The Historiography of World War II is the study of how historians portray the causes, conduct, and outcomes of World War II.
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
There are different perspectives on the causes of the war; the three most prominent are the Orthodox from the 1950s, Revisionist from the 1970s, and Post-Revisionism which offers the most contemporary perspective. The orthodox perspective arose during the aftermath of the war. The main historian noted for this perspective is Hugh Trevor-Roper. Orthodox historians argue that Hitler was a master planner who intentionally started World War II due to his strong beliefs on fascism , expansionism, and the supremacy of the German State.Revisionist historians argue that it was an ordinary war by world standards and that Hitler was an opportunist of the sort who commonly appears in world history; he merely took advantage of the opportunities given to him. This viewpoint became popular in the 1970s, especially in the revisionism of A. J. P. Taylor. Throughout the course of the war, orthodox historians argue as if the Axis powers were a sort of evil consuming the world with their powerful message and malignant ideology, while the Allied powers were trying to protect democracy and freedom. Post-revisionist historians of the causes, such as Alan Bullock, argue that the cause of the War was a matter of both the evil and the banal. Essentially Hitler was a strategist with clear aims and objectives, that would not have been achievable without taking advantage of the opportunities given to him. Each perspective of World War II offers an insightful analysis and allows us to expand our curiosity on the blame, conduct and causes of the war.
Hugh Redwald Trevor-Roper, Baron Dacre of Glanton,, was a British historian of early modern Britain and Nazi Germany. He was Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford.
Fascism is a form of radical, right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.
In expansionism, governments and states expand their territory, power, wealth or influence through economic growth, soft power, or the military aggression of empire-building and colonialism.
On the result of the war, historians in countries occupied by the Nazis developed strikingly similar interpretations celebrating a victory against great odds, with national liberation based on national unity. That unity is repeatedly described as the greatest source of future strength. Historians in common glorified the resistance movement (somewhat to the neglect of the invaders who actually overthrew the Nazis). There is great stress on heroes — including celebrities such as Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and Josip Broz Tito — but also countless brave partisans and members of the resistance. Women rarely played a role in the celebrity or the histories, although since the 1990s, social historians have been piecing together the role of women on the home fronts. In recent years much scholarly attention has focused on how popular memories were constructed through selection, and how commemorations are held.
R.J. Bosworth argues the major powers have experienced intellectual conflict in interpreting their wartime stories. Some have ignored the central issues. Germany and, to a much lesser extent, Japan have experienced a collective self-analysis. But these two, as well as Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy, have largely ignored many roles and have looked instead for glory even when it was lacking.
Blame as the driving force during World War II, is a widely known orthodox perspective. Especially directly after World War II, Nazi Germany was held to blame for starting the war. Orthodox historians cited several reasons for this. Germany was the one who initially invaded Poland against the recommendation of the allies, and also attacked the Soviet Union.Also, the system of alliances between the Axis Powers was one that was only meant for war. The Tripartite Pact stated that if any country declared war on one of the Axis countries, the other two would also declare war on those countries. Another reason, historians saw, is that the policies of Hitler were overly aggressive; not only did Hitler preach war with France and the Soviet Union, but he followed a careful pre-made plan of expansionism. Additionally, the events that took place in unveiling of the war such as the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, Anschluss, and the German involvement during the Spanish Civil War, showed that Hitler was anticipating the possibility of war and intentionally gearing up for it.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.
The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Canada deployed trained historians to Canadian Military Headquarters in the United Kingdom during the war, and paid much attention to the chronicling of the conflict, not only in the words of the official historians of the Army Historical Section, but also through art and trained painters. The official history of the Canadian Army was undertaken after the war, with an interim draft published in 1948 and three volumes in the 1950s. This was in comparison to the First World War's official history, only 1 volume of which was completed by 1939, and the full text only released after a change in authors some 40 years after the fact. Official histories of the RCAF and RCN in the Second World War were also a long time coming, and the book Arms, Men and Government by Charles Stacey (one of the main contributors to the Army history) was published in the 1980s as an "official" history of the war policies of the Canadian government. The performance of Canadian forces in some battles have remained controversial, such as Hong Kong and Dieppe, and a variety of books have been written on them from various points of view. Serious historians - mainly scholars - emerged in the years after the Second World War, foremost Terry Copp (a scholar) and Denis Whitaker (a former soldier).
