A much-needed account of Poland’s betrayals at the hands of allies and enemies alike in World War II.
A nation long accustomed to being squeezed by its two powerful neighbors, Germany and Russia, Poland’s plight has not been adequately highlighted in more sweeping, general histories of World War II because much of its suffering during the war has been diffused by the allegations of Polish anti-Semitism. Royal Historical Society fellow Kochanski, while of Polish descent, is not an apologist of the well-documented persecution of the Jews by ethnic Poles resentful of Jewish prosperity during the 1920s or the willing collaboration of some Poles when the Nazis invaded in 1939. Instead, she fashions a cleareyed, rigorous look at the horrendous toll the Nazi invasion and occupation took, as well as that of the subsequent Soviet opportunistic grab at territory and influence that extended well into the Cold War. After finally gaining a modicum of independence after World War I, with the accommodation of its many minorities, Poland remained poor economically and weak militarily and was powerless to withstand the renewed expansionist plans of her two hostile neighbors. The country’s worst nightmare came true with the blitzkrieg of September 1939 and the Soviet invasion from the east, ostensibly to protect the Ukrainian and Belorussian minorities; despite British protestations to the contrary, Poland was largely abandoned. Kochanski pursues the deportations of thousands of refugees and prisoners into the Soviet Union and the executions and gassing by the Germans. The author also unveils the spirited contribution to the Allied war effort by exiled Poles such as in the RAF and intelligence, and she reports extensively on the Warsaw uprising and the end-of-war confusion.
An important study of a long-suffering country that has gained closure from the war only recently.