World War II

War of the Worlds: How It All Began

In a global conflict fueled by Adolf Hitler’s unrelenting aggression, millions of brave souls rose up to face the challenge of their lives.

By Ancestry®

Published May 20, 2020

With the world in disarray after the Great War, tensions were still high in Europe. Born out of the instability, Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party rose to power on the idea of German “purity,” arming the country and forming alliances with Italy and Japan against the Soviet Union. Hitler’s aggressions and the invasion of Poland in 1939 caused France and the UK to declare war.

The next six years were unlike any other time in human history. The causes and the casualties, the battles and the occupations, the crimes against humanity, and the ultimate triumph of the Allies over the Axis are all well-documented. But there were also quiet stories of hope, sacrifice, and the remarkable spirit that wartime crisis can foster.

Across oceans and theaters, there were shining examples of bravery, valor, and humility. The gunner who gave his parachute to a friend. The German doctor who treated an American POW with kindness—even connecting their families years later. The woman who trained for the Women Airforce Service Pilots but never flew a mission. The driver for General Patton who got lost on the way back to the barracks.

At the heart of these moving WWII stories were fathers and mothers, neighbors and friends, doctors and nurses, everyday people who rose to a seemingly untenable challenge and persevered. Today, these extraordinary examples show us who we are and where we come from.

The war may have ended 75 years ago, but countless families are still touched by and connected to this moment in history. By uncovering and sharing these untold stories, we are honoring the contributions our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents made, which makes them count even more.

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