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The home front is the name given to the activities of the civilians when their nation is at war. Since World War II could be described as total war, homeland production became even more invaluable to both the Allied and Axis powers. Life on the home front during World War II was a significant part of the war effort for all participants and had a major impact on the outcome of the war. During the war, Government became involved with their respective home fronts to educate them on how to protect themselves, their country, and aid the war effort. Nations routinely used propaganda to influence the civilian population. Frequently, women were needed to work during this period because the men were at war.


The major powers devoted 50–61% of their total GDP to war production at the peak in 1943. The Allies produced about three times as much in munitions as the Axis powers.
(Expenditures in billions of dollars, US 1944 munitions prices)
Munitions Production in World War II

Country/Alliance Year
1935-9 ave 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 Total 1939–44
U.S.A.marker 0.3 1.5 4.5 20.0 38.0 42.0 106.3
Britainmarker 0.5 3.5 6.5 9.0 11.0 11.0 41.5
U.S.S.Rmarker 1.6 5.0 8.5 11.5 14.0 16.0 56.6
Allies Total 2.4 10.0 20.0 41.5 64.5 70.5 204.4
Germanymarker 2.4 6.0 6.0 8.5 13.5 17.0 53.4
Japanmarker 0.4 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.5 6.0 16.9
Axis Total 2.8 7.0 8.0 11.5 18.0 23.0 70.3
Source: Goldsmith data in Harrison (1988) p. 172

Real Value Consumer Spending
Country Year
1937 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Japan 100 107 109 111 108 99 93 78
Germany 100 108 117 108 105 95 94 85
USA 100 96 103 108 116 115 118 122
Source: Jerome B Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction (1949) p 354



Jews in Warsaw Ghetto: 1943

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Polandmarker, conquering it in three weeks, as the Soviets invaded the eastern areas. During the German occupation, there were two distinct civilian uprisings in Warsaw, one in 1943, the other in 1944. The first took place in an entity, less than two square miles in area, which the Germans carved out of the city and called "Ghetto Warschau." Into the thus created Ghetto, around which they built high walls, the Germans crowded 550,000 Polish Jews, many from the Polish provinces. At first, people were able to go in and out of the Ghetto, but soon the Ghetto's border became an "iron curtain." Unless on official business, Jews could not leave it, and non-Jews, including Germans, could not enter. Entry points were guarded by German soldiers. Because of extreme conditions and hunger, mortality in the Ghetto was high. Additionally, in 1942, the Germans moved 400,000 to Treblinka where they were gassed on arrival. When, on April 19, 1943, the Ghetto Uprising commenced, the population of the Ghetto had dwindled to 60,000 individuals. In the following three weeks, virtually all died as the Germans fought to put down the uprising and systematically destroyed the buildings in the Ghetto.

Warsaw Uprising of 1944

The uprising by Poles began on August 1, 1944 when the Polish underground, the "Home Army," aware that the Soviet Army had reached the eastern bank of the Vistula, sought to liberate Warsaw much as the French resistance had liberated Paris a few weeks earlier. Stalin had his own group of Communist leaders for the new Poland and did not want the Home Army or its Catholic leaders (based in London) to control Warsaw. So he halted the Soviet offensive and gave the Germans free rein to suppress it. During the ensuing 63 days, 250,000 Poles of the Home Army surrendered to the Germans. After the Germans forced all the surviving population to leave the city, Hitler ordered that any buildings left standing be dynamited and 98% of buildings in Warsaw were destroyed.


United Kingdom

See Timeline of the United Kingdom home front during World War II.

The UKmarker's total mobilization during this period proved to be successful in helping topple the Axis Powers, but carried a steep cost postwar. Public opinion strongly supported the war, and the level of sacrifice was high. The war was a "people's war" that enlarged democratic aspirations and produced promises of a postwar welfare state.


In mid-1940, the R.A.F. was called on to fight the Battle of Britain but it had suffered serious losses. It lost 458 aircraft—more than current production—in France and was hard pressed. The government decided to concentrate on only five types of aircraft in order to optimize output. They were Wellingtons, Whitley V's, Blenheims, Hurricanes, and Spitfires. They received extraordinary priority. Covering the supply of materials and equipment and even made it possible to divert from other types the necessary parts, equipments, materials and manufacturing resources. Labour was moved from other aircraft work to factories engaged on the specified types. Cost was not an object. The delivery of new fighters rose from 256 in April to 467 in September—more than enough to cover the losses—and Fighter Command emerged triumphantly from the Battle of Britain in October with more aircraft than it had possessed at the beginning.


