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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Seeds of Destruction: The Road to World War II in Europe

Evening Program on Zoom

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0564
$20 - Member
$25 - Non-Member

Hitler announcing annexation of Austria, Berlin, March 1938 (National Archives)


The Second World War remains the greatest catastrophe in human history, with more than 70 million deaths, most of them civilians. Historians widely view it as a slow-building calamity whose seeds were sown two decades earlier at the conclusion of the Great War.

Join historian Christopher Hamner in an exploration of the roots of the Second World War in Europe, the war against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The sudden collapse of the spring 1918 German effort in World War I and the punitive terms of the treaty that emerged from Versailles—one that reportedly caused the French Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch to exclaim “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years”—laid the groundwork for Hitler’s rise to power and for the apocalyptic war into which he dragged the globe in September 1939, 20 years and 2 months after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

Using original sources, Hamner focuses on some of the factors contributing to the rise of a Nazi regime dedicated to global supremacy: the “stab-in the-back” myth Germans developed to explain their stunning defeat in the Great War; the failure of the Weimar Republic to manage the crises that descended on Europe in the decades following that war, including the massive global economic depression; the racial pseudoscience that enveloped the globe in the early decades of the 20th century, and which gave further power to Hitler’s fanatical anti-Semitism and anti-bolshevism; and the lessons other world powers took from their own experiences in the Great War that slowed their response to Hitler’s rise.


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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.