A place for history teachers, students and enthusiasts

World War 2 History Reading Group

World War II Reading Group
War Surveys

Welcome and thank you for your interest. I hope this group is interesting for both people that have studied the Second World War and those just getting started.

If you are new to studying World War II this is probably a good place to begin. None of the book require any special background to be interesting and profitable for the reader.

The goal of the group is to gain an overview of the war, not focus on specific theaters or events.

Our Current Book and Reading For The Week

The Storm Of War Reading Schedule

  • Week 1 :: Prelude: The Pact

    Thought Questions
    - Who were Werner von Blomberg and Paul Fritsch and how were they involved in the Nazi rise to power and militarization after 1933?
    - What was "The Night Of The Long Knives" and how did it effect the balance of power in Nazi Germany?
    - Describe the series of events around the military occupation of the Rhineland, the forced annexation of Austria and the dismemberment and invasion of Czechoslovakia 
    - What was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?

    NoteQuotes for Prelude: The Pact
  • Week 2 :: Chapter 1 - Four Invasions

    Thought Questions
    - What were the events that led up to the invasion of Poland?
    - How did the invasion of Poland unfold in the west and east?
    - What did Hitler tell the international press about Warsaw during his post-invasion visit?
    - What were the events that led up to the invasion of Finland?
    - Describe the events of the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland?
    - What events led up to the Soviet invasion of the Baltic States?
    - How did the Winter War impact the thinking of Soviet and German leaders?
    - What territorial changes were made in the secret pact between Hitler? What did Hitler gain? What did Stalin gain?
    - Why did Germany invade Denmark and Norway and how did their invasion unfold?
    - What was the SS Athenia and how was it involved in the start of the Atlantic War and the convoy system?
    - Descibe the opening phases of the battle of the Atlantic
    - What was the "Phoney War"?
  • Week 3 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 2: Fuhrer Imperator

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the evolution of "Plan Yellow" and how it was executed?
    - What were relations like between the Allies and Belgium before Plan Yellow?
    - How did an air crash in Belgium effect the plan for the invasion of France?
    - Who was Wilhelm Keitel and what was his role in the opening of the war?
    - How did Hitler's tactical knowledge about war begin to effect his self estimate of his strategic vision?
    - How did Hitler compare to Churchill in how they approached the war?
    - Churchill had many flaws. What are some examples of his greatness in this chapter?
    - What mindset did the French people and their leaders go into the war with?
    - What mindset did British people and their leaders go into the war with?
    - How did communications advances effect the opening of World War II?
    - Describe the controversy around the evacuation of Dunkirck
    - Who were Sergeant Stanley Moore and Sergeant Major Augustus Jennings and how did they sacrifice their lives?
  • Week 4 :: The Storm of the War, Chapter 3: Last Hope Island

    Thought Questions
    - What was Hitler's opinion of the British Empire at the beginning of the war?
    - What was Operation Sea Lion and what was its purpose? What was the Black Book?
    - When the author says Hitler had a "love hate" relationship with Britain, what does he mean?
    - What were the Einsatzgruppen and how would they have been deployed to Britain?
    - What was the "Battle of Britain" and "the Blitz", what were the objectives and progress?
    - What were the main aircraft involved in the Battle of Britain and what were their strengths and weaknesses in this situation?
    - What were the main factors in the British victory in the Battle of Britain?
    - In what ways did Britain and Germany misunderstand each other in terms of motivation and morale?
    - What changes in British society needed to be made at the beginning of the war and how may this be related to Churchill's defeat at the end of the war?
    - What role did the Swiss play in the Holocaust and what excuses did they give for refusing Jewish refugees protection?
    - How did Swedish and Swiss neutrality effect the German war effort? What circumstances limited their actions?
    - How was Ireland's reaction to the war different from Sweden and Switzerland and how did their neutrality effect the Allied war effort?
  • Week 5 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 4: Contesting the Littoral

