5. 3. 2015

WWII? What was that? And when did it start? Part II - Road to the Treaty of Versailles

On 23 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie said farewell to their children and left chateau in small city of Chlum u Trebone in south Bohemia. They departed from nearby railway station to meet their fate in Sarajevo. Their death by hand of Gavrilo Princip on 28 June set events in deadly motion and the world felt into agony of the world war.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, shortly before his death

Assasination of Franz Ferdinand became a trigger for a global war in which two sides were the Allies (UK, France and the Russian Empire constitutes so-called "Triple Entente", Italy joined the alliance in 1915 and the USA in 1917, Japan was another member of the alliance) and Central powers (Germany and Austrian-Hungarian empire, later joined by Ottoman empire and Bulgaria). Bloody battles were seen also in Africa and Asia but it was Europe where the most brutal, bloody battles were seen. In Europe, several fronts were opened - western front, eastern front and Italian front. However, events of 1917 decided that the war will be concluded on western front. After the collapse of the Russian empire due to the Russian revolution, both Germany and Austrian-Hungarian empire was able to release a large number of troops for other European fronts. But this did not lead to victory, it was the other way around - entrance of the United States to the war and catastrophic economic situation of Germany plus collapse of the Austrian army and fail of the Ludendorff offensive followed by Allied "hundred day offensive" lead German leaders to the proposal of armistice. On 11.11 at 11:11, it took the effect. Military operations of the Great war were over.

The map below shows the operations in the last period of war and we can see where the front was in that time. Look at it carefuly because it´s of extreme importance if you try to understand the roots of WWII...

Operations on western front 20 March - 11 November 1918, American Military History, United States Army Center of Military History, 1989

As you can see, when armistice took effect, the German army was still on Belgian and French soil - it was retreating but it was not defeated. After all, Germans did not surrender, they just proposed armistice. Nevertheless, the Allies - who consider themselves as an absolute victors - organized the conference in Paris. It began in January 1919 and its aim was to set the peace terms for the Central powers which were not invited to Paris until the proposal was finished...

17. 2. 2015

WWII? What was that? And when did it start? Part I

When talking about WWII, people usually know what it was about, or at least they think they know it. The fact is, that the definition of WWII is not as easy as it seems. If we seek for help at Wikipedia, we will learn that WWII was „the global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, though related conflicts began earlier. It involved the vast majority of the world´s nations….“. Well, I think that this definition doesn´t tell us much:

  • Why is 1939 marked as its beginning?
  • What were those „related“ conflicts?
  • Why are some conflicts marked as „related“ and are not included in WWII itself?
  • And what exactly was happening on this planet between 1939 and 1945?

As I believe that looking for a single definition which embraces every aspect of WWII is lost in advance, I will rather try to write a short summary of it. At first, I think that it´s not accurate to take WWII as a single conflict, rather than that, it was a series of conflicts which later merged into one global war as two military alliances - Axis and Allies - evolved in time. However, especially the Axis was an alliance in which its two main partners - Germany and Japan - were not really cooperating neither on strategic nor tactical level. When looking for the roots of WWII, we must go back in time to the year of 1918 when so-called "Great War" changed the world forever...

Front page of The New York Times of November 11, 1918 - WWI ends!

WWI cost more than 16 million lives and caused a deep shock all around the world and especially in Europe where most of the fighting took place. Up to that moment, such a brutality and scale of war was not imaginable. It has redrawn the map of the world: Austrian-Hungarian empire was wiped out and it was replaced by several new countries including my own (Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, part to Poland, Yogoslavia and Romania). German empire lost its colonies in Africa and was replaced by short-lived Weimar Republic. Russian Tzar was overthrown by a revolution and communists took power in this huge country. Ottoman empire was replaced by Turkish Republic. In the Middle East, several countries were formed with ruler in hands of planners without knowledge of local reality - we must deal with the consequences of this up to present days. On the other hand, the United States increased its superpower status, Great Britain ended the war with a huge debt and high inflation. Its empire began to corode as Commonwealth nations started to think more independently. France was destroyed, every family was affected by war which was fought mainly on its soil. Pro-independence movements in French colonies began to rise. Japan gained territories in Asia and significantly raised its influence. No other war changed the world in such a scale as the Great War. As people were cheering and celebrating the end of an apocalypse, only a few were able to see that stage was set for another conflict... One of them was a French Marshal Ferdinand Foch who said that "the Treaty of Versailles is not peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years". I will take a look on the Treaty of Versailles in the next part of this.

Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme allied commander in the Great War

15. 2. 2015


Hello everyone, and welcome on my site dedicated to the history of WWII - the worst of all human conflicts. It´s my deepest wish that you will find information published on this site useful in some way. Maybe you are working on your school project, maybe you want to know something about events in which your ancestors were involved or maybe you are just interested in this historical period of paramount importance. Whatever your reason for a visit is, you are mostly welcome here as I strongly believe that it´s the responsibility of our generation - and of any generation to come - to keep WWII history alive. As George Santayana - author, poet and philosopher - said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz - children and older people were not considered usable as labour force. They were killed in gas chambers...

(Bundesarchiv Bild 183-N0827-318) 

Bodies of victims in Nanking where tens of thousands of people were massacred by Japanese army in 1937
(ISBN 4-88900-218-9)

Allow me to introduce myself at this moment: I am 33 years old guy living in Prague, Czech Republic. I work in R&D in the field of chemistry. Modern history - and especially history of WWII - is one of my greatest interests. As a youngster, I loved to read war books and watch war movies. My image of WWII was defined my "The Longest Day", "A Bridge Too Far", "Midway", "Tora, Tora, Tora, Tora" and many others. Nice pieces of art but the war seemed to be great, romantic adventure. As I was getting older I began to realize the reality - those millions who died were not supporting actors, they were real people who had their dreams, who loved, who felt joy and pain and horror. They had loved ones, families and friends. When I´ve realized this, WWII was never the same for me. I´m still interested in every aspect of it, but I try to see real people and their feelings much more than technical characteristics of weapons. And the true is that if you are really interested in it, you cannot avoid several questions: How something like this happen? Why something like this happen? And most importantly - Can something like this happen again? I´m sure it can, and only way to avoid it is to be careful students of history. It gives us the lecture, the rest is upon us....