In 1961, English historian A. J. P. Taylor published his most controversial book, The Origins of the Second World War , which earned him a reputation as a revisionist—that is, a historian who sharply changes which party was "guilty." The book had a quick, profound impact, upsetting many readers.Taylor argued against the standard thesis that the outbreak of the Second World War – by which Taylor specifically meant the war that broke out in September 1939 – was the result of an intentional plan on the part of guilty Adolf Hitler. He began his book with the statement that too many people have accepted uncritically what he called the "Nuremberg Thesis", that the Second World War was the result of criminal conspiracy by a small gang comprising Hitler and his associates. He regarded the "Nuremberg Thesis" as too convenient for too many people and claimed that it shielded the blame for the war from the leaders of other states, let the German people avoid any responsibility for the war and created a situation where West Germany was a respectable Cold War ally against the Soviets.
Alan John Percivale Taylor was a British historian who specialised in 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy. Both a journalist and a broadcaster, he became well known to millions through his television lectures. His combination of academic rigour and popular appeal led the historian Richard Overy to describe him as "the Macaulay of our age".
The Origins of the Second World War is a non-fiction book by the English historian A. J. P. Taylor, examining the causes of World War II. It was first published in 1961 by Hamish Hamilton.
In historiography, the term historical revisionism identifies the re-interpretation of the historical record. It usually means challenging the orthodox views held by professional scholars about a historical event, introducing contrary evidence, or reinterpreting the motivations and decisions of the people involved. The revision of the historical record can reflect new discoveries of fact, evidence, and interpretation, which then provokes a revised history. In dramatic cases, revisionism involves a reversal of older moral judgments.
Taylor's thesis was that Hitler was not the demoniacal figure of popular imagination but in foreign affairs a normal German leader. Citing Fritz Fischer, he argued that the foreign policy of the Third Reich was the same as those of the Weimar Republic and the Second Reich. Moreover, in a partial break with his view of German history advocated in The Course of German History, he argued that Hitler was not just a normal German leader but also a normal Western leader. As a normal Western leader, Hitler was no better or worse than Stresemann, Chamberlain or Daladier. His argument was that Hitler wished to make Germany the strongest power in Europe but he did not want or plan war. The outbreak of war in 1939 was an unfortunate accident caused by mistakes on everyone's part.
Notably, Taylor portrayed Hitler as a grasping opportunist with no beliefs other than the pursuit of power and anti-Semitism. He argued that Hitler did not possess any sort of programme and his foreign policy was one of drift and seizing chances as they offered themselves. He did not even consider Hitler's anti-Semitism unique: he argued that millions of Germans were just as ferociously anti-Semitic as Hitler and there was no reason to single out Hitler for sharing the beliefs of millions of others.
Taylor argued that the basic problem with an interwar Europe was a flawed Treaty of Versailles that was sufficiently onerous to ensure that the overwhelming majority of Germans would always hate it, but insufficiently onerous in that it failed to destroy Germany's potential to be a Great Power once more. In this way, Taylor argued that the Versailles Treaty was destabilising, for sooner or later the innate power of Germany that the Allies had declined to destroy in 1918–1919 would inevitably reassert itself against the Versailles Treaty and the international system established by Versailles that the Germans regarded as unjust and thus had no interest in preserving. Though Taylor argued that the Second World War was not inevitable and that the Versailles Treaty was nowhere near as harsh as contemporaries like John Maynard Keynes believed, what he regarded as a flawed peace settlement made the war more likely than not.
