Top 10 Major Effects of World War 2

The Second World War was one of the most significant transforming events of the twentieth century, with 39 million people dying in Europe alone.

The end of World War 2 also marked the start of a new era for all countries engaged, marked by the downfall of all European colonial empires.

However, technology developed during World War II to win the war found new applications in industrial uses.

The new generation was also characterized by the concurrent development of two superpowers, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US). 

After being allies during World War 2, the United States and the Soviet Union became contenders on the global stage and engrossed in the Cold War.

It is named so because it never resulted in an open, declared war between the two powers but was distinguished by espionage, political subterfuge, and sectarian violence.

Moreover, six years of ground fighting and airstrikes during World War 2 devastated a significant degree of physical capital.

Many people were forced to evacuate or give up their property without compensation to relocate to new lands.

Even in relatively prosperous Western Europe, the duration of hunger became more regular.

For extended periods, families were divided, and many children lost their parents. Many people, including youngsters and little toddlers, would see the brutality of war as fights and bombings took place in their neighborhoods. 

People also perpetrated heinous crimes against humanity. Many countries’ political and economic systems were also irrevocably altered due to World War 2.

However, Western Europe and Japan were most notably rebuilt as part of the American Marshall Plan. Meanwhile, Central and Eastern Europe fell under Soviet influence and eventually behind an “Iron Curtain.”

Europe was also separated into two blocs: the Western Bloc, led by the United States, and the Eastern Bloc, headed by the Soviet Union.

Given below are the top 10 significant effects of World War 2. 

What were the significant causes of World War 2?

Some significant causes of World War 2 include the failure of peace efforts by joint nations, the subsequent rise of fascism, and the formation of the Axis coalition. 

Why did America enter World War 2?

America officially entered World War 2 due to provocation from the Japanese. While larger forces played a part in bringing the United States to the brink of World War 2, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was the direct and immediate cause that led America to enter the war officially. 

10. The Establishment of the United Nations 

Poster for the Allies of World War 2, 1943
Poster for the Allies of World War 2, 1943

From April 25 to June 26, 1945, essential delegates and primary representatives from 50 countries assembled in San Francisco, California, to attend the United Nations Conference on International Organization. 

See also  Technologies and Weapons used in World War 2

They spent the next two months drafting and then signing the UN Charter. This charter established a new international coalition, the United Nations. 

The UN intends to prevent another world war like the one previously witnessed. The United Nations formally began four months after the San Francisco Conference concluded, on October 24, 1945.

Its charter was accepted by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and a plurality of other signatory parties. 

9. Decolonization 

Central Indian Horse regiment December 1941
Central Indian Horse regiment December 1941

The aftermath of the war also accelerated the decolonization of many nations from former great powers.

The UK conferred independence to India and the Philippines. Likewise, the Netherlands granted independence to Indonesia. 

Moreover, many Arab nations, primarily under special authority from significant countries from the League of Nations Mandates in the post-World War 1 era, were also granted independence. 

Likewise, sub-Saharan African countries also gained independence, albeit relatively slowly.

In the aftermath of World War 2, the People’s Republic of China also rose to prominence in Southeast Asia. The Chinese Communist Party emerged triumphant from the Chinese Civil War in 1949.  

8. Increased Mortality 

Polish Army during the defense of Poland, 1939
Polish Army during the defense of Poland, 1939

There were around 2 billion people on the planet in 1939. According to the wisest estimations, between 62 and 78 million would perish due to World War 2, accounting for more than 3% of the worldwide population. 

While past wars also resulted in civilian deaths, civilians were disproportionately affected by World War 2. Moreover, almost half of all World War 2 European losses were civilians. 

The Nazi regime also massacred between 9.8 and 10.4 million individuals for ideological or racial reasons among civilian killings. 

Nevertheless, deaths from the conflict were very unevenly distributed between countries, whether they were war casualties, dead civilians, or holocaust deaths. 

Germany and Poland felt the impact of these fatalities the most among the European countries.

American casualties in the European and Asian theaters combined added more than 400,000. 

Among these numbers, the vast majority were soldiers. Similarly, overall deaths in the UK are also believed to be around 450,000, with civilians accounting for 15% of the total. 

7. Hunger Crisis 

London seen from St. Paul's Cathedral, 1940
London saw from St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1940

Hunger was one possible mechanism via which World War 2 may have influenced long-term adult health and socioeconomic results. 

World War 2 generated numerous severe hunger crises, which resulted in many casualties. It might have also had long-term repercussions on survivors’ health. 

For example, the nutritional situation of the non-German population in Poland was deplorable since the commencement of the German occupation. 

In 1941, the average caloric intake for the Polish population was around 930 calories.

However, the situation was some of the worst in the Warsaw Ghettos, where average food rations in 1941 were just 186 calories per day. 

Likewise, a devastating famine ravaged Greece, killing 100,000 to 200,000 people.

A food blockade and a harsh winter also resulted in a severe hunger crisis in the Netherlands during 1944/1945. 

See also  Top 10 Military Leaders of World War 2

Furthermore, between 1945 and 1948, the war cut off food supplies from conquered nations. 

While the Office of Military Government for Germany did establish a goal of 1550 calories per day in the US occupation zone in 1945, this goal was frequently not met.

There were areas where the average daily calorie intake was just around 700

During this time, adult mortality rates increased by a factor of four, while newborn mortality rates increased by a factor of ten. 

6. Income Growth Per Capita 

Over 2.5 million Indians enlisted in the largest volunteer army
Over 2.5 million Indians enlisted in the largest volunteer army

 According to Harrison (1998), the GDP per capita of several major countries involved in the war fluctuated significantly compared to that of the United States. 

