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National WWII Museum 2016 High School Essay Contest

"Being an American of dark complexion and some 26 years, these questions flash through my mind: Should I sacrifice my life to live half American? Will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow?"

– James G. Thompson, Letter to the Editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, January 31, 1942

Address this question in 1000 words or less to compete in the National WWII Museum 2016 High School Essay Contest.

Museum will accept the first 500 properly formatted entries only. The website will indicate

when we are approaching 500 submitted essays.

  • originality
  • clarity of expression and
  • adherence to contest theme

Other factors include: historical accuracy, grammar, spelling and punctuation.

The National WWII Museum staff will read and evaluate entries.

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Essay: Causes of World War 2

Out of all the wars that the world has gone through, none has been more devastating as world war II. But what caused this war? Well, world war II had six major causes: anger over the Versailles Treaty, the failure of peace efforts after world war I, the rise of Fascism, the goals of Hitler, the isolationism by America and Britain, and the re-armament of Europe. This paper will go over each of these causes individually and then draw some conclusions about world war II.

The first cause of world war II was the intense anger over the Versailles Treaty. Germany was very angry over two things and the first of which was the many territorial losses they had to endure as a result of the treaty. They lost two cities on the French-German border and as per Wilson’s thirteenth point Poland was re-formed with access to the Baltic Sea, which went right through Germany. Giving Poland Sea access split Germany into two parts, the main part of Germany, and a small portion to the North of the Danzig corridor. The Danzig corridor really inflamed Germany for many years, but they really could not do anything about the situation because they lost world war I. Another country that was angry over the Versailles Treaty was Italy. They were angry because they thought that the land that they had received as a payment for their participation in the Allied effort against Germany did not offset the cost of the war, nor did it satisfy their ambitions to grow. The final country that was angry over the Versailles Treaty was Japan. They were also a victor over Germany and they wanted to gain control over China as reward for their participation in the war. This, however, did not happen and they were angry over the situation.

The second cause of world war II was the failure of the many peace efforts that occurred after world war I. The League of Nations, which was one of Wilson’s fourteen points and part of the Versailles Treaty, was a forum in which nations could settle their disputes with one another. The problem was that the League did not have any real power. The only thing it could do was try to persuade the offending nation to concede and if that did not work out they could impose economic sanctions on that country. But the league had so little power that the sanctions it passed were normally ignored and it could do nothing from that point on. Another failed peace effort was the Washington Conference. At this conference the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. But again none of the powers really went through with their agreement. Yet another failed peace effort was the Locarno Conference. This conference produced a treaty between France and Germany stating that the border between the two countries was guaranteed. However, we know that this treaty failed because Germany invaded France during world war II. The final failed peace effort was the Paris Peace Act. At this conference all of the major countries, excluding Russia, and many smaller countries agreed that war was not a national policy and stated that they would try to resolve problems through diplomatic means. The only way that war was acceptable in this act was by means of self-defense. These did not directly cause world war II, but they made it possible by their obvious lack of power. Countries still did not trust each other enough to follow through with the good ideas that they had.

The third cause of world war II was the rise of Fascism. Fascism was a movement that began before world war I, but did not become a serious political power until Benito Mussolini took control of the Italian government in 1922. Under Mussolini Italy became a Totalitarian government where labor unions were abolished and political opponents were killed or silenced. This caused many things to happen to Italy’s social and economic problems. The first of these problems was the lowered living standard of the Italian people. The people lost their eight hour work day protection and their wages were lowered by the government. Mussolini acknowledged that the living standard had gone down, but explained it by saying that the Italian people were not used to eating much anyway, so they would not feel the lack of food as badly as others. Another thing the Fascist government caused was an increased birthrate in Italy. Mussolini wanted women to have more children so that he could create a larger army in the future. In this way he felt that he could have a large army by the time he was ready to go to war for more land. Mussolini used tactics much like the communists in that he had total control over all of the Italian population and could have people killed whenever he wanted. Italy, however, was not the only country to fall under Fascism. Germany adopted this form of government only it was called national socialism. It’s leader was Adolf Hitler and it called itself the Nazi party. The Nazi party differed slightly from Mussolini’s government in that the Nazi’s were more racist and believed that it was their destiny to make the world subject to the perfect German people. They were particularly hateful to the Jewish people, which was proven after they started to exterminate all of the Jews within central Europe after world war II started. These events did not directly cause world war II, but they brought us to the brink of war. People that listened to these dictators believed that these men could bring them to world domination.

