The Drive for Empire in Germany, Italy, and Japan

Specific Objective: Compare the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire in the 1930s, including the 1937 Rape of Nanking, other atrocities in China, and the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939.

After World War I, Italy, Japan, and Germany all sought to increase their might. Italy and Germany still suffered the effects of the war, and Japan wanted to further the power it had gained during wartime.
By the 1930s, all three were led by military dictatorships in which the state held tremendous power and sought to expand that power by invading neighbor nations.

Led by: Benito Mussolini
Sought: a “New Roman Empire” of colonial land
Conquests: Ethiopia in 1935; Albania in 1939

Led by: a series of military leaders, with Emperor Hirohito as a figurehead
Sought: natural resources, new markets for its goods, and room for population growth
Conquests: Manchuria, a Chinese province, in 1931; China in 1937

Led by: Adolf Hitler
Sought: to rebuild its army and assert its strength
Conquests: the Rhineland (between Germany and France) in 1936; Austria in 1938; the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia in 1938; Czechoslovakia in 1939

Quiz Yourself:

  1. The German, Italian, and Japanese drive to empire during the 1930s had roots in …
  2. What form of government dominated Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1930s?
  3. What was Mussolini’s main goal in the 1930s?
  4. Which country did Hitler claim for Germany in 1938?
  5. Which invasion in the late 1930s was followed by the mass murder of civilians?
  6. What impact did the Hitler-Stalin Pact have on Germany?


The United States and Europe Before World War II

Specific Objective: Understand the role of appeasement, nonintervention (isolationism), and domestic troubles in Europe and the United States prior to World War II.

Quiz Yourself:

  1. In the 1930s, Great Britain and France followed a policy of appeasement toward German and Italian aggression because they …
  2. U.S. isolationists in the 1930s wished to avoid …
  3. At the Munich Conference of 1938, Great Britain and France agreed to let Germany have …
  4. What nation did Italy invade in 1935?
  5. One reason why Great Britain, France, and the United States did not respond immediately to German and Italian aggression in the 1930s is that all three were …
  6. World War II broke out two days after Germany invaded which country?


The Course of World War II

Specific Objective: Identify and locate the Allied and Axis powers on a map; Discuss turning points of the war, theaters of conflict, key strategic decisions, and resulting war conferences and political resolutions, with an emphasis on geographic factors.

World War II was fought between:

Major Turning Points in World War II

A Continent Divided
The end of World War II brought peace to Europe, but the continent was left divided. In 1945, even before the war ended, the Allied leaders met at the Yalta Conference to plan for dividing Germany into two halves—west and east—in order to weaken it. But the rest of Europe was left divided into (generally) democratic western nations and communist eastern nations. The boundary of this divide was called the iron curtain.

Quiz Yourself:

  1. What was the immediate cause of U.S. entry into World War II?
  2. In what order were the Axis powers defeated in World War II?
  3. What was a decisive factor in the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad?
  4. In April, 1945, Germany was attacked from the …
  5. Why was Germany divided into two parts following World War II?
  6. The term “iron curtain” refers to the division between …


Leaders in World War II

Specific Objective: Describe the political, diplomatic, and military leaders during the war (e.g., Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Emperor Hirohito, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower).

Leaders in World War II




Actions in World War II

After the War

Winston Churchill

Prime Minister of Great Britain


Was among the first to speak out against the Nazis; led Britain and the Allies in the struggle against the Nazis

Was reelected prime minister in 1951

F. D. Roosevelt

President of the United States


Ordered U.S. entry into the war and the internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans

Died just before the war ended in 1945

Emperor Hirohito

Emperor of Japan


Served mainly as a figurehead for various military leaders

Was emperor until his death in 1989

Adolf Hitler

Dictator of Germany


Started the war by invading Poland in 1939; invaded lands in all directions in 1940–1941; led the Nazi party, which killed 11 million

Committed suicide in 1945

Benito Mussolini

Dictator of Italy


Formed an alliance with Germany; suffered military defeats and was overthrown by the Italian king in 1943

Killed by Italian insurgents in 1945

Joseph Stalin

Dictator of the Soviet Union


Cooperated with Germany until Germany violated the Hitler-Stalin pact by invading the Soviet Union in 1941, then joined the Allies

Was dictator until his death in 1953

Douglas MacArthur

U.S. Army General


Commanded Allied forces in the Pacific

Led U.S. troops in the Korean War

Dwight Eisenhower

U.S. Army General


Commanded Allied forces in Europe; led the D-Day invasion of mainland Europe; helped unite Allied troops

Elected U.S. president in 1952

Quiz Yourself:

Daily Mail, London, 23 June 1941. Reprinted with permission.

