Socialist Worker

Darkest hour in human history

Issue No. 1677a

THE DEFEAT of the anti-fascist movements had the most horrendous consequences. With the Second World War came the horror of the Holocaust. Some of the great technological advances of the century were turned into instruments of slaughter. Tens of millions of people faced occupation under Nazi rule. That meant repression, hardship and death. In Poland over five and a half million people were killed-some 16 percent of the population. Across Europe, Jews were herded into ghettos from 1939, and from 1942 they were exported to the death camps. In all, the Nazis killed six million Jews.

When the war ended in 1945 many ordinary people's lives had been devastated. In German cities like Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne carpet bombing by the Allied forces had killed around 100,000 civilians. The 'Big Three'-US president Roosevelt, British prime minister Churchill and Russian ruler Stalin-sat down to redivide the world.

The divisions did not bring peace. Instead they meant a world divided into two rival blocs dominated by Russia and the US. The economic and military competition of the Cold War did not see as many millions killed on the battlefields as in the Second World War. But it brought the horror of conflicts like the Korean War in 1950.

Some 12 years later the spectre of nuclear war loomed with the Cuban Missile Crisis, as US and Russian military competition escalated. This era of imperialism meant that the ruling classes everywhere were more likely to use violence.

THE ATOMIC bomb the US dropped on the Japanese sea port of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 instantly cost 30,000 lives. Within months the number of deaths more than doubled. The US also dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, another Japanese city. Nearly 100,000 people died. The Japanese government had already indicated it was prepared to surrender.

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Sat 18 Dec 1999, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1677a
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