70th Anniversary: Remembering World War 2
Seventy years ago today, the deadliest conflict in human history began as Germany invaded Poland. Today, leaders of twenty countries gather in Gdansk, Poland, to commemorate the war.
Leaders of many of the nations involved in World War 2 are gathered in Gdansk, previously Danzig, to take part in a ceremony at the Cemetery of Defenders at Westerplatte. This is where the war started in the early morning on September 1st, 1939, when the warship Schleswig-Holstein fired shells on the 182 Polish soldiers defending the port. At the same time, German troops poured into Poland. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany. On September 3rd, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were also involved.
The war had its roots in the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany was forced to sign at the end of World War 1. It stripped the country of territory and forced the Germans to pay a large deal of the rebuilding of Europe. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party came into power in 1933, and slowly began their plan to once more make Germany a strong country. By 1939, Germany had occupied Austria and Chechoslovakia, and reintroduced conscription in the Rheinland.
The war lasted six years and claimed the lives of more than 60 million people. Every major world power at the time was involved, and it resulted in the formation of the United Nations, the division and occupation of Germany, the rise of the Iron Curtain, civil war in China, and the U.S. occupation of Japan along with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. World War 2 also lead to the start of the Cold War.
After securing the neutrality of the Soviet Union (through the August 1939 German-Soviet Pact of nonaggression), Germany started World War II by invading Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain and France responded by declaring war on Germany on September 3. Within a month, Poland was defeated by a combination of German and Soviet forces and was partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.