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Impact of World War II on Civilians

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World War Two - ESSAY

« With reference to the Second World War, discuss the impact of Total War on civilians »

I- World War II, started on September 18, 1931, with Japan invading Manchuria. It finished on August 14, 1945 with the official surrender of Japan. This War was the second time, our world faced a Total War. War World II is remembered by all for its violence. In fact World War Two was the most destructive and killing war, leaving behind about 40 million people dead.

The fact is: our modern society has had wars before, with all the results they have. But World War II was the first multi-nation war where the goal was the absolute destruction of the enemy, using the full force of the nations. It was also the first time the war was for the most a civilian experience; where battlefield combats were for the most confined to the start and to the end of the war.

In this essay, we will look at a few aspects, that help us understand the full impact World War II had on the lives of civilians and on ours. We will start by looking at the affect the war had on Britain’s Home front through the social and economic changes. We the will look at the largest aspect of World War Two, the jewish genocide throughout the war. Finally we will look over the impact the war had on the future generations and nations.

II- Britain, seems to be the most significant example of a Homefront during the first and the second World War. From its island geography, up to the entire implication of the people in the war; Britain is the concentration of what could be seen in other countries, at smaller scales.

Unlike World War I - where the idea of a Homefront only came up with the first Zeppelin raids in 1915 - the British government was very reactive, and activated the Homefront about six month before war was declared to Nazis (around the raids of the Munich crisis).

Even if the social changes in WWII are not as significant as they were in the first big war, they are still very present. The end of the first World War, gave birth to the first Reform Act of July 1918, enfranchising women over 30. A few years later, in 1928, between the wars, they got full voting equality with men. With new rights, comes new opportunities and new responsibilities, the war once again gave women the opportunity to show what they could do. From the nation’s vital Women Land Army, to the usual factory work, with this

time a few new opportunities such as The Auxiliary Territorial Service, or The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force; and even a few women were recruited by the Special Operations Executive, were usually parachuted into occupied France. This shows how many doors opened up to women in time of war. This was not the only social leveler this war had, since the first world war rationing had been installed in time of crisis. By putting back in place the Homefront, rationing came back too. From the food products; such as meat, sugar, tea,

tobacco, chocolate and fruits; up to non-food goods such as textiles, soap and even petrol; most of the nation’s production was rationalized. This new way of market meant that wealth did not matter anymore, everyone had the same number of coupons and the amount of money did not change anything.

Total War means the use of all the arsenal a nation has at its disposal and since the end of the first World War, a new battlefield had been created: the fight from the Sky. Both parties understood that it was far easier to send a few very expensive plains over a city and bomb it. It was in February 1942, that Churchill gave his approval to target Germany's industrial cities and their civilian populations. The policy of dropping bombs on large, typically heavily populated areas rather than narrowly defined targets became known as "strategic bombing." The practice expanded and was utilized by both sides as the war years went on. This method was a perfect mix of terrorizing the civilians and bombing targets (such as factories, official buildings) in the way. Both sides used the bombing as much; although it seems the reaction to the attacks on the Homefront, resulted to a pulling together of the English civil population. The first reaction to the air raids, was the creation of the Air Raid Precaution (over 1.4 million people nationwide), which was responsible for the crowd control, the rescue the supervision of the air raid shelters and finally they had to inform the night time « black-outs ». The second reaction was the rehabilitation of the Local Defense Volunteer, established in WWI and put back in place in May 1940. It was later given a more dignifying name, the Home Guards. Although the LDV was composed of over a million in World War II, they would not have lasted for long against the enormous Germain Army. Once again this shows us how much of a civilians war WWII was

Still nobody can tell what was the Allies’ interest for the destruction of places like Würzburg. It seems that the war had reached a point where even the only idea of saving Allied lives was enough justify the death of tens of thousands of civilians in German towns.

Churchill explained that the bombing of communication centers in eastern Germany might facilitate the Soviet advance on Berlin. Bomber Commander was ordered to attack by the air, Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and other east German cities to « cause confusion in the evacuation from the east » and « hamper the movements of troops from the west ».

This order led to the raid on Dresden and clearly shows the end of one last and most important moral restriction in the bombing war: the term « evacuation from the east » did not refer to retreating troops but to the civilian refugees fleeing from the advancing Russians.

For the first time, the Allies accepted publicly that they did bomb civilians. Although these refugees clearly did not contribute to the German war effort, they were considered legitimate targets simply because the chaos caused by attacks on them might obstruct German troop reinforcements to the Eastern Front.

Until that point the Allies had used this argument to portray Hitler and the Nazi group as monstrous; and the longer the war lasts, the more the allies start to act like monsters.

A few weeks after the raid on Dresden, on 28 March 1945, Churchill tried to dissociate himself from the destruction, and drafted the previously cited memorandum in which he denounced the bombing of cities as 'mere acts of terror and wanton destruction’.

III- A genocide is an act committed in the intention to destroy one part or a hole of a national, ethnic, racial, religious group, is the definition given

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