The End of the Second World War

The End of the Second World War
World War II ended with the defeat of Germany on 8 May 1945 and the capitulation of Japan on 2 September. The war from 1939 to 1945 between the Axis countries and the Allies had cost the lives of 70 million civilians and military personnel. Germany was partitioned into four occupation zones – American, British, French and Soviet.

From November 1945 to October 1946 the main Nazi war criminals were tried at the international Nuremberg trials. But crimes against humanity perpetrated by the winning nations of the war, largely by the Soviet Union, remained unpunished.

For people of the Nazi-occupied Western Europe the end of the war brought freedom. By contrast, Eastern Europe came under Communist totalitarian rule. Soon it became apparent that the end of World War II was the beginning of the „cold war" between the former allies – the USSR and the Western nations.

The Nazi occupation of Latvia was followed by the second Soviet occupation. In eastern Latvia (Vidzeme and Latgale) it began already in the summer and fall of 1944, but in western Latvia (Kurzeme) after the capitulation of Germany on 8 May 1945.

In the course of World War II Latvia had lost its independence and did not regain it after the war. Latvia had also suffered much physical destruction and economic losses. The ethnic composition of the population had changed substantially. Two ethnic groups had been almost totally eliminated – Germans as a result of repatriation before the war, and Jews as a result of the Nazi campaign of extermination. These two groups had had a significant role in Latvia's economy and culture. Also the number of ethnic Latvians had been reduced as a result of the war, repressions, and flight of refugees near the end of the war.