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Stories from the beaches of Normandy in 1944 to Berlin Germany
From the beaches of Normandy to Berlin

History of D-Day and World War 2

Told by those who were there

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Each year around 6th June, the tourist offices of the Landing Beaches area invite you to celebrate freedom! During the D-Day Festival Normandy, visitors will enjoy a popular programme of festive and cultural events! The Festival promises to be a beautiful and moving celebration for this 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings! We wish you a pleasant stay in Normandy!

What was the Second World War?


World War II (WWII or WW2), often referred to as the Second World War, was a monumental global conflict that raged from 1939 to 1945, reshaping the course of history. This unparalleled conflict drew the vast majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis powers. The scale of the war was unprecedented, involving over 100 million personnel from more than 30 countries, who mobilized their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities in a state of total war.

WWII stands as one of the darkest chapters in human history, marked by staggering casualties estimated between 50 to 85 million, with the toll falling heavily on civilians, particularly in the Soviet Union and China. The war inflicted unimaginable suffering, with millions falling victim to genocides, including the Holocaust, systematic starvation, massacres, and rampant disease.

Aircraft emerged as crucial assets in the conflict, playing pivotal roles in strategic bombing campaigns aimed at crippling enemy infrastructure and morale. Moreover, WWII witnessed landmark technological advancements, including the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 not only brought a decisive end to the war but also ushered in the nuclear age, forever altering the course of human history.

When did World War II begin?

The outbreak of World War II unfolded dramatically on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany launched a devastating invasion of Poland, setting off a cataclysmic chain of events that would reshape the course of the 20th century. This unprovoked assault, carried out without a formal declaration of war, constituted a flagrant breach of international law and stands as a seminal moment in history.

Nazi Germany's pretext for the invasion was based on unfounded claims of an imminent Polish attack, despite the absence of credible evidence. In reality, Poland had been actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to secure a non-aggression pact with Germany in the preceding months. The invasion itself was marked by unparalleled brutality, with Nazi forces inflicting unimaginable suffering on the Polish population. Over 6 million Polish civilians, including more than 2 million Jews, fell victim to Nazi violence, while the country's infrastructure was systematically destroyed.

In response to Germany's aggression, just two days later, on September 3rd, 1939, France and Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, officially signaling the commencement of World War II. The invasion of Poland served as a grim harbinger of Nazi Germany's willingness to resort to aggression and violence to achieve its objectives. Moreover, it precipitated a global conflict of unprecedented scale and destruction, leaving an enduring imprint on human history as one of the deadliest conflicts ever witnessed.

World War II casualties

The Second World War stands as one of the most devastating conflicts in human history, claiming an estimated 50-85 million lives. This staggering toll included approximately ±20 million military personnel and a tragic ±40 million civilians. The causes of death were varied and harrowing, ranging from deliberate genocide, such as the Holocaust, to brutal massacres, bombings, disease outbreaks, and widespread famine. It is paramount to honor and preserve the memory of those who perished during this dark chapter in history. The infographic provided below offers a detailed breakdown of casualties by country, encompassing both military and civilian losses. By hovering over the dots, users can access specific numbers.

Military deaths represent the sacrifices of soldiers and other armed forces personnel, while civilian deaths encompass the untold stories of non-combatants, including Jews, executed civilians, Roma and Sinti people, homosexuals, forced laborers, and countless others who fell victim to the atrocities of war. Let us never forget the profound sacrifices made during the Second World War, as we continue to learn from history and strive towards a future of peace and understanding.

This website is a tribute to the people of WW2
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This website is a labor of love and tribute to the veterans and victims of World War II. It is not motivated by politics or financial gain, and aims to provide comprehensive and accurate information about the war.


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Adolf Hitler's rise to power

The origins of Nazism can be traced back to Dietrich Eckart, who played a pivotal role in shaping Adolf Hitler's ideological foundation. Born on March 23, 1868, in Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Bavaria, Eckart came from a privileged background as the son of a prominent notary and lawyer. However, Eckart's life took a tragic turn with the loss of both parents at a young age, leading him down a path of indulgence and financial ruin. Despite his tumultuous personal life, Eckart was a prolific figure in German society, known for his anti-Semitic poetry, playwriting, journalism, and political activism. As a member of the Thule Society, an influential nationalist and anti-Semitic group based in Munich, Eckart played a pivotal role in shaping Hitler's beliefs, particularly his anti-Semitic fervor and vision of authoritarian leadership.

