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Part 1: The Path to War in Images and Film

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Activity 1A: An Introduction to World War II

Films Set During World War II in Europe
Mrs. Miniver (1942). Winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, this film portrays an idealized England that tends its prize-winning roses while confronting the terror of war. The film struck a patriotic chord with American audiences and became 1942’s Number 1 box-office hit. Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt praised it for its strong pro-war sentiment.
A Midnight Clear (1992). This film portrays an American intelligence patrol that is offered the opportunity to “capture” the Germans without a fight—until a fatal misunderstanding plunges their efforts into tragedy.
Das Boot (1981; director’s cut, 1997). This German film takes a frighteningly shocking look at submarine warfare in World War II. It follows the crew of U-96, who were sent to destroy Allied convoys.
Saving Private Ryan (1999).Directed by Steven Spielberg, this film centers on a small band of U.S. soldiers who are sent on a mission during the Word War II battle at Normandy to find the lone survivor of a family of four brothers. Though it does not delve into the higher questions of war, that absence of perspective could be a good basis for a class discussion.
Suggested Readings About the Interwar Period
Spartacus Educational—“Second World War.” Provides information about the events leading to World War II. Subsections include Background to the War, Nazi Germany, Chronology of the War, Political Leaders, and European Diplomacy.
History Learning Site—“Causes of WW2.” Divides the causes of World War II into long- and short-term causes. Each cause is linked to text, which includes a narrative description.