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The Second Great European War
The Second Great European War, also known as the War of 1940, was a conflict between some of the major European powers. The war lasted for four years, beginning on September 5th, 1940, and ending on January 8th, 1944. It was the deadliest European conflict up until that point in history, with over forty million casualties; twenty-five million killed and fifteen million wounded, missing, or captured. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Brussels. The consequences of the war were a direct cause of the next major European conflict, the Third Great European War.
After the First Great European War, the nations of Europe wanted to avoid another catastrophic war. The Order of Europe was set up in Paris in the aftermath of the war as a place where European leaders could meet to solve problems diplomatically. However, the council had virtually no enforcement power and only a handful of leaders utilized the institution. Despite the entanglements during the war, many European powers continued to make alliances. Huge fortifications were built in France and Denmark in an effort to fend off a potential German attack. Germany, the most devastated nation after the war, set up a new government in the wake of the escape of Friedrich Hienden. Franz Schiffer, the newly elected chancellor of Germany, wanted to reinvigorate his nation and sought allies. Due to Austria-Hungary's weakened status, Schiffer sought an alliance with Fernando Diaz of Spain. Spain had remained neutral during the war for it had been struggling with a withering military and economy. Diaz rose to power shortly after the war and set up an authoritarian regime. Diaz wished to regain Spain's former glory and believed his interests matched with Schiffer's. Diaz strong-armed the Portuguese government to join a triple alliance of Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
France was also devastated after the war and sought support from its reluctant ally, Great Britain. France and Great Britain formed a mutual alliance. Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands all eventually joined with France and Great Britain to form an alliance consisting of the former Western Powers. Russia, which had remained neutral during the war, had been suffering from internal strife. The communist revolution had failed and left the country politically distraught. To seek some support, Russia sought an alliance with Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary had lost most of its power after the war and believed an alliance with Russia would garner well-needed support. Austria-Hungary had been negotiating an alliance with Italy after the war and offered Italy territory if it were to join its alliance with Russia. Italy, which had been struggling politically and economically since its unification in 1871, accepted the deal. These alliances would make up the major players of the war. In the picture above, the Western Powers are green and include France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Norway. The Eastern Powers are yellow and include Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The Central Powers are red and include Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
On September 3rd, 1940, Franz Schiffer sent a telegraph to Fernando Diaz. Schiffer wanted to regain the resource-rich territory France obtained after the war. He offered French lands to Spain in return for military support. Diaz accepted and both sides began to mobilize for an offensive. However, the French intercepted the telegram. Outraged and fearful, France appealed to its allies for support. Great Britain stated it would only help France if it was invaded. However, Belgium and Luxembourg began to mobilize out of fear of another German invasion. On September 5th, 1940, Schiffer and Diaz ordered a German, Spanish, and Portuguese assault on France.
Progress of the war
The tense peace following the First Great European War was destroyed as Europe was plunged into another war. Spanish and Portuguese forces attacked southern France while German forces invaded Belgium and Luxembourg. France, Belgium, and Luxembourg declared war on the Central Powers, followed by their ally, the Netherlands. Great Britain, living up to its promise, also declared war on the Central Powers and mobilized forces to liberate Belgium and defend France. The Spanish and Portuguese drove farther into France because most of France's defenses were built near the German border. German forces also advanced, but British forces arrived in France just in time. At the Battle of Arras, British and French forces pushed the Germans back. Schiffer, looking for even greater assurance against the Western Powers, sought an alliance with Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary, which understood the costs of another war against the Western Powers, refused to form an alliance. Schiffer became outraged and threatened an assault on Austria-Hungary if it did not assist the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary, feeling its sovereignty threatened, declared war on the Central Powers. Russia and Italy followed through with their alliance and declared war on the Central Powers soon after. By 1941, the Eastern Powers had joined the war.
