Why the axis powers lost WWII, plus facts and hypothetical scenarios

Out of all the wars in history, WWII is the one war that gets discussed in a opinionated matter. Many of the so called “facts” stated are often times based on biases and on wishful thinking. Many WWII movies and video games are also based on exaggerations and myths. But perhaps the main things people like to discuss is who was better and who committed more war crimes. In this take, I’ll explain why the axis failed to win the war from an unbiased perspective, I’ll give WWII facts and hypothetical scenarios.

Why the axis powers lost WWII, plus facts and hypothetical scenarios

The tripartite pact: This is the formal contract that formed the three major axis powers(Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy). The pact was an agreement between the three powers that should one get attacked, the others will come to it’s aid. Bad idea. Had they thought it through, it would have never been signed. What if one of these powers decided to get all hot headed and decide to make enemies with multiple superpowers at once? Well, that’s exactly what happened when Japan invaded China and subsequently started to pick fights with the British, the Australians, the US and several countries. As per agreement, the Reich was left with no choice but to declare war on America, officially bringing America into the war.

The signing of the pact
The signing of the pact

Hitler starts a two front war: While the empire of Japan was already showing aggression as early as 1937 when they invaded China, the third Reich showed aggression in 1939 by invading Poland. Prompting both France and the UK to declare war on the third Reich officially putting the Reich on a two front war. The third Reich attempted to remedy this by occupying France and attempting to invade the UK(Operation Sea lion) which failed due to the UK being surrounded by sea and thus the third Reich being unable to land troops on British soil.

German troops entering Poland
German troops entering Poland

Axis powers weren’t truly united: One of the big reasons why the axis lost was because they weren’t truly United. For example, the Imperial Japanese and Germans were fighting on separate theaters and not providing any assistance to each other. Germany wanted Japan to attack the Soviet Union but that never happened. The only time the Japanese fought the Soviets was during the battle of Khalkhin Gol but there are many misconceptions regarding this battle which I’ll explain later on.

Hiroshi Ōshima and Adolf Hitler
Hiroshi Ōshima and Adolf Hitler

Italian weak link: Despite Italy being one of the three major Axis powers, it was the weakest of the three and even became a liability for the axis in the war. The Germans occasionally had to come to the aid of the Italians and even had to rescue the captive Mussolini after Italy surrendered and became an allied country in 1943. Italian combat performance was bad due to low morale and outdated weaponry.

Mussolini and Hitler
Mussolini and Hitler

Brutality: The fact, that the third Reich and the Imperial Japanese were committing atrocities didn’t help them gain friends. The imperial Japanese army ravaged the Chinese populace, while the Nazis were exterminating people they considered undesirable.

Heinrich Himmler staring at emaciated Russian POW.
Heinrich Himmler staring at emaciated Russian POW.

Nazis classifying the Slavs as subhumans: The Nazis had classified all Slavic people as üntermenschen(Subhuman) due to the idea they were mixed(half European, half Asian). Even though this has been disputed by many people who believe that the Nazis were strictly referring to the Communists as subhumans not the Slavs, it’s a fact that the third Reich did commit atrocities against the Slavs. Initially the Slavs actually greeted the Germans as liberators but that attitude changed after several German trips started to brutalize the locals. Had the third Reich treated the Slavs better, many Slavs would have most likely assisted the Germans in neutralizing the Soviet Union. After all, many Slavs did indeed initiatally collaborate with the Nazis because yes the Soviet Union was also a oppressive totalitarian regime.

Russian liberation army(Russians in the German army)
Russian liberation army(Russians in the German army)

Scrapped nuclear weapons program: The third Reich did have a nuclear weapon’s program in 1939 called the “Uranprojekt”. It only lasted a month because the invasion of Poland caused Germany to abandon it because many of the physicists were conscripted into the German army. There were plans to restart during the height of the war but they were hampered by the Norwegian resistance.

