The Second World War was the deadliest and most destructive global conflict in history, claiming the lives of more than 50 million people. Adolf Hitler started the war in 1939 when his German forces invaded Poland.
When did WW2 start? 1 September 1939
When did it end? 2 September 1945
Which countries were involved? The Second World War involved almost every part of the world. But the key players were the Axis powers on one side (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and on the other side
the Allies (France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China)
How many people died? It has been estimated that 50 million soldiers and civilians died in the Second World War
Why did WW2 happen? We can now say without equivocation that this was Hitler’s war, say expert historians including Professor Richard Evans, Sir Ian Kershaw and Laurence Rees
A ‘good’ war?
In contrast with the First World War, the 1939–45 conﬂict has been perceived in the UK as a ‘good’ war resulting in the triumph of western democracies over evil fascist regimes, says Emma Hanna, a lecturer in the School of History at the University of Kent. The Second World War, despite its many hardships and historians’ subsequent findings to the contrary, is remembered as a time the nation put aside differences and pulled together to fight for freedom.
It is therefore unsurprising that memories of the ‘finest hour’ have been frequently invoked in the British media, particularly in times of stress and uncertainty. The fascination with the Battle of Britain continues, together with the mythology of the Blitz and the now ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster (which was never actually deployed during the war but is now seen on mugs, tea towels, and countless other products).