On the 1st January 1942, the Declaration by the United Nations was agreed and signed by the representatives of four major Allied nations during the Second World War. The original signatories – US President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the USSR’s Ambassador to the US Maxim Litvinov, and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs T. V. Soong – were joined the next day by a further 24 nations.

Having been drafted by Roosevelt, Churchill and Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins, the short declaration was linked to acceptance of the principles of the Atlantic Charter of 1941. The document also provided a foundation for the later establishment of the UN itself, but was rooted firmly in the political and military situation of the time. All signatories agreed to apply themselves fully in what was referred to as “a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world”. Referring to these forces as following “Hitlerism”, it is clear that the Allied leaders did not differentiate between the different regimes against which they were fighting.

The wording of the declaration laid out the intended conclusion of the war. Rather than accept an armistice as had happened at the conclusion of the First World War, the signatories agreed that “complete victory over their enemies is essential”. This meant that the Allies would only accept the unconditional surrender of their enemies. Furthermore, they were bound to cooperate with every other signatory in the ongoing war and therefore not pursue a separate peace for their own nation’s advantage.

By the time the war ended in 1945, a further 21 countries had signed the declaration.

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