The buildup to World War II in Europe began with Hitler's aggression toward Czechoslovakia and the Rhineland in the mid-1930s. Most historians, however, mark the official beginning of the war with the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. World War II was, of course, one of the great global events of the 20th century and it marked the lives of all who lived through it. 

This exhibit will examine the connections between the larger war and the Holocaust. In terms of Joseph and Myra's lives, it will also look at how the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (which by then included Lithuania and Latvia) led to the Holocaust, the Final Solution, and the concentration camps.

Here are some specific questions you may want to think about as you peruse the War exhibit:

    • In what ways were the Holocaust and World War II interconnected? Did World War II cause the Holocaust or did the Holocaust cause the Eastern Front war?

    • What is the historical debate over  the beginnings of the plan for "extermination?" 

    • Does the origins of the "Final Solution" support the Intentionalist or Functionalist views of the Holocaust?

    • What stands out to you as particularly surprising or tragic about Joseph and Myra's story?

    • What do Joseph and Myra's stories tell us about the experiences of Jews in the Soviet Union/Baltic States compared to the experiences of German Jews? 

    • What questions does this raise for you about the Holocaust?

 

Click here for a timeline of the first years of World War II

JOSEPH'S GHETTO EXPERIENCE
MYRA'S GHETTO EXPERIENCE
Crash Course: World War II

ARTIFACT 1

A video overview of the connection between WWII and the Holocaust

 

 

Video Length: 13:00

Recommended Watch Time: All or starting at 4:00-8:30 for focus on Germany-USSR

Guiding Questions:

  • What was Blitzkrieg? What evidence shows its effectiveness?

  • What was Operation Barbarossa? 

  • What was the connection between World War II and Nazi ideas on race?

LEBENSRAUN

ARTIFACT 2

A video on the Nazi concept of "lebensraun"

Video Length: 1:05

Recommended Watch Time: All

 

Guiding Questions:

  • What was "lebensraun?"

  • How did lebensraun connect to the Nazi idea of the Aryan race?

  • How does the Nazi idea of Lebensraum help us understand their goals in World War II and the Holocaust?

OPERATION BARBAROSSA

ARTIFACT 3

An article on the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union

Guiding Questions:

  • What was Operation Barbarossa? When did it take place?

  • What were the German motivations for undertaking Operation Barbarossa?

  • What role did the Einsatzgruppen play in Operation Barbarossa?

  • How did Operation Barbarossa help lead to the Holocaust?

WANNSEE CONFERENCE

ARTIFACT 4

1941

The meeting that developed the plan for the Final Solution...

 

Guiding Questions:

  • What was the goal of the Wannsee Conference?

  • Who led the conference? What role did Adolf Hitler play?

  • Does a study of the Wannsee conference support the intentionalist or functionalist view of the Holocaust? Why?

HITLER'S GENOCIDE ORDER: 5 DAYS AFTER PEARL HARBOR?

ARTIFACT 5

NEW YORK TIMES

a 34-year-old German scholar, Christian Gerlach, has set off a debate among historians with a new and contentious theory, based on a notation by Heinrich Himmler...

Guiding Questions:

  • According to Gerlach, what happened on December 12, 1941?

  • What does Gerlach's theory tell us about the Holocaust?

  • Does Gerlach's work support the intentionalist or functionalist views of the Holocaust?

THE FIRST MOMENTS OF HITLER'S FINAL SOLUTION

ARTIFACT 6

Smithsonian Magazine

When did this monstrous plan get put in motion?

 

Guiding Questions:

  • According to Gerlach, what happened on December 12, 1941?

  • What does Gerlach's theory tell us about the Holocaust?

  • Does Gerlach's work support the intentionalist or functionalist views of the Holocaust?