Food, clothing, petrol, leather and other such items were rationed. However, items such as sweets and fruits were not rationed, as they would spoil. Access to luxuries was severely restricted, though there was also a significant black market. Families also grew victory gardens, and small home vegetable gardens, to supply themselves with food. Many things were conserved to turn into weapons later, such as fat for nitroglycerin production. People in the countryside was less affected by rationing as they had greater access to locally sourced unrationed products than people in metropolitan areas and were more able to grow their own.


From very early in the war, it was thought that the major industrial cities of Britain, especially Londonmarker in the south east, would come under Nazi German Luftwaffe air attack, which did happen with The Blitz. Some children were sent to Canada, the USA and Australia and millions of children and some mothers were evacuated from London and other major cities when the war began under government plans for Evacuations of civilians in Britain during World War II, but they often filtered back. When the Blitz bombing began in September 1940, they evacuated again. The discovery of the poor health and hygiene of evacuees was a shock to many Britons, and helped prepare the way for the Beveridge Report.Children were evacuated if their parents agreed but in some cases they did not have a choice. The children were only allowed to take a few things with them, including a gas mask, books, money, clothes, ration book and some small toys.

Soviet Union

During rapid German advances in the early months of the war, nearly reaching the cities of Moscowmarker and Leningradmarker, the bulk of Sovietmarker industry which could not be evacuated was either destroyed or lost due to German occupation. Agricultural production was interrupted, with grain harvests left standing in the fields that would later cause hunger reminiscent of the early 1930s. In one of the greatest feats of war logistics, industries were evacuated on an enormous scale, with 1523 factories dismantled and shipped eastwards along four principal routes to the Caucasus, Central Asian, Ural and Siberianmarker regions. In general, the tools, dies and production technology were moved, along with the blueprints and their management, engineering staffs and skilled labour.

The whole of the Soviet Union become dedicated to the war effort. Conditions were severe. In Leningrad, under German siege, over a million people died of starvation and disease. Many factory workers were teenagers, women and old people.Despite harsh conditions, the war led to a spike in Soviet nationalism and unity. Soviet propaganda toned down socialist rhetoric of the past as the people now rallied by a belief of protecting their motherland against the evils of German invaders. Ethnic minorities thought to be collaborators were forced into exile.

Religion, which was previously shunned, became a part of Communist Party propaganda campaign in the Soviet society.

United States

See United States home front during World War II.


Chinamarker suffered the second highest number of casualties of the entire war. Civilians in the occupied territories had to endure many large-scale massacres, including the Nanking Massacre. In a few areas, Japanese forces also unleashed newly developed biological weapons on Chinese civilians leading to an estimated 200,000 dead . Tens of thousands are thought to have died when Nationalist troops broke the levees of the Yangtzemarker to stop the Japanese advance after the loss of the Chinese capital, Nankingmarker. Millions more Chinese died because of famine during the war.

Millions of Chinese moved to the Western regions of China to avoid Japanese invasion. Cities like Kunmingmarker ballooned with new arrivals. Entire factories and universities were often taken along for the journey. Japan captured major coastal cities like Shanghai early in the war; cutting the rest of China off from its chief source of finance and industry.

The city of Chongqingmarker became the most frequently bombed city in history. Chóngqìng. Blog site. This needs to be clarified - in terms of number of air raids this is true (5,000) - but not in terms of tonnage - probably 10,000 tons.

Though China received aid from the United States, China did not have sufficient infrastructure to properly arm or even feed its military forces, let alone civilians. Much of the aid was also funneled away through corruption.

Communist forces led by Mao were based mainly in Northern China and employed guerilla tactics against the Japanese. However, it is now felt that they were at most minimally involved in the Japanese resistance..

In occupied territories under Japanese control, civilians were treated harshly.


With the massive demands of manpower for the British Indian Army fighting in European, African and Burmesemarker theaters of war, there was a shortage of able bodied men for agriculture. The British were also afraid the Bengali plainsmarker might fall into Japanese hands, so cultivation of border areas was prevented, all rice stocks were moved back towards Kolkatamarker, and there was forced procurement of rice for the war effort in Europe. This led to severe food shortages, made worse by maladministration, culminating in the Bengal famine of 1943 in which 3 million Indian civilians are said to have perished.

With the British recruiting Indian soldiers in large numbers as well as the Japanese recruiting Indian expatriates into the Indian National Army (INA), a state of civil war existed on the east Indian border with Indians killing Indians. This, in turn, led to civilians who supported either the British or the INA rioting against each other.


