartime Russian allies in securing the peace. So, the out-of-power British leader’s candid appraisal of the deteriorating relationship between the west and the Soviet Union, expressed a reality that no American or British government official was yet prepared to acknowledge in public.

United States of Europe

The second important address delivered by Churchill in 1946 was his call for a ‘United States of Europe’ at the University of Zurich on 20 September.

Churchill’s vision

He declared that Europe must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live. In the early 1950s France rose to Churchill’s challenge and launched the European Coal and Steel Community. The pooling of the metallurgical production of the six member states set in motion a chain of events that eventually resulted in the 25-member European Union of today.

As the campaign for European economic integration gathered steam during the 1950s, governments in London continued to cling to the Churchillian vision of Britain as a sympathetic supporter but not a contributing member of the European movement. And they persisted in pursuing the status of a global power with a special link to the English-speaking superpower across the Atlantic.

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