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78 years ago, it began: Here are some of the key moments of the World War 2

Adolf Hitler’s Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, starting the deadliest war of the time.

world Updated: Sep 02, 2017 15:53 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
World War 2,Adolf Hitler,Nazi
German Nazi chancellor Adolf Hitler (centre) receives an ovation from the Reichstag and members of parliament who give him the nazi salute, for the “Anschluss” with Austria, the "peaceful" acquisition of Austria, in March 1938 in Berlin.(AFP Photo)

Seventy-eight years ago, Adolf Hitler’s Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, starting what was going to be the one of the deadliest wars in the history of mankind.

Here are some of the key moments of the World War 2: 


German term for ‘lightning war’ was a military tactic used by Hitler’s army. In 1940, the Wehrmacht unleashed blitzkrieg on Netherlands, Belgium and France, on May 10. The Allies were taken aback by the German war machine setback and the setback forced Britain prime minister Neville Chamberlain to resign. He was replaced by Winston Churchill.

Thousands of British and allied troops who were sandwiched between the sea and German soldiers were evacuated from France. The daring evacuation at ‘Dunkirk’ is this year’s much celebrated Christopher Nolan war movie.

Invasion of USSR

Hitler’s invasion of Russia pushed the Allies and the Soviet Union into an unlikely alliance. On June 22, 1941, millions of German troops marched into the Soviet Union in ‘Operation Barbarossa’.

This was a key moment in World War 2 that contributed to Nazi Germany’s eventual loss as it forced Hitler’s troops to fight a two-front war with powerful enemies.

A map issued by the Nazis in 1937, found in Czechoslovakia, and published as a poster in England shows how Hitler's Third Reich aimed at conquering most of Europe, including Great Britain by 1948. The British anti-war propaganda poster reads "Now the Policy of Grab-Grab-Grab is at last halted". ( AFP Photo )


Although the invasion of USSR began in 1941, it was the defeat in battle of Stalingrad that is considered crucial to the Nazi forces’ morale.

Soviet Union’s rough terrain was site of the bloodiest battle in the World War 2. Owing to its name, both Hitler and Stalin were determined to claim victory in the city that carried Volga river. Stalin had famously ordered his army to take “not one step back”. Nearly two million people were killed, injured and captured in the battle and civilians caught in the crossfire. In February of 1943, the Red Army stubbed the Nazi offensive, dealing a blow to Hitler’s Germany.

Pearl Harbour

In a massive surprise attack, 360 Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. It turned out to be a boon for Britain and France as the strike forced US, then led by president Franklin D Roosevelt, to join the World War 2 against the Axis powers.

Italy surrenders

Allied advance into in 1943 Italy proved to be detrimental to the Axis alliance. After deposing dictator Benito Mussolini, the Italian government tried to change sides. The secret armstice and left Germany to take up the mantle of defence in the Mediterrannean country.


On June 6,1944, Allied forces launched the largest seaborne invasion of Normandy to liberate northwestern Europe from Nazi control.

Allies suffered huge casualties in the Battle of Normandy, which lasted till August. The men landed under heavy gunfire, the shores were mined and there were other obstacles such as metal tripods and barbed wires. Code-named ‘Operation Overload’, it is said the Normandy landings were the beginning of the end of World War 2.

Liberation of Auschwitz

Auschwitz -- one of the most barbaric concentration camps where Jews, prisoners of war and dissidents were systematically killed by the anti-Semitic Germany -- was liberated on January 27, 1945. Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished in five years in Auschwitz before it was liberated by the Soviet forces.

Hitler is dead

As Berlin was ransacked by the Red Army, Adolf Hitler -- after marrying his wife Eva Braun -- commited suicide April 30, 1945 in the crumbling capital of Germany. Their bodies were burnt and hastily buried after the couple committed suicide by eating cyanide at the bunker where they were hiding.

January 2, 1948: German Chancellor Adolf Hitler's teared and blood stained uniform worn by the dictator on the day German officers attempted to kill him in a bomb attack 20 June 1944. The picture was taken just before the uniform was secretly burnt in the presence of top Allied Army officers 27 August 1947. The suit was destroyed so that it never became a Nazi cult object. ( AFP Photo )

Hiroshima, Nagasaki

The deadly war finally ended after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. The two bombings killed over a lakh but scores were injured -- for many, it ran through generations -- due to the toxic radioactive material used in nuclear weapons.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 18:25 IST