The Second World War in Europe 1939–1945 Part III

The Second World War in Europe 1939–1945 Part III

The French army lost 92,000 men in the fighting, the German 27,000. The Belgians lost 7,000, the British 3,500 and the Dutch 3,000.

German troops occupied the Atlantic coast as far as the Spanish border, but the French colonial empire and the French fleet remained under the control of the Pétain government. This moved to the unoccupied zone in southern France to Vichy on July 1, 1940 (until 1944 the seat of the “État Français”). The previous Undersecretary of State (in Reynaud’s cabinet) C. de Gaulle announced on June 18 from London that the war would be continued by Free France.

The Netherlands was placed under a German Reich Commissioner (A. Seyss-Inquart); Belgium and northern France (A. von Falkenhausen) and most of occupied France (including October 1940 – February 1942 Otto von Stülpnagel, * 1878, † 1948; until July 1944, K.-H. von Stülpnagel) came under German military administration). The area of ​​Nice and areas on the Alpine border fell under Italian military administration, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine were de facto annexed in August 1940, and Eupen-Malmedy was officially annexed to the German Empire. Germany exploited the financial, industrial and human resources of the defeated countries; The integration of industrial potential and the workforce into the German war economy, which enabled the war to continue until May 1945, was particularly decisive. The attitude of the population in the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia conquered by National Socialist Germany ranged from resistance (an initially small group) to resigned acceptance of the occupation to collaboration.

After the quick victory in the West, Hitler was at the height of his popularity in Germany. The German Empire ruled the continent from the North Cape to the Spanish border. The lightning victories achieved against the skepticism of the leading military deprived the opposition forces in the army command. Even with actual opponents of his foreign policy course, Hitler now enjoyed unrestricted authority. But the problem that was crucial for Hitler in terms of foreign policy and strategy, the unyielding attitude of Great Britain, persisted.

Of particular importance were the neutral states, which were forced to align their trade policy even more closely with National Socialist Germany. Portugal, with its deposits of tungsten ores (armored steel), like Turkey, could still be most strongly influenced by the Allies; but these two countries also supplied Germany with important raw materials in exchange for foreign currency and weapons until 1944. In view of their militarily threatening situation, Sweden and Switzerland were more willing to make advance payments until 1943 and supplied the German armaments with important machines, ball bearings, high-quality ores and even weapons. In doing so, they ensured the employment and survival of their population, Looted gold).

According to, the self-assertion of Great Britain and the attitude of the USA: Germany responded to the British blockade that began at the beginning of the war with a trade war against the enemy and neutral shipping in the service of the Allies. In this “battle in the Atlantic” v. a. 2 million GRT sunk by submarines by the end of July 1940, as well as the British aircraft carrier “Courageous” (September 17, 1939) and the battleship “Royal Oak” (October 14, 1939 in Scapa Flow by Corvette Captain Günther Prien; * 1908, † 1941). In the first months of the war, the armored ships “Deutschland” and “Admiral Graf Spee” were also used in the Atlantic for a trade war. The latter sank on December 17, 1939 after a battle in front of La Plata. After defeating France, Hitler hoped However, to reach a “compromise” with Great Britain (“Peace Appeal” of July 19, 1940) was unsuccessful. On July 16, he had already ordered preparations for a landing in Great Britain (Operation Sea Lion). The preparation of the invasion fell to the German Air Force, v. a. the air fleets of General Field Marshals A. Kesselring and H. Sperrle (A total of over 2,300 aircraft, including 875 bombers, 316 dive-bomber aircraft, 702 fighters and 227 destroyer aircraft). The German air war, which had intensified since August 13, 1940 (“Eagle’s Day”), was initially directed with large-scale offensives against the British Air Force, its southern English airfields and production facilities; The bombing of large cities began in August 1940 (London for the first time on August 24, major attacks on the British capital since September 7, also on the industrial cities of Coventry on November 14/15 and Birmingham on November 19/20.); this aerial war resulted in high civilian casualties (around 23,000 dead and 32,000 injured according to British figures).

Since May 1940 the British Air Force flew attacks on German cities. The on 25./26. 8. Hitler used the bombing raids on Berlin carried out by the “Royal Air Force” as an opportunity to launch “retaliatory attacks”; This led to an unbroken chain of terrorism and counter-terror from the air in the period that followed. The “Battle of Britain” (1940/41) reached its climax on September 15, 1940, when numerous German planes were shot down during a major attack on London and the defensive strength of the British proved to be unbroken (“Battle of Britain” day). The German Air Force did not succeed in gaining the air supremacy necessary for a successful landing operation; already on September 17th / 12th 10. had Hitler the order given to discontinue preparations for an invasion of Great Britain (postponement “until further notice”).

The Second World War in Europe 3

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