Early Swiss History
Old Swiss History
A Modern Constitution
World War II
Country & People
A Short Timeline of
World War II
Japanese and Italian Aggressions
- 1931: the Japanese army occupied Manchuria (northern China)
without knowledge of the Japanese government. The Chinese
government under Tschiang Kai Shek did not put up any resistance.
When the Chinese protested with the League of Nations, the Japanese
left the League of Nations. The great powers did not intervene.
- 1935: Italy conquered Ethiopia. This time the League of Nations
imposed economic sanctions, on which Italy left the League of Nations.
- 1937: After a provoked incident Japan began to conquer all of China.
Resistance came from Mao Tse Tung's communists.
- 1936: German troops entered the demilitarized German territory on the
shores of river Rhine. German generals and diplomats had warned decidedly
of this step, because a military counter action of France would have meant
a disaster for Germany with its low level of armament at that time.
But Hitler won his risky play: France and Great Britain did only protest
on diplomatic level; the conservative British government thought that
Hitler was less dangerous than communist Russia.
- 1938: Hitler demanded for the unification of Germany and Austria
under the slogan "Heim ins Reich" [home into the empire].
Austrian Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg planned a referendum,
but Hitler let his troops invade before it could be held.
His supporters in Austria made sure that the German troops were welcomed
with flowers instead of rifles.
- 1938: encouraged by the passivity of the western powers Hitler's
propaganda Minister Goebbels spread embittered complaints against the
alleged suppression of Germans in Czechoslovakia. This time England
and France reacted, a conference was held in Munich. Prime ministers
Chamberlain (UK), Daladier (F), Mussolini (I) and Hitler (D). decided
on September, 29th, 1938 to separate several peripheral areas with a
German population majority from Czechoslovakia and integrate them into
Germany. Hitler promised, this would be his last territorial demand -
Chamberlain and Daladier were naive enough to believe him.
Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union (Russia) were not even asked to
take part at the conference! Poland (though threatened by German demands
themselves) and Hungary used the opportunity and annexed some areas
- 1939: On March, 14 a declaration of independence of Slovakia was
set up and made public in Berlin. The same night Czechoslovakian president
Hacha signed a capitulation and German troops occupied Prague combatless.
Lithuania retreated from the Memel area under threat of war. Italy occupied
Albania on April, 7.
- 1939: Hitler demanded on March, 21 that the city of Danzig (Gdansk)
would be integrated into the German empire and an exterritorial connection
to East Prussia established through Polish territory.
Great Britain and France made a declaration of guarantee for Poland.
In France, however, the question "Mourir
pour Dantzig?" marked a little engaged public opinion.
- 1939: The Soviet dictator Stalin realized that the western powers would
not (yet) be ready for a common position against Hitler and tried therefore
to negotiate with Hitler - which should prove to be fatal for the USSR
as it had been for other countries. On August, 23 the ministers
of foreign affairs Ribbentrop (D) and Molotow (USSR) signed the
nonaggression treaty named after them and a secret supplementary
protocol, which regulated the division and annexation of Poland between
the two powers.
Outbreak of World War II in Europe
- 1939: While the western powers were still shocked that Hitler had
made an agreement with the USSR (despite his anti-communist rhetoric),
Germman troops entered Poland on September, 1. The Russian invasion
began on September, 17. By the end of September, Poland was occupied
- 1939: Great Britain and France declared war to Germany on September, 3,
but French troops remained behind the Maginot Line, a defense wall
along the Rhine border that was as ineffective as enormous. The first phase
of the Second World War has been named drôle de guerre
[strange war] because nothing happend. The western powers only relied on
- Meanwhile, the Soviet Union incorporated the Baltic States of Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania and waged war against Finland in winter 1939/40.
After embittered resistance Finland lost some peripheral areas. Neither
the western powers nor the neutral Scandinavian states intervened.
- 1940: Both war parties planned an invasion on neutral Norway, in order
to control the iron ore port of Narvik - Hitler was there a little earlier
on April, 9. Germany occupied neutral Denmark as well.
Lightning War in the West
- 1940: German airborne troops and tanks circumvented the French
Maginot Line through neutral Netherlands and Belgium and
conquered half of France within 1½ months (May, 10 - June, 22).
The remainders of the French army and the British expedition corps
were evacuated in a last minute operation from Dunkirk to England.
Paris was occupied combatless. Some 50,000 Polish soldiers were driven
towards the French - Swiss border and could escape into Switzerland.
After a seize fire, a government willing to collaborate with Germany
under Marshall Pétain was established at Vichy.
This government was, among others, responsible for the deportation
of thousands of Jews to German concentration camps in eastern Europe
during World War II.
- 1940: In the United Kingdowm, Winston Churchill replaced
Chamberlain as prime minister on May, 5th. He could promise
his people nothing better than "blood, sweat and tears".
- 1940-1941: In the air battle on England new technologies (RADAR)
prevented a German victory.
- 1939-1945: In naval warfare both sides tried to obstruct strategic
supply of the opponent with heavy warships and submarines. More transport
capacity was destroyed during World War II than had existed before the war.
- 1940-1942: The battle of North Africa (Lybian oil fields!) was won
by British troops.
World War II: The Turning Point
- 1941: When Hitler thought he was safe in continental Europe,
he returned to his old goals in eastern Europe and began war with
Russia on June, 22. The Germans almost reached Moscow.
In the winter they were pushed back a little.
- 1942: In summer German troops conquered the oil fields in the
- 1942/43: The winter offensive of the Red Army encircled German armies
near Stalingrad. Hitler blocked a timely retreat into safer positions.
By end of January 200,000 German troops at Stalingrad had been eliminated,
the remaining 90,000 capitualated.
- 1941: The USA had supplied weapons to the United Kingdom from the
beginnings of World War II, but they did not take actively part in the
fighting until Japan attacked the U.S. fleet base Pearl Harbor
on December, 7.
- 1942-1945: British and American air raids destroyed most German cities.
Allied aircraft often violated Switzerland's airspace on their way to
- 1943: Allied troops landed in Italy on July, 10. Italy changed sides.
Fascist dictator Mussolini was removed from office and arrested, but a
German command liberated him. When Mussolini tried to reach Switzerland
he was shot by Italian partisans [resistance fighters] in 1945.
- 1944: Allied landing in northern France on June, 6 and in southern
France on August, 15. Paris was liberated on August, 25 and by the end
of August, allied troops had reached Switzerlands border.
Final Phase of World War II
- 1943: In January U.S. president Roosevelt and U.K. prime minister
Churchill agreed in Casablanca that the war would last until Germany
would surrender unconditionally.
In November, Roosevelt and Churchill accepted Stalin's plan to annex
eastern Prussia and parts of Poland and give Poland some German
territory (new border marked by rivers Oder and Neisse). Germany should
1945: Hitler commanded total resistance to his armies, but when the
Red Army had reached Berlin, he cowardly committed suicide (April, 30).
- 1945: On May, 8 Germany capitulated and the second World War II came to
an end in Europe; in Asia the fighting went on, however.
- 1945: Japan, though in a desperate position, was not willing to end
the war. U.S. atomic bomb releases on Hiroshima (August, 8) and Nagasaki
(August, 9) changed this: on August, 15 World War II was over.
Timeline of the Second World War