Canada joined the war efforts on September 10, 1939. This was a week after Britain joined because of the Statute of Westminster, which meant Canada had to vote before entering a war. With the war going on in Europe and Asia, Canada didn't have any major problems in building supplies for the war other than switching factories to make war equipment. Many factories were set up which helped increase the employment rate. More or less out of range of Axis attacks, Canada became one of the largest trainers of pilots for the Allies. Many Canadian men joined the war efforts, so with the men overseas and industries pushing to increase production, women took up positions to aid in the war effort.


At this time of war many supplies were needed and there was a low supply of goods. Women took the initiative to recycle and salvage in order to come up with needed supplies. They gathered recycled goods, handed out information on the best methods to use that one may get the most out of recycled goods and organized many other events to decrease the amount of waste. Volunteer organizations led by women also, prepared packages for the military overseas or for prisoners of war in Axis countries.

With World War II came the dire need for employees in the workplace, without women to step in the economy would have collapsed. By autumn 1944 the number of women working full-time in Canada’s paid labour force was twice what it had been in 1939, and that figure of between 1,000,000 and 1,200,000 did not include part-time workers or women working on farms.” Women had to take on this intensive labour and while they did this they still had to find time to make jams, clothes and other such acts of volunteering to aid the men overseas.



Germany had not fully mobilized in 1939, nor even in 1941. Not until 1943 under Albert Speer did Germany finally redirect its entire economy and manpower to war production.


Although Germany had about double the population of Britain (80 million versus 40 million), it had to use far more labour to provide food and energy. Britain imported food and employed only a million people (5% of labour force) on farms, while Germany used 11 million (27%). For Germany to build its twelve synthetic oil plants with a capacity of 3.3 million tons a year required 2.4 million tons of structural steel and 7.5 million man-days of labour. (Britain imported all its oil from Iraq, Persia and North America). To overcome this problem, Germany employed millions of forced laborers and POWs; by 1944, they had brought in more than five million civilian workers and nearly two million prisoners of war—a total of 7.13 million foreign workers.


For the first part of the war, there were surprisingly few restrictions on civilian activities. Most goods were freely available in the early years of the war. Rationing in Germany was introduced in 1939, slightly later than it was in Britain, because Hitler was at first convinced that it would affect public support of the war if a strict rationing program was introduced. The Nazi popularity was in fact partially due to the fact that Germany under the Nazis was relatively prosperous, and Hitler did not want to lose popularity or faith. Hitler felt that food and other shortages had been a major factor in destroying civilian morale during World War I which led to the overthrow of the Kaiser and other German monarchies at the end of the war.However, when the war began to go against the Germans in Russia and the Allied bombing effort began to affect domestic production, this changed and a very severe rationing program had to be introduced. The system gave extra rations for men involved in heavy industry, and lower rations for Jews and Poles in the areas occupied by Germany, but not to the Rhineland Poles.

The points system

According to a 1997 post by Walter Felscher to the Memories of the 1940's electronic mailing list:

"For every person, there were rationing cards for general foodstuffs, meats, fats (such as butter, margarine and oil) and tobacco products distributed every other month. The cards were printed on strong paper, containing numerous small "Marken" subdivisions printed with their value – for example, from "5 g Butter" to "100 g Butter". Every acquisition of rationed goods required an appropriate "Marken", and if a person wished to eat a certain soup at a restaurant, the waiter would take out a pair of scissors and cut off the required items to make the soup and amounts listed on the menu. In the evenings, shop-owners would spend an hour at least gluing the collected "Marken" onto large sheets of paper which they then had to hand in to the appropriate authorities."

Rare foods

The amounts available under rationing were sufficient to live from, but clearly did not permit luxuries. Whipped cream became unknown from 1939 until 1948, as well as chocolates, cakes with rich crèmes etc., and meat, of course, could not be eaten every day. Other items were not rationed, but simply became unavailable as they had to be imported from overseas: coffee in particular which throughout was replaced by substitutes made from roasted grains. Vegetables and local fruit were not rationed; imported citrus fruits and bananas were unavailable. In more rural areas, farmers continued to bring their products to the markets, as large cities depended on long distance delivery. Because coffee was scarce, people created a substitute for it made from roasted ground down barley seeds and acorns. Many people kept rabbits for their meat when meat became scarce in shops, and it was often a child’s job to care for them each day.


Women were idealized by Nazi ideology and work was not felt to be appropriate for them. Children were expected to go to houses collecting materials for the production of war equipment. The German industry used forced labour, called Arbeitseinsatz from the countries they occupied.


