Was Hitler totally responsible for the Second World War?

This smart task looks deceptively simple, and should serve as a useful introduction, leading on to some sophisticated analysis exploring recent historiography. The main focus for this subsequent study hinges on the short entry in Laurence Rees’ website ww2history.com. This features a fascinating series of interviews in which Rees asks the same question to Sir Ian Kershaw, Richard Overy, Anita Pramzmowska and Adam Tooze.

The way it works is this. Firstly students have to brainstorm who, apart from Hitler, might be to some extent responsible. These ideas are then shared with the whole group. To consolidate the outcomes of this discussion, students then complete the task shown on Resource Sheet 1. Can students not only identify the countries etc. who are mentioned but also add some new ideas of their own. Once this has been checked and discussed, ask students to predict what leading historians might say. Print the 4-page transcript from Laurence Rees’ website so that students can annotate any new points raised. This will then lead to more detailed historiographical discussion.

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