Germany, now on a two-front war, looked to end the battle in France so it could focus on the the Eastern Powers. The Germans launched a massive offensive towards Paris. After winning victories at the Battles of Abbeville and Amiens, German forces were a few hundred miles from Paris. However, the Western Powers dug in and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Beauvais, pushing back the Germans. After this victory, Norway, which was neutral during the previous war despite Denmark's occupation, offered to support the Western Powers. The Norwegian government believed if it joined the Western Powers and won the war, it would be rewarded. In 1941, Norway declared war on the Central Powers and joined the Western Powers. With new forces, the Western Powers divided its forces and switched to the offensive. Forces in eastern France pushed German forces back into Belgium, where remaining Belgian forces attacked the weakened German forces. Forces in southern France began to push back the Spanish and Portuguese. At the Battle of Toulouse, the Western Powers pushed Spanish and Portuguese forces back down into the Iberian Peninsula. The Western Powers would continue to keep the Central Powers out of France for the rest of the war.
Germany, faced with continual defeat by the Western Powers, switched its focus to the Eastern Powers. In late 1942, Germany launched its largest offensive of the war to push back the Eastern Powers. A swift victory at the Battle of Krakow helped German forces push into Russian territory, and victory at the Battle of Vienna would prevent Austro-Hungarian forces from flanking German forces. Despite Germany's huge offensive, Russian forces launched a massive counterattack. At the Battle of Warsaw, the German advance was stopped. The Russian forces hammered the German forces and pushed them back. The defeat at Warsaw, the deadliest battle of the war, severely crippled German forces and forced them back into eastern Germany. Because German forces were beginning to weaken, Austro-Hungarian and Italian forces were able to push German forces back into southern Germany. By 1943, Germany was on the defensive.
1943 consisted of continual assaults on Germany's borders. Germany desperately looked for support from its allies. However, the Western Powers pushed farther and farther into Spain. After a victory at the Battle of Zaragoza, the Western Powers approached Madrid. Madrid was surrounded by the Western Powers within days and placed under siege. After weeks of resistance, Madrid finally fell to the Western Powers. Diaz, fearful of being captured, committed suicide when Madrid fell. The temporary Spanish government formally surrendered on October 2nd, 1943. Portugal, now fearful of invasion without Spanish support, formally surrendered a day later. The Western Powers regrouped in Belgium to prepare for an offensive towards Berlin. Meanwhile, the Eastern Powers kept Germany on the defensive. Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces constantly attacked southern Germany while Russian forces prepared for an offensive towards Berlin. German forces tried to push Russian forces back, but all attempts failed. At the Battle of Prague, German forces were destroyed and began to retreat. Russian forces broke through German defenses at the Battle of Dresden, and Austro-Hungarian and Italian forces won a victory at the Battle of Fussen. Meanwhile, the Western Powers won entry into Germany at the Battle of Dusseldorf. Germany, now breached from three sides, used its remaining forces to hold back the other forces. In a last ditch effort, Germany launched a final offensive to push back the Western Powers. However, the offensive was crushed at the Battle of Kassel. On December 1st, 1943, Berlin was placed under siege by the Eastern Powers. After weeks of resistance, Berlin finally fell on January 5th, 1944. Germany, with its capital destroyed, formally surrendered. The war was over with the Western and Eastern Powers emerging victorious.
On January 8th, 1945, European leaders met in Brussels to discuss the treaty. The Western Powers wanted to prevent a military-capable Germany from reemerging ever again. However, the Western Powers also realized that severely punishing a war-torn Germany could lead to yet another war. The Western Powers also wanted to rehabilitate Germany, Spain, and Portugal to ensure a lasting peace. On the other hand, the Eastern Powers wanted to obtain as much territory as possible. The Eastern Powers also wanted to create political and economic stability within their respective nations. While the treaty blamed Germany for the war, it asked for equal reparations among the Central Powers. The treaty also ceded certain German lands to Russia. Large fortifications would be built along Germany's and Spain's borders. Germany's, Spain's, and Portugal's armed forces were downsized. Finally, the treaty established the European League, a diplomatic organization set in Brussels. The league was an improvement on the previous Order of Europe and had much more authority and capability to act as a peace keeper in Europe. Despite the Treaty of Brussels' attempts at peace after the war, the outcomes of the war ultimately set the stage for the next conflict in thirty years, which would be even more devastating.