Chapter 32 Section 1  "Hitler's Lightning War"

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Higher Order Questions

Presenters Notes

World War Two


Concepts: Invasion, Conquest

Neville Chamberlain Radio Broadcast:

“I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street. This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note, stating that unless we heard from them - by 11 o'clock - that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.& Germany; I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that, consequently, this country is at war with Germany.”

Intro: Each Time Hitler grabbed new territory, he would declare an end to his demands.  Peace seemed guaranteed - until Hitler moved again.

Question: What reason would Germany and the USSR have for invading Poland?
Answers: Poland was a part of German and Russian territory before World War One and the Versailles Treaty, Lebensraum: living space for Germans in the East.

I. Secret Agreement

-Nonaggression Pact- Germans, Soviets agree not to fight each other

-Agreement includes a secret deal to split Poland.

Question: What is a puppet government and how does it work?
Answers: The Government General was a Nazi puppet government-which means they are subservient to the German Government

II. Operation Plan White: The Invasion of Poland (September 1st 1939)

Exploiting the speed of Germany’s mechanized army, planes destroyed aircraft on the ground, destroyed roads, intersections and bridges.  Paratroopers landed behind the front lines disrupting communication and supply lines. (Interdiction)

-Speed! Blitzkrieg- Lightning war- Germany’s new military strategy

-Planes, tanks, infantry used to surprise enemy and quickly conquer

-No Declaration of War: Mechanized Divisions, Paratroopers and Dive Bombers

-Key Point Concentration

Key Point Concentration was the German Army’s fighting doctrine designed by Heinz Guderian. Guderian was influenced by an eccentric genius from Great Britain named Fuller.  Ironic that the foundation of the German Blitzkrieg was developed by a British soldier and put into practice by the Germans. 

-By concentrating armor at a key point, a breakthrough allows the Germans to surround and cut off the enemy.

-Blitzkrieg: No Communications- No Supplies- No Chance

III. Great Britain and France Declare War

The British and French had very few options as Poland was isolated with no allies near it.  Geographically, even if the Allies were ready to help Poland, which they were not, it would have been impossible to reach them.

-Britain and France declare war on Germany, but Poland falls quickly

Question: What possible options would the British and French have to defend Poland?

IV. The Invasion of Finland (November 1940)

-The Soviets make their move

-Soviets capture Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, resistance met in Finland

-The Finn’s fiercely defended their country, but eventually were overwhelmed by numbers.

- Finland surrenders in March 1940.

Question: What impression does the Soviet struggle in Finland convey to Hitler?

Answer: That the Soviet Army is weak.

From Russia’s poor performance in WWI, the German’s not knowing how much Stalin had industrialized and how badly the Finn’s had beaten the Soviets it is easy to see how the Germans would believe the USSR was weak.

V. The Phony War (Sitzkrieg)

-French, British mobilize along the French and German border, wait for German attack

-Many months of no action: “Phony War”

-The Maginot Line

The French spent over a hundred million dollars on the Maginot Line.  It was a series of fortifications, underground railway systems and bunkers, pill boxes and many interconnected cannons.  The French were reluctant to build fortifications on the French and Belgian border with their Ally.  

After WWI, France builds a series of fortifications: Maginot Line

The Germans build a series of defenses called the Siegfried Line

VI. The Invasion of Norway and Denmark (April 9th 1940)

As the invasion of Denmark started the small country capitulated in 4 hours.  In 2 months all of Norway had fallen to the Nazi’s.  Swedish Iron Ore was transported to Narvik and shipped through Norwegian Waters to Germany.  Although Norway was taken pretty easily, there was a high cost as the German High seas fleet was badly damaged by the mines.

-Iron Ore: Sweden is Germany’s supplier of iron ore

-The ore is shipped from Narvik to Germany

-The British mined the waters off Norway

-The Germans capture Denmark and Norway

Questions: What two reasons were there for the Germans in capturing Norway and Denmark?

