Preparing to learn about the start of World War 2
First I went to this maps website, and then I copied and printed out the 1939-1942 map for us to use. I also wanted them to generally work on labeling maps, so we printed out this blackline of World War 2 Europe. I think I need to break down and buy Wonder Maps (affiliate link), we’re using maps a lot more now (Edited to add: I did buy WonderMaps and it’s been fabulous for our history studies because it already has the information I needed to teach). I’ve also decided I need full size maps of each continent. I keep printing off these maps and having to remake them each time it comes up………. (edited to add, I’ve now got laminated copies of several different continents or parts of continents, I’m missing the Middle East).
What caused World War 2 you ask?
(This lesson came from All American History 2* and I”m sure if you’re studying world history it’s also in Mystery of History 4)
The end of World War 1, Germany got screwed (sorry to be so straight, but they were). All of the other countries were looking for someone to blame, so they chose Germany, and gave them some big-honking war reparations. That’s the official term, big-honking.
That allowed Adolf Hitler to come into power. Adolf Hitler was a brilliant man in many aspects, he was also somewhat insane and power hungry. Let’s go through what he did.
First, Hitler puts troops into the demilitarized zone between Germany and France. No one did anything (we’ve later discovered Hitler fully expected someone to do something, and if they had, he would have backed down, so it’s partially our fault for our cowardice).
Then Hitler annexes Austria, under the claim “it’s really part of greater Germany.” Most Austrians don’t object to his annexation, and it’s a smooth takeover (the primary exception being a singing family with lots of kids).
Emboldened by the complete lack of opposition, everyone was too war weary after World War 1 to want to get into another war, Hitler sends more troops over to France and actually takes part of it. France puts up some resistance, but not much, and Britain basically says “play nice now kids,” and does nothing.
Hitler goes into Poland and takes it. There is some resistance, but they did not really believe he would invade, so it was not organized. Britain wakes up to the impending danger and allies with France (gold stars show the allies).
While claiming to want peace, Hitler invades France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. They all fall to Germany’s organized military power in fairly short order. This is the start of Vichy France, and the underground French rebellion.
Italy has its own tin-plated dictator (and yes I can quote Star Trek as part of history), and allies itself with Germany. Stalin thinks Germany is on the right track with its “subversives,” and he and Hitler carve up Europe between them in a secret agreement. They start it all of by carving up Poland. Poland officially falls, but organizes a secret underground movement helping to fight Germany through the end of the war.
Meanwhile Germany doesn’t want Britain to get the upper hand, so it starts bombing runs on Britain, this is early 1940/1941 time frame. Britain to save their families sends all kids in Southern Britain to the North (and that’s how you get the starting story for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe*).
Meanwhile President Roosevelt is really itching to get in on this fight, but the American people are quite sure they don’t want to get in on it. They’re starting to realize they really shouldn’t have been in on World War 1 (Irving Berlin wrote a hilarious political parody musical called Strike Up The Band* about getting into war), and they want to stay out of a European affair. So FDR manages to pass the “Cash Carry Act.”
So, much money and guns was traded back and forth between Britain and the United States. Meanwhile…….
Surprise! Germany betrays its’ ally and invades Russia. Everyone is shocked, they were such good friends. How could Germany turn on Russia like that?
And everyone picks their sides, and War is in Europe for the second time in 20 years.