German nuclear reactor
German nuclear reactor

Failure to adapt: Both the imperial Japanese and the third Reich failed to adapt in regards to infantry weaponry. More so the Imperial Japanese. For example, the Germans failed to update from their bolt action Karbiner 98k rifles to semi auto rifles, while the red army had semi auto “SVT 40s” as early as 1940. The Germans didn’t deploy their own semi auto rifle called the “Gewehr 43” until 1943. The Germans did make a breakthrough with the world’s first assault rifle called the STG 44 but it came too late in the war to make a difference. Japanese infantry weapons were even worse, aside from constantly jamming, being underpowered and outdated, many of their cartridges would also misfire due to not being designed to be used in the damp environment of the Pacific jungles. Not to mention that the Japanese were using outdated military tactics such as the infamous Banzai Charge.

Nambu type 14, one of the worst weapons of WWII.
Nambu type 14, one of the worst weapons of WWII.

Outnumbered: The axis powers were greatly outnumbered in the war. As the war went on, the numbers of the axis powers continued to dwindle.

Why the axis powers lost WWII, plus facts and hypothetical scenarios

Underestimated the red army: Hitler underestimated the condition of the red army and thus expected to make short work of the Soviet Union. The reason being that during the Winter war, the Soviets failed to take over Finland which had a poorly equipped and poorly trained smaller army. Despite winning the war, the Soviets only managed to take 11% of Finland’s Territory which was later reclaimed by Finland.

Finland’s humiliation of the Soviet Union made Hitler overconfident.
Finland’s humiliation of the Soviet Union made Hitler overconfident.

Low resources: Aside from being outnumbered, the Axis also had insufficient resources, specifically oil. This is the reason why the Germans opened a Nort African campaign and why the Imperial Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor after the oil embargo.

Oil pumps in Bashkortosan
Oil pumps in Bashkortosan

WWII facts

1.) True size of the red army: People who assume that the Soviet Union could have won on it’s own usually assume that the red army was a gargantuan war machine that outnumbered the Germans 10 to 1. In reality, the Germans outnumbered the reds 2 to 1 early in the war. It wasn’t till late in the war when the reds started to outnumber the Germans at 2 to 1 and 4 to 1 ratios. The red army was numbering around 6 million in 1945, roughly around the same size as the US military.

2.) The lend lease: One of the reasons why the Red army was able to hold their own was because even before the US had gotten involved, the US was assisting them via lend lease which provided them with the materials to hold off the invasion. It wasn't purely because of the red army’s prowess.

3.) The Germans almost defeated the Soviet Union: Most people don’t realize just how close the Germans were to defeating the Soviet Union. Many of the other allied powers were even certain that the fall of the Soviet Union was imminent. Even Zhukov himself admitted that the Soviet Union came close to defeat . The Germans were literally at the gates of Moscow. The Germans never took the city because Hitler diverted his troops North and South to eliminate remaining soviet troops. By the time of the battle of Moscow(Operation Typhoon) the German army had suffered many losses and the Soviets bolstered their defenses in Moscow resulting in a victory for the Soviets.

4.) Imperial Japan had infighting: Prior to the invasion of China, there were two factions butting heads for influence in military operations. The Kodoha or imperial way faction and the Toseiha or control faction. The Kodoha faction wanted to invade the Soviet Union while the Toseiha wanted to invade China. The Kodoha were initially in the lead until their leader resigned due to poor health, the replacement was ironically sympathetic to the Toseiha. Long story short, several violent incidents occurred between both groups which culminated with the failed Coup d’ etat of 1936 which was launched by the Kodoha. The coup was put down and the Kodoha was abolished and the Toseiha got their wish of invading China the following year.

5.)German troops inflicted higher casualty rates upon Western allied troops than vice versa: As I said, this is take unbiased. Contrary to popular belief that the Western allies(Americans and British) soundly defeated the Germans. It was more of a hard earned victory than a easy one considering that the Germans inflicted higher casualties on the Western allies when compared to the casualties the Western allies inflicted on the Germans. Statistics even prove it, you can read about it here.

6.) Over 20,000 Japanese-Americans served in the US military during WWII: Some(442nd rct) fought in Europe and others served as interpreters in the Pacific and are credited with shortening the pacific war by 2 years by Charles A. Willoughby. The 442nd rct are often called “little iron men” due to their tenacity.

