The Wolf Ticket opens in the last full month of World War II. That war had begun six years earlier when, on 1 September, 1939, Germany had invaded Poland. This was their first of their victories; country after country was conquered by the Nazis' tactic of Blitzkrieg: rapid advance with tanks and infantry, supported by air cover, until the Nazis held most of Europe. A secret deal with Soviet Russia had led to the partition of Poland. When Hitler decided he was strong enough to attack Russia, in 1941, the Nazis invaded the Soviet-held half of Poland on their way to Moscow and to the oilfields and grain-fields of the Ukraine and southern USSR.
Britain declared war on Germany, and by default were eventually at war with Germany's allies Italy and Japan (Germany, Italy and Japan collectively being the Axis), but they could do little to stop the Axis save on the periphery, such as in North Africa and the Far East. The Germans continued to swallow most of eastern Europe while the world helplessly watched. The Nazis, unconquerable and all-conquering, now could do as they pleased with impunity, and began the large-scale, systematic destruction of the Jews and other minorities they despised.
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbour on 7 December, 1941, the United States entered the war. Their enemies were the Japanese and therefore its other two Axis partners, their allies were Britain, the Commonwealth, and the undefeated exiled forces of France, Poland and other invaded countries. The U.S. High Command realised theirs would be a war of two fronts, the Pacific and Europe, and so troops were sent to North Africa to aid the British at the same time that the slow reclamation of the Pacific was begun. Defeating the Germans in North Africa, the Allies then invaded Sicily and Italy, driving the Germans slowly north in costly, long-drawn out battles such as Monte Cassino, January to May, 1944 (the final assault's success, on 18 May, being largely the work of the 2nd Polish Corps).
Hitler's armies had been stalled in their grand invasion of the USSR by the Soviets' time-honoured use of a scorched-earth policy, the ferocity of the Russian winter, and the dogged Red Army defence. The tide finally turned against the Germans after the four-month battle for Stalingrad was won by the Soviets in January 1943. The long withdrawal of the Germans from the east took two years of appalling fighting to accomplish, the Red Army becoming a juggernaut of efficient terrorism in the process.
Meanwhile, the Allies were using Britain as a collection base for the troops and supplies needed for an invasion of northern Europe. The Allied armies finally invaded on 6 June, 1944: D-Day. They reached and liberated Paris in August, 1944, but their onrush against the retreating Germans ended on the western edge of France, where natural barriers such as the Hurtgen Forest, their own lack of supplies, and the ferocious determination of the Germans to defend the Fatherland, delayed final victory.
The Nazis wanted to break the western Allied advance before the Soviet invasion from the east reached the border of Germany. The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler's last attempt to defeat the western Allies, and his armies used up their reserves of manpower and supplies for this campaign. However, though the Allies finally punched their way across the Rhine, in early March, 1945, the Germans were still able to slow them down by desperate fighting.
By 1 April 1945, the Allies had devastated the industrial heart of Germany, the Ruhr valley, and were closing the gap between themselves and the Red Army. The small defeated countries of Europe: the Netherlands, Denmark and the others, were liberated by the Allies, and the countries of the east, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the rest, were seized by the Soviets and held until, after the war, they were turned into puppet states.
The Red Army reached Berlin in late April and, after hand-to-hand fighting, finally defeated the Nazis, who surrendered to the Allies on 7 May, 1945. Fighting continued in the Pacific, Japan surrendering the day after the second atomic bomb was dropped, 10 August, 1945.
Following victory in Europe, the Allies faced each other with growing hostility across what would later be called the Iron Curtain, and the countries of Eastern Europe began their four decades in the hard grip of the Soviet Union.
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