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WWII & Australia: Lasting Impacts

Investigate Australia's role in WWII with these resources

National History Contest: WWII "Leadership & Legacy" Topic Ideas | The  National WWII Museum Blog

Source: National WWII Museum

The carnage of World War II changed the world forever. Communism would spread into Eastern Europe, Britain began to lose its supremacy in the face of two growing superpowers (USSR and the United States), Australia's international diplomacy was shifting, and many countries would be left struggling to rebuild after the devastation of war. Read through the resources below to learn more about the legacy of World War II.

Aftermath: the end of the Second World War (ANZAC Portal, 2020, September)

This commemorative book explores the aftermath of World War II. With millions of Australians involved in and out of uniform, the war caused big social, economic and diplomatic changes. It took a while for the immediate effects of the end of the conflict to work themselves through in the post-war world. The images and stories in this book bring us closer to that changing world.

European refugee movements after World War Two (BBC, 2011, February 17)

The end of the war in Europe was only the beginning of the suffering for millions of people left homeless by the fighting, released from captivity or expelled as an act of vengeance. Read through this article to learn more.

President Truman and the origins of the Cold War (BBC, 2011, February 17)

Did President Truman make fatal errors of judgment at the end of World War II that precipitated the world's slide into the Cold War? Read through this article to learn more.

The legacy of world War Two: decline, rise, recovery (BBC, 2011, February 17)

World War Two convulsed the world. In its aftermath Britain's international status was reduced, two superpowers glowered at each other in a Cold War standoff, and Europe set its sights on union. How did it all happen?

The League of Nations and the United Nations (BBC, 2011, February 17)

The imposition of a peaceful world order was a key objective for the League of Nations, established in the aftermath of World War One. How can its successor, the United Nations, react to the challenges of the 21st century? Charles Townshend assesses its chances.

Impact of World War II (Lumen Learning, n.d.)

The unconditional surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945, and Japan on September 2, 1945, brought World War II to an end. Various documents and treaties placed stringent terms on Axis powers to prevent future hostilities. Read through this website to learn more.

Postwar refugee crisis and the establishment of the state of Israel (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d.)

Most Jewish survivors, who had survived concentration camps or had been in hiding, were unable or unwilling to return to eastern Europe because of postwar antisemitism and the destruction of their communities during the Holocaust. At its peak in 1947, the Jewish displaced person population reached approximately 250,000. Read through this article to learn more.

The Iron Curtain (Lumen Learning, n.d.)

On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill gave a speech declaring that an “iron curtain” had descended across Europe, pointing to efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the West. Read through this website to learn more about global politics in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Marshall Plan (National Archives, n.d.)

On April 3, 1948, President Truman signed the Economic Recovery Act of 1948. It became known as the Marshall Plan, named for Secretary of State George Marshall, who in 1947 proposed that the United States provide economic assistance to restore the economic infrastructure of postwar Europe. Read through this website to learn more.

Marshall Plan (Investopedia, 2021, June 9)

The Marshall Plan was a U.S.-sponsored program that was implemented following the end of World War II. It was intended to aid European countries that had been destroyed as a result of the war, and it was laid out by U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall during an address at Harvard University in 1947. The plan was authorized by Congress as the European Recovery Program (ERP). Read through this article to learn more.

Women and work after World War II (PBS, n.d.)

During the Second World War, women proved that they could do "men's" work, and do it well. With men away to serve in the military and demands for war material increasing, manufacturing jobs opened up to women and upped their earning power. Yet women's employment was only encouraged as long as the war was on. Once the war was over, federal and civilian policies replaced women workers with men. Read through this website to learn more.