    Thought Questions
    - What did Churchill mean when he said "After Alamein we never had a defeat"?
    - Why was the North African and Mediterranean theaters important to the allies and to the axis?
    - What role did Mussolini play in the North African and Mediterranean theaters?
    - How did the battle for North Africa unfold?
    - What were the events leading up to the invasion of Yugoslavia and the destruction of Belgrade?
    - Explain the context and meaning of this quote from Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham:
    "It has always been the duty of the Navy to take the Army overseas to battle and, if the Army fail, to bring them back again. If we now break with that tradition, ever afterwards when soldiers go overseas they will tend to look over their shoulders instead of relying on the Navy. You have said, General, that it will take three years to build a new fleet. I will tell you that it will take three hundred years to build a new tradition. If, gentlemen, you now order the Army in Crete to surrender, the Fleet will still go there to bring off the Marines."
    - How was the German involvement in the North African and Mediterranean theaters a strategic necessity and a strategic mistake?
    - What happened and why was the meeting at Placentia Bay between Churchill and Roosevelt important?
    - How did the August 1941 Placentia Bay meeting commit the United States to active participation in World War II?
    - How were the modern nations of Syria, Iran and Iraq involved in World War II and how was this involvement connected to the end of the Ottoman Empire and World War I?
  • Week 6 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 5: Kicking in the Door

    Please note:

    Because of the roles of ethnic groups within the Soviet Union played in the war, some people refer to Russia or Russian Empire instead of the Soviet Union. The "Soviet Union" is entirely a horrible fiction enforced on the people of the Russian Empire under the Bolshevik rule and projected to the world.

    OKW stands for Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - The overall military command of German Armed forces - land, sea and air.
    OKH stands for Oberkommando der Heeres - The command of the land forces (Heer)
    German Army = Heer, Navy = Kriegsmarine, and the Air Force = Luftwaffe
    The OKW oversaw the western and Mediterranean theaters, the eastern front was directly under the control of the OKH.

    Thought Questions
    - What was Hitler's rationale for the invasion of the Russia (Soviet Union)
    - How did geography effect the plan of Operation Barbarossa?
    - What was the "plan" of Operation Barbarossa?
    - What was the condition of the Russian Empire when Germany invaded?
    - How was Stalin warned about German aggression and what was his reaction?
    - How did the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa unfold?
    - What were the major elements of Hitler's Directive 21?
    - What was the "Commissar Order"?
    - How was the conflict between Germany and Russia a racial struggle?
    - What is the concept of "lebensraum" and how did Hitler compare it to British colonialism and American western expansion?

    Primary Source: Hitler's Directive 21
    Primary Source: Directives for the Treatment of Political Commissars ("Commissar Order") (June 6, 1941)  (The Commissar Order)
    Please note: Be very careful of faked and altered primary sources in this area.

  • Week 7 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 6: Tokyo Typhoon

    Thought Questions
    - Who were Lieutenant William Outerbridge and Privates Joseph Lockard and George Elliott?
    - What was the Japanese rationale behind the attack on Pearl Harbor?
    - What was Hitler's rationale for declaring war on the United States?
    - Why did the United States place economic sanctions on Japan and what effect did this have on their ability to wage war?
    - What was the "Southern Resources Area" and the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"?
    - Who were Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant-General Walter C. Short and how were they negligent in their duties at Pearl Harbor and how were they used as scapegoats?
    - What "reasoning" and "evidence" exists that Franklin Roosevelt knew about the planned attack on Pearl Harbor? What is the evidence that debunks this theory?
    - What was Hitler's "Second Book", when was it written and how did it reveal Hitler's attitudes towards the United States? (Please note: The "translations" of the "Second Book" you find on the internet are almost all fraudulent and for most its not worth the time to find a real version)
    - Why did the Nazis refer to the United States as a "Jewified nation"?
    - What role did Japanese Nationals living in United States (including territories) play in the attack on Pearl Harbor?
    - What role did Japanese Americans living in the United States (including territories) play in the attack on Pearl Harbor?
    - What was Executive Order 9066?
    - How did Executive Order 9066 violate the Constitutional Rights of American citizens?

    Please Note:
    - Attempting to justify or minimize the Japanese American Relocation and Internment is ignorant and offensive. This act was a repudiation of the values our nation aspires to.
    - Someone can explain why something happened, including the aggravating and mitigating factors, without justifying what they are explaining: Explanations are different from Excuses.
    - Comparing the Japanese relocation and internment to Nazi Concentration Camps is ignorant and offensive. The next chapter will make this very clear.

