Without Winston, everything worse could have happened after the Dunkerque. But while he was there, all compromise with Hitler was left out of the discussion, and indeed, in the darkest and most dramatic hours of the history of his country, Winston Churchill would know how to galvanize the energies and restore hopes to an entire people. In June of 1940, he was the man of destiny, not only for England, but also for his allies, already defeated, and especially for France. The Second World War is the most critical chapter of his very long life. This image of an untamable old fighter is, above all, the one that the world preserved from him.
Nevertheless, each and every one of the stages of its tumultuous existence constitutes by itself a true novel. He finished his studies in harrow, becomes an officer of Hussars in the Indies. After participating in Sudan, in one of the last great loads of cavalry with spearmen. War correspondent in South Africa is taken prisoner, manages to escape, and becomes a national hero. Then follows a fantastic political career, with ups and downs, spectacular failures, errors, brilliant successes, author of several bestsellers, will receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He made many charges, was a soldier, journalist, writer, painter, parliamentarian, minister, Head of Government, war chief, and has been both respected and hated admired and feared. However, one true fact remains: it is one of the greats of history.
Before the WWII
The first great war of the 20th century ended in 1918, and the peace treaty of Versailles was signed the following year. The peace of Versailles sought to restore the European equilibrium as it existed before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Attempts were made to confer on France's political hegemony on the continent and to contain the possibility of German aggression through a series of defensive alliances. Allied statesmen aspired to maintain peace supported by four factors: military, political, economic and moral or public opinion.
The military aspect consisted of the disarmament of Germany, which was to follow a general program of arms reduction of the other countries. The Washington conference of 1922 could not achieve more than some small agreements on disarmament, and within a few years, this aspect was discarded. The politician relied mainly on the creation of the League of Nations and a series of territorial changes. The League of Nations was born without strength, as the United States did not participate in it. The regional arrangements were being modified, little by little, by the aggressive policy of Germany and Italy. The economic foundations of the peace of Versailles were radically altered by the Great Depression of 1929 and by the abandonment of Germany's reparations plan in 1932. In the year of 1919, the world public opinion had condemned the aggression of the monarchical governments of Germany and Austria and hoped that the democrats would preserve the peace.
At the beginning of 1930, a great indifference to democratic ideals and a marked skepticism about the possibility of maintaining peace was noted in Europe. The aggressive attitude of the dictators produced a moral climate of apathy and reluctance that was paving the way for another world conflict. With the conquest by Hitler of political power in Germany (1933), the rapid disintegration of the European equilibrium began. The world disarmament conference, which lasted from 1932 to 1934, ended in failure. In 1933 Germany separated from the League of Nations and, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, began to arm itself.
In 1934 Hitler tried to annex Austria, despite the protests of France and England. The plan was unsuccessful because Italy mobilized four divisions on its border. This fact, however, was of great significance, because Hitler realized that he needed Italian help to carry out his plans. In January 1945, the inhabitants of Saar voted, in a plebiscite, for their incorporation into Germany. Paris and London thought that Hitler would be satisfied with this territorial conquest, but Hitler, what he did was to establish compulsory military service in March of the same year.
England signed a naval treaty with Germany authorizing her to increase her squadron, which produced a terrible impression on the French. The U.S.S.R. remained isolated from the Western policy without France or UK paid more considerable attention. Poland began to show signs of favoring Hitler's policy, and Italy moved further and further away from democracies.
The small European countries, in turn, began to lose faith in London and Paris and tried to protect themselves by declaring themselves neutral. The next step to the European imbalance was Italy. Since his rise to power in 1922, Mussolini had followed an aggressive and militaristic policy. In 1926 he managed to establish a protectorate over Albania that placed Italy in a privileged position in the Adriatic Sea. With the conquest of Libya (1928), Mussolini managed to threaten French and English interests in North Africa. It was not, however, until October 1935 when the Duce launched his great colonial adventure: the conquest of Ethiopia. Faced with this aggression, France and England continued their policy of appeasement.
Hitler remained officially neutral but privately sent war materials to Italy. The children of the League of Nations managed to establish economic sanctions against Italy. These sanctions, however, did not yield the results that were desired because among the prohibited products oil was not included, which was the only war material that Italy needed for its military campaign. Ethiopia was easily defeated. The war with Ethiopia facilitated the formation of the so-called Rome-Berlin AXIS. Hitler granted Mussolini free hands in the Mediterranean area, in exchange for which Italy would not oppose German domination in Austria. Hitler took advantage of the crisis during the war in Ethiopia to arrange the remilitarization of the Rhine area.