We remember ANZAC (Department of Veterans' Affairs, 2014)

2014 marks one hundred years since the First World War began. For Australians, this war signified the birth of the Anzac story. The men of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) volunteered and fought, along with their New Zealand counterparts, at Gallipoli, in the Middle East and on the Western Front. The courage and sacrifice of these men has been widely commemorated, including on Anzac Day, ever since. The Anzac Centenary, however, provides an opportunity for Australians to commemorate all those who have served in the last century. The Anzac Centenary program will take place over four years and incorporate events to mark significant anniversaries associated with the First World War and other conflicts in which Australians have served. It is a time to learn about and reflect on Australia’s wartime history and the nation’s contribution to international peace. It is also hoped that Australians will take time to honour, remember and thank those who have served. This resource aims to help Australian school communities commemorate the Anzac Centenary.

ANZUS Treaty (National Museum of Australia, n.d.)

Signed on 1 September 1951, the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (ANZUS) has been in operation for more than 60 years. Undertaken to ensure peace and safety in the Pacific region, the treaty requires signatories to consult in relation to any perceived threats to involved nations and to act to meet common dangers. Read through this website to learn more.

Liberal party reforms (National Museum of Australia, n.d.)

The Liberal Party was formed during a series of conventions during and immediately after the Second World War. It was in effect a radically reorganised and rebranded version of the United Australia Party that had in recent years struggled to gain and hold government. The creation of the party was driven by Robert Menzies who led the Liberals to a landslide victory in 1949, and who became Australia’s longest serving prime minister. Read through this website to learn more.

‘Iron curtain’ speech





For release at 3.45 pm., G.S.T

Tuesday, March 5, 1946



Following IS THE Text of an address prepared for delivery by The Right Honorable Winston Churchill, M.P., at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, Tuesday,

March 5, 1946.


I am glad to come to Westminster College this afternoon and am complimented that you should give me a Degree. The name “Westminster” is somehow familiar to me. I seem to have heard of it before. Indeed it was at Westminster that I received a very large part of my education in politics, dialectic, rhetoric and one or two other things.

It is also an honour, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps almost unique, for a private visitor to be introduced to an academic audience by the President of the United States. Amid his heavy burdens, duties and responsibilities-unsought but not reconciled from- the President has travelled a thousand miles to dignify and magnify our meeting here today and give me an opportunity of addressing this kindred nation, as well as my own countrymen across the ocean and perhaps some other countries too. The President has told you that it is his wish, as I am sure it is yours, that I should have full liberty to give my true and faithful counsel in these anxious and baffling times. I shall certainly avail myself of this freedom and feel the more right to do so because any private ambitions I may have cherished in my younger days have been satisfied beyond my wildest dreams. Let me however make it clear that I have no official mission or status of any kind, and that I speak only for myself. I can therefore allow my mind, with the experience of a lifetime, to play over the problems which beset us on the morrow of our absolute victory in arms; and try to make sure that what has been gained with so much sacrifice and suffering shall be preserved for the future glory and safety of mankind.

The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American democracy. With primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future. As you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement. Opportunity is here now, clear and shining, for both our countries. To reject it or ignore it or fritter it away will bring upon us all the long reproaches of the after-time. It is necessary that constancy of mind, persistency of purpose and the grand simplicity of decision shall guide and rule the conduct of the English-speaking peoples in peace as they did in war. We must and I believe we shall prove ourselves equal to this severe requirement.

A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future or what are the limits if any to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regards for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin. There is sympathy and goodwill in Britain- and I doubt not here also- towards the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to preserve through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships. We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Above all we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone, with its immortal glories, is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are being made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow Government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist party in their zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.  At the end of the fighting last June, the American and British Armies withdrew \westwards, in accordance with an earlier agreement, to a depth at some points of 150 miles on a front of nearly 400 miles to allow the Russians to occupy this vast expanse of territory which the Western Democracies had conquered. If now the Soviet Government tries, by separate action, to build up a pro-Communist Germany in their areas this will cause new serious difficulties in the British and American zones, and will give the defeated Germans the power of putting themselves up to auction between the Soviets and the Western Democracies. Whatever conclusions may be from from these facts- and facts they are-this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is this one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.

From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations charter, their influence for furthering these principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If however they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.