    Thought / Response Quotes
    - "Across the sea, corpses in the water, Across the mountain, corpses heaped upon the field, I shall die only for the Emperor, I shall never look back."
    - "Despite the example of over ten years’ campaigning in China, Japan was not taken seriously enough by American policy-makers. It did not help that many senior politicians and soldiers genuinely believed that the slanted eyes of Japanese pilots meant they could not undertake long flights; as one historian has put it, ‘American leaders, harboring all sorts of racist stereotypes about the Japanese, did not think that they were capable of such a feat’ as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which was 3,400 miles from the Japanese homeland."
    - "... if the Japanese had succeeded totally at Pearl Harbor they might indeed have bought enough time to consolidate the Southern Resources Area"
    - "‘A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘‘smitten a sleeping enemy’’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack...’"
    "‘The entry of the United States into the war is of no consequence at all for Germany,’ Hitler had told Molotov in Berlin on 12 November 1940, ‘the United States will not be a threat to us in decades – not in 1945 but at the earliest in 1970 or 1980.’ It was one of the greatest miscalculations of history."
    - "‘I know them; I know their country. A country devoid of culture, devoid of music – above all, a country without soldiers, a people who will never be able to decide the war from the air. When has a Jewified nation like that ever become a race of fighters and flying aces?’"
    - "‘The English feel about us [Americans] just the way we feel about a prosperous [racial slur referring to African Americans].’"
    - "No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! . . . Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder."

    Brief Biography: General Tôjô Hideki (1884-1948)
    Video: Why I love a country that once betrayed me - George Takei

    Primary Sources
    Pearl Harbor Newsreel “[Racial Slur] Bomb USA”
    Newsreel 1942 “Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor” (No audio)
    Transcript: Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan - 12.08.1941
    Video: Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan - 12.08.1941
    Executive Order 9066: Resulting in the Relocation of Japanese
    Japanese American Internment Propaganda Film "Japanese Relocation"
  • Week 8 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 7: The Everlasting Shame of Mankind

    Thought Questions
    - What is the meaning of "lebensunwertes leben" and how is it related to the Holocaust?
    - How did the German Jewish Ghettos form?
    - What was Operation / Order 14f13 and how did it get its name?
    - Who were the Einsatzgruppen and what was their role in the Holocaust?
    - In what ways did the Wehrmacht cooperate with the SS led genocide actions and also independently participate in Holocaust genocides?
    - What process and reasoning took place in the Nazi hierarchy transforming the "shooting" phase (or Shoah by Bullets) of the Holocaust into the "gassing" phase (or Shoah by Gas) of the Holocaust?
    - What were some of the common experiences of victims undergoing the Shoah by Gas?
    - What were some of the common attitudes and experiences of perpetrators and collaborators implementing the Shoah by Gas?
    - Who were the Prisoner Sonderkommandos and how did they experience the Holocaust?
    - What was the Wannsee Protocol and how did it effect the Holocaust?
    - What was the concept of Lebensraum and how was it related to Generalplan-Ost?
    - What was the general intention of Nazis plans for Christians after the Jewish Genocide?
    - Describe the "evacuation" genocide of the Warsaw Ghetto
    - What knowledge of the Holocaust did the Western Allies possess and when and how did they learn the information?
    - What knowledge of the extermination camps did the Western Allies possess and when and how did they learn the information?
    - What were the options the Western Allies had as they gained knowledge of the Holocaust and what process did the Allies go through in discovering and responding to the Holocaust?
    - Consider the quote from Elie Wiesel in relation to the process the Western Allies experienced in discovering the Holocaust (Stalin knew about and approved the Holocaust as his actions in 1939 - from comments during the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact adjustment negotiations and later at Warsaw demonstrate)

    Thought / Response Quotes
    - "In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. Today I will once more be a prophet; if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"
    - "The world war is here, the extermination of the Jews must be the necessary consequence."
    - "it would occasionally be arranged for the victims to lie down along the trench so that they could be pushed in easily afterwards. For the later operations, the victims had to lie face down inside the trench and were then shot in the side of the head. During the shootings at Bialystok, Novgorod and Baranowice, the corpses were well covered over, more or less, with sand and chalk before the next batch was brought up. In the later shooting operations, this was only rarely done so that the next batch of victims always had to lie down on the corpses of those who had just been killed before. But even in those cases where the corpses had been covered with sand and chalk, the next victims often saw them, because body parts would frequently be jutting out of the thin layer of sand or earth."
    - "a glorious page in our history that has never been written and cannot be written"
    - "Auschwitz defies perceptions and imaginations, it submits only to memory. Between the dead and the rest of us there exists an abyss that no talent can comprehend."
    - "The Holocaust could not have been carried out without the willing co-operation of scientists, statisticians, demographers and social scientists supporting this ‘radical experiment in social engineering’, all operating in an utter moral vacuum."

    - Brief Biography: Houston Stewart Chamberlain
    - Nazi Euthanasia Program Overview - USHMM
    - "Euthanasia" Centers, Germany 1940-1945 - USHMM
    - “Aktion 14f13“ – Death by Gas at Hartheim Castle
    - Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units)
    - Lebensraum  - USHMM

    A clear introduction to the Nazi T4 program, Action 14f13, Fort Seven and the connection to the use of gas vans and the Chełmno extermination camp, see Chełmno and the Holocaust: The History of Hitler's First Death Camp by Patrick Montague.

