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Updated by Renae Evans on Jun 13, 2014
Renae Evans Renae Evans
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World War II Overview for High School Students

This is a curated list of resources to be used in a high school setting while studying World War II online.

Lesson 1.0: Background - World War II: Crash Course World History #38

START HERE. This Crash Course video presents an overview of WWII for high school students. Students, watch this video to gain background knowledge of WWII. In this video, John Green provides a 13 minute summary of the key points of World War II. Watch this as an introduction to your study of WWII. Topics and terms that Mr. Green introduces will be explored in more detail in the following lessons. The video should open by clicking the play symbol on the video icon. If not, use this link to open it in a new window: Crash Course #38

Lesson 1.1: Background Sources - World War II in Europe Timeline

This is an interactive timeline of World War II in Europe with primary and secondary sources linked for further explanations of events. Students, view this timeline to discover the key events of the war. Pay special attention to the events in 1933 that set the stage for war. You may click on the hyperlinks for more information about primary and secondary sources from the war. We will use this site to compare and contrast sources.

Lesson 2.0: Causes - The National WWII Museum

During the 1930s, people grew up in a world shadowed by extraordinary economic and military threats. A financial depression gripped much of the globe, throwing millions out of work. In some countries, economic hardship contributed to the power and appeal of political extremists. Students, begin by reading the article, “War Clouds” to understand the growing problems that resulted in another war. Pay special attention to aggressive international actions that drew multiple countries into a second global conflict.

Lesson 2.1: Causes - The Nanjing Massacre: Scenes from a Hideous Slaughter 75 Years Ago

On Dec. 13, 1937, Japanese troops captured the city of Nanjing, then the capital of the Chinese republic led by Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi). The Japanese went on a six-week slaughter that would become known as the "Rape of Nanjing." This site shows pictures of the massacre, one of the aggressive causes of conflict that led to World War II. Students, use this site to explore the conditions during this time. Consider what the pictures show about the relationship between Japanese and Chinese troops and civilians. Think about how the attitudes depicted will impact the next world war.

Lesson 4.3: Events - Graphic C -The History Place - Statistics of World War II

This site gives a concise overview of the statistics of World War II in a chart format that is easy for students to read. Students, use this site to compare the civilian versus military deaths during WWII. Consider how these numbers would impact support for the war effort.

Lesson 3.0: Totalitarian Leaders - Totalitarianism

Lesson 3.0: Totalitarian Leaders - Totalitarianism
(GALILEO password needed.) This Encyclopedia Britannica article defines totalitarianism and highlights the totalitarian leaders in office prior to the outbreak of World War II. Students, use this article to define what totalitarianism is and identify the totalitarian characteristics of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Consider how this form of government may impact the conditions leading to war.

Lesson 3.1: Totalitarian Leaders - Hirohito

Lesson 3.1: Totalitarian Leaders - Hirohito
(GALILEO password needed.) This Encyclopedia Britannica article is about Japanese Emperor Hirohito and his totalitarian policies. Students, read this article and discover what views Hirohito had about going to war with the United States. Consider how militarism and alliances impacted his decisions.

Lesson 4.1: Events - Graphic A - WWII Deaths

This graphic shows the number of casualties by country during WWII. Students, using your resources and knowledge of WWII battles, view this graphic to determine the country that lost the most people and predict why this occurred.

Lesson 4.2: Events - Graphic B - WWII Deaths by Year

This graphic shows how many people died each year during World War II. Students, using your knowledge of battles from previous readings, predict why totals are higher during particular years.

Lesson 4.4: Events - Graphic D -Wartime GDP of the Great Powers

This graphic shows the Gross Domestic Product of the major powers during WWII. Students, consider how finances impacted the war effort. Do you think there was a correlation between GDP and military success?

Lesson 4.0: Events - WWII Battles

This site gives a brief history of the events of World War II. It also offers a list of facts about the war. Students, use this site as background reading to prepare for the graphics that we will view. This site will explain the battles that result in the statistics that we will analyze.

Lesson 4.5: Events -First Atomic Bomb Dropped on Japan - Primary Source Newspaper Article

This site provides a primary source newspaper article relating the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The New York Times front page is shown, followed by a full transcript of the article. Students, consider how Americans felt when reading this. How would different segments of society have reacted to this news, i.e. parents of soldiers, Japanese-Americans, politicians, farmers?

Lesson 5.0: Post War World - Occupation and Reconstruction of Japan, 1945-52

This is a US Department of State site that highlights milestones in American history. This article features MacArthur's plan for Japan after World War II. Students, read this article to discover how the United States rehabilitated the Japanese state after defeating Japan by dropping two devastating atomic bombs on the country.

Lesson 5.1: Post War World - History of the United Nations 1941 - 1950

"To work together, with other free peoples, both in war and in peace" Signed in London on 12 June 1941, the Inter-Allied Declaration was a first step towards the establishment of the United Nations. This site shows a one page overview of the history and origins of the United Nations, the international peacekeeping organization established after World War II. Students, use this site to discover the first resolution made by the United Nations General Assembly. You should also discover when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. Consider how the events of WWII led to the creation of the United Nations and its actions.

Lesson 5.2: Post War World - New Spheres of Influence

This map shows the alliances that formed after WWII. These Cold War alliances lasted until 1989. Students, look at this graphic and predict what new spheres of influence existed after the conclusion of WWII. Consider if this new political landscape benefits or is detrimental to nations at that time.