This remarkable collection of eight coins highlights some of the signature moments in the European Theater during the Second World War.
I. March 15, 1939: Germany occupies Czechoslovakia Hitler occupies Czechoslovakia. To avoid war, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain famously agrees to “appease” Hitler. The Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia convinces Britain and France to end the policy of appeasement, guaranteeing the borders of Poland.
II. September 1, 1939: Nazi Invasion of Poland Great Britain and France, having guaranteed the borders of Poland, declare war on Germany two days after Nazi troops move into that country. The Soviet Union, having already agreed to take half of Poland in the event of a German invasion, do not move on behalf of the Poles. World War II commences.
III. May 10, 1940: Blitzkrieg begins On the day Winston Churchill replaces Chamberlain as prime Minister, Hitler launches his grand Western offensive, overwhelming Belgium, Holland, and France. In a brilliant battle plan, Nazi armored units go through the Ardennes and into the Somme valley, isolating Allied forces already in Belgium. The British Expeditionary Force retreats at Dunkirk.
IV. June 17, 1940: France surrenders In a disaster for the Allies, the French army is overrun by the Nazis. The country is divided into a German occupation zone in the north, and a “free” zone in the south, known as the Vichy French government, a Nazi puppet regime. France’s surrender leaves Great Britain alone on the Western front.
V. June 22, 1941, Operation Barbossa Hitler begins his invasion of Russia—a tactical mistake that will ultimately doom the Nazis. The invasion is later than initially planned because the Nazis have first to topple Yugoslavia, whose newly-installed King Peter II’s refusal to join the Axis compels a full military response from Germany.
VI. August 29, 1941, Serbian resistance disrupts Germany After the defeat of Yugoslavia, Germany carved it up, annexing Slovenia, and putting Serbia under the rule of a military commander. Serbian resistance forced first the installation of a new government on August 29, and soon after, the movement of front line divisions into Serbia from the Eastern Front. Hitler would blame his loss in Russia on Yugoslavia.
VII. July 25, 1943: Mussolini falls The fall of the Italian Fascist Prime Minister marks the end of Italy’s participation in the war as an Axis power. Mussolini only entered the war as a belligerent on June 10, 1941, after the fall of Paris to the Nazis. He is tried and executed, his corpse displayed upside-down on a meat-hook.
VIII. June 6, 1944: D-Day The Allied invasion of Normandy was the turning point of the war in Western Europe. British, American, and Canadian forces under the command of American General Dwight David Eisenhower crossed the English Channel and seized the beachhead. The so-called Atlantic Wall was breached, and from then on, it is only a matter of time before the Allies will prevail.
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