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World War II: 7 Sobering Facts About a War That Changed History

See the darkest sides of World War II below!

Less than 25 years after World War I threatened the world with total destruction, the human race once again saw itself collapsing into another crisis of unparalleled proportions. World War II is remembered as one of the most catastrophic chapters in the history of humanity.

It changed the world with technological advancements, nuclear power, and much more. However, not all facts about this war are well-known. In 1939, Nazi Germany began bulldozing through Europe, with countries falling like dominoes to Axis forces.

And by the time Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor brought our country into the war in 1941, the extent of this conflict was nothing like the world had ever seen or maybe even WOULD see.

And as is only suitable for such a big, earth-shattering event, even some of the relatively minor details of World War II have cemented their place in history since then and have become common knowledge.

Yet, even though you know the broad segments and some of the finer details, here are 7 devastating World War II facts you probably never learned in history class!

Photo by Everett Collection at Shutterstock

We Remember The Atomic Bombs…But What About The B-29 Bombers?

Five months prior to the atomic bombs hitting Japan, more than 300 US B-29 bombers embarked on one of the most disastrous air raids in world history. By the following day, on March 10th, 1945, more than 100,000 people were declared deceased. But that’s not the end of it.

A million people were now homeless, and over 15 square miles of Tokyo was turned to ash. And here’s another tidbit most may not realize: Shockingly, more people died in the Tokyo firebombing than in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Not-So-Fun Fact: Did you know that the initial abbreviation of the National Socialist Party was Nasos? The term “Nazi” comes from a Bavarian word meaning “simple-minded.” It was a simple insult, but the label stuck!

Emmy Göring

You’re probably not likely to hear about this one in any history books. Still, Emmy Göring, the wife of Nazi air force commander Hermann Göring, found herself involved in a bizarre triangle with Adolf Hitler and another woman and eventually proved to be one of the most prominent Nazi profiteers to escape justice basically.

During the war, Emmy became known as the “First Lady of the Third Reich” because of her status as a famous actress and the fact that she frequently hosted important state functions for Hitler at her husband’s lavish castles.

This “First Lady” title deeply upset Hitler’s lover Eva Braun… yes, that one. The two became entangled in a great feud that ultimately resulted in shouting matches between Hitler and Hermann Göring.

After the war, Emmy, who had significantly profited personally from the Nazi theft of Jewish wealth and therefore grown accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, received only one year in jail and was allowed to keep 70% of her stolen wealth.

The Red Army’s Nightmare

If you ever need a reminder of just how tumultuous World War II really was, let’s look at Soviet Russia. 80% of all the Russian males born in 1923 died throughout the war. The reality of that is downright staggering. The war practically eliminated an entire year’s worth of children.

And let’s not twist facts. They WERE essentially children. Germans swarmed the Soviet Union in 1941 during World War II. It was a massive invasion, and these young Soviet Union soldiers in the troops we mentioned weren’t experienced enough for an attack like this.

They were always taken by surprise and then killed or taken as prisoners to later be persecuted by the Nazis. After these attacks, a mere 1,100 out of the 3,400 males that were born in 1923 were left alive.

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Photo by Grisha Bruev at Shutterstock

World War II Is Still Going On…Technically Speaking

Japan and Russia haven’t signed a peace treaty to stop World War II yet. Let’s break it down: Near the war’s end, the Soviets occupied a few of the Kuril Islands, intending to launch aerial operations in the Pacific. A few other allies did this as well.

But it was a point of conflict with Japan…until the Japanese signed a treaty to relinquish any claim on the islands. Problem solved, right?… False. Japan now claims that some of the islands in question aren’t even part of the Kuril region, to begin with.

Therefore, Japan says they aren’t covered by the treaty. So who’s right? Technically speaking, Japan IS going back on that treaty… BUT it wasn’t really signed under fair circumstances, either.

Whatever Happened To…

Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, was the Nazis’ deadliest concentration camp. It was initially used as a detention center for political prisoners.

However, it very quickly evolved into an entire network of camps where Jewish people and many other enemies of the Nazi state were eradicated, often in gas chambers or used for slave labor.

Some of Auschwitz’s prisoners were also subjected to bizarre and barbaric medical experiments led by Josef Mengele. With more than 1.1 million deaths between 1940 and 1945, Auschwitz alone had a higher death total than the US and UK losses during the entire war combined.

So now let’s get to some infuriating facts: Of the 7,500 camp staff that was responsible for those deaths, a mere 750 were ever punished for their crimes. Many of the others went on to have successful postwar careers in the private sector!

What’s In A Name?

You’ve obviously heard the word thousands of times. But do you know what it truly means? The word “Holocaust” actually means “whole burnt.”

It’s a term that was used to describe the whole-scale murder of a group of people over the centuries, even though today, of course, it’s most often associated with the harsh lives of the Jewish population during World War II.

There’s some debate on this subject, though. This term was initially used by Jewish people way before the war to describe a sacrifice to God. Some people even feel that it’s an inappropriate way to describe such a brutal genocide.

As a result, many people, particularly in Israel, prefer the term “Shoah.”

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Photo by Stanislav Samoylik at Shutterstock

We Should Protect ALL Human Life

The history of the Holocaust shows just how dark human nature is. We often hear about the horrors caused during the Second World War. But we always want to know…Where were the saviors? Sure, we know the name Oskar Schindler.

But he couldn’t have been the only one. Well, thankfully, in the face of such despicable hatred, there are also many stories that show how loving humans can be.

One perfect example is the story of Si Kaddour Benghabrit, who was the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris during World War II.

When he saw that persecution of the Jewish population kept escalating around him, Benghabrit helped people escape the Nazis by providing shelter, safe passage, and falsified Muslim birth certificates. And speaking of heroes, Benghabrit was only one of many.

During this time, two Polish doctors saved 8,000 Jewish people from the Holocaust by intelligently faking a typhus epidemic. German armed forces chose not to enter their town, afraid of catching the disease.

If you enjoyed this article about World War II, we’ve got many more fascinating posts. We highly recommend you check out this one: 8 Inspiring Historical Sites Every American Should Visit


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