The German victory over French and British forces in the Battle of France was one of the most unexpected and astonishing events of the 20th century and has generated a large popular and scholarly literature.
Observers in 1940 found the events unexpected and earth-shaking. Historian Martin Alexander notes that Belgium and the Netherlands fell to the German army in a matter of days and the British were soon driven back to their home islands:
One of the most influential books on the war was written in summer 1940 by French historian Marc Bloch: L'Étrange Défaite ("Strange Defeat"). He raised most of the issues historians have debated since. He blamed France's leadership:
Guilt was widespread. Carole Fink argues that Bloch:
It is commonly said that history is written by the victors, but the exact opposite occurred in the chronicling of the Eastern Front, particularly in the West. Soviet secrecy and unwillingness to acknowledge events that might discredit the regime led to them revealing little information, always heavily edited Mark- leaving western historians to rely almost totally on German sources. While still valuable sources, they tended to be self-serving; German generals, in particular, tried to distance themselves and the Heer as a whole away from the Nazi Party, while at the same time blaming them for their defeat (individuals supporting these arguments are commonly called part of the 'Hitler Lost Us The War' group). While this self-serving approach was noticed at the time,it was still generally accepted as the closest version of the truth. The end result was a commonly held picture of the Heer being the superior army, ground down by the vast numbers of the 'Bolshevik horde' and betrayed by the stupidity of Hitler. Not only did this ignore Hitler's talent as a military leader, an erratic talent that was sometimes brilliantly incisive and sometimes grossly in error, it also severely undervalued the remarkable transformation of the Soviet armed forces, especially the Red Army, from the timid, conservative force of 1941 to an effective war-winning organisation.
After the fall of the Berlin wall, Western historians were suddenly exposed to the vast number of Soviet records of the time. This has led to an explosion of the works on the subject, most notably by Richard Overy, David Glantz and Antony Beevor. These historians revealed the brutality of Stalin's regime, the recovery of the USSR and the Red Army in 1942 and the courage and abilities of the average Soviet soldier, relying heavily on Soviet archival material to do so.
Phillips Payson O'Brien argues that it is a fallacy that the war was won on the Eastern Front. He argues instead that it was won by the air-sea battle, which successfully immobilized the German and Japanese forces. They lost mobility, Were unable to move munitions from the factory to the battlefield, and ran out of fuel For the airplanes and ships. They Became highly vulnerable and were helpless.
At the Nuremberg Trials, the Schutzstaffel (SS) was declared a criminal organization, but the regular armed forces (Wehrmacht) were not. Although some high-ranking field marshals and generals were convicted of war crimes for issuing criminal orders, Nazi war crimes were mostly blamed on the SS-Totenkopfverbände (concentration camp guards) and the Einsatzgruppen (death squads), overlooking the participation of Wehrmacht soldiers in the Holocaust. More recent scholarship has challenged this view. An exhibition on the war crimes of the Wehrmacht sparked demonstrations.
Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory was written by the English historian Norman Davies, best known for his books on Poland. Davies argues although the war was over for 60 years that a number of misconceptions about the war are still common and then sets out to correct them. Two of his main claims are that contrary to popular belief in the West, the dominant part of the conflict took place in Eastern Europe between the two totalitarian systems of the century, communism and Nazism; and that Stalin's USSR was as bad as Hitler's Germany.The subtitle No Simple Victory does therefore not just refer to the losses and suffering the allies had to endure in order to defeat the enemy, but also the difficult moral choice the Western democracies had to make when allying themselves with one criminal regime in order to defeat another.
A field of pseudohistory has emerged which attempts to deny the existence of the Holocaust and the mass extermination of Jews in German-occupied Europe. The proponents of the belief, known as Holocaust deniers or "negationists", are usually associated with Neo-Nazism and their views are rejected by professional historians.
The Nazis perfected the art of stealing, draining the local economies to the maximum or beyond, so that overall production fell.
