HIST 2213 -- World War II


“We sure liberated the hell out of this place.”

American soldier, comment on the ruins of a village in Normandy.


“The discussion covered killing, eliminating, and exterminating.”

Adolf Eichmann, on the Wannsee Conference, Jan. 20, 1940


Little more than a generation after the international community pledged that the First World War would be the ‘war to end all wars,’ Eurasia found itself embroiled in yet another global struggle.  Having perfected mechanized slaughter between 1914-18, this cataclysm exacted an even higher toll of death and destruction.  No conflict in history matches the breadth, cost, or devastation of the Second World War.  The war consumed roughly 50 million lives in a battleground that spanned three continents and four oceans.  At the war’s conclusion, vast swaths of Europe and Asia lay in ruins.  In fact, so battered and broken were the belligerents after this second ‘World War,’ most commentators feared the very existence of human civilization would be imperiled by a third. 


They had good reason to be concerned.  Not only did World War II fully incorporate the Great War’s techniques and strategies of industrial warfare—mobilizing millions of soldiers and factory workers to the banner of national violence—but when combined with science and xenophobic megalomania, these tools of war wrought unsurpassed devastation.  Indeed, the war was accompanied by methodical genocide; entire communities were erased by means of bullet and gas.  Similarly shocking was the 20th century’s physics revolution, which brought the power to destroy entire cities with a single bomb.  Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved not only the tremendous destructive potential of this technical innovation, but also that humanity was willing to employ it.


Course Documents


WWII Syllabus - FINAL 2008.doc


13. Review Ppts.ppt