German territorial expansion 1939-43

German territorial expansion 1939-43

Initial Expansion: 1939-1940

  • Invasion of Poland (September 1939): Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, initiated World War II with the invasion of Poland, using their blitzkrieg tactics.
  • Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact: For this invasion, Germany had signed a pact with the Soviet Union, which allowed them to divide Poland between them.
  • Conquest of Denmark and Norway (April 1940): Germany invaded these countries to secure the iron ore from Sweden and safeguard their naval operational bases.
  • Fall of France (May-June 1940): A swift and successful offensive using blitzkrieg tactics resulted in French defeat and German occupation until 1944.

Height of German Control: 1941-1942

  • Invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941): Hitler broke the non-aggression pact and launched Operation Barbarossa, aiming to secure ‘living space’ (Lebensraum) for the German people and destroy Communism.
  • North African Campaign (1940-1943): This was a struggle for control of the Suez Canal and access to oil from the Middle East.
  • Establishment of Concentration and Death Camps (1941-1942): During this period, camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor were operating at full capacity, implementing Hitler’s barbaric Final Solution.

Turning Points and Setbacks: 1943

  • Defeat at Stalingrad (February 1943): The German army suffered a crippling defeat at the hands of the Soviets, marking the turning point of World War II.
  • Allied invasion of Italy (July 1943): Italy became a war zone, drawing German resources away from the Eastern and Western fronts.
  • Displacement of German administration in Eastern Europe (from late 1943): Soviet advances and successful resistance movements gradually pushed back German control in Eastern Europe.

Key Concepts

  • Blitzkrieg: Literally meaning ‘lightning war’, this was a military tactic designed to create disorganisation among enemy forces through short, fast, powerful attacks.
  • Lebensraum: This term refers to the ‘living space’ Hitler claimed was needed for the German race to survive and thrive.
  • Final Solution: Hitler’s plan to systematically exterminate the Jewish population in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust.