For a start, there’s disagreement on when the war started and two common dates for when it finished. In terms of Europe, Russia generally holds that the 'Great Patriotic War' began on June 22nd 1941 with Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of Russia) while Western Europe uses September 1st 1939, the German invasion of Poland. Both use the date of Germany's unconditional surrender as the end in Europe, but the Western Allies accepted the surrender on May 8th and the Russian May 9th 1945.
The immediate trigger for war was the Nazi invasion of Poland, a conquest too far for the allied nations who had seen Austrian and Czech lands subsumed into the Reich already. The driving force was unquestionably Hitler, who wanted war and racial domination. But argument rages about the wider background, the political, cultural and economic climate which allowed Hitler into power to begin with.
II. Major events and personalities
The Battle of Britain- Later in the summer of 1940, Germany launched a further attack on Britain, this time exclusively from the air. The Battle of Britain was Germany’s first military failure, as the German air force, the Luftwaffe, was never able to overcome Britain’s Royal Air Force.
Greece and North Africa- As Hitler plotted his next steps, Italy, an ally of Germany, expanded the war even further by invading Greece and North Africa. The Greek campaign was a failure, and Germany was forced to come to Italy’s assistance in early 1941.
The USSR- Later in 1941, Germany began its most ambitious action yet, by invading the Soviet Union. Although the Germans initially made swift progress and advanced deep into the Russian heartland, the invasion of the USSR would prove to be the downfall of Germany’s war effort. The country was just too big, and although Russia’s initial resistance was weak, the nation’s strength and determination, combined with...