In all occupied countries resistance movements sprang up.The Germans tried to infiltrate and suppress them, but after the war they emerged as political actors. The local Communists were especially active in promoting resistance movements, as was the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Almost all national narratives of the Second World War—ranging from historiography in liberal democracies to that of Communist dictatorship, fit the same European pattern. The French-German historian Etienne Francois has identified the common themes, as paraphrased by Johan Östling:
Beginning with the German occupation of Denmark in 1940 and lasting until 1943, the Danish government had a "Policy of Cooperation" (da) with Nazi Germany. This meant the Danish government tried to do a balancing act of officially cooperating with the Nazis, while at the same time also working against them and aiding the Danish resistance. Due to this cooperation, Adolf Hitler labeled Denmark as the "model protectorate". When the Policy of Cooperation collapsed in 1943, the resistance helped about 7,000 Jews (and about 500 non-Jewish spouses of Jews) escape across Øresund to neutral Sweden. This operation is known as the rescue of the Danish Jews, and was a great source of frustration for the Nazis.
Denmark has a large popular literature on the war years, which has helped shaped national identity and politics. Scholars have also been active but have much less influence on this topic. After the liberation two conflicting narratives emerged. A consensus narrative told how Danes were united in resistance. However, there was also a revisionist interpretation which paid attention to the resistance of most Danes, but presented Danish establishment as a collaborating enemy of Danish values. The revisionist version from the 1960s was successfully adopted by the political Left for two specific goals: to blemish the establishment now allied with the "imperialist" United States, and to argue against Danish membership in the European Community. From the 1980s, the Right started to use also used revisionism to attack asylum legislation. Finally around 2003, Liberal Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen started using it as his basic narrative of the war years (partly to legitimize his government's decision to join the war against Iraq in 2003). The occupation has thus played a central role in Danish political culture since 1945, although the role of professional scholars has been marginal.
The heroism of the French Resistance has always been a favoured topic in France and Britain, with new books in English appearing regularly.
After 1945 the French ignored or downplayed the role of the Marshal Petain puppet government. Since the late 20th century it has become a major research topic.
Collaboration with the Germans was long denied by the French, but since the late 20th century has generated a large literature.
The roles of civilians,forced labourers and POW's has a large literature.
There are numerous studies of women.
Germany integrated Alsace-Lorraine into its German Empire in 1871. France recovered it in 1918. Germany was again in occupation 1940-45. There was widespread material damage. The first wave of destruction in 1940 was inflicted by German forces, the second was caused by Allied bombers in 1944, and the final wave surrounded bitter fighting between German occupiers and American liberators in 1944-1945.
Dutch historiography of World War II focused on the government in exile, German repression, Dutch resistance, the Hunger Winter of 1944-45 and, above all, the Holocaust. The economy was largely neglected. The economy was robust in 1940-41 then deteriorated rapidly as exploitation produced low productivity, impoverishment and hunger.
The memory of the war seared Norwegians and shaped national policies.Economic issues remain an important topic.
This section needs to be updated.August 2018)(
On August 1, 1944, the clandestine Polish Home Army, owing allegiance to the exiled government in London, initiated an uprising in Warsaw against the occupying Germans. There is a large literature in several languages. The Warsaw Rising Museum (WRM), opened in Warsaw in 2004 to commemorate it.
Polish Jews made up about half of Holocaust victims. There is a large literature on the Holocaust in Poland and its memory and memorials,and also the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943.
Popular behaviour has been explored in Byelorussia under the Germans, using oral history, letters of complaint, memoirs, and reports made by the Soviet secret police and by the Communist Party.
Historical negationism or denialism is an illegitimate distortion of the historical record. It is often imprecisely or intentionally incorrectly referred to as historical revisionism, but that term also denotes a legitimate academic pursuit of re-interpretation of the historical record and questioning the accepted views.
Lucy Schildkret Dawidowicz was an American historian and writer. She wrote books on modern Jewish history, in particular books on the Holocaust.
