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Ryan OFee

ec1407149

How Convincing is the Mainstream Historical Interpretation of World


War II?

Of all the wars in history, the Second World War is one of the few that the
majority of people would name as a good war a war in which the Allied
Powers united in a heroic struggle against the evils of the Axis and fascism.
However the common interpretation of the war can easily be argued against,
and many of the conventional viewpoints of the West regarding the conflict
can be shown as flawed.
One of the most common general statements about the Second World War is
that it was a conflict of ideologies, the free and democratic nations of Britain,
France and America clashing with Nazi Germany and Her fascist allies. There
are two main problems with this viewpoint, namely the idea of the Allied
nations being free and the idea of the Allied nations being democratic. The
nations of Britain and France both controlled vast oversea empires at the
start of the war, the people of which were not represented in their
government. Even the United States of America, the land of the free, was
operating a de facto empire across the Pacific, notably holding sovereignty
over the Philippines. The argument that these nations were fighting in the
name of freedom against the Axis powers can therefore reasonably be
disputed. The idea of the conflict being a war for democracy can likewise be
challenged when considering the state that contributed the most to the Allied
war effort in terms of blood and manpower the Soviet Union. The vast
majority of the battle against Germany came from the Eastern Front, not the
West, and here it cannot be claimed in any way that democracy had anything
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Ryan OFee

ec1407149

to do with the war; Germany lead by a fascist dictator and the USSR lead by a
communist dictator. It could still be argued that the Second World War was a
war of ideologies, with fascism being opposed by a coalition of the Western
democratic ideologies and the communism of the USSR, though this view can
be challenged by looking at the stances of prominent Western politicians,
notably Churchill. Numerous examples can be found of Churchills hatred for
communism, with an important quote from 1927 explicitly stating he would
have sided with Mussolini and the Italian fascists in their fight against the
communist influences in the country. However there were distinct differences
between Italian and German versions of fascism, and it is also easy to find
numerous examples of Churchill opposing Nazism throughout its rise: when
asked about his cooperation with the communist USSR he hated so much
Churchill famously claimed: If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a
favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.
Another common view of World War II is that the Allies were the force of good
and the Axis the force of evil. It is both extremely difficult and undesirable to
attempt to argue that Hitlers Final Solution or the Rape of Nanjing were not
objectively bad, however the view that the Allies were uniformly a force of
good can be disputed. For example, the Allies knew about Germanys
treatment of minorities such as the Jews and homosexuals, however there
was very little effort on their part to do anything about it: throughout 1944
there were multiple bombings of the factory areas of Auschwitz, but no
attempts to destroy the gas chambers of disrupt the railway lines taking the
prisoners to the death camp. The Axis member Bulgaria, realising they were
on the losing side late into the war, offered to hand over their Jewish
population to the British as a sign of goodwill, and the British government
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Ryan OFee

ec1407149

refused to take them. It is clear that the war was not being fought by the
Allies to prevent the genocides of the Nazis. The ethics of the decision to drop
the atomic bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki can also be widely debated.
Though it is often claimed that their use was instrumental in the swift
surrender of Japan and therefore saved many more lives than the bombs
themselves took, at least part of the Japanese government including the
emperor had been attempting to open talks of surrender with the then
neutral party of the Soviet Union, and the other Allied nations knew this. It is
perhaps then possible that the atomic bombings of Japan were not necessary
to force Japan to capitulate. It has been suggested that the United States was
instead looking to demonstrate to the USSR the power of the new weapons,
and consequently refused to consider terms of surrender with Japan until the
bombs had been dropped.
The views that the western Allies joined forces to rid the world of the evils of
Nazism is an over-simplified and often flawed view of World War II. Not only
did most of the conflict occur on the Eastern front, the actions of Britain,
France, and America in the war cannot be fully explained as an intent to help
good overcome evil.

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