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World War II Atrocities


World War Two lasted only six years, but was responsible for the loss of an estimated 60-72 million people. Many of those deaths were military, but almost 70% of the dead were civilians who lost their lives to bombings, disease, famine, and unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by both Axis and Allied powers. The war changed how people saw the world, even challenging core religious beliefs, such as the idea that only "god" could end the world. 

In this web quest we will look at five atrocities that occurred during World War Two, some seemingly without any possible justification, and others that pose the question: "Was this a justified action in a time of Total War?"


In groups of ten you will investigate the following five atrocities (click the name to go to a page of research resources): 


*Pairs from the group should choose an atrocity to investigate 
* Take notes on the key point of the atrocity on the worksheet provided while you visit the various web sites. 
* Describe the events, repercussions, and lasting effects of the atrocity to your group. It would be helpful to show them some of the photos while you teach them. 
* Each student will write a half page reflection after our class discussion


*You will be evaluated for your participation in the investigation and in the teaching of your group members.
*Notes worksheets will be collected for a grade
* Reflections will be collected for a grade


After our class discussion I would like you all to take some time to reflect on what you learned and write a reflection. This reflection can be in the form of a free write about the difficult topics we covered in the web quest. If you need some questions to get started think about the following:

  1. Is mass imprisonment and/or killing ever justified? 
  2. What do you think the world can do to stop these types of atrocities from occurring again? 
  3. Does America have a moral obligation to stop human atrocities around the globe? 
  4. What can you do as an individual to combat violence and racial intolerance? 

Click here to get an understanding of how much genocide was being committed in the early 1900s… not just the The Jewish Holocaust


Atrocity- An extremely wicked or cruel act

Genocide- The deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

Tolerance- sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own