7.) What the red army lacked in overall military capabilities, they made up in individual physical prowess: Individually, red army soldiers weren’t known for their military prowess but they were by no means weaklings. In hand to hand combat, the Soviets were very dangerous. Despite Russians being physically smaller than the Germans on average, the Soviets compensated by becoming adept in a martial art known as “Sambo” which is designed to be used against skilled larger opponents. It’s a hybrid of various wrestling styles and Japanese martial arts. Most other armies lacked proper hand to hand combat training, the only other two that did incorporate proper hand to hand combat in their training were the imperial Japanese and the US army.

8.) The German army won several battles despite being outnumbered by the red army in said battles: There are numerous battles where despite being outnumbered by the red army, the Germans still managed to triumph. Examples: Battle of Brody, Dymyansk pocket, Operation Mars and battle of Tannenberg line.

9.) Imperial Japan was at war with multiple countries: Contrary to popular belief, Imperial Japan wasn’t only at war with the US. it was also at war with China, Australia, Canada, the UK, Philipines, New Zealand, Netherlands, Malaya, India and several others. This was a war Imperial Japan couldn’t win because it picked a fight with all of it’s neighbors plus the major powers.

10.)Weather: While people often attribute the Russian winter to the defeat of the Germans, the Winter was only a minor factor. Perhaps a bigger issue was the mud that caused German vehicles to bog down buying the Russians enough time to reorganize but even that was only one factor, not the only factor that attributed to the German defeat.

11.) Operation Unthinkable: Tensions were high in 1945 between the Western allies and the Soviets. Winston Churchill was even thinking about getting the West to attack the Soviet Union, it was called “Operation unthinkable”. The operation would have involved all major Western Powers uniting to go to war with the Soviet Union. The plan also involved reforming the Wehrmacht to help attack the USSR. Had this happened, chances are the Soviet Union would have been toppled.

12.) Soviet atrocities: As I mentioned several paragraphs above, the Soviets were no saints. And to assume the Soviets did no wrong is disrespectful to those who suffered under the Soviet Union. The Soviets had been commiting numerous atrocities even before WWII but most of the atrocities that are talked about are those committed during WWII as the Soviet Union pushed West late in the war.

13.) The myth of Soviet wave attacks: Unlike the movie “enemy at the gates”, the red army didn’t normally attack in waves. As I mentioned earlier, the red army was not the juggernaut that the media portrays them as. Wave attacks would have been impractical and would have most certainly cost them the war.

14.) Hand to hand combat rarely involved empty hand combat: While the name implies empty hand combat nowadays, back in WWII it simply meant fighting up close or close quarter combat. This type of fighting involved fighting with bayonets, shovels, trowels or any other sort of close range weapon, it rarely involved literal empty hand combat.

15.) Multicultural German military: Contrary to popular belief, the German military wasn’t strictly composed of pure ethnic Germans. In later stages of the war, foreign volunteers were accepted into the German army which included other Europeans(Finnish, French, Dutch, Norwegians, Italians, Spaniards, Russians etc) and non Europeans(Koreans, Mongolians, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, central Asians, middle Easterners and Blacks) There were several Jews in the Germany military, among them were Werner Goldberg. But most surprising is that one of the cofounders of the SS was also a Jewish man named Emil Maurice.

16.)The Lehi: A militant Jewish organization that tried to form an alliance with the Germans due to having a common enemy(The British). They originally wanted to establish a fascist Israeli state similar to fascist Italy. Once the third Reich’s defeat was imminent, the Lehi became more sympathetic towards the Soviets. It was disbanded in 1948 and most of it’s members became part of the Israel Defense force.

how things could have gone differently

Hypothetical Scenario 1, Axis show no brutality, persecution, aggression and the tripartite pact is not signed: The best way the axis powers could have made friends was by not committing atrocities(Holocaust, Nanjing Massacre, harming civilians etc). By the time the Western allies found out about this, all bets were off.

