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Sample Resources

Below is an annotated list of Internet resources for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.

Armenian National Institute. http://www.armenian-genocide.org. This site provides information on the Armenian Genocide in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Bio.: True Story. A&E Television Networks. http://www.biography.com/. This site provides biographical information on famous people. Click on “Biography Search,” enter a person’s name, and click “Go.”

Cambodian Genocide Program. Yale University. http://www.yale.edu/cgp. This site provides information on the Cambodian Genocide of 1975–1979.

The Internet Court of Justice Considers Genocide. University of Cincinnati. http://homepages.uc.e.du/thro/genocide/intro/introduction.html. This site provides information on Bosnia’s charges of genocidal crimes against Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Jones, Tamara. “U.N. Court Orders Yugoslavia to Prevent Genocide in Bosnia.” Los Angeles Times. http://www-tech.mit.edu/V113/N19/yugoslavia.19w.html. This site presents an article detailing the U.N. court orders against Yugoslavia intending to prevent genocide in Bosnia.

National WWII Memorial, Washington D.C. http://www.wwiimemorial.com/default.asp?page=home.asp. This site provides information and photos of the National World War II Memorial.

“Rwanda: How the genocide happened.” BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1288230.stm. This site provides information about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. http://www.ushmm.org/. This site provides information on the Holocaust.

Virginia Holocaust Museum. http://www.va-holocaust.com/. This Web site offers numerous materials concerning the Holocaust.

World War II Poster Collection. Northwestern University Library. http://www.library.northwestern.edu/govpub/collections/wwii-posters/. This site provides 300 posters from the World War II era. A CD containing the posters can be purchased for a cost-recovery fee.

Session 1: Causes, Major Events, and Major Figures of World War II


  • Maps of Germany and the U.S.S.R. during World War II
Instructional Activities

1. Discuss the major causes of World War II, making sure to include the following:

  • Aggression by the totalitarian powers of Italy, Germany, and Japan

Italy invaded Ethiopia.

Germany invaded Austria and Poland.

Japan invaded Manchuria, China, and Korea and attacked Pearl Harbor.

  • Nationalism as expressed in Nazism and fascism

  • Failures of the Treaty of Versailles

The treaty failed to include most of Wilson’s Fourteen Points.

The treaty punished Germany.

The treaty did not include self-determination.

  • Weakness of the League of Nations

The League could not stop the aggression of dictatorships.

The United States was not a member of the League.

  • Appeasement by the democracies. (Appeasement is a policy especially associated with Great Britain and Prime Minister Chamberlain. It technically meant appeasing Hitler when he demanded certain territories and trusting him when he said his demands would be limited to only German areas.)

  • Tendencies towards isolationism and pacifism in Europe and the United States

Instruct students to make a chart of the above information.

2. Discuss with the students the major events of World War II, including the following:

  • Germany invaded Poland, causing Great Britain and France to declare war.

  • Germany invaded France, and France fell.

  • Germany next aimed at Britain, but the air Battle of Britain prevented its planned invasion.

  • Germany violated the nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union and invaded.

  • Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into the war.

  • D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe at the beaches of Normandy, France, began the defeat of Germany.

  • The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki precipitated the end of the war with Japan.

3. Ask the students to suggest reasons Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R. Allow them to look at maps and discuss in small groups. Possible responses include, “Hitler wanted the oil fields and wheat fields for his army.” “The countries were basically enemies and represented two totally different forms of government.” “Hitler wanted to overpower the U.S.S.R. before America entered the war.”

4. Display the names of the major leaders of World War II. Ask students to write a sentence identifying each leader and his role. Have students enter this information, as well as information from steps 1–3 above to their notes or interactive notebooks. Another strategy would be to have students complete a matching activity with this list of names:

Roosevelt A. British prime minister

Eisenhower B. American president at outbreak of war

Stalin C. Japanese emperor

Churchill D. Soviet dictator

Truman E. American general, Philippine campaign and postwar Japan

Hirohito F. Nazi German leader

Hitler G. American general in charge of D-Day invasion

Marshall H. American president at end of war

Tojo I. Japanese general

MacArthur J. American general, top advisor to Roosevelt

Session 2: The Holocaust and Other Genocides

Instructional Activities

1. Remind students that there had been a climate of hatred against Jews in Europe and Russia for centuries. Define the term genocide as the systematic and purposeful destruction of a racial, political, religious, or cultural group. Display other terms relating to the Holocaust, and discuss their meanings, e.g., anti-Semitism, final solution, master race.

2. Summarize the following elements leading to the Holocaust:

  • Totalitarianism combined with nationalism

  • History of anti-Semitism

  • Defeat in World War I and economic depression blamed on German Jews

  • Hitler’s belief in the master race

  • Final solution: Extermination camps, gas chambers

Explain that various instances of genocide occurred throughout the twentieth century.

3. Ask students whether they know anything about any other genocides besides the Holocaust. Divide the class into four groups, and assign each group one of the following twentieth-century genocides:

  • The Armenians by leaders of the Ottoman Empire

  • Peasants, government and military leaders, and members of the elite in the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin

  • The educated, artists, technicians, former government officials, monks, and minorities by Pol Pot in Cambodia
  • The Tutsi minority by the Hutu in Rwanda

Instruct groups to research their assigned genocide, using library and/or Internet resources, and prepare a short presentation with visuals to present to the class. Have groups present their findings to the class while the class takes notes.

4. Ask students to suggest reasons a genocide might occur. Ask them how a genocide may affect the survivors, the perpetrators, and the world at large.

5. Another strategy is to show a video of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and encourage students to make connections between the story and recently discussed topics. Assist students in identifying connections between certain WWII events and the following themes of the novel:

6. Assign a teacher-selected reading or other reinforcement activity.

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