World War II, unleashed by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939, with a ferocity unequalled in the annals of modern warfare, had rebounded against the Third Reich by 1944. The Reich reached its high point in summer 1942. In April 1943, German forces in North Africa surrendered. Soon, Sicily and Italy were invaded, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini was removed from the Italian government, Italy withdrew from the Axis, and the Italians surrendered on September 8, 1943. On the Eastern Front, initial Nazi gains were checked and turned back. In 1942 the Germans lost more than 300,000 men in the Battle of Stalingrad. At Kursk in the summer of 1943, a Wehrmacht attempt to regain the initiative failed after the world’s largest tank battle. By January 1944, the Nazis had been pushed back and would soon be fighting on Polish, rather than Russian, soil. By August, the Red Army was almost at the gates of Warsaw, although the complete liberation of Poland was to take another five months. Simultaneously, the Anglo-American forces opened the so-called Second Front, invading France and bringing about the liberation of much of Western Europe. Despite some setbacks — such as the German counter-attack known popularly as the Battle of the Bulge — the Allied tide inexorably pushed on to Berlin and the final victory.