Had the nazis done no harm, by the time the Soviets invaded Poland, the allies would have viewed the Soviet Union as the sole agressor, not Germany. Chances are the Soviets would have also tried to invade Germany shortly afterwards but considering the bad shape of the red army during between 1939-1941, the Germans would have been able to repel it. And considering how powers like France and the UK have more in common with Germany, they may have come to Germaby’s aid. Besides, it’s not like the Western allies in real life actually trusted the Soviets. With their new found allies, the Germans would have been able to push the Red army all the way back to the Kremlin especially since much of the Eastern European populace would have sided with the liberators(Germany and it’s Western allies)

Emil Maurice, Jewish Co-founder of the SS.
Emil Maurice, Jewish Co-founder of the SS.

Hypothetical Scenario 2, Japan invades the Soviet Union from the East instead of invading China: Had the Kodoha gotten their way, the Japanese would have invaded the Soviet Union from the East and invested a large portion of their resources and manpower in such a military operation. In real life Khalkhin Gol was a disaster for the Japanese because the Japanese were caught off guard and because the Japanese were more focused on China. Had Imperial Japan coordinated it’s attack on the Soviet Union at the same time as Nazi Germany, the Soviets would have had to divide their troops thus fighting a two front war which they would have most likely lost. The Swastika and hinomaru would have been raised over the Red square, the Soviet’s oil deposits would have been acquired by the axis and Pearl Harbor would not have happened. While Chiang Kai Shek would have defeated the Chinese communists and turned China into a nationalist China rather than a communist China.

Sadao Araki, founder of the Kodoha faction
Sadao Araki, founder of the Kodoha faction

Hypothetical scenario 3, Soviet Union joins axis powers: A scenario that seems out of the question but almost happened in reality. During November 1940, there were talks between the Germans and the Russians, which involved the possibility of welcoming the Soviet Union as a 4th axis member and discussed spheres of influence. The talks went no where in reality. But had the Soviets joined the axis, it would have made the axis, the largest and most powerful land force in history, most likely granting the axis an almost certain victory should there had been a Second World War.

German and Soviet troops during Joint German-Soviet parade in Brest-Litovsk
German and Soviet troops during Joint German-Soviet parade in Brest-Litovsk

Hypothetical Scenario 4, America Joins the axis: The only way this could have happened was if either Fritz Kühn or William Dudley Pelley has taken control of the US. Both of these two individuals had sympathy towards the axis powers. Fritz founded the German-American Bund a group that was pro Nazi Germany. While Pelley founded the “Silver legion” an American fascist movement. Had either of them taken control of America, they would have supported the axis powers ultimately leading to an axis victory.

German-American bund
German-American bund

As I’ve mentioned in the intro, I tried to make this as unbiased as possible. When people usually discuss WWII, they usually discuss it from biased perspectives and even try to make it political. This is not meant to be a political statement, it’s simply meant to inform people on humanity’s biggest blunder.


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  • On the point of the Germans sticking with a Mauser 98 system until the bitter end: there's two types of German soldiers. Those who are machine gunners and those who aren't. From a doctrinal and tactical point of view the Kar 98K was generally sufficient.

    On the near defeat of the Soviets: Yes, the economy may have been close to collapse before the lend lease kicked in. Now it is impossible to estimate just how close. Yes, the loss of the Ukraine was a heavy blow. However, I'd wager there's every reason to believe that Stalin would have put every man, woman and child in the Soviet Union between himself and the German army. The fall of Moscow would have been a symbolic victory, yes, but as another large army without sufficient logistical capability showed before, that doesn't mean that the war is over. The way the Germans thought of and treated the Slavs also often made the choice between dieing in a trench and dieing in a German death camp somewhere in Poland (or dieing in a trench in a penal battalion) rather easy.

    Some things you missed: It was not only the winter war, but also the botched invasion of Poland that showed early Soviet incompetence in limited war.

