Program Details

Great Questions of World War II

Edward Shapiro

Course Description

In this guided discussion group, participants will attempt to answer four major questions about World War II. These questions were asked during the war, and they have continued to be asked up to the present time. They have been crucial in the historiography of the war. This series of discussions will examine the historical context of each question, the debate among historians regarding the question, and the political, ideological, and military factors which determined the decision-making process at the time. A syllabus will be provided with a list of recommended readings for each session. Space is limited.


  1. Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?
  2. Why Did Germany Declare War on the United States?
  3. Why Did the United States Drop the Atomic Bombs?
  4. Why Did the Allies Win?

About the Instructor

  • Edward Shapiro, Ph.D., earned his doctoral degree in history from Harvard University and taught American history at Seton Hall University for three decades.  His books include “A Time for Healing: American Jews Since World War II" (1992); “We Are Many: Reflections on American Jewish History and Identity" (2005), “Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the Brooklyn Riot of 1991" (2006), and "A Unique People in a Unique Land: Essays in American Jewish History" (2022). Shapiro has received awards and grants from the American Philosophical Society, the Oxford Center for Jewish Studies, and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation and has lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and Israel.