Use the cartoon to answer questions 1–3.

  1. The cartoon depicts what World War II event or issue?
  2. The cartoon depicts Russia and Germany by what symbols?
  3. Hitler is shown simultaneously hugging and stabbing Stalin, causing Stalin to drop what document?
  4. Whose stance against Hitler was most significant in mobilizing the Allied powers?


The Holocaust

Specific Objective: Analyze the Nazi policy of pursuing racial purity, especially against the European Jews; its transformation into the Final Solution; and the Holocaust that resulted in the murder of six million Jewish civilians.

Nazi Ideology
The Nazi party believed that people were racially unequal. In their ideology, Germanic peoples, whom they called Aryans, were the “master race.” Other peoples were considered inferior—especially Jews. The Nazis believed that other races threatened the “purity” of the Aryan race; they wanted to increase the Aryan race and limit other races.
Nazis’ beliefs about racial inequality had various implications. For example, they used it to justify their drive for Lebensraum—“living space,” or room for their own population growth—by invading the eastern European lands of Slavic peoples, whom they deemed inferior. But the most violent Nazi ideology targeted the Jews.

Persecution of the Jews
Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, Jewish persecution began. Under Hitler, Jews were:

The “Final Solution”
After World War II broke out in 1939, Jewish persecution spread. In Eastern Europe, the Nazis began to send out killing squads. They also built brutal slave-labor camps.
Around 1942, the persecution became a genocide—an effort to kill an entire group of people. The Nazis built death camps that served as centers for the mass murder of Jews. Most of the killing took place at six camps in Poland. Hitler called this his “final solution to the Jewish question.”

The Holocaust
The persecution and mass murder of European Jews during World War II became known as the Holocaust. The word holocaust means total destruction. The Nazis killed six million Jews—and five million non-Jews, including many Polish, Romani (Gypsies), and Russians. More than one half of European Jews perished in the Holocaust.

Quiz Yourself:

  1. Nazi ideology was based on ideas about ..
  2. The term Lebensraum translates roughly as …
  3. The Nuremberg Laws can be seen as a step toward the Holocaust because they..
  4. Kristallnacht was a defining event in the Holocaust because it was …
  5. Where were most of the Nazi death camps located?
  6. In April 1943, Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, in Poland, resisted the Nazi army for more than a month, which …


The Human Costs
of World War II

Specific Objective: Discuss the human costs of war, with particular attention to the civilian and military losses in Russia, Germany, Britain, the United States, China, and Japan.

World War I was once considered so shattering that it was called “the war to end all wars.” But less than 30 years later, the death toll of World War II made it the most destructive war in history.

World War II Military Deaths


Estimated Military Losses











United States


Civilian Losses
A civilian is a person who is not on active military duty. The total number of civilian losses during the war may have exceeded the nearly 20 million total military losses.

In addition to military and civilian deaths, there were more than 13 million military wounded and more than 6 million civilian wounded.

Total losses—from military and civilian deaths during the war, as well as death from starvation and disease following the war—have been estimated as high as 40 million.

Quiz Yourself:

Use the chart to answer questions 1 and 2.

People Killed by the Nazis*



Romani (Gypsies)


Polish Catholics


Ukrainians and Belorussians


Soviet Prisoners of War


Others (included religious and political opponents; the seriously ill; and those whom the Nazis considered socially undesirable) 1,500,000

*Figures are approximate.

  1. What was the second largest group of civilians killed by the Nazis?
  2. Which group, killed in Nazi genocide, included Germans?
  3. It is estimated that millions of lives were saved during World War II because of the discovery of …
  4. Which event or condition would be most significant in a war crimes trial?