    Germany had an abysmal plane production. Without enjoying the wonders of capitalism™ of the Western allies, or the central planning of the Soviet Union its third way was not sustainable. Much praise must be given to a certain, overweight man for being able to build up the Luftwaffe, but I think someone else (certainly not I) could have handled it better. As the United Kingdom would learn it didn't help to operate over enemy territory for long.
    Indeed, not only was the lack of aerial dominance on the western front a problem come 1944, this is a problem stemming from a different mindest: Bewegungskrieg.
    Since over two hundred years the Prussian, and later German, mindset had been focused on this. Germany never was able to sustain a drawn out war (perhaps its war with Denmark aside), so overrunning the enemy through maneuver warfare became the main way of winning wars. See the battle of Königgrätz for a great example of multiple units converging to destroy the enemy, something we'd still see in the German playbook come the invasion of Poland and going forth.
    This meant that a long war could not be sustained economically, or logistically. Yes, logistics were a large problem for the Germans. You want an example? The Germans nearly ran ran out of ammunition when fighting Poland.

    Cheers.

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    • That’s why if the Germans had treated the Slavs better, the Slavs would have sided with the Germans. As I mentioned, there were Slavs who actually fought against the Soviets, the Russian liberation army was one of those groups. And the other factor I mentioned was if Japanese gov’t had listened to it’s kodoha group and chose to invade the Soviet Union instesd. The Soviets would have been fighting a two front war that wouldn’t have been in the favor of the Soviets. While the US would have never gotten involved

  • A couple pertinent facts:

    1) Japan really had nothing to gain by attacking the Soviet Union, except for pleasing their ally. The land they coveted was China and SE Asia. Siberia is, and even more so was, a vast wilderness, and it's resources were even more difficult to extract 80 years ago, so motivation was lacking. Japan also didn't have the heavy armor for a major land conflict - China was essentially an all-infantry army and the Soviets would have presented quite a different challenge. After Soviet spies in Japan informed the Kremlin that no Japanese attack was coming, they were able to release fresh divisions they had been holding in the East to protect against such an eventuality for use on the European front.

    2) A long-term partnership with the USSR was highly unlikely, as Hitler hated the communists. While von Ribbentrop wanted to join with Russia against Britain, Hitler wanted the opposite - to convince Britain and France to join him against the USSR. When frustrated with that plan, he made the pact to split Poland, but all along it was the vast area of the Soviet Union he was interested in.

    3) The poor performance of the Italian Army in their ventures was a drain on the Nazi war machine as they had to continually bail them out, conspicuously in North Africa. This delayed the start of Operation Barbarossa by several crucial weeks, putting the initial approach to Moscow into the winter months.

    4) Nazi brutality and blatant racism helped turn off potential axis members such as Spain and Turkey from their cause.

    5) The weather was a significant factor; the Germans found the roads shown on their maps were in fact muddy paths. Their tanks had more trouble in mud and snow than the Soviet tanks. Motors and guns froze up in the cold, and the Germans were so confident of quick victory they hadn't supplied their troops with winter gear.

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    • 1.) Reaching the oil would have been difficult but by no means impossible. Had the Japanese taken the kodoha’s advice, the Soviet Union would have eventually been in a two front war. The imperial Japanese army was at 7 million men early in the war, while the Soviets were merely at around 2 million in the beginning.

      2.) A Potential partnership with the Soviet Union was unlikely but not completely out of the question, the main reason why the Soviets didn’t consider becoming a 4th axis power was because Hitler didn’t reply to Stalin’s proposition in regards to the Soviet’s sphere of influence.

      3.) Indeed, the Italian army was the weak link of the Axis.

      4.) Had the Nazis not have exhibited such characteristics it would have gotten then a lot more allies, especially Slavic allies.

      5.) It was indeed a factor as I mentioned but not the only factor.

    • But most of the developed oil fields in the USSR at the time were far from Siberia.

      Yeah, if they hadn't treated people so terribly they could have had a lot more Ukrainian recruits. Many of the people there treated them as liberators at first.