The immediate impact of World War 2 appears to have been highly devastating for the countries involved, particularly those on the losing side—Germany, Japan, and Italy. 

This presumably reflects their greater physical and human resources losses during the conflict. 

However, by 1973 and by 1987, Europe’s ‘losers’ had more substantial per capita growth than Europe’s ‘winners.’ 

Thus, what appears to be important in the long run is not whether a country won or lost but whether or not it transitioned to democracy and open-market economies.

5. Mass Migration, Dispossession, and Persecution 

Soviet civilians leaving destroyed houses
Soviet civilians leaving destroyed houses

There were three significant instances when the war compelled people to leave their homes.

During World War 2, millions of Jews and opponents of the Nazi administration were requisitioned and frequently deported to concentration camps, where they were slaughtered.

Second, World War 2 coincided with significant border disputes in Eastern Europe.

These border modifications compelled millions of people to escape their homes and seek refuge in other regions of Europe. 

The Soviet Union also annexed territory from several neighbors, including Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Poland. In exchange, Poland acquired a portion of pre-war Germany. 

Those Poles who had lost their houses in the part of Poland captured by the Soviet Union were relocated to the new part, so Poland, including millions of people, was relocated westwards.

4. Genocide, Concentration Camps, and Slave Labor 

Bodies being pulled out of a train carrying Romanian Jews, July 1941
Bodies being pulled out of a train carrying Romanian Jews, July 1941

The Nazi Party and the German government led by Adolf Hitler were guilty of genocide, which resulted in the deaths of estimated 6 million Jews, 2.7 million ethnic Poles, and 4 million others deemed unworthy of life.

They included people with disabilities and the mentally ill, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexual people, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Romani. 

This genocide was part of a deliberate annihilation program. Moreover, as forced laborers, around 12 million people, predominantly from Eastern Europe, were engaged in the German war economy.

In addition to Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags (work camps) also resulted in the deaths of people of occupied nations such as Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia. 

German prisoners of war (POWs) and Soviet nationals suspected of sympathizing with the Nazis were killed. 

Of the 5.7 million Soviet POWs held by the Germans, 57 percent, or 3.6 million, died or were killed throughout the conflict.

Ex-POWs and returning citizens from the Soviet Union were also suspected as potential Nazi accomplices. 

After being questioned by the NKVD, several were deported to the Gulag, where they lost their lives. 

See also  World War 2 Memorial

3. Casualties and War Crimes

Bombing raid on the Focke-Wulf factory in Germany
The bombing raid on the Focke-Wulf factory in Germany, December 1940

Because many deaths went unrecorded, statistics for the total casualty count in the war vary.

According to most estimates, 75 million people perished in the war, including around 20 million military troops and 40 million civilians. 

Many citizens were killed due to genocide, massacres, mass bombings, disease, and malnutrition.

The Soviet Union lost around 27 million individuals, including 8.7 million military and 19 million civilian casualties.

5.7 million ethnic Russians died in the military, followed by 1.3 million ethnic Ukrainians. 

A fifth of the Soviet Union’s population was injured or killed. Germany suffered 5.3 million military casualties, the majority of which occurred on the Eastern Front and during the final conflicts in Germany.

2. The Marshall Plan 

Construction in West Berlin with the help of the Marshall Plan after 1948
Construction in West Berlin with the help of the Marshall Plan after 1948

The Marshall Plan, sometimes known as the European Recovery Program, was a United States program that provided relief to Western Europe in World War 2’s carnage. 

It was passed in 1948 and contributed more than $15 billion to aid in the continent’s reconstruction. 

It was conceived as a four-year plan to rebuild cities, sectors of the economy, and infrastructural facilities severely damaged during the war. 

The plan also included removing tariffs among European neighbors and cultivating commercial transactions between those countries and the United States. 

The scheme was put forth by US Secretary of State George C. Marshall, for whom it was named.

Aside from economic rehabilitation, one of the Marshall Plan’s primary aims was also to block the expansion of communism on the European continent.

1. The Molotov Plan (COMECON) 

Molotov with French Foreign Minister Antoine Pinay at the Geneva Summit of 1955
Molotov with French Foreign Minister Antoine Pinay at the Geneva Summit of 1955

The Molotov Plan was a scheme devised by the Soviet Union in 1947.

It offered aid for the reconstruction of Eastern European countries financially and politically affiliated with the Soviet Union (aka satellite state). In the Soviet Union, it was initially named the “Brother Plan.” 

It can be considered the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the Marshall Plan. However, the Eastern European countries could not join the Marshall Plan for political reasons unless they left the Soviet sphere of influence. 

Thus, Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, vetoed the Marshall Plan (1947) and advocated the Molotov Plan. 

It was, after all, a Soviet-sponsored economic organization that the parties involved subsequently enlarged to become the Comecon. 


World War 2 was the bloodiest international conflict in history, killing 60 to 80 million people, comprising 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of Nazis during the Holocaust. 

Civilians were responsible for an estimated 50-55 million deaths throughout the conflict, while military personnel was responsible for 21 to 25 million deaths. 

The war’s legacy would include the rise of communism from the Soviet Union into Eastern Europe, its final triumph in China, and a geopolitical shift in power away from Europe and toward two opposing superpowers–the United States and the Soviet Union.

The war hurt millions more, and millions more lost their homes and possessions. Many Memorials acknowledge the people, respect those who died, and recognize the triumph they earned to restore freedom and eliminate tyranny worldwide.

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