Above: Japanese soldiers torture and kill Chinese citizens during the Japanese military's occupation of China.
The social and political repercussions of the Second World War had a profound impact on the world by completely transforming political relations through fear of a third war and general instability. Politically, a major cost of the war was that it directly resulted in the Cold War. The Cold War was a prolonged near-violent rivalry and arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, that resulted in much political oppression of other countries. Many of the powers in Europe had become weak, creating a volatile and fear-ridden political atmosphere often threatening to escalate into outright war. "The uneasy alliance between the United States and Soviet Russia during WWII quickly unraveled in the post-war era. Even during the war, problems had surfaced. Joseph Stalin believed that the opening up a second front in Europe was intentionally delayed by the Allies so that Russia might continue to bear the brunt of the German war" (Authentic History Center). The animosity between the two nations had previous roots in World War II, and the ensuing Cold War transformed the political landscape. One of the most sensitive issues debated by the two powers was the division of Germany. After the war, the Allies determined that the cost of peace was the division of Germany into East and West. The West was democratic and capitalist, while the East remained under close Soviet jurisdiction and embraced Communism. In the East, political freedoms were taken from the people by the Soviet-backed government. "The regime was supported by a strong and extensive secret police, the Ministry of State Security, popularly known as the Stasi. It considered itself to be the “shield and sword of the (Communist) party” and its main task was to eliminate “the class enemy”" (The Baltic Initiative). One country was oppressive, the other was a democracy. This directly reflected the conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and both countries had a hand in the creation of a new Germany, a whole new kind of political system. For the first time in history, the two most powerful states in the world single-handedly restructured Europe, dividing it for the purpose of supporting their causes. These are the true costs of World War II, that completely changed the world. This dispute created the Iron Curtain, a physical border between the forces of communism and democracy that met in Germany. East Germany was part of an initiative known as the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance between communist and socialist countries in eastern Europe. Russia gave itself full authority to intervene if any of the nations involved began to seek reform or revolution, one example of the social cost to Europe after the war. Now, much of Europe was under Soviet influence, which was often repressive. In the 1960's the government of Czechoslovakia, at the behest of its people, began to reform its policies. "After much debate, the Communist Party leadership in Moscow decided to intervene to establish a more conservative and pro-Soviet government in Prague. The Warsaw Pact invasion of August 20–21 caught Czechoslovakia and much of the Western world by surprise" (U.S. Department of State). In order to quell social change, the Soviets forcefully invaded a country they were allied with by treaty. These new interventionist politics had not often been deployed in Europe against sovereign countries. This was a major change in politics world wide as a cost of the political situation created by World War II. One of the most astounding costs to political rights was the U.S. Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the right of the U.S. Government to hold Americans suspected of conspiracy against the nation without probable cause. "Over 127,000 United States citizens were imprisoned during World War II. Their crime? Being of Japanese ancestry. Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, Japanese Americans were suspected of remaining loyal to their ancestral land... Fred Korematsu decided to test the government relocation action in the courts. He found little sympathy there. In Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court justified the executive order as a wartime necessity" (US History.org).This was the beginning of a large social and political change, the start of imprisoning terrorists without necessary probable cause. In fact, the Patriot Act, a U.S. law that allows the government to take drastic measures contains much of the same wording that caused the internment of 127,000 Japanese-Americans.
Left: Europe before World War II. There are many free countries in eastern Europe, unhindered by the Soviets or the Cold War. There was a higher degree of political autonomy in the older nations of Europe.
Left: Europe post-World War II. Countries in green are part of the NATO alliance that supported democracy. Red Nations are members of the Warsaw Pact or satellite states of the Soviet Union. This unstable division of Europe was a major political cost of World War II.
Left: 1968, Russian soldiers pacify rioters in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union's control of its allied nations is shown to its fullest extent here. The people and the government attempted reform and they were punished by the Soviet Army.
Left: One of the posters put up in various areas of the United States, telling all people of Japanese descent that they were to be removed from their homes. The fear of Japan in America was so strong that the actions of the Germans regarding the Jews were repeated, short of murdering them.
Left: A camp for the internment of Japanese-Americans in southern California. The barbed wire and prison trains is eerily reminiscent of the Holocaust in Europe. This really happened in America, one of the greatest losses of political freedom in American History outside slavery.