HIST 4672 Europe in Flames: World War II and its Aftermath (also HIST 6672) (HA-AS) (HNU) (HEU)
Professor Cristina Florea
One of the most spectacular conflagrations in global history, World War II surpassed all previous conflicts in violence, cruelty, and sheer contempt for human life. It definitely changed the shape of Europe, arguably marking the "end of the European era." Was the Second World War a conflict of ideologies or a war of empires? What was the relationship between the theaters of war (Western and Eastern) and the home fronts? In this seminar, we will examine the war's major turning points on the European theater in order to understand not only the nature of this conflict, but also the forces that made it possible. We will look closely at the two superpowers that clashed on the continent, turning Europe into a veritable inferno for the people caught in between. What kinds of societies were Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia? How did the war affect them and their regimes? We will also survey the spaces in between to discover why these two vast empires competed so ruthlessly over them. We will find out how the populations caught between these two giants made ends meet, both by cooperating and by resisting the great powers. Although some knowledge of what was going on at the front will be helpful, this class is not a course in military history. As a result, it focuses primarily on the social and cultural dimensions of war - which it explores through a variety of sources, including fiction, memoirs, and films. Topics include the occupation and destruction of Poland; the fall of France; Hitler's Europe and the Holocaust; resistance and collaboration with Nazi occupation forces across Europe; the Soviet experience of war; as well as the effect of war on family life, politics, and societies in Europe. Finally, the course will consider the aftermath of was: attempts to reconstruct and deal with legacies of war, which continued shaping European societies for decades to come.