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What Guys Said 13

  • Hitler could have won it, no doubt. He should have had meetings with Japan discussing strategy and you are right they fought separately. He should have taken one country at the time, utilizing the new assets he acquired. He should have finished England's troops at Dunkirk , leaving England short handed on the home front. He then should have invaded England and won. Then attacked Russia (again one at a time) . This gives Hitler time to replace men lost and rebuild his ships and tanks. Beats Russia which he could have if he hit them with everything he had. He should have built more subs than battleships. If he did , the US would have had a hard time invading his positions.
    However, the US got Japan to attack by blocking their ability to get oil , so Japan to keep fighting in Asia , had to attack the US fleet in Hawaii. So, Roosevelt's blockade , Hitler fighting Russia and England at once , no strategy with Japan , and investing into wrong weapons was his downfall. But even if Hitler's Germany and Japan had won , how many months before Japan and Germany go to war? Their cultures were too different to coexist.

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  • Well I won't dispute anything you say here it all seems pretty above board though there is some interpretations here and there
    I would point out a simple little detail that could widely have changed the course of events
    England was at one point basically done had the Germans landed an invasion force they would have taken the country easily but they deemed they didn't have enough troop transport boats to land a sufficient force in one go so they decided to wait a year and in that year they would do Operation Barbarossa
    Had they just landed their troops piecemeal instead and delayed heading for Moscow instead they could have secured England which would have left the US without it as a staging ground when they entered the war severely limiting their ability to make war in Europe
    Overconfidence was their problem
    Germany started out with a relatively small army but by far the best army training wise material wise tactic wise and so on but seems like they never really grasped that the new recruits wouldn't be quite up to the same standards

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  • At the time when the war was ended and Hitler committed suicide it was only about a month after the nuclear warhead was first tested successfully.

    Many of the scientists and engineers in those regions flocked to America because the Germans forced them out with their threat and their policies.

    Had the Germans not surrendered, and had Hitler not died at that time, Nukes would have soon after been raining on Germans.

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  • Cool I like the read, other good study sources would be the battles of Britain, the battles of midway, and Philippine sea, ONS5 and the Uboat battles with Anglo American shipping , and navy. Obviously the Anglo American exchange of military technology, particularly radar. Many lessons learned and a lot of luck for the Allies, besides exception organisation skills particularly with DDay offensives, and also cracking enemy codes.

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  • Germany was and still is the most powerful nation in Europe. Huge history geek here and loved your read.
    There is no doubt that germany was going to have its enevitable victory against the allies in time. Simply put Nazi Germany lost at American intervention.
    America had the choice.
    They had a very hard time joining the war until Pearl Harbour. America wasn't concerned with Europe. The American people didn't want a war with Germany.

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  • When my grandpa was alivei spoke to him about similar stuff. He was a WWII Fleet Air Arm pilot for New Zealand/Britain during the war.

    He said they always thought they would win especially if America got involved. Which most of them thought they would eventually.

    Invading Russia during winter, and fighting
    Too many battles at once were the germans biggest mistakes.

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  • Good read, you are a bright young man. Keep up the good work!

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  • the axis lost bcs they had a 2 front war and were stupid enough to fight the u. s., uk, and others western forces and russia at the same time. even if the western allies capitulated, there's no way they could beat russia bcs of it size.

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    • Had they made the the right decisions leading up to the war, they most certainly would have defeated the Russians.

  • The Us had a hugeeee oil reserve for their navy at pearl harbor. They said if the Japanese spared one plane to take it out it would have crippled the United States for months and most likely would have changed the outcome of the war

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  • The tripartite pact was a defensive packed. Hitler was not obligated to declare war on the USA since Japan started.

    It was more of a hail Mary they would assume hostility with the USSR relieving pressure on the Germans.

    Judging by the fact japan refused to sink lend lease convoys heading for the USSR this was never going to happen.

    The Axis powers were well aware they lacked the recourses for a protracted war. The Germans diverting their attack towards the Caucuses is clear evidence of this.

    I could go on but most of your points are well understood by any person who’s interested in ww2

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    • The read why Japan didn’t invade Russia was because this was after the Kodoha faction had been disbanded and was already at war with China.

  • Pretty neat article.

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  • That was quite interesting

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  • very informative!

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