IMPORTANT TERMS OF WORLD WAR II
Below is a glossary of important terms related to the major events of World War II. Click on the links to learn more about each term and the topics they're related to. Alternatively, you may also read about important people of World War II by clicking the link.
An alliance system of World War II that included several countries, such as: Britain, France, the Soviet Union, United States, Canada and Australia.
Refers to the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938 before the start of World War II. It's considered to be part of the period of appeasement carried out by the Allied countries before World War II.
The name for the foreign policy of the Western European countries (Britain and France) towards Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler in the years after World War I but before World War II. It is often associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
A strategy in warfare in which one side attempts to win by wearing down the enemy's ability to continue to fight due to an overwhelming loss of soldiers and weapons. This was a common strategy used throughout the Pacific Theater of World War II between the United States and Japan.
An alliance system of World War II that included several countries, such as: Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.
Refers to the type of warfare that Nazi Germany used in World War II in battles such as the German invasion of Poland and the Battle of France. It involved advancing armies using fast moving armor divisions supported by aircraft bombing runs. Next, advancing forces would support the tanks and aircraft by having soldiers move in and capture the territory from the now destroyed or retreating enemy.
It is a Japanese term often associated with the samurai of Japan's past. In general, it relates to a set of principles that Japanese samurai are expected to adhere to including: 'death before dishonour' and respect for the emperor. In World War II, the code of bushido was an important factor in Japan's unwillingness to surrender. Also, it helped explain the brutal nature in which Japanese soldiers fought during the Pacific Theater of World War II.
Refers to when a government or other organization limits the amount and kind of information that a society has access too. Dictatorships during World War II, such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, were known to censor the information that their citizens had access to. For example, Nazi Germany famously carried out book burning rallies in which they burned any books deemed 'undesirable'.
It is an economic and political system that is based on the principles of socialism, especially the earlier development of Marxism and the ideas of Karl Marx as expressed in the Communist Manifesto. Similar to Marxism, communism is centered on the idea of establishing a society based upon public ownership of the means of production and the removal of any form of social classes. The Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin was communist during World War II.
Refers to a violent overthrow of the government by an outside force, such as during a revolution. Adolf Hitler famously attempted to overthrow the Weimar Republic in Germany as part of his Beer Hall Putsch.
A form of government in which most or all authority of the country is in the hands of a single individual; the leader. World War II saw several famous dictators including: Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, and Benito Mussolini in Italy.
An authoritarian ideology that was popular in some countries during the 20th century. Specifically, it is often associated with the time period of World War II and countries such as Italy under Benito Mussolini and Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Fascism rejects liberal values, such as democracy and individual rights and freedoms. Instead, fascism is the belief that society as a whole has a shared purpose and all actions by the individual must benefit the state as a whole.
A german word associated with Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany that means 'the leader'. Hitler became the Fuhrer of Germany after his rise to power.
This was a secret police whose main task was to maintain the Nazi Regime in Germany and later in the occupied countries.
A genocide that occurred from 1933 until 1945 in Nazi Germany and Nazi controlled territory during World War II. It was a major war crime that resulted in the death of over 11 million people including 6 million European Jewish people.
Is when a country experiences inflation of its currency at an incredibly fast rate. It is related to the time period after World War I when Germany experienced hyperinflation as a result of the policies of the Treaty of Versailles. The economic problems associated with hyperinflation helped lead to the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.
Refers to the process of teaching a group of people a certain set of beliefs and values without judging them. Was related to World War II when Nazi Germany indoctrinated its own citizens in the beliefs of the Nazi Party, including: anti-semitism and eugenics. The Nazi Party created the Hitler Youth as a tool to indoctrinate German Youth in Nazi beliefs.
Refers to the process of forcibly removing a certain group from society and locking them up in labor or detention camps. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were interned in the camps in the United States following Japan's surprise attack at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.
This was the strategy that the United States used in the Pacific Theater of World War II against Imperial Japan. It involved the United States forces leapfrogging islands throughout the Pacific and only focusing on larger more significant islands. In general, it sped up the process by which the United States was able to defeat and push back the Japanese to their home islands.
Refers to the Japanese pilots of World War II in the Pacific Theater of the war that killed themselves by flying their planes into American ships.
This is a German word that translates to 'living space'. The concept of lebensraum was discussed by Adolf Hitler in his famous book 'Mein Kampf'. Simply put, Hitler believed that Germany needed more living space to increase farm production, which would result in a higher population. He argued that Nazi Germany could increase its living space by invading and taking over large sections of the Soviet Union. He ultimately tried and failed to achieve this as part of Operation Barbarossa.
This is the name for the airforce of Nazi Germany during World War II. The Luftwaffe were important in carrying out German blitzkrieg tactics in major battles, such as the German invasion of Poland and the Battle of France. The Luftwaffe was famously commanded by prominent Nazi official Hermann Goering.
