Program Details

To Hell and Back: The World in the Twentieth Century

Stephen Berk
Video Catch-up

Course Description

Two World Wars, a communist revolution, a Holocaust, and the end of imperialism are some of the subjects covered in this series. Add to this the rise of China, the unifying of Europe, and a plethora of scientific breakthroughs and we have a century unlike any other.


  1. The Great War and its consequences: World War I was the seminal event of the twentieth century. It changed everything.
  2. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Gandhi: Personality counts in history. These men's imprint on history resonates to the present day.
  3. War and Genocide: WWII accelerated the changes initiated by WWI. Roosevelt led the U.S. out of the Depression and to victory. Truman met the challenges of the Cold War.
  4. Post-War: The Soviet Union disappeared into the garbage can of history. Europe got its act together. Penicillin and computers transformed our lives, and Fidel came to Havana.

About the Instructor

  • Stephen Berk, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he holds the Henry and Sally Schaffer Chair in Holocaust and Jewish Studies. He is the author of "Year of Crisis, Year of Hope: Russian Jewry and the Pogroms of 1881-1882". Berk has written articles on Russian and Jewish history, anti-Semitism, and the Middle East. In 2010, he was designated an Israel Hero for his defense and advocacy of the State of Israel by JERNY, the Jewish Educational Resources of New York. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Citizen Laureate Award from the University of Albany Foundation.