Adolf Hitler, born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, underwent a transformative journey that brought him to Germany in 1913. His experiences as a soldier in World War I profoundly influenced his political outlook, paving the way for his ascent to power.

The Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP), founded on January 5, 1919, by Eckart, Anton Drexler, Gottfried Feder, and Karl Harrer, provided the platform for Hitler's political career. Joining the party in September 1919, Hitler quickly rose through the ranks, eclipsing Drexler's leadership with his charismatic oratory and radical vision. Under Hitler's direction, the DAP underwent a transformation into the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), or Nazi Party, adopting a 25-point program that articulated its nationalist and anti-Semitic agenda. By 1921, Hitler had assumed full control of the party, relegating Drexler to a marginal role.

The Nazy party increases its power

As Adolf Hitler assumed leadership of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), the party underwent a significant evolution, marked by a shift towards a more aggressive and ominous stance. This transformation was underscored by the establishment of the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA) in collaboration with Ernst Röhm, signaling a militarization of the party's approach.

The NSDAP strategically tapped into widespread public discontent stemming from various sources, including economic hardships, the lingering impact of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I, and the prevailing political instability in post-war Germany. By capitalizing on these grievances, Hitler sought to galvanize support for the NSDAP's radical agenda.

Moreover, the interplay of religious affiliations and regional sentiments played a significant role in shaping political dynamics, particularly in Bavaria. With its predominantly Catholic population, Bavaria harbored reservations against the central authority emanating from predominantly Protestant Berlin. Recognizing Bavaria's potential as a stronghold for his movement, Hitler targeted the region as a key battleground in his quest for power.

Mein Kampf

Following the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, an attempted coup d'état against the Weimar Republic in Munich, Adolf Hitler, along with his cohorts including Dietrich Eckart, Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, and Ernst Röhm, faced imprisonment in Landsberg, Germany. This pivotal moment served as the catalyst for Hitler's seminal work, "Mein Kampf," which not only encapsulated his personal worldview but also laid the groundwork for his future political ambitions.

Hitler's strategic pivot post-Putsch focused on leveraging legal avenues rather than direct force to ascend to power. A central tenet of his ideological platform was the scapegoating and vilification of the Jewish population, which served as a unifying rallying cry for the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). Rooted in social Darwinism, the NSDAP propagated the notion of Aryan racial superiority while advocating for the marginalization or eradication of perceived "inferior" races.

"Mein Kampf" served as a blueprint for Hitler's vision of German expansion, or "Lebensraum," alongside a comprehensive societal and economic overhaul. The systematic exclusion and persecution of Jews began in earnest following Hitler's rise to power in 1933. Legislative acts such as the infamous Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935 stripped Jews of their citizenship rights and imposed severe restrictions on their freedoms, including intermarriage and sexual relations with non-Jews.

From street fighters to political power

In the crucial parliamentary elections of 1930 and 1932, the Nazi Party experienced a remarkable surge in representation within the Reichstag, the German parliament. Although they fell short of securing an outright majority, their escalating influence marked a profound shift in the political landscape, positioning them as a potent force to be reckoned with.

The Weimar Republic, established in the aftermath of World War I, grappled with the daunting task of forming stable coalition governments amid a fractured political environment. Traditional parties struggled to effectively address the pressing economic and social challenges of the era, leaving room for more extreme ideologies to gain traction. Against this backdrop of uncertainty and unrest, influential conservative and business figures saw an opportunity to leverage the rising popularity of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party as a bulwark against the perceived threat of communism. Through clandestine negotiations, these power brokers sought to co-opt Hitler and his associates to stabilize the government and safeguard their own interests.

On January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg succumbed to pressure from conservative advisors and appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. This decision, made in the hopes of harnessing Hitler's nationalist appeal within a broader coalition government, was driven by a belief that they could control and manipulate the Nazi Party for their own ends. However, this shortsighted strategy underestimated the fervor and ambition of Hitler and his followers, setting the stage for a seismic shift in German and global politics.

The burning of the Reichstag

The Reichstag Fire, which occurred on February 27, 1933, stands as a critical and controversial event in the history of Nazi Germany. The German Reichstag building in Berlin suffered extensive damage in the fire, leading to the arrest, prosecution, and execution of Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe as the alleged perpetrator. Following a four-month trial in Leipzig, van der Lubbe was beheaded by the guillotine on January 10, 1934.

However, in 1955, SA (Sturmabteilung) man Hans Martin Lennings made a notarially recorded statement challenging the official narrative. Lennings asserted that van der Lubbe could not have acted alone, claiming he had driven the Dutchman to the Reichstag by car. Upon their arrival, Lennings and his colleagues allegedly detected the smell of fire and observed light smoke, suggesting that the fire had already been initiated, possibly by the Nazis themselves, before van der Lubbe arrived.

The aftermath of the Reichstag Fire had profound consequences. On March 23, 1933, in response to the incident, the Nazi Party swiftly passed the Law for the Protection of the People and the State. This legislation granted the government sweeping powers to suppress opposition, marking a significant leap towards the Nazi Party's establishment of absolute control over the state. The law served as a pivotal moment in the erosion of civil liberties and the consolidation of authoritarian rule in Nazi Germany.

Dietrich Eckart

Origins of Nazism can be traced back to Dietrich Eckart

The origins of Nazism can be traced back to Dietrich Eckart.

Hitler's political manifesto

Hitler writes mein kampf in the landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler embarked on writing Mein Kampf while incarcerated after his unsuccessful coup in Munich. The book was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926 respectively.


Hitler becomes Chancellor

Anti Jewish poster from the German Ministry of Propaganda

Adolf Hitler and German President Paul von Hindenburg, pictured shortly after Hindenburg's invitation for Hitler to assume the position of chancellor in 1933.

Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was the alleged perpetrator.

Marinus van der Lubbe was a Dutch communist who gained infamy for his alleged role in the Reichstag Fire of February 27, 1933, in Berlin, Germany. Born on January 13, 1909, van der Lubbe became politically active during a period of intense social and economic upheaval in Europe.

The 'Kristallnacht'

In the wake of the expulsion of Polish citizens of Jewish descent residing in Germany, a pivotal moment unfolded when a 17-year-old named Herschel Grynszpan shot German diplomat Ernst vom Rath at the German embassy in Paris. This act was a direct response to the expulsion of Grynszpan's parents, who had called Germany home since 1911. Vom Rath succumbed to his injuries two days later, sparking tensions that led to hostility against the Jewish community within Germany.

The night of November 9 to November 10, 1938, marked a significant turning point as a notable anti-Jewish incident occurred. Termed Kristallnacht, or the "Night of Broken Glass," this episode earned its name from the fragments of shattered windows strewn across German streets. Synagogues, private homes, and businesses owned by Jewish individuals were targets of vandalism and looting that evening. Numerous buildings were set ablaze. The aftermath resulted in the apprehension and deportation of numerous Jews to concentration camps.

The 'Endlösung' or Final Solution

Known as the "Endlösung" or "Final Solution" for short, the National Socialists adopted this term in July 1941 to summarize their goal of systematically eliminating individuals they identified as Jews throughout Europe and beyond. This pursuit persisted until the Wehrmacht's unconditional surrender. The process began with the segregation of Jews in ghettos and culminated in the implementation of the Nazi policy labeled the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question."

This policy was worked out by Nazi officials during the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on January 20, 1942. Regrettably, this course of action led to the Holocaust, a tragic phase marked by the systematic and extensive extermination of European Jews.

The Holocaust history

The history and therefore the definition of the Holocaust also known as the Shoah (Hebrew) is exceptionally complex. Basically it can be stated that it was the murder or genocide of the European Jews during world war 2.

“The other day I visited a German internment camp (Ohrdruf). I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world! It was horrible.

I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.””
Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Ohrdruf in April 15, 1945
Eisenhower visits Ohrdruf
On June 6 1944 D-Day, the invasion of occupied France, began

June 6 1944, D-Day Normandy

What was D-Day?

D-Day was the the Allied answer to occupancy and hostile regime of Nazi Germany with the end goal of putting an end to WW2. At 06:30 am on Tuesday June 6th, 1944 Operation Neptune or D-Day (amphibious assault) is unleashed along a 60 mile stretch of coast between the Cotentin Peninsula and the Orne River in Normandy, France. The invasion on the shores of Normandy were part of Operation Overlord (Allied invasion of Normandy).

Planning for D-Day

Planning for the operation began in 1943. Overlord was an Allied military operation of unprecedented scale, with an amphibious assault from Allied troops on the beaches combined with Allied airborne operations behind enemy lines inland. The Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main landings.

D-Day was originally planned for June 5

In the months leading up to the invasion, the weather was far from ideal and the operation had to be delayed 24 hours until June 6th, 1944. A further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days each month were deemed suitable.

The landings beaches in Normandy

The amphibious assault focused on five separate beaches in Normandy codenamed Omaha, Utah (American sector), Gold, Sword (British sector), and Juno (Canadian sector). At the end of the day small beachheads had been secured. It would turn out to be the turning point of World War 2 in western Europe.


156000
Allied troops
(estimated)
11590
Allied aircraft
(estimated)
6939
Allied vessels
(estimated)
4414
Allied casualties
(estimated)
50000
German troops
(estimated)
400
German aircraft
(on paper)
104
German vessels
(estimated)
6500
German casualties
(estimated)

Eisenhower's letter to the troops before D-Day, Normandy in WW2
Famous letter written by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to the troops who were about to embark on Operation Overlord.

D-Day, June 6th 1944
Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade cap badge
Every year on May 4th, The Netherlands remembers it's war victims
Dodenherkdenking
On 4 May each year, Holland stops to pay tribute to the fallen during Remembrance Day. A national ceremony takes place at Dam Square in Amsterdam, while other remembrance ceremonies take place in towns and cities around the country, as well as in Holland’s war cemeteries.
The Netherlands commemorates war victims
The Netherlands celebrates it's liberation

Liberation Day (Dutch: Bevrijdingsdag) is celebrated each year in the Netherlands on 5 May to mark the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany during WW2. It follows the Remembrance of the Dead (Dodenherdenking) on 4 May. Holland was liberated by Canadian forces, British infantry divisions, British I Corps, 1st Polish Armoured Division, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Parts of the country, in particular the south-east, were liberated by the British Second Army which included American and Polish airborne forces (see Operation Market Garden) and French airbornes (see Operation Amherst). On 5 May 1945 the Canadian General Charles Foulkes and the German Commander-in-Chief Johannes Blaskowitz reached an agreement on the capitulation of German forces in the Netherlands in Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. One day later the capitulation document was signed in the auditorium of Wageningen University.

The liberation of Deventer in April 1945
Liberation in Deventer 1945
Capitulation German Forces in Wageningen
Capitulation German Forces
Hotel 'De Wereld', Wageningen

On 5 May 1945, General Foulkes, commander of the 1st Canadian Army, drew up an official surrender act. He summoned the German general Blaskowitz to sign the capitulation. Prince Bernhard, acting as commander-in-chief of the Dutch Interior Forces was also present at the meeting at Hotel 'De Wereld', in Wageningen.

Delay in signing the act in Hotel de Wereld Wageningen The Netherlands
Delay in signing the act
Hotel 'De Wereld', Wageningen
The document of surrender was presented to Blaskowitz who asked for 24 hours delay in which he could asses if he could meet all of the demands stipulated in the document. Blaskowitz returned the next day (6 May) to sign the official surrender of all German forces in the Netherlands at Hotel 'De Wereld' 6 May 1945.
Finally the capitulation act 1945 is signed
Capitulation act 1945
Official signing May 6th 1945

The act itself has "Wageningen, May 5, 1945" in both English and German, and the surrender in Germany on the 4th took effect on the 5th, the act was actually signed one day later in the Aula (auditorium) of Wageningen University.

Discover the real eyewitness stories told by the men and women who were there
The real stories of WW2
Another website about World War 2?

June 6th, 1944 (D-Day) was the starting point for this website back in 2000. This website is my personal 'one man' project and it started out based on the eyewitness accounts of the Allied and Axis troops of WW2 who fought on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy. Over time and to be more complete, I added my focus on the Holocaust, concentration camps, aktion T4, the main battles without forgetting the war on the Eastern front, the Pacific and the rest of Europe. The historically accurate pages covering the complete WW2 history are made to educate readers about a conflict of this magnitude. This website can be used for education, personal interest as well as for research. I hope you take the time to explore my website. Thank you!

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