The League of Nations limited itself to declaring Germany guilty of another violation and did not even impose sanctions on it. Belgium broke its alliance with France and proclaimed absolute neutrality. The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden opted for a policy of isolation. The Baltic countries took a conciliatory position towards Germany, Romania and Yugoslavia moved cautiously away from Western democracies. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria began in September 1931, and China protested before the League of Nations, which limited itself to appointing a commission of inquiry.
The assembly condemned the Japanese aggression and Japan withdrew from the organization. He then declared that he had the right to intervene in China to maintain "peace and security" in the Far East. Japan, relying on what was said, continued in its conquest of North China. This country presented heroic resistance and requested the help of democracies. The United Nations authorized its members to sanction individually if they deemed it necessary. Japan sought to protect itself from the U.S.S.R. He signed an anti-communist pact with Germany (1936), to which Italy later adhered. Thus, little by little, the Triple Rome-Berlin-Tokyo AXIS was integrated.
Hitler initiated his own expansionist campaign with the Anschluss (in German, 'annexation' or `union' of Austria in March 1938, to achieve which he had to face no impediment. Italy supported him, and the British and French, intimidated by the rearmament of Germany, they accepted that Hitler argued that the Austrian situation concerned German domestic policy. The United States had drastically limited its capacity to act against this type of aggression after having passed a neutrality law that prohibited the sending of material aid to any of the parties involved in an international conflict.
In September 1938, Hitler threatened to declare war to annex the area of the western border of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, with its 3.5 million citizens of the German language. The British Prime Minister, Arthur Neville Chamberlain, initiated a series of talks that concluded at the end of the month with the Munich Pact, in which the Czechoslovaks, urged by the British and French, renounced the Sudetenland in exchange for Hitler's commitment to not take over more Czech territories.
However, this agreement soon became unsuccessful appeasement: Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. The British government, alarmed by this new aggression and the threats made by Hitler against Poland, undertook to help this country if Germany would endanger its independence. France also established a mutual defense treaty with Poland. The other side of the policy of appeasement had the USSR as its protagonist.
Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, had offered military aid to Czechoslovakia during the 1938 crisis, but his proposal was not considered by any of the parties to the Munich Pact. Now that the threat of war existed, both sides tried to obtain the Soviet alliance, but it was Hitler who made the most attractive offer. The German-Soviet Pact was signed in Moscow on the night of August 23, 1939. In the communique made public the next day, Germany and the USSR agreed not to fight each other; there was, however, a secret protocol in which Stalin was granted freedom of action in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and in eastern Poland and in Romania.
The war and the conferences among the Allies
The Tehran Conference was a meeting of the foremost allied leaders against the Axis powers during World War II to discuss political issues of war and postwar. It was held between November 28 and December 1, 1943, in Tehran, Iran, and was attended by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The meeting followed the Cairo Conference, which was attended by the Chinese leader Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek), and was the first conference held by the allies during the war that Stalin attended. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin discussed the scope and coordination of military operations against Germany, planning to make a landing on the French coast by 1944, and agreeing to supply arms and material to Tito's Yugoslav guerrilla.
Their discussions on the peace agreement were tentative, but all parties expressed their desire to cooperate after the war. They agreed to guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of Iran and promised economic aid to the country once the war ended. The future transfer of the German-Polish border to the Oder-Neisse line was adjusted, and the formation of the United Nations Organization (UNO) began to be studied. The Soviet armies were on the Oder River, 60 km east of Berlin. They had annihilated the German Vistula line and were approaching the Baltic coast, east of Danzig, in January 1945; by February 3, they already controlled the Oder area.
Stalin was going to meet Roosevelt and Churchill in Yalta (Crimea) from February 4 to 11 and had all of Poland and Berlin in his possession. In the course of the Yalta Conference, Stalin agreed to declare war on Japan within three months, which would begin after the surrender of Germany, in exchange for certain territorial concessions in the Far East. The Americans and the British did not agree on how to proceed against Germany. During a meeting in Malta shortly before, Montgomery had proposed that a quick and single attack be launched, carried out by the British general's army, from northern Germany to Berlin. They wanted most of the allied supplies assigned to Montgomery, which meant that Americans would only do defensive work.