Answers: 1. Close the Baltic 2. Secure the route for Swedish Iron Ore

VII. Operation Plan Yellow: The Invasion of France

In Hitler’s mind, France was responsible for the Versailles Treaty and a lot of Germany’s problems.  This war would be an act of vengeance for Versailles.

-The Low Countries

The Low Countries were very strategic for several reasons: 1. It diverted the Allies from the main target: France. 2. It would provide bases for launching an invasion of England and provide air bases for attacking as well. 

-May 1940, Germany conquers Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg

-Escape From France

Imagine the Luftwaffe and RAF battling it out over the skies of Dunkirk as French soldiers try to hold off the Nazi armies to allow British soldiers to escape the trap.  The British used every boat they could muster to try and rescue as many British soldiers as possible.

-The German Army distracts the Allies with the invasion of the Low Countries

-A massive armored thrust through the Ardennes Forest traps the Allies at the port city of Dunkirk.

-338,000 British Soldiers are evacuated to England.

-The Fall of France

-June 14th Paris Falls

-Resistance in France is crumbling

-June 22nd 1940, France surrenders to Germany


-Northern and coastal territory occupied by the Germans

-Southern France: Puppet Government: Vichy France

-Free French Government: Charles De Gaulle

VIII. The Battle of Britain


-Great Britain Alone:

-Western Europe conquered

-Germany & The USSR (Agreement)

-United States Neutral

-New Leadership

Winston Churchill was the rock on which the British were able to persist and fight off the German advances. 

-Winston Churchill: becomes British Prime Minister, vows no surrender “The British Bulldog”

Winston Churchill’s first speech to Parliament: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!”

-Air war over Britain that lasted until May 1941

-British use radar, air force, code breaking to resist Germany

-Stunned by British resistance, Hitler calls off attacks.

-New Technology: Radar

Radar sends out a signal and can determine how many planes, speed and direction they are flying.  The RAF was then able to send fighters up to meet the invaders.

-Radar warns the British of incoming planes

-Radar stations line the English Coast

-Radar signals are sent out and if planes are present return.

-Operation: Sea Lion

A German Bomber Crew accidentally bombed part of London and Churchill used it for propaganda.  Then the British bombed Berlin which infuriated Hitler, so he started terror bombing the cities. Meanwhile, the RAF rebuilt itself and eventually defeated the Germans in the air and the time for an invasion passed.

-Planned German invasion of Great Britain

-Phase I: Air supremacy over the channel and Southern England

-RAF on it’s knees!

-Hitler switches to bombing cities and the RAF rebuilds itself!

-By May 10th 1941, unable to win air supremacy, Hitler called off the invasion indefinitely.

Question: Why do you think Hitler turned his focus from Great Britain?

Answer: As the British were winning the air war, an amphibious invasion was impossible without air supremacy.

The stubborn resistance of the British shocked Hitler.

IX. The Mediterranean and North Africa

Hitler now turned his attention to helping Mussolini and preparing for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

-Mussolini, Italy at first neutral

-Mussolini then declares war on France, Britain after German victory

-September 1940- Mussolini attacks British in North Africa

Question: What two strategic objectives did the Axis want?

Question: How would the Suez Canal and the oil fields of the Middle East help the Axis?

Answer: 1. The Suez Canal would allow the Axis to link up and trade resources. 2. All the Axis powers were desperate for oil.

-Italy Attacks Egypt

Mussolini made his move on Egypt while the British were distracted with the Battle of Britain in September of 1940.

-Mussolini invades Egypt driving the British 60 miles until both sides dig in.

-The British Empire Trikes Back!

The British took over 130,000 Italian prisoners and Italy was close to being pushed pout of Africa altogether!

-In December of 1940, the British drive the Italians 500 miles across North Africa.

-Rommel pushes the British Across Africa

Erwin Rommel was known as the “Desert Fox” for his extra-ordinary skills as a strategist in battle.

-Hitler sends the Africa Corp, led by Rommel to push the British back to Tobruk.

-By January 1942, Rommel had retreated to where he had started.

