World War II was likely the most important event of the twentieth century, especially for Europe. It ended the era of empire, created new superpowers, introduced weapons of unprecedented destruction, and saw a holocaust of unimaginable horror. This course investigates the central aspects of the War in Europe. It begins with the Treaty of Versailles’ failure and the rise of European fascism. It then turns to the military strategy and tactics that determined the important battles, as well as the diplomatic negotiations happening behind the scenes. It then considers the consequences of the war for the people of Europe—and particularly the ethnic groups and women who suffered the ravages of war and the horrors of fascism. In every case we will visit the places central to this crucial moment in world history, considering how the world has been different ever since.
- the political and diplomatic events that led to the Second World War in Europe
- the military strategy and tactics that determined the War’s outcome
- the economic, social, and lived consequences of the war, particularly for affected ethnic groups and women.
Field WorkCountry: Poland
Date: September 15, 2019
We will visit the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk and then travel to the Stuthoff concentration camp. At the museum we will take a guided tour of the exhibits (which include video and audio recordings) to get a broad overview of the course of World War II. The initial shots of the European War happened in Gdansk, and the museum will provide particular insight into the fighting between Nazi and Soviet forces in Poland, the guerilla fighting behind the lines, and the cost to civilians trapped between the fighters. In the afternoon we will travel to the site of the Stuthoff Concentration Camp. The site includes exhibits about the operation of the camp and different methods of mass destruction (including a documentary film). A central aim of the visit is to learn about the way the Nazis practiced “collective violence,” the victims of Nazism, and to reflect on the nature of victim commemoration. It is also an opportunity to think about what the exhibits tell us about the perpetrators and the legacies of Nazi rule and destruction. Students will be asked to read a review of Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men to consider the responsibility for the mass murder of Jewish and other victims of Nazism by ordinary Germans.
- Gain a broad overview of World War II, its major events and battles, and the cost to civilians (focus of the Museum of the Second World War)
- Learn of the Holocaust—its impact, victims, and horror—by visiting a former concentration camp (focus of the Stutthof visit)
- Recognize the human cost of the world’s deadliest war