Japanese Rice Supply
Year 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Domestic production 9,928 9,862 10,324 9,107 8,245 9,999 9,422 8,784 6,445
Imports 2,173 2,546 1,634 1,860 2,517 2,581 1,183 874 268
All rice 12,101 12,408 11,958 10,967 10,762 12,580 10,605 9,658 6,713

See also



  1. Gutman (1998)
  2. Davies (2004)
  3. Postan (1952), Chapter 4.
  4. Titmuss (1950)
  5. p.70, Bishop
  6. Staff. Biological Weapons Program website of cites Peter Williams and David Wallace, Unit 731: Japan’s Secret Biological Warfare in World War II (New York: Free Press, 1989). and a number of UTLa most of which are no longer active
  7. Gordon, Leonard A., Review of Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 1943-1944 by Greenough, Paul R., The American Historical Review, Vol. 88, No. 4 (Oct., 1983), p. 1051 [1]
  8. Pierson, Ruth Roach. (1986). “They’re Still Women After All,” The Second World War and Canadian Womanhood. Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Inc. 9.
  9. Cohen, (1949) Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction p 368-9


Further reading

  • WWII Homefront - Collection of color photographs of the homefront during World War II
  • Beck, Earl R. The European Home Fronts, 1939-1945 Harlan Davidson, 1993, brief
  • Costello, John. Love, Sex, and War: Changing Values, 1939-1945 1985. US title: Virtue under Fire: How World War II Changed Our Social and Sexual Attitudes
  • I.C.B. Dear and M.R.D. Foot, eds. The Oxford Companion to World War II (1995), detailed articles on every country
  • Harrison, Mark. "Resource Mobilization for World War II: The U.S.A., UK, USSR and Germany, 1938-1945". Economic History Review (1988): 171-92.
  • Higonnet, Margaret R., et al., eds. Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars Yale UP, 1987.
  • Loyd, E. Lee, ed.; World War II in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, with General Sources: A Handbook of Literature and Research Greenwood Press. 1997. 525pp bibliographic guide
  • Loyd, E. Lee, ed.; World War II in Asia and the Pacific and the War's aftermath, with General Themes: A Handbook of Literature and Research Greenwood Press, 1998
  • Marwick, Arthur. War and Social Change in the Twentieth Century: A Comparative Study of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States 1974.
  • Milward, Alan. War, Economy and Society 1977 covers homefront of major participants
  • Noakes, Jeremy ed., The Civilian in War: The Home Front in Europe, Japan and the U.S.A. in World War II Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, 1992.
  • Wright, Gordon. The Ordeal of Total War 1968., covers all of Europe
  • 10 Eventful Years: 1937-1946 4 vol. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1947. Highly detailed encyclopedia of events in every country.
  • Nissen, Henrik S. Scandinavia During the Second World War (1983) (ISBN 0-8166-1110-6)

Australia and New Zealand

  • Brivati, Brian, and Harriet Jones, ed. What Difference Did the War Make? The Impact of the Second World War on British Institutions and Culture. Leicester UP; 1993.
  • Calder, Angus . The People's War: Britain 1939-45 (1969)
  • Corelli, Barnett. The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation. 1986.
  • Hancock, W. K. and Gowing, M.M. (1949) British War Economy (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: British War Economy.
  • Hancock, W. K. (1951) Statistical Digest of the War (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: Statistical Digest of the War.
  • Harris, Carol (2000). Women at War 1939-1945: The Home Front. Thrupp: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-2536-1.
  • Marwick, Arthur (1976). The Home Front: The British and the Second World War. .
  • Postan, Michael (1952) British War Production (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: British War Production.
  • Rose, Sonya O. (2003) Which People's War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945
  • Titmuss, Richard M. (1950) Problems of Social Policy. (official History of the Second World War). London: HMSO and Longmans, Green & Co. Available on line at: Problems of Social Policy official history

  • Buch, Mary and Carolyn Gossage. (1997). Props on Her Sleeve: The Wartime Letters of a Canadian Airwoman. Toronto: Dundurn Press.
  • Cottam, J. Kazimiera. (1988). Women in War and Resistance. Nepean, Ontario: New Military Publishing.
  • Granatstein, J. L. Canada's War: The Politics of the Mackenzie King Government. Oxford UP, 1975.
  • Granatstein, J. L., and Desmond Morton. A Nation Forged in Fire: Canadians and the Second World War, 1939-1945 1989.
  • Keshen, Jeffrey A. Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers: Canada's Second World War (2004)
  • Latta, Ruth. (1992). The Memory of All That: Canadian Women Remember World War II. Burnstown, Ontario: The General Store Publishing House Inc..
  • Pierson, Ruth Roach. They're Still Women After All: The Second World War and Canadian Womanhood. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1986.