The fourth cause of world war II was the goal’s of the German dictator, Hitler. He had a vision of the German people becoming a master race and dominating the entire world, but he also knew that he could not achieve all this during the war he intended to start. He, however, had two major goals which was to bring all of central Europe together and form a larger Germany and to create more room for Germany to grow by taking over Poland. His first move was to test the other European powers by inserting troops into Germany’s coal mining area next to France. This was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles and Hitler wanted to see how far he could push his adversaries before they would strike back. If Britain had not been so passive to Hitler they might have stopped this war before it ever started. They, however, allowed Hitler to do this because they did not want to start another war. Hitler then pushed the European powers further and further until he invaded Poland and Europe had no choice but to react.

The fifth cause of world war II was American and British isolationism. After world war I America turned away from Europe and went back to its domestic problems. The American people did not want anything to do with European affairs because many of the debts that were accrued during the war were not being paid and Americans were very bitter. Britain also turned to its domestic problems and did not want to interfere in Continental Europe’s problems. If one or both of these countries had attempted to stop Hitler when he first came into power he probably would have been thrown out of office and world war II might have been prevented.

The final cause of world war II was a direct result from all of the previous causes, and that is the rearmament of all the European powers. Tensions started to increase as Hitler tested the European powers and most if not all countries began to increase their armies and navies. This brought war closer because it meant that the government leaders were prepared to use force to resolve the problems that Hitler was causing, and it raised tensions even higher than they already were.

In conclusion, world war II was not an extension of world war I, but world war I was a big cause of world war II. Most of the causes of world war II came out of the Treaty of Versailles, and if that treaty had been better there might not have been world war II. Nevertheless, world war II happened and we can only learn from the mistakes we see from the past.

Winners of the 2015 WWII Student Essay Contest!

WWII 7th War Bond Drive poster featuring the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, 1945. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The National WWII Museum is pleased to announce the winners and runners-up for The 2014 National WWII Student Essay Contest! This year, we received over 5,200 essays from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as entries from the US territory of Guam. The Education Department at the Museum enjoyed reading your thoughtful and poignant responses to the 2015 prompt, “How do you define a hero?” inspired by the 70th Anniversary of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.

With so many great essays, it was difficult to choose a winner. However, we are happy to share our winning selections and runners-up with you below and on our essay contest website. For those of you who are interested in reading the winning middle and high school essays, please click on the links below or visit our main essay contest webpage.

Middle school contest winners will receive a $250 prize, while honorable mentions from grades 5-8 will receive a WWII Museum baseball cap. The first place winner of the high school contest will be awarded $1000, while the second place and third place winners will receive $750 and $500, respectively.

Congratulations to all of the winners and honorable mentions for the 2015 essay contest, and thank you to everyone who participated! We hope you will check back at our website in January 2015 when we announce the 2016 Essay Contest theme!

2015 High School Essay Contest Winners

2015 Middle School Essay Contest Winners and Honorable Mentions

  • William Wegman, “Heroes: Past and Present,” Stuart Hall School for Boys, New Orleans, LA
  • Kylie Smith, “American Heroes,” Trimmer Elementary, York, PA
  • Anya Ruzicka, “Cpl. Jack Schlegel and Mary Evelyn King: Unbroken,” Yorktown Middle School, Yorktown, VA
  • Erik Rennesund, “How Do You Define a Hero?” Walker Middle Magnet IB School, Odessa, FL
  • Ishrat Zarrin, “Heroes,” IS 303, Brooklyn, NY
  • Isabella Mancini, “Our Thoughts About What Heroes Are Seem Like Snowflakes,” Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School, Merritt Island, FL
  • Laura Kim, “My Past, Present, and Future,” J. L. Stanford School, Palo Alto, CA
  • Angele Yang, “A Hero Sacrifices,” Creekside Enrichment School, Cupertino, CA
  • Emma Hall, “Heroism: A Tribute,” Episcopal Collegiate School, Little Rock, AR
  • Angela Kang, “WWII Hero Essay,” Creekside Enrichment School, Cupertino, CA
  • Savannah Linares, “No Heroes,” Western Pines Community Middle School, West Palm Beach, FL

Post by Megan Byrnes, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator at The National WWII Museum

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The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.

