Term Paper: European Economics After WWII

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European Economics World War II

World War II was considered the biggest and costliest war in history in terms of both lives and money (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 2007). In a short period of six years, approximately 50 million died in battle or as a result of concentration camps, bombings, starvation and disease. Others were displaced and left to become refugees. Billions of dollars worth of property were lost along with artistic and architectural masterpieces. The War was so vast that it involved almost every country in the world. But the only two warring sides were the Allies and the Axis. The Allies or Allied Powers were the United States, Great Britain and the Commonwealth, China and the Soviet Union. The Axis Powers included Germany, Japan and Italy. Of the many and complex causes, a major one was the global depression in the 1930s, which produced worldwide political unrest and urged radical political reforms. At that time, the demand for reform put the National Socialist Party, or the Nazis, into power in Germany. Its leader, Adolf Hitler, promised the German people a better economy and the renewal of German pride. Germany's defeat in World War I and the change in national borders in Europe badly injured that pride. The desire to restore it went as far as calling for the unification of ethnically German people and the "purification" of the German race. This act of "purification" resulted and culminated in the Holocaust. It was the wholesale arrest and execution of Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, and political dissidents. Unification meant expansion beyond Germany's borders with the annexation of Austria in 1938 and the occupation of Czechoslovakia the following year. Other European countries attempted to negotiate so as to appease Hitler and thus to prevent war. But it was to no avail. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, leading Britain and France to declare war (IEEE).

In the meantime, another set of events was taking place in another part of the world. Japan had become an ally of Germany, although they shared few military or political objectives (IEEE 2007). Hoping to acquire territories in Southeast Asia, Japan invaded China. Now threatened by severe trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. In response to the initiative, Japan attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The U.S. was soon at war with both Japan and Germany. The U.S.S.R. joined the Allies because of Germany's violation of their non-aggression pact only six months earlier. The Allies started their counteroffensive by attacking German forces in Africa in 1942 and then in the Pacific. On D-Day, the Allies entered German-held France in the famous Normandy invasion in June 1944. They joined the Soviets in taking Berlin in the spring of 1945. With Hitler defeated, the Allies concentrated on the Japanese who were beaten and driven back to their homeland. President ordered the dropping of an atomic bomb in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to prevent more casualties. Despite the terrible consequences, the Japanese refused to surrender. Another bomb was dropped at the city of Nagasaki three days later, forcing the Japanese to surrender on August 14 and ending World War II (IEEE).

Improved military technology accounted for the unprecedented scale and destruction of World War II (IEEE 2007). Submarines, tanks and aircraft had limited use during previous wars. But in World War II, they were larger, faster and deadlier. Their torpedoes destroyed ships through the War. Aircraft and tanks also became two of the most important types of weapons. Both warring forces developed bigger bombers, which could deliver more bombs. Aerial bombing became an especially important form of warfare, which changed war and the world forever (IEEE).

Inflation was rampant in Germany after World War I (Kershaw 1999). One consequence was the putsch of 1923, a gun-battle of only half a minute, which killed 14 putschists and 4 policemen. One of the fatalities, Scheubner-Richter, was only a foot away from Hitler, the would-be Fuhrer of Germany. As embodied in his work, "Mein Kampf," his idea did not only consist of short-term objectives but was a mission of long-term future goals. It was the national salvation of the German people through the removal of the Jews and the securing of living space in the East. These aims blended with the notion of a heroic leader and a dynamic world-view. Hitler often spoke about his mission, his life work and crusade. He said he saw the hand of Providence in his work and mission. He spoke against what he perceived as the "bastardization of culture, morals and blood" as undermining the worth of the individual. He set a specific value on the German people and could not see them at an equal level with 70 million Negroes. Hitler announced that he would assume supreme leadership on September 1, 1930. Reich President Hindenburg rejected Hitler as Reich Chancellor. The people had to choose between the Communists and the National Socialists, who were vulgar and distasteful but who stood for German interests. They chose the latter (Kershaw).

Rapid transformation swept through Germany from Hitler's take-over of power on January 30, 1933 up to its crucial consolidation and extension from August 1934 after the death of Reich President Hindenburg (Kershaw 1999). Within a month, civil liberties, protected by the Weimar Constitution, were decimated. The most active political opponents were either imprisoned or thrown out of the country. The Reichstag surrendered and gave Hitler control of the legislature. Powerful trade unions were abolished. All opposition parties were either suppressed or disbanded. In January 1934, the sovereignty of the Lander was formally dissolved. The last threat of opposition within his own movement was thoroughly and ruthlessly eliminated on June 30, 1934. Hitler's concept of a German society was one where old class privileges would be non-existent. He saw it as a race, not as a class and conceived of conquest, rather than economic modernization. It was consistently founded on war in establishing dominion. His government set up the first concentration camp to house those arrested as Communists and Socialists in Dachau on March 22, 1933 in a former powder mill. The Reichstag, as a democratic body, voted to dissolve itself on March 23, 1933. The Zentrum, the last political party besides the NSDAP, on July 5, 1933 also dissolved itself. The force sterilization of those who had hereditary illnesses was applied even to chronic alcoholism. Hitler found his measures justified in serving what he perceived as the upholding of nationhood. On the deadly event of June 30, 1934, called the Night of the Long Knives, many of Hitler's opponents, some of them mistaken, were murdered. Hitler's regime vastly depended on what each of his followers thought was how he should work towards the Fuhrer's desire. Hitler was not immediately involved in disputes. He lay outside but at the center of the machinery of the entire regime. The necessary outcome of his regime was a high level of governmental and administrative disorder (Kershaw).

Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Communist leader and head of the U.S.S.R. from the death of Vladimir Illich Lenin in 1924. Born in Gori, Georgia, Stalin as a child, had to share the poverty experienced by most peasants in Russia at the end of the 19th century (Spartacus 2002). As the leader of the Soviet Union, he continued Vladimir Illich Lenin's New Economic Policy. This Policy allowed farmers to sell food on the open market and employ people to work for them.

Farmers who expanded the size of their farms were called kulaks. In 1928, Stalin went after them for not providing enough food for industrial workers. He advocated the establishment of collective farms for small farmers to form large-scale units so that they could afford new machinery and increase production. But the farmers opposed the idea and preferred to farm their own land. This angered Stalin who ordered local communist officials to confiscate the lands of these farmers and used these lands to form new collective farms. Thousands of kulaks were executed, with five million more deported to Siberia or Central Asia. Of this number, a fourth died before reaching their destination. In 1927, Stalin's advisers told him that the modernization of farming in the Soviet Union would need 250,000 more tractors and more oil fields for necessary petrol, which would fuel the machines. Power stations also had to be set up to provide electricity to the farms. In order to modernize the economy, he introduced the first Five-Year Plan in 1928. The plan concentrated on the development of iron and steel machine tools, electric power and transport. He required workers to achieve 111% increase in coal production, 200% in iron production and 335% in electric power. His justification for the compelling demands was the need for rapid industrialization for the Soviet Union to defend itself against capitalist invasion from the West. In each factory, display boards were set up to show the workers' output. Those who failed to achieve the required targets were publicly… [END OF PREVIEW]

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European Economics After WWII.  (2007, May 23).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/european-economics-wwii/38299

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"European Economics After WWII."  Essaytown.com.  May 23, 2007.  Accessed May 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/european-economics-wwii/38299.