  • Eastman Lloyd. Seeds of Destruction: Nationalist China in War and Revolution, 1937- 1945. Stanford University Press, 1984
  • John Fairbank and Albert Feuerwerker, eds., Republican China 1912-1949 in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 13, part 2. Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • James C. Hsiung and Steven I. Levine, eds. China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937–1945 M. E. Sharpe, 1992
  • Ch'i Hsi-sheng, Nationalist China at War: Military Defeats and Political Collapse, 1937–1945 University of Michigan Press, 1982

  • Gildea, Robert. Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation (2004)
  • Jackson, Julian. France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944 (2003)
  • Paxton, Robert O. Vichy France 2nd ed. (2001)

  • Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (2000)
  • Hagemann, Karen and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum; Home/Front: The Military, War, and Gender in Twentieth-Century Germany Berg, 2002
  • Kalder N. "The German War Economy". Review of Economic Studies 13 (1946): 33-52.
  • Victor Klemperer. I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years (2001), memoir by partly-Jewish professor
  • Milward, Alan. The German Economy at War 1965.
  • Overy, Richard. War and Economy in the Third Reich Oxford UP, 1994.
  • Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs 1970.

  • Absalom, R, "Italy", in J. Noakes (ed.), The Civilian in War: The Home Front in Europe, Japan and the U.S.A. in World War II. Exeter: Exęter University Press. 1992.
  • Tracy Koon, Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization in Fascist Italy 1922-1943 (U North Carolina Press, 1985),
  • Morgan, D. Italian Fascism, 1919-1945 (1995)
  • Wilhelm, Maria de Blasio. The Other Italy: Italian Resistance in World War II. W. W. Norton, 1988. 272 pp.

  • Cohen, Jerome. Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction. University of Minnesota Press, 1949. online version
  • Cook, Haruko Taya, and Theodore Cook. Japan at War: An Oral History 1992.
  • Dower, John. Japan in War and Peace 1993.
  • Duus Peter, Ramon H. Myers, and Mark R. Peattie. The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945. Princeton UP 1996. 375p.
  • Havens, Thomas R. Valley of Darkness: The Japanese People and World War II. 1978.
  • Havens, Thomas R. "Women and War in Japan, 1937-1945." American Historical Review 80 (1975): 913-934. online in JSTOR

  • Davies, Norman. Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (2004)
  • Gross, Jan T. Polish Society under German Occupation: The Generalgouvernement, 1939-1944. Princeton UP, 1979.
  • Gross, Jan T. Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (1988).
  • Gutman, Israel. Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1998)
  • Redlich, Shimon. Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1919-1945. Indiana U. Press, 2002. 202 pp.

Soviet Union
  • Barber, Bo, and Mark Harrison. The Soviet Home Front: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II, Longman, 1991.
  • Braithwaite, Rodric. Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War (2006)
  • Thurston, Robert W., and Bernd Bonwetsch (Eds). The People's War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union (2000)
  • Berkhoff, Karel C. Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule. Harvard U. Press, 2004. 448 pp.
  • Dallin, Alexander. Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule. Portland: Int. Specialized Book Service, 1998. 296 pp.
  • Vallin, Jacques; Meslé, France; Adamets, Serguei; and Pyrozhkov, Serhii. "A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses During the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s." Population Studies (2002) 56(3): 249-264. Issn: 0032-4728 Fulltext in Jstor. Reports life expectancy at birth fell to a level as low as ten years for females and seven for males in 1933 and plateaued around 25 for females and 15 for males in the period 1941-44.

  • Andenaes, Johs, et al. Norway and the Second World War (ISBN 82-518-1777-3) Oslo: Johan Grundt Tanum Forlag, 1966.
  • Salmon; Patrick (Ed.) Britain and Norway in the Second World War London: HMSO, 1995.

United States
  • Bard, Mitchell, Ph.D. (1999). Complete Idiot’s Guide to World War II. United States of America: Alpha Books.
  • Berkin, Carol R. and Clara M. Lovett. (1980). Women, War, & Revolution. London: Holmes and Meier Publishers.

  • Agoncillo Teodoro A. The Fateful Years: Japan's Adventure in the Philippines, 1941-1945. Quezon City, PI: R.P. Garcia Publishing Co., 1965. 2 vols
  • Hartendorp A. V.H. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. Manila: Bookmark, 1967. 2 vols.
  • Lear, Elmer. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines: Leyte, 1941-1945. Southeast Asia Program, Department of Far Eastern Studies, Cornell University, 1961. 246p. emphasis on social history
  • Steinberg, David J. Philippine Collaboration in World War II. University of Michigan Press, 1967. 235p.

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