HST 504 Lecture Notes - Phoney War, East-Central Europe, Atlantic Charter
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HST 504 – Week 11
Battle of Midway
Battle of Stalingrad
Victory Through Blitzkrieg: German Conquests Early in the War, 1939-1940
The Second World War had begun on 1 September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.
More than two weeks later, the Soviet Union invaded from the East in order to grab its share of
the pie as outlined in the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
By the end of the month, the Polish Republic was wiped from the European map by the two main
revisionist Great Powers of the interwar period.
The arrangement with Hitler allowed Stalin to reclaim vast territories that before 1917 belonged
to the Tsarist Empire.
In addition to eastern Poland, Moscow managed to get control over the Baltic states (Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania), reclaimed Bessarabia from Romania, and was ready to declare war on
Yet, it was Berlin that got the wolf’s share of victories at the onset of the Second World War.
By the end of September, Hitler conquered most of Poland.
After a short reprieve, the first six months of 1940 were marked by even greater triumphs.
In April, Norway and Belgium fell to Berlin.
And then in June came one of the greatest of Hitler’s coups during the war, the defeat of France.
Berlin’s victories were, in part, due to the Western Allied lack of response.
Although Britain and France had declared war on Germany, they refused to initiate any military
operations on the Western front.
During this “Phoney War”, since London and Paris could not agree on the best strategy, Hitler’s
aggression remained unchecked.
Equally important were Germany’s preparedness and military strategy.
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