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Was World War 2 a Good War? Essay

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World War 2 lasted between 1 September 1939 to 2 September 1945. The war impacted the lives of many people in numerous ways; politically, socially, economically and psychologically. In Britain and Germany, the ways in which people's lived were affected through a social aspect are employment/unemployment rates, how the lives of children were affected and how the roles of women changed. Through comparing and contrasting the ways in which the two countries were impacted, the similarities and differences will be illustrated.

A major social impact that occurred during World War 2, was the change in unemployment/employment rates. In Britain, there was a period of poverty between 1918 and 1939 in which unemployment reached a peak of over 20% in 1933. The causes of this massive unemployment rate are: the closure of many industries and a combination of a lack of pre-war technological development and post-war competition damaging the economy. Although the rate of unemployment was very high, when the war began, unemployment rates decreased drastically going from 13% in 1938 to less than 3% from 1941. The drop in unemployment rates is due to the forming of many new industries meaning that more employees were needed. This data shows that the beginning of war helped with the drop in unemployment rates. Similarly, in Germany there were also high unemployment rates before the start of war which reduced drastically from 1939 onwards. In 1933, nearly 33% of Germany's working population was unemployed which is an estimate of 6 million people, however, in January 1939, only 302 000 people were unemployed. Although Britain and Germany share a similarity of decreased unemployment rates due to war, the reasons for the decline are significantly different. In Germany, the main reason for the decline was that women and Jews were no longer included in the statistics as women out of work 'did not exist' and Jews lost their citizenship in 1935.

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Children in Britain and Germany were severely mentally affected during World War 2. In both countries, towards the start of the war, children were evacuated to ensure their safety from enemy bombs, however, throughout the course of the war, the way in which children were treated changed significantly. The mass evacuation of children in Britain started in 1933 with more than 3 million children being removed from London and other cities and sent to the country side, the evacuation being known as Operation Pied Piper. The separation from their parents resulted in long-term trauma and those who stayed back endured bombing raids and were injured or made homeless. Furthermore, those who went to the countryside didn't live a good life as well due to the trauma of separation and not all host families were as welcoming as expected. All children had to deal with the threat of gas attacks, air raid precautions, rationing and changes at school. Additionally, from 1941, all those aged between 16 and 18 were required to register for some form of national service. On the other hand, although there was a small evacuation towards the start of the war, Hitler focused on making the children of Germany, especially the boys, good leaders and influenced their minds from a young age with the Nazi ideology. Groups like Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) were formed in order to do this. By 1930, Hitler Youth had gained over 25 000 boys aged between 14-18 and they also had a new leader, Baldur von Schirach. Under his leadership, the youth group adopted and embraced the same symbols, culture, psychology and appeals to nationalism employed in the SA and SS. By 1937, Hitler Youth had almost 5 million children which is almost 64% of all German adolescent boys. Life in the Hitler youth was dominated by physical training and ideological moulding which would have been mentally and physically exhausting on growing boys.

One of the most notable social impacts from World War 2 would be how the roles of women changed drastically. In certain countries, they went from being a traditional stay at home wife in charge of taking care of the children and cleaning the house to obtaining education, jobs and being viewed in a different light. However, there is a major difference in the way in which the roles of women changed between Germany and Britain. In Britain, women were starting to get acknowledged whereas in Germany, women were treated the same way as always. Due to the war and the need for soldiers in Britain, women had to take up jobs that were traditionally meant for men and they also began enlisting in the British Women's Land Army. Millions of women chose to work in factories producing all manners of ammunition, uniforms, weapons and even aircrafts and those in voluntary organisations provided support services such as firefighting and transporting food to the soldiers and the affected. By December 1941, women were conscripted to join either one of the auxiliary services or work in an industry to do their part in helping Britain win the war. Contrarily, in the German society, women were to be the homemakers of society whose lives were only to revolve around the three K's: Kinder, Küche and Kirche (Children, Kitchen and Church). The guidelines for women in Germany were very strict with some examples being: women should not work for a living, not wear trousers and not wear makeup. The main purpose of women in Germany was to produce numerous children with their racially pure husbands or have children with a racially pure member of the SS if single. In Britain, women were encouraged to take jobs whereas in Germany, single women with jobs were pressured to give their jobs to unemployed men. The only time in which women went to work in Germany was in 1937, when a law was passed that all women should work a Duty year of patriotic work in one of the country's factories.

World War 2 impacted the lives of many in numerous aspects through a social scale. The main impacts being changes to unemployment/employment, the lives of children and the roles of women. Both Germany and Britain had their similarities and differences in how each country was affected through those social impacts. Although each country shared at least one similarity for each impact, the reasons for the cause of that impact were majorly different.

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