-The Tide Turns

Rommel regroups his forces and takes Tobruk in June of 1942

X. War In The Balkans (Summer of 1940)

-Operation Barbarossa

-Hitler plans to invade the Soviet Union; moves to align the Balkan countries

-Hitler needs bases to launch the invasion and supply routes

-Diplomatic Blitz

-Hitler persuades, by threat of force, the Balkan countries to align with him.

-The Hungarians, Rumanians and Bulgarians join the Axis

-Invasion: Yugoslavia and Greece

-The Pro-British Greece and Yugoslav Govt’s resisted Hitler’s demands

In early April 1941, Germany invaded and occupied both.

XI. The Invasion of The Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa, June 22nd 1941)

The German objectives for the invasion of Russia were to capture Moscow and knock the Russians out before winter.

Nearly 1 million people died in Leningrad in the winter of 1941-42.

Hitler started an advance on Moscow- not allowing his generals to retreat. Soviet General Georgi Zhukov counter-attacked. The move cost the Germans 500,000 soldiers.

The Germans had prepared for a quick victory and were not equipped to fight a prolonged winter war.  


-Army Group North: Leningrad under siege

-Army Group Center: Germans stalled outside of Moscow

-Army Group South: German advance stalled

The Russians used the same Scorched Earth Policy against Napoleon, however its effectiveness was less effective due to the speed of the German advance.

-The Soviet troops used the Scorched Earth Policy

-Burning and destroying anything of value in the path of the Germans

-The Russian Winter slowed the German advance

Question: The losses in the invasion of the Soviet Union were almost 10-1 in favor of the Germans, why did they still lose?

Answer: The Soviets could afford the losses of men and the Germans could not.

XII. The United States Aids it’s Allies

-American Policy

-Most Americans want to avoid war

-Roosevelt fears that if the Allies fall, U.S. would have to fight alone

-Roosevelt hopes to Strengthen Allies so they can resist Germany.

-Lend-Lease Act

In September 1939, President Roosevelt asked Congress to allow the Allies to buy American arms. Hitler then ordered his submarines to sink any cargo ships they met. By summer, 1941, The United States Navy was escorting British merchant ships to England.

-Law passed by U.S. Congress in March of 1941

-President could lend or lease arms and other supplies to countries vital to the United States

-The Atlantic Charter

Roosevelt and Churchill met on the deck of a battleship near Canada on August 14th 1941.  Secretly this meeting set the goals and ideals of the post war before the United States even entered the war. 

On september 4th 1941, a German U-Boat fired on a US Naval Destroyer.  President Roosevelt ordered the navy to shoot German Submarines on sight so an undeclared war was going on versus the German Navy.

-Roosevelt and Churchill meet, issue statement of principles

-Atlantic Charter- Supports free trade, right to form own government

WWII: Hitler's Lightning War Presentation

      Mr. Harms has designed a number of PowerPoint and Keynote presentations to help students understand history. Designed by a teacher for teachers, this PowerPoint focuses on "Hitler's Lightning War 1939-1941" This presentation is designed to give them an overview of the events in which Germany started its march across Europe. Students will be shown maps, animations and descriptions of some of the major events that occurred.
      The presentation is totally customizable, allowing you to add your own pictures, graphics and animations to take what we've done even farther.  It comes with presentation notes to help you discuss the subject and engage them in the events that started the Second World War. At just over $5.00, it will save you time and lay the foundation for presentations that help students understand and remember.  
The Topics include: Non-Aggression Pact, Invasions of: Poland, Blitzkrieg, Phony War, Invasion of Norway & Denmark, Invasion of France, Battle of Britain, Mediterranean & North Africa, War In The Balkans, Invasion of the Soviet Union, United States helps its Allies and The Atlantic Charter.
Included in The Presentation Package:

Number of Slides: 52  $5.20

Included In The Package:
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(The package is a digital download (Zip File) of these three items.

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Chapter 32, Section 1 "Hitler's Lightning War"

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