HOT TOPIC: World Wars
Volume 1, Issue 36 - May 29, 2005

One hundred years ago Europe was as much a slave to its past as it was a child of the future. Many of the royal houses had intermarried to the point of making their survival both politically and scientifically difficult. Pogroms (riots) were rampant across Eastern Europe , most often against the Jews who had been relegated to living in ghettos. The German military had been the dominant force on the continent since the late 1800s and the only thing that kept it in check was a series of treaties and agreements which formed alliances to strike a balance of power. Unfortunately, these entangling alliances would eventually lead to the downfall of peace and order in Europe, as nations fell like dominoes one after another in response to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and a succession of events that took place thereafter.

The conclusion of the “war to end all wars” was signified by the Treaty of Versailles, which was so punitive to the Germans that the defeated nation could not pull itself out of economic collapse and rejoin the nations of Europe as a self-sustaining partner. The result was a simmering unrest that lasted years, eventually allowing for the Nazi's to gain the ear of the German people. In an age of fascism, dictators from Germany , Italy and Japan united in an attempt to overthrow the established order and carve out their own empires from the resulting spoils. Thankfully, history tells us of incredible leaders, soldiers and events which came together in a confluence of will that withstood the onslaught of war in Europe, Asia and Africa . Indeed, if World War II had ended otherwise, the world would be a very different place today.

Of course the world never truly was the same after these two cataclysmic events. Communism took root and technology ushered in the nuclear age. The cold war and the space race are significant repercussions felt in our lifetime. But what of our children who look at these wars as some ancient chapter in history? How do we make the lessons of the twentieth century pertinent and alive for today's students? The answer, at least partially, is technology. I submit these twelve sites to you – six on WWI and the remainder on WWII – as ample evidence that history can still come alive in meaningful engaging ways. As we celebrate this Memorial Day, I hope you will enjoy the rich collection of resources I offer to you and your classrooms.


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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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