In Eisenhower's plan, which ultimately prevailed, Montgomery was given priority, but the armies of the United States also participated in the action. Meeting of the Heads of Government of the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United Kingdom held following the unconditional surrender of Germany in World War II. The meeting took place in Potsdam, near Berlin, from July 17 to August 2, 1945. The objective of this conference was the implementation of the measures previously agreed at the Yalta Conference.
The representative of the United States was its president Harry S. Truman; the delegate of the USSR was its maximum leader, Joseph Stalin; the United Kingdom sent Clement Richard Attlee. The agreements were written in a communiqué. Germany was divided into four zones of military occupation, administered by the commanders of the United States, the USSR, the United Kingdom and France under the direction of a Control Council, formed by these four states to resolve the issues that will affect the whole country, especially the complete disarmament of the Germans, and that would dissolve when a stable German government was created.
The territory to the east of the Oder and Neisse rivers became incorporated by Poland while the USSR annexed Königsberg (which, since 1946, was renamed Kaliningrad) and northern East Prussia; These territorial changes would have to be included in a future peace treaty. It was decided that the four powers occupying Germany should receive war reparations from the areas assigned to them; however, it was agreed that the USSR would obtain additional compensation for being the power that had suffered the most losses.
The following control measures were adopted to prevent Germany from becoming a threat to world peace: to disarm the country and prevent its remilitarization, to declare the National Socialist Party (Nazi) illegal, developing a denazification process that created an international tribunal in charge of trying the chief war criminals and encouraging the proceedings against thousands of former members of the Nazi party; decentralize the economy and reorganize it, favoring the development of agriculture and limiting industrial production; and encourage democratic practices in aspects such as education or the judicial system. Although the Potsdam Conference was considered a success, many of the agreements reached were broken within a year due to the growing tension and distance between the governments of Western Europe and the USSR.
The Cold War
It is a state of tension and permanent confrontation that confronts the two great superpowers that emerge victors of the US and the USSR. They competed for hegemony in the world, representing two different societies, with different ideologies, political system and economies and confronted. Ad + that tension ends up spreading through all the countries that support each of them. It represents the creation of two blocks of countries, led by those giants, in which no political, ideological, or military deviation is allowed. Although we are talking about a war, that does not mean that there were direct conflicts between the US and the USSR, although in other minor scenarios.
The rivalries between the US and the USSR and the climate of international tension would gravitate very soon on the activities of the UN. Its power body is the Security Council composed at first by the five great powers that would enjoy the exclusive right of veto. It was later expanded into ten renewable members every two years. Together with the Council, there is the independent political personality of the Secretary-General, whose mission is to coordinate and promote peace initiatives, complicated by the particular interests of the dominant countries.
The maximum body is the General Assembly, where the problems are discussed and resolutions passed, convictions and recommendations are made by a simple majority of votes. One of the main achievements of the UN was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Charter of the United Nations: "The first objective of the Organization is to preserve future generations from the scourge of war that twice during our lives has inflicted on humanity untold suffering." The word that defines the UN is a failure. Although not all the exclusive fault was of the Organization since the historical conditions were not favorable.
Not even a year ago, the IIGM ended (May 45). The one who had been prime minister (who lost surprisingly) announced that "In Europe, an Iron Curtain was falling that was going to divide it in two." This referred to the Soviet expansion by the countries of the east, obtained thanks to the advance of the armies of the USSR during the last years of the war. At the same time, the American ambassador in Moscow (G. Kenan) sends reports with warnings about the danger of communist expansionism, about the need to stop the advance of the Soviets. He gives the example of the case of Greece, which ended in a military confrontation and was one of the causes that triggered the GF. It seemed that the proposed communist was to seize Europe. Do not forget that Europe was materially destroyed and there were destruction and hunger, which was a pleasant place for the triumph of communism.
Analyzing the events where Churchill took part, it is evident that we are speaking about an extraordinary figure in world affairs. He contributed to the development of the English nation even though her mother was American, he was an officer and journalist in the British Empire, he was a politician deciding the destiny of the world. Hence, clearly, he is a leader in all these spheres making Churchill the most influential person of the 20th Century.
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