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The Institute for Holocaust Education’s 15th Annual

*Postmark deadline for contest submissions: February 22,2017*

Inspired by Denmark

Threatened by their Nazi occupiers, in 1943 the Danish people organized a national effort to send 7,200 Jews by fishing boats to neutral Sweden. This effort by the citizens of Denmark resulted in the highest Jewish survival rate of any European country during World War II. The Danish citizens provide a unique example of courage and concern; jeopardizing their own lives to spare those of their fellow countrymen.

Our objective is for students to appreciate their own personal connection to the Holocaust, communities and even conflicts a world away. Each student can work to make a positive change in the world.

Essay Contest Overview

Students are asked to write a 750 -1000 word essay about an individual or group that shows moral courage. Students are asked to:

1. Identify and explain the act of moral courage

2. Connect the example to the Holocaust (if a non-Holocaust example is used)

3. Explain how the lessons of their chosen example might be applied to their own life in the future

Moral courage is the ability to take a strong stance on a specific issue and to defend it based on one’s personal beliefs or convictions regardless of danger or threats to personal safety – physical, emotional or otherwise.

Students use the lens of the Holocaust to:

  1. Analyze moral behavior and become better educated about contemporary moral issues
  2. Understand prejudice and discrimination, and the harm they inflict on society
  3. Better understand their connection to the Holocaust
  4. Learn how to work proactively to ensure that history will not be repeated
  5. Develop useful research skills

The contest is open to students in grades 9-12, in two separate grade level categories: 9-10 and 11-12. Students must live in Nebraska or in one of the following counties in Iowa (Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie, Woodbury).

Cash prizes are awarded to the top three essays in each grade level category.

  • The essay, when used as a classroom assignment, can address several Nebraska State Standards in reading, writing and social studies.
  • If you are using the Essay Contest as a class assignment, the Essay Prep & Research section can be completed as a class, or assigned to students to complete on their own.

The essay contest is generously funded by the Carl Frohm Memorial Foundation.

The contest is open to all students in grades 9-12, in two separate grade level categories: 9-10 and 11-12. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three essays in each grade level category.

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Essay Contests

American History Essay Contest

The American History Essay Contest was established to encourage young people to think creatively about our nation’s great history and learn about history in a new light.

This contest is open to students in public, private, and parochial schools, and registered home-study programs. Students in grades five through eight are encouraged to participate. Each year, a selected topic for use during the academic year is announced, and contest instructions are published online and sent to schools by participating DAR chapters. Essays are judged for historical accuracy, adherence to the topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and neatness.

Participating chapters send one winning essay from each of the four grades for judging on the state level. The state will send one winning essay from each of the four grades to be judged on a divisional level. The winning essay from each of the four grades will then be judged on the national level and the winners are announced.

Each student participant receives a certificate of participation from the chapter and the chapter winners receive bronze medals and certificates. State winners receive certificates and silver medals. National winners receive special certificates, medals, and a monetary award.

For additional contest information or guidelines, please contact your local DAR chapter.

Christopher Columbus Essay Contest

DAR partnered with the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) in 1996 to sponsor an annual national essay contest in honor of Christopher Columbus.

The contest is open to students in grades nine through twelve. Each year the DAR and the NIAF agree upon a topic for use during the academic year, and contest instructions are published online and sent to the schools by participating DAR chapters.

Essays are judged for historical accuracy, adherence to the topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and neatness. Judging at the national level is supervised by the NIAF.

One winning essay from all those submitted is sent from the participating chapters for judging on the state level. The state will send one winning essay to be judged on the division level. The winning essay from each division is then judged on the national level and the winner is announced. Second- and third-place winning essays are selected on the national level.

Each student participant receives a certificate of participation from the chapter. The national prize is awarded by the NIAF.

For additional contest information or guidelines, please contact your local DAR chapter.

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The National WWII Museum Annual Student Essay Contest

Application Information

Amount Awarded

Application Deadline

The National World War II Museum

The first-place winner will receive $1,000; the second-place winner will receive $750; and the third-place winner will receive $500. All awards are offered annually and are non-renewable.

Three awards offered annually.

The National World War II Museum will accept the first 500 valid entries only. The applicant will be notified if his/her entry is accepted. Essays will be judged for originality, clarity of expression, adherence to contest theme, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This is not a research paper about Anne Frank or World War II, but the opinions in the essay should be backed by historical evidence from WWII as well as modern-day events. Winners will be notified and announced in May.

To apply, the student must submit an online submission form on The National World War II Museum website that contains his/her 1,000-word essay on the current year's theme. The applicant's essay must . sign up for full scholarship deadline information.

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National Ww2 Museum Essay Contest

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