Voices of Many--Quotes from World War II


Activities: Reacting to the Words of Others


The following pages offer a wide range of quotes that relate to World War II.  Often quotes can be very sobering.  Most quotes are words taken out of context.  At times, the true meaning can be altered slightly when this happens.  Nonetheless, the words that get quoted have a power to them, a meaning from someone’s perspective and often hold a key to deeper thoughts about an issue.  The quotes provided in this section come from leaders, warriors and politicians representing a wide range of countries that participated in WW II.  Most quotes date back to the war directly, others precede the first invasions and battles, and a few were made in the aftermath of the war.  There are a number of activities suggested below for using quotes as you explore your study of WW II.


  • Create a Commonplace Book.  Commonplace Books have their origin in the Renaissance as one means of coping with the information overload of that era. They helped people select, organize, classify, and remember key moral precepts.  Today Commonplace Books are used to record reflections, ideas, and information that need to be experienced and remembered.  Select a number of thoughts, excerpts and quotes from the following pages and write your own reflections for each.  Consider illustrating your reflections with photographs, posters, paintings, or political cartoons.  Even better, create your own illustrations.
  • Write a poem.  Select several quotes that specifically speak to you.  Consider why they spark an emotion or provide an insight to you.  Create a poem that results from your pondering the quote(s).  You may want to incorporate the quote into your poem.
  • Create a biography.  Select a quote or quotes from one individual presented in this section.  Research his/her life and add the quotes to support your own writing of this person.  There are several individuals who have made their mark in history and whose names are recognizable.  However, you might elect to challenge yourself to select an unknown name and find out about his/her life.
  • Write a personal statement on war.  Read through all of the quotes in this section.  Reflect on what you’ve read, how different you may feel from some of the quotes, or how you may agree with others.  Proceed to write a statement on how you feel about war generally.  Include quotes in your statement.
  • Design posters.  Select one or more of the quotes and design a poster that can be used to convey a message you want to share with others.  The design can be to commemorate an event or can be used to compare your thoughts on the link between World War II and current events.
  • Reader’s Theater.  Use this material to either create a reader’s theater or to incorporate the thoughts, excerpts and quotes into a single production. Similar to a play, a reader’s theater has a number of parts and can involve staging and music.  Scenery is basic, if any is used.  Often the stage is dark and a narrator introduces the script.  A reader’s theater can be written by an individual or several people can work on it simultaneously.  Research can be conducted on an event that originates in World War II.  Write descriptive paragraphs on the theme.  Combine the historical events with poetry and other writings found in Module One and make use of the quotes.  The narrative script is written to weave the entire production together.  Other themes may be a play written from one country’s perspective, through the eyes of a warrior, expressions of feelings from individuals misplaced by the war, or thoughts expressed by those who remained on the home front.  There can be a number of different roles written into the piece.  A single voice or two could be used to describe events, and different parts can be given to those who read poetry, excerpts from diaries, or quotes.  Often the narrator’s role is the most substantial. 
  • Staging multiple productions.  Several Reader’s Theaters could be written and staged during a commemorative event that includes poetry and other writings, the culmination of studying about a particular war, or as an event that looks at war generally or as a global phenomenon.  Don’t forget to create a playbill announcing your Reader’s Theater event.  A program booklet complete with background on the presentation and the actors can also be prepared.