This was the French defensive line that extended along France's border with Germany. The lines of defensive bunkers and weapons was created to prevent another invasion by Germany following World War I. Obviously, it failed to contain Germany aggression, as the Nazi forces were able to go around the Maginot Line during the Battle of France.
This was the codename for the secret American project to create the first atomic bomb in the history of the world. Ultimately, the project led to the creation of the two atomic bombs which were used against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Formally called the National Socialist German Workers Party, the Nazi Party was the far right-wing political party in Germany that rose to power after World War I. It was famously headed by Adolf Hitler and included other prominent members such as: Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, and Heinrich Himmler. The Nazi Party followed extreme beliefs, including: anti-Semitism and eugenics.
This was an agreement between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union before the start of World War II in which the two countries agreed not to attack each other even though they were enemies. Signed in Moscow on August 23rd, 1939, it is also referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The pact was an important event in the lead up to World War II, and led to the division of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union. The pact was ended when Germany finally invaded the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa.
These were the trials established after World War II by the Allied nations in order to convict Nazi German officials for war crimes, crimes against humanity and for starting the war. It was a major event in both World War II and the Holocaust because it was the final stage of both. Hermann Goering was the highest ranking Nazi member that was tried as part of the Nuremberg Trials.
This is a German word that translates to armor. In World War II it was used in reference to Nazi German tank divisions. These tank divisions were especially important in blitzkrieg tactics.
Refers to the time period after the Nazi German invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939 (which historians view as the start of World War II) but before the major events of the Battle of France. No actual fighting took place during this time despite the fact that both Britain and France had declared war on Germany.
This was a World War II meeting between the Allied powers. It occurred from July 17th to August 2nd in 1945 and was a wartime meeting of the Allied leaders, including: Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Truman had just replaced Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the United States following his death. The meeting took place in Potsdam, which at the time was in the Allied controlled area of Germany. The purpose of the conference was for the three Allied powers to begin discussing how to handle the defeat of Nazi Germany, which had occurred just recently.
Refers to any information that is created to persuade citizens of a country but is usually used in reference to government created information. In World War II, all nations created propaganda and it came in many different forms, including: posters, radio addresses, short video clips, movies, pamphlets, etc. Several of the main purposes of propaganda included: recruitment, rationing of resources, demonizing the enemy or a scapegoated population, etc.
An abbreviation for the 'Royal Air Force' in relation to Britain's famous air force of World War II. The RAF was vital to Britain's success in the war, especially in terms of battles such as the Battle of Britain.
The name for the German parliament. It was famously burned during Adolf Hitler's rise to power in an event known as the Reichstag Fire. This famous event led to the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act which helped solidify Hitler's power over the country.
This is the name for the agreement between Nazi Germany and Italy during World War II. The agreement was reached in 1936 and linked the two fascist nations.
An abbreviation for the Sturmabteilung, which was a Nazi paramilitary organization that was vital to Adolf Hitler's and the Nazi Party's rise to power in Germany. Also called the 'brownshirts' The SA was formed in 1920 as a protection force for Adolf Hitler and Nazi rallies. They also famously carried out the events of Kristallnacht against Jewish people in Germany.
An abbreviation for the Schutztaffel, which was an important paramilitary organization in Nazi Germany during the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the major events of World War II and the Holocaust. Hitler ordered the creation of the SS in 1925 in order to act as his personal security force in public rallies and meetings throughout Germany. While the SS was originally formed as part of the SA, the SS grew to become much bigger and significant, especially in terms of its role in carrying out the Holocaust.
The name of the treaty that ended World War I and is often viewed as a major cause of World War II. It imposed a series of harsh punishments on Germany that caused political, economic and social unrest in the country. Adolf Hitler rose to power on a wave of anger against the treaty and actively worked to destroy it after he obtained power in Nazi Germany.
The name for the agreement between Nazi Germany, Italy and Imperial Japan that was signed on September 27th, 1940. It linked the three countries together in the war and formed the Axis Powers of World War II.
This was the name for the first ever test of an atomic bomb in the history of the world. It occurred on July 16th, 1945 in New Mexico and was an important event in the history of atomic weapons and World War II. Just 3 weeks later, the United States would use two atomic bombs against Japan in order to end the fighting fo World War II.
This was the name of the German armed forces during World War II.
This was a World War II meeting between the Allied powers. It occurred from February 4th to the 11th in 1945 and was a wartime meeting of the Allied leaders, including: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. The meeting took place near Yalta, which is now a city in Crimea, Ukraine. The purpose of the conference was for the three Allied powers to begin discussing how to reorganize Europe once Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany were defeated. While, World War II in Europe was not over yet, the Allies could see that the end of the war was near and that Germany would soon be defeated. The hope was that the three leaders could agree on how to divide Europe following the war.