World War II: After the War
At the end of World War II, huge swaths of Europe and Asia had been reduced to ruins. Borders were redrawn and homecomings, expulsions, and burials were under way. But the massive efforts to rebuild had just begun. When the war began in the late 1930s, the world’s population was approximately 2 billion. In less than a decade, the war between the Axis the Allied powers had resulted in 80 million deaths — killing off about 4 percent of the whole world. Allied forces now became occupiers, taking control of Germany, Japan, and much of the territory they had formerly ruled. Efforts were made to permanently dismantle the war-making abilities of those nations, as factories were destroyed and former leadership was removed or prosecuted. War crimes trials took place in Europe and Asia, leading to many executions and prison sentences. Millions of Germans and Japanese were forcibly expelled from territories they called home. Allied occupations and United Nations decisions led to many long-lasting problems in the future, including the tensions that created East and West Germany, and divergent plans on the Korean Peninsula that led to the creation of North and South Korea and — the Korean War in 1950. The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine paved the way for Israel to declare its independence in 1948 and marked the start of the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. The growing tensions between Western powers and the Soviet Eastern Bloc developed into the Cold War, and the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons raised the very real specter of an unimaginable World War III if common ground could not be found. World War II was the biggest story of the 20th Century, and its aftermath continues to affect the world profoundly more than 65 years later.
This entry is Part 20 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)