Sir Ian Kershaw is an English historian and author whose work has chiefly focused on the social history of 20th-century Germany. He is regarded by many as one of the world's leading experts on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and is particularly noted for his biographies of Hitler.
Andreas Fritz Hillgruber was a conservative German historian. Hillgruber was influential as a military and diplomatic historian who played a leading role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s.
Martin Broszat was a German historian specializing in modern German social history whose work has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians as indispensable for any serious study of Nazi Germany.
Ernst Nolte was a German historian and philosopher. Nolte's major interest was the comparative studies of fascism and communism. Originally trained in philosophy, he was professor emeritus of modern history at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 until his 1991 retirement. He was previously a professor at the University of Marburg from 1965 to 1973. He was best known for his seminal work Fascism in Its Epoch, which received widespread acclaim when it was published in 1963. Nolte was a prominent conservative academic from the early 1960s and was involved in many controversies related to the interpretation of the history of fascism and communism, including the Historikerstreit in the late 1980s. In recent years, Nolte focused on Islamism and "Islamic fascism".
Saul Friedländer is an Israeli/French historian and currently a professor emeritus of history at UCLA.
Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the history faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1974. Previously he served on the faculties of the University of Michigan (1959–1974) and the University of Kentucky (1957–1959).
Holocaust victims were people who were targeted by the government of Nazi Germany for various discriminatory practices due to their ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, or sexual orientation. These institutionalized practices came to be called The Holocaust, and they began with legalized social discrimination against specific groups, and involuntary hospitalization, euthanasia, and forced sterilization of those considered physically or mentally unfit for society. These practices escalated during World War II to include non-judicial incarceration, confiscation of property, forced labor, sexual slavery, medical experimentation, and death through overwork, undernourishment, and execution through a variety of methods, with the genocide of different groups as the primary goal.
German-occupied Europe refers to the sovereign countries of Europe which were occupied and civil occupied including puppet government by the military forces and the government of Nazi Germany at various times between 1939 and 1945 and administered by the Nazi regime. The farthest east in Europe the German Wehrmacht managed to occupy was the town of Mozdok in the Soviet Union; the farthest north was the settlement of Barentsburg in the Kingdom of Norway; the farthest south in Europe was the island of Gavdos in the Kingdom of Greece; and the farthest west in Europe was the island of Ushant in the French Republic.
Gunnar Svante Paulsson is a Swedish-born Canadian historian, university lecturer and author who has taught in Britain, Canada, Germany and Italy. He specializes in history of The Holocaust and has been described as "an expert on that period". He is best known for his 2002 book, Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw 1940-1945.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to World War II:
Frank McDonough is a British historian of the Third Reich and international history.
Ronald Smelser is an American historian, author, and former professor of history at the University of Utah. He specializes in modern European history, including the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and has written several books on these topics. Smelser is the author, together with fellow historian Edward J. Davies, of the 2008 book The Myth of the Eastern Front: The Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture.
The Historiography of Adolf Hitler deals with the academic studies of Adolf Hitler from the 1930s to the present. In 1998, a German editor said there were 120,000 studies of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Since then a large number more have appeared, with many of them decisively shaping the historiography regarding Hitler.
Hitler’s Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe is a 2006 book by the British author and researcher Philip W. Blood. It discusses the evolution of German rear security policies during World War II, from Partisanenkreig to Bandenbekämpfung, leading to mass crimes against humanity and genocide.
Hitler's War in the East 1941−1945: A Critical Assessment is a 1997 book by the German historians Rolf-Dieter Müller and Gerd R. Ueberschär. It surveys the literature on the Soviet-German war of 1941−1945 from the German perspective. Writing in the introduction to the 2002 edition, Gerhard Weinberg describes the book as providing a broad coverage of the conflict, by "stressing ideological and political as well as more specifically military aspects". The book has been updated in subsequent editions, the latest having been issued in 2009.