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Session 3: The Rise of Dictatorships

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Session 3: The Rise of Dictatorships



Instructional Activities

1. Discuss with students the reasons why dictatorships arose in the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, and Japan between WWI and WWII. Include the following topics in the discussion:

  • Economic crises

  • Problems associated with the Treaty of Versailles

  • Rise of Lenin and later Stalin in the U.S.S.R.

  • Quick rise of economic and political power in Japan

Explain that in an economic crisis as severe as the worldwide depression, people will more likely turn to governments to solve problems; democracies are slow to react as public and legislative debates have to take place before action. Germany felt humiliated because of the Treaty of Versailles, and Hitler offered to restore national pride to Germany. Mussolini did the same for Italy.

2. Discuss the U.S.S.R. under Stalin, including the following:

  • Five-year plans: Goals were set for heavy industry (e.g., steel industry) to produce quotas that were to be met in five years. Medals and other awards were handed out as incentives to meet such goals.

  • Collectivization: Peasants were forced to give up their individual farms and become workers for the state on what were called collective farms.

  • Great Purge: Those who disagreed with Stalin were either sent to gulags (soviet prisons) or simply disappeared when the secret police came knocking on their doors in the night. Many of these people were convicted, with little or no evidence, of treason against the state.

  • police state: A secret police organization was established to monitor everyone and everything in the U.S.S.R.

Have students predict the results of the above actions by Stalin. Responses may include the following:
  • Loss of civil liberties and civil rights

  • Creation of a totalitarian state

  • Revolt by farmers and the elimination of several million of them

  • Fast creation of an industrial state

3. Ask students to pretend they are teenagers in Germany in the 1920s, and instruct them to write an essay or diary entry detailing life at that time period.

4. Discuss Germany under Hitler, including the following:

  • The failure of previous governments to address the country’s economic problems (inflation and depression), thus allowing Hitler’s rise to power

  • The anti-Semitism of the Nazis

  • The meaning of Nazism (National Socialism): A dictatorship that allows private ownership

  • Hitler’s takeover of many European countries based on the claim that he needed to make a homeland for his Third Reich

5. Discuss Italy under Mussolini, including the following:

  • The rise of fascism

  • Ambition to restore the glory of Rome

  • Invasion of Ethiopia

6. Discuss Japan under Hirohito and Hideki Tojo during the Interwar Period, including the following:

  • The rise of militarism (Japan became a highly-armed military state.)

  • Industrialization of Japan, leading to a drive for raw materials. Japan’s need for raw materials, especially oil, brought Japan into conflict with America.

  • The invasion of Korea, Manchuria, and the rest of China to procure raw materials and conquer old enemies
  • The roles of Hirohito and Tojo (Hirohito was thought of as a divine emperor. When the military general Tojo took power, he kept the emperor because of this perceived divinity. Japan consequently also became a totalitarian state.)

7. Have students create a chart listing these four totalitarian states and the characteristics and actions of each.

Session 4: Assessment


  • Attachment A: Sample Assessment Items
Instructional Activities

1. Distribute copies of Attachment A, and have students complete the assessment.

Attachment A: Sample Assessment Items

An asterisk (*) indicates the correct answer.

1. A major result of collectivization in the U.S.S.R. was to

A increase development of heavy industry.

B eliminate large number of peasant farmers.*

C bring about capitalistic reforms.

D assist the rise of the evolutionary socialists.

2. The League of Nations, established to prevent future wars, failed because

A it did not have the power to enforce its decisions.*

B Germany refused to cooperate with its policies.

C member nations did not support United States membership.

D Russia declared war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

3. Following World War I, the system established to administer colonies of defeated powers was known as the

A Alliance System.

B Congress of Vienna.

C Papal System.

D Mandate System.*

4. One cause of the worldwide depression following World War I was

A high protective tariffs.*

B failure of banks to expand credit opportunity.

C low unemployment.

D industry failure to produce enough supply to satisfy demand.

5. The Treaty of Versailles resulted in all of the following EXCEPT

A payment of reparations by Germany.

B resolution of ethnic tensions.*

C reduction in the size of Germany’s army.

D stripping Germany of its colonies.

6. France and Great Britain engaged in a policy of appeasement during the 1930s in hopes of avoiding war with what country and its leader?

A U.S.S.R. and Stalin

B Germany and Wilhelm II

C Germany and Hitler*

D U.S.S.R. and Lenin

7. The worldwide depression of the 1920s and 1930s led, in Germany and Italy, to the rise of

A totalitarian dictators.*

B stable economies.

C concentration camps.

D organized crime.

8. All of the following are reasons for the worldwide depression EXCEPT

A quotas and high protective tariffs.

B the expansion of credit.

C the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

D the discovery of gold in Alsace-Loraine.*

9. The Fourteen Points adopted into the Treaty of Versailles was drawn up by

A George Clemenceau of France.

B Woodrow Wilson of the United States.*

C David Lloyd George of Great Britain.

D Vittorio Orlando of Italy.

10. Which nations administered territorial mandates in the Middle East under the League of Nations?

A Japan and China

B Great Britain and the United States

C France and Great Britain*

D Germany and the Soviet Union

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