World War II
World War II
Occupied Territories

World War II
the Homefront

A) The Impact of the War on Society

Fortress Europe - the accumulation of territories occupied by or allied with Germany, stretching in 1942 from the French Atlantic coast to the steppes of Ukraine - had a serious deficiency : it lacked a roof. Large areas were vulnerable to air raids - most of Italy from Malta, the west of Germany from airbases located in England. The Royal Air Force, later joined by the US Airforce, flew many raids against German cities and created serious damage. The raid on Dresden in Feb. 1945 utterly destroyed the city in an inferno few survived. In the later years of the war, Germany tried to respond by sending V-1 and V-2 missiles against targets in England. Both in Britain, Germany and elsewhere the population tried to cope with the permanent threat of an air attack. Alarm systems and bomb shelters were installed, the Dark Out ordered. Important facilities and cities were protected by Ack-Acks (Ger.: Flak). In certain cases, the non-essential population was evacuated.
The war impacted every area of society, everywhere. The Axis powers found themselves under a sea blockade, though undeclared. Britain's import shipments from overseas were under permanent threat by German U-Boats. Early in the war all belligerents introduced a centrally managed war economy, with prices controlled to check inflation, with production oriented on the wartime demands, with Coupons being handed out to ensure a fair distribution of scarce consumer goods. Industry had to cope with a severe shortage of labor, as most able-bodied men were drafted into the army. Skilled workers sometimes were classified as indispensable and exemted from military service. Women were asked to join the labor force in large numbers. The German administration of occupied countries required citizens of these countries to work in Germany (Forced Labour).

B.) The Final Months

After the fall of Stalingrad, the tide turned against Germany. Minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels in February 1943 proclaimed the Total War. All aspects of society were to be streamlined to serve the war effort. Theaters and libraries were closed, non-essential workers and employees drafted. The program was successful as industrial production peaked in 1944. However, the invasion of Normandy made evident that the war could only be lost. While the allies hoped for an early German surrender, Hitler was to hold out til the last man, hoping for a miracle similar to that which had saved Frederick the Great in the 7 Years War. The German propaganda based it's hopes on the Endsieg (final victory) on Wunderwaffen (miracle weapons), mainly on the missile project (V-1, V-2) and on the Nuclear Bomb Project. Germany was renamed into Grossdeutsches Reich (Greater German Empire).

Stamps as instruments of propaganda :
Stamps of the Grossdeutsches Reich featuring was scenes, picturing war in a romanticised, heroic way.
On the left : U-Boat Captain looking for target, through periscope.
On the right : Ack-ack team lighting the sky looking out for bombers.

On July 20th 1944 a group of officers, led by Generaloberst Stauffenberg, attempted to assassinate Hitler and establish a new government. The bomb detonated, but Hitler survived; the conspirators were executed the same day. With the front coming closer, air raids taking their toll, the state, the economy, society began to fall apart. The number of deserters grew; those caught were immediately executed. The essentials - food, clothes, shoes - were hardly available in the stores. Cityfolk toured the countryside to barter food from the farmers; money was worthless. In a last effort to save the Heimat (Homeland, the Volkssturm was established, a unit formed of poorly armed, untrained school students and of those too old to be previously drafted. With foord, medical supplies and coal becoming extremely scarce, forced labor and the inmates of concentration camps suffered even more.
Finally, Hitler's suicide made the German surrender possible (May 7th/8th 1945). The war was over.

Long live our sacred Germany, the story of Claus Count von Stauffenberg, from Ursula's History Web
DOCUMENTS ----- note : some of the documents listed below are propagandistic and/or offensive. Discretion is advised -----

German Propaganda Posters, from Earth Station #1
A personal account of childhood years in Nazi Germany by Ursula Grosser-Dixon, from Ursula's History Web : From the Supreme Teachings of Nazi Ideology to the Ramifications of Unprecedented Betrayal, Living Through the Götterdämmerung of the Third Reich
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Cologne, Air Raid Victims, May 1942; Bombs are dropped over a German town; Weisse Rose : Hans Scholl; Air Raid Alarm in Berlin, c.1943; Berlin Sportpalast, Feb. 18th 1943 : Goebbels' Total War Speech; Weisse Rose : Alexander Schmorell; Weisse Rose : Sophie Scholl; Weisse Rose : Hans Scholl; Weisse Rose : Christoph Probst; Berlin Sportpalast, Feb. 18th 1943 : Goebbels' Total War Speech; Weisse Rose : Sophie Scholl; Bishop Count von Galen; Hamburg Air Raid Victims, July 28th 1943; Hannover's Inner City, Oct. 19th 1943; Kassel, Air Raid Victims, Oct. 22nd 1943; Berlin, Air Raid Alarm; Munich burning after an Air Raid, 1944; Volkssturm men receive instruction, Sept. 25th 1944; Establishment of the Volkssturm, Sept. 25th 1944; Germany, Air Raid Victims; Ostpreussen, Refugee Treck; Aachen (US Army apporaching) : civilian population flees; Hitler shows Mussolini destroyed bunker, after July 20th 1944; July 20th 1944 : slightly wounded Hitler holds his arm; July 20th 1944 : Hitler, Keitel (with bandaged head); Claus Count Schenk von Stauffenberg; Rastenburg, Jult 20th 1944 : Wolfsschanze Bunker after Explosion; Volksgerichtshof : Freisler reads death sentences against plotters; Berlin Ploetzensee, place of execution; Gen. von Witzleben in front of Volksgerichtshof; Lt. Gen. Ludwig Beck; Volksgerichtshof : Freisler in Action; Treck of Refugees from Ostpreussen; A Refugee Treck has come under fire, Kurisches Haff Jan. 1945; The main task of the German Navy is the evacuation of Ostpreussen's population, Jan.- May 1945; Vice Admirals Thiele and Rogge organize the evacuation of Ostpreussen's population, Jan.-May 1945; The "Wilhelm Gustloff", which in Jan. 1945, overloaded with refugees, was torpedoed; Refugee victims on the overfrozen Kurisches Haff, Jan. 1945; Refugee Treck from Ostpreussen; Air Raid on Dresden, April 13th/14th 1945; Air Raid on Dresden, April 13th/14th 1945; Ostpreussen refugees, leaving all belongings behind, reach the "Sanga"; Dresden after the raid : collection of corpses; Dresden after the raid : burning of corpses
Lothar's Story : The Fire-Bombing of Dresden, an eyewitness account, from Stories from the 1940's
World War II, selected letters of German soldiers, from Feldpost Archiv, available in German and in English translation
REFERENCE Karl Dietrich Erdmann, Kriegswirtschaft und Kriegsfinanzierung (War Economy and War Financing), in : K.D. Erdmann, Der Zweite Weltkrieg (World War II), Gebhardt : Handbuch der Deutschen Geschichte, Vol.21, pp.123-130; in German [G]
J. Heideking and C. Mauch, American Intelligence and German Resistance to Hitler, Westview 1996, 457 pp., document edition [G]
Article : Germany, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.333-338, 1943 pp.314-317, 1944 pp.301-303, 1945 pp.318-321 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1945 pp.312-316 (on events in 1944) [G]
Article : Germany, in : New International Year Book, Events of 1940 pp.306-314, 1941 pp.236-242, 1942 pp.278-283, 1943 pp.235-242, 1944 pp.247-254, 1945 pp.236-244 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.269-274, 1941 pp.219-224, 1942 pp.192-197, 1943 pp.193-198, 1944 pp.132-134 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 7th 2007

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