The Second World War in Europe 1939–1945 Part II

The Second World War in Europe 1939–1945 Part II

The conclusion of the Finnish-Soviet peace treaty of March 12, 1940, under which Finland was able to maintain its independence while losing territory, thwarted the intentions of the Western powers to occupy the Swedish ore area, which is important for Germany, under the pretext of helping Finland. At the end of January 1940, Hitler made a decision to occupy Norway by a surprise landing and to take Denmark to secure the connections; The military operation (operation “Weser Exercise”) was prepared by an instruction of March 1, 1940. The Supreme War Council of the Allies decided on March 28, 1940 to mine Norwegian territorial waters to prevent German ore transports and to occupy the western Norwegian ports. On April 9, 1940, German troops marched into Denmark without encountering any resistance worth mentioning; the Danish government, which ordered a swift arms stretch and protested to the occupation, remained in office. The landing in Norway, however, aroused fierce opposition. Narvik, the main port of export of the Swedish iron ore necessary for Germany, was destroyed on April 9 by mountain troops (General Eduard Dietl, * 1890, † 1944). The 10 destroyers used for the German landing operation were attacked and destroyed by British naval forces on April 10 and April 13, 1940, after 3 cruisers had previously been sunk. From Oslo, the German troops advanced on Bergen and Trondheim in the second half of April and pushed those in Namsos and Åndalsnes on 15/18. 4. Landed British troops return. An Allied unit landed in Harstad on April 14th attacked Dietl’s troops in May and took Narvik on May 28th. At the beginning of June, the Allies evacuated Norway because of the successful German offensive to the west that had now begun. On June 10th the last Norwegian troops surrendered; King Håkon VII. went into exile with his government in London. Hitler placed Norway under German civil administration (Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, * 1898, † 1945); from February 1942 V. Quisling was able to set up his own national government, which was completely dependent on Germany. Denmark initially retained its pre-war government (until August 1943). The German interests were represented by an authorized representative (Cécil von Renthe-Fink, * 1885, † 1964; from November 1942 Werner Best, * 1903, † 1989).

The campaign in the west: After British and French declarations of war against Germany between September 1939 and May 1940, there were no noteworthy fighting in the West (the French called this situation “Drôle de guerre”, German “comic war”), began here on May 10, 1940 the German campaign (“Fall Gelb”) with the aim of forcing a quick decision in northern France, in violation of the neutrality of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. After France’s complete military defeat, Hitler hoped to make an arrangement with Great Britain after all.

According to, the focus of the German offensive was in the middle of the attack front (thrust through the Ardennes across the Meuse towards the mouth of the Somme; operation “sickle cut”). After the Dutch army had already stopped fighting on May 14th (during the surrender negotiations, bombing of Rotterdam) and the Belgian surrender was imminent (May 28th), the French armies that had moved into Belgium and the British expeditionary corps (since reaching the The mouth of the Somme encircled by the German tanks from the south) in an almost hopeless situation. Hitler, made nervous by General H. Guderian’s ruthless advance, had on the advice of the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group A, Colonel-General von Rundstedt, but on May 24th the German tanks advancing on Dunkirk stopped. Despite German air raids, around 338,000 British, French and Belgian soldiers (losing almost all of their equipment) were able to return to the British island (“miracle of Dunkirk”). The new British Prime Minister W. Churchill (from May 10, 1940) withdrew the British air forces from the continent to protect the island.

The improvised line of defense on the Somme and Aisne built by the new French Commander-in-Chief M. Weygand (successor to General M. G. Gamelin) could not be held up against the new German offensive (from June 5th, “Fall Rot”). Paris was occupied by German troops on June 14th without a fight. The German Army Group C ( Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb; * 1876, † 1956) broke through the Maginot Line south of Saarbrücken on the same day and crossed the Rhine near Colmar on June 16. On June 17, the German armored troops – advancing in the rear of the Maginot Line from the north – reached the Swiss border and had thus enclosed the French armies in the east. On June 10, 1940 Italy entered the war against France and Great Britain; however, it fought unsuccessfully on the Alpine front. That is why German armored and mountain troops pushed forward from Lyon into the Alps to open the passes defended by the French Alpine Army to the Italians.

In a dispute with Churchill, who proposed a union between Great Britain and France and pleaded for the continuation of the French resistance from North Africa, the majority of the French cabinet, which had evaded to Bordeaux (resignation of Prime Minister P. Reynaud ), decided to request a ceasefire. The cabinet of Marshal P. Pétain, formed on June 17, had an armistice agreement signed in Compiègne on June 22, 1940, which came into force on June 25, after an armistice agreement had also been signed with Italy.

The Second World War in Europe 2

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