    Individuals with the intent to deny or distort the Holocaust will often bring up Soviet Gas Vans. There is very little verifiable information about Soviet Gas Vans. Historians know they existed, They were probably converted bread vans/trucks. The Soviets (specifically Nikolai Yezhov) did have knowledge of gassing experiments at Nevada State Prison in 1924. but the use of gas for executions in the United States was public knowledge. The Nazis were aware of NKVD killing methods. IG Farben was aware of the use of gas for executions in the United States. Every chemist and chemical company in the world was aware of this fact. There is no comparison between the use of gas for executions in the United States (however cruel) and the genocides of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia that employed gas to kill. Judicial executions in a nation ruled by normal laws (however offensive) is entirely different from Genocide. Anyone equating them is distorting or attempting to justify the Holocaust.

    There is no evidence that the gas vans used in Nazi Germany were Soviet gas vans. There is no evidence that the Soviets "staged" their own gas vans to create hostility to Germany after the war. They never attempted this and no physical remains of the gas vans exists. We have testimony of collaborators and Sonderkommandos prisoners. If the Soviets had "staged" the gas vans, they would have preserved the "evidence". Further there was no need for the Soviets to invent genocides or create hostility to Germany. The Nazis left abundant evidence and no Russian could have been more hostile to Germany. Individuals claiming the gas vans are propaganda are denying or minimizing the Holocaust.

    Primary Sources
    - Foundations of the Nineteenth Century - Google Books
    - Historical Film Footage: Exhumations At Hadama, Germany 1945 - USHMM
  • Week 9 :: The Storm of War, Chapter 8: Five Minutes at Midway

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the Japanese motives and rationale for the attack on Midway
    - Describe the Japanese plans for the attack on Midway
    - Describe the situation of the United States before the battle of Midway
    - How did the battle of Midway unfold and why does the author mention "Five Minutes" in the chapter title?
    - What were the Japanese and American positions and how did they change after the battle of Midway?

    Thought / Response Quotes
    - X

    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

World War II Surveys Reading List

  1. The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts
  2. To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 by Ian Kershaw
  3. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe
  4. Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh
  5. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
  6. The Second World War by Antony Beeves
  7. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower
  8. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker
  9. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II by Gerhard L. Weinberg
  10. The New York Times Complete World War II: The Coverage of the Entire Conflict by The New York Times (Author), Richard Overy (Editor)

About Our Group and How To Participate

This is a friendly group of people interested in reading great books about World War I and World War II including the background and interwar periods. Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of your previous experience in studying history. The goal is to read, learn and enjoy something meaningful. We read about a chapter each week in the book(s) you choose to read.

Each week there will be a new Facebook post on our page for that week’s reading where the group can interact.

Everyone is encouraged to post their favorite or most meaningful quote from the chapter (about a paragraph with page number/location) in the comments for the Facebook post covering the chapter. This is an easy, no pressure and meaningful way to express your thoughts on a chapter and is also a great way for individuals to go back and look at what others found meaningful. It keeps the focus on the authors works rather than an opinion.

Comments about the chapter or book are welcome as long as they are polite, respectful, relevant, non-partisan and constructive and focused on the author's work not someone else’s comment. A helpful guideline is that you are always addressing the group, not just a single individual when you write. If you enjoy or agree with a post, liking their comment is a meaningful way of engaging the group.

Of course if you don't want to post a quote or comment, you're still welcome to read along with us.

Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be used with caution (you, your, you’ve) and used in a sparing and respectful way in replies. Everyone is expected to interact with others like they would in a normal classroom or business setting among colleagues and friends. The antisocial behavior common on the internet is not tolerated here. Regardless of the intent, politically partisan or inflammatory comments are not permitted. This is a group about World War II History, not 21st century current events. I am very serious about this point.

Individuals who understand English as a secondary language are welcome to participate. Please do not worry if your English is flawed, you are among friends who want you to be here. It’s wonderful you are interested in learning about history with us.

The books come in at least one accessible format, so if you use text to speech for a vision impairment this will not be a problem. Many will be available in Audible and all have Kindle Text to Speech enabled (on Kindle Fire Tablets). The books are available through the National Library Service for the Blind. All are available in print from your local public library (possibly through inter-library loan).

    Thank you for participating