In the summer it was the turn of Poland, already linked since 1934 to the Reich by a pact of non-aggression; she was asked to return West Prussia, constituting the “Polish corridor” to the sea. This time, however, France and England intervened: the danger of a war on two fronts was avoided by Germany with an agreement with the Soviet Union for the partition of Poland and free hand to the USSR in the Baltic (August 1939). The “blitzkrieg” eliminated the Polish state without the allies being able to prevent it. To prevent allied action, in April 1940 German forces occupied Denmark and Norway, creating a government of convenience there.
In May 1940 the offensive in the West was unleashed which, overwhelmed in a few weeks Belgium and the Netherlands, aimed at the encirclement of the English and French armies in France invaded from Paris to the sea. The French government was in crisis and a new ministry, chaired by the marshal Petain – an opponent of democracy, a participant in anti-Semitic ideas – requested and obtained an armistice from Hitler, which reserved unoccupied territory for France, including colonies. As a counterpart, however, Hitler secured himself from this Vichy government the adherence to the German-Nazi plans of a Europe with authoritarian regimes under German hegemony. With the successes in France, Germany also obtained Italy’s intervention in the war, which thus extended south and into Africa. With regard to Great Britain, Hitler was unable either to get the offers of peace accepted with a hegemonic agreement, nor the invasion of the island and not even starvation through submarine and air warfare. Instead, Germany extended its war commitment in the Balkans to Romania, then to Greece, then to Yugoslavia, flanking the Italian forces in difficulty in the Mediterranean. This, however, aroused the suspicions of the USSR, which were difficult to dispel. For this and for the re-emergence in the Third Reich of the push towards the East, Germany also attacked the Soviet Union (June 1941) with the idea of imposing on it too, with a flash-penetration, a rapid surrender as had happened with France. Indeed, the penetration of armored vehicles was profound, even under Leningrad and Moscow and beyond the Don. But Great Britain intervened to assist the Soviet Union and, a little later, the United States attacked by Japan, an ally of the Germans. This intervention contributed to the Soviet resistance even in the face of the new German offensive of 1942 from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Volga, with showy but not decisive successes. Visit shoefrantics.com for hiking and mountaineering in Europe.
Germany was able between 1941 and 1944 to organize occupied Europe according to its ideologies and interests, requisitioning goods that went beyond the elementary needs of life, transferring manpower to Germany, concentration camps in addition to deported prisoners. But already from the end of 1942 the fate of the war changed with the concentric attack from the South first, delayed militarily by an Italian front and politically by the reintegration of fascism under the anti-capitalist and anti-monarchical banner (Italian Social Republic), then from the East with the gigantic Russian counter-offensive that extended to the Balkans, and from June 1944 from the West with the Normandy bridgehead. The war passed on German soil already tried by bombing. But Nazi Germany resisted with the illusion of the new V 1 and V 2 weapons of “reprisal” and its compactness was not broken even by the attack on Hitler (20 July 1944) organized by generals and senior officials in agreement with the political and religious-moral opposition. It failed and offered grounds for cruel executions. But it was now the Nazi leaders who were polling for a separate peace, with the result of hardening the Allies in calling for unconditional capitulation. The gigantic pincer around the remains of the German armies ended with the meeting of Americans from the West and Soviets from the East at Torgau sull’Elba (April 25, 1945). Meanwhile the commands of the forces of Italy and those of the Northern sector surrendered respectively to the Americans and the British. He had formed, according to the instructions of the suicidal Führer in Berlin, Doenitz to ask for an armistice: the Allies, however, had not recognized him. The final capitulation by the German high command took place in Berlin, represented by Keitel, in the hands of the allied high commands, Eisenhower for the United States, Tedder for Great Britain, Žukov for the Soviet Union, de Lattre de Tassigny for France (7-8 May 1945). The fate of Germany was now in the hands of the victors as was the territory they fully occupied. The powers of the German government had already been transferred to a Control Council based in Berlin, made up of representatives of the four occupying powers, namely the Soviet Union, for the area as far east as the Lübeck-Eisenach line; the United States, which held the Southwest; of England settled in the North-West; of France, back on the left of the Rhine as far as Bonn, on the right as far as Cologne, in the Black Forest as far as Constance and Ulm (5 June). These decisions were confirmed and reinforced in a punitive spirit by the Potsdam Conference (July-August 1945).