World War II study that seeks to challenge traditional and, Davies (Rising ’44: The Battle of Warsaw, 2004, etc.) argues, glaringly inaccurate narratives of the event.
This alternative history not only focuses on what has been wrongly said about the war, but also on what has not been said and why. Common myths about the war that have heretofore been regarded as fact—such as what the largest concentration camp in Europe was—are convincingly dispelled. Davies believes it is dangerous to view the Western Powers as fair-minded and democratic, when they naively stood by while victims of Stalin's tyrannical regime could “be counted not in hundreds or thousands, or even millions, but in tens of millions.” In seeking to explain how such atrocities could be allowed to occur, Davies moves into a discussion of morality during the war and posits the answers to some uncomfortable questions. Why has the extent of the Soviet Union's devastating involvement in the conflict previously been understated or even rationalized by the West? Why was the expulsion of ethnic Germans from certain former German provinces virtually ignored after the war? In passages on warfare, politics, soldiers and civilians, Davies provides a detailed and personal history of the conflict. In discussing the fate of the soldiers, and the improvement in military psychiatry, he uses an unusual example—British army veteran and popular comic Spike Milligan—to prove his point. It is to the author’s credit that he not only deconstructs the foundations of World War II history, but also explains how these misconceptions were built in the first place, giving a detailed account of the ways in which the war has been portrayed in film, art and literature, and how this has subsequently affected public perception.
Emphasizes why it is necessary to continue to examine and amend a complex story whose many facets will take much more searching to be told.