A thorough recounting of what the author considers to be “one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century”—and surely one of the most shameful betrayals in the world annals.
By Davies’s (History/London Univ.; The Isles, 2000, etc.) account, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 has been all but buried in Western and Russian history books as a source of deep embarrassment. It is not to be confused, he hastens to add, with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of the previous year, an attempt by Jewish partisans to break the Nazi stranglehold on the city. This uprising, equally heroic, involved elements of the underground Polish Home Army, working in collaboration with resistance units and commandos. They aimed to open a great battle within the Polish capital of Warsaw in support of the advancing Red Army, which by August of 1944 was nearing the banks of the Vistula River. They did so: 40,000 Polish fighters went up against a vastly larger German force. The occupiers were not exactly prepared for the uprising, though, as Davies notes, “Capital cities awaiting liberation were dangerous places. Everyone knew that something could erupt at any moment.” Astonishingly, the Red Army halted its advance, allowing the Germans to regroup and stop the uprising. Davies charts the course of that great betrayal, which he considers a deliberate effort on the part of the Soviets to crush the non-Communist Polish resistance—which had been highly effective against the Nazi enemy, responsible for the assassination of “a whole grisly gallery of SS and Gestapo men” as well as the deaths of hundreds of ordinary German soldiers. But he also implicates the other Allies; even though Churchill had proposed sending Stalin a message saying, “Our sympathies are aroused for these almost unarmed people whose special faith has led them to attack German tanks, guns, and planes,” in the end the West did nothing to save the Home Army.
“Every single member of the Allied community [holds] a share of the responsibility” for the betrayal, Davies insists. And here he issues a resounding indictment.