The Second World War

From European War to World War

1941: Germany launched operation Barbarossa against the USSR and Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. The Soviets and the Americans joined the Allies in their fight against the Axis countries: the European war became a world war.

Globalization of the conflict

In 1941, after numerous attacks on both sides of the globe, war becomes global...

In 1941, the war went global. Since 1939, the Third Reich had spread in search of conquest: Europe, the Balkans or North Africa, when Hitler come to the aid of Mussolini’s Italian troops who had been defeated by the British in Egypt. Meanwhile the Reich was also waging a war without quarter in the Atlantic, relentlessly attacking allied convoys en route for Europe. Both the African campaign and the battle of the Atlantic are featured in large displays at the start of the first room.

In Asia, Japan had already invaded China in 1937. In 1941, these two distinct wars were combined, setting the whole world aflame. The first room is devoted to the two military events which marked 1941: in June, operation Barbarossa, starting the flood of German troops into the USSR and the spread of the conflict to the East; in December, the Japanese attack on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States, previously the Arsenal of Democracy, into a war which duly became a global conflict. The war with Japan features significantly here, which is intentional.

40% of the victims of the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945 died in the Asia-Pacific theater, including 24 million Chinese. Japanese expansionism and its often brutal military conquests were made possible only by excessive worship of the Emperor, unquestioning nationalist fervour and an authoritarian system headed by the Japanese army. Finally, there is a large display devoted to the Japanese warrior, an essential cog in the Japanese war machine.

Before leaving this first room, be sure to take in this large photograph, a snapshot of the immense geopolitical upheavals in the world after September 1939: the globe shows the territory controlled by the Reich through progressive military conquest. The copy presented here is an Austrian globe presenting the border modifications made in 1943. A unique model.

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