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It has amazed me in my further educating myself about all things Polish that so much of the history of the Poles in (and post) World War II has been suppressed and/or distorted. The Katyn massacres were only finally acknowledged over a half century after they occurred. The whole big politics picture, long-standing stereotypes about high moral ground subscribed to by the Allies leaders, most notably Roosevelt and Churchill, during the war was altered by Plohky’s Yalta: The Price of Peace. The story of Warsaw Rising 1944 is yet another persuasive and unsettling addition to the realpolitik that almost destroyed a nation – certainly destroyed a generation of Polish young adults. Norman Davies has given Poles back part of their history with this book. There are many reasons to read this book, especially if one is a Pole, but also if one is a history buff. It is but one document that begins to give credit to the Poles for their courage and unrecognized contributions in World War II. The disrespect and apathy accorded Poles and Poland for these, was brought home to me by a documentary on General Sosabowski in which a military cemetery director in response to a journalists questions about grave markers replies: “Oh, those. Those are just some Poles.” Just some Poles.If for no other reason than correcting the erroneous conflation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis of 1944, this book is valuable. These two events were confused as recently as the risings 50th anniversary in 1994 by Germanys President Herzog, by advisers to the British prime minister, by NBC News and Reuters. Even Polanskis film The Pianist “telescopes “events of the two risings. Davies book helps to explain why many people confuse the two events: The post-WWII government in Poland purposely obfuscated the heroism of the 1944 pro-democracy Polish patriots who fought the Nazis. Moscow required the idea of a failed rising in the minds of the Poles for its puppets to take power, which was portrayed as ultra-nationalist, reckless, even criminal. They persecuted its surviving heroes, many of whom emigrated to the U.S., Australia, Canada, or the U.K., and many of whom I grew up knowing well. Two of them were my parents. It was not until Andrzej Wajda’s 1956 film, Kanal, that the truth of the Rising was made openly public. Now there is a magnificent museum in Warsaw dedicated to these brave souls.Rising ‘44 is a carefully researched and argued indictment of the Churchill government concerning its treatment of the Poles during the Warsaw Rising against the Germans by the Armia Krajowa. The generally accepted view of historians is that the uprising was an ill-conceived, romantic exercise of the Polish commander General Bór-Komorowski. The truth is something dramatically different.The rising of August 1944 concerns the city holding out against the Nazis for 63 days, with the loss of 200,000 lives. True to their compulsive nature and Hitler’s psychotic obsession with the “subhumanity” of Poles, the Germans then destroyed Warsaw street by street. They destroyed 90% of Warsaw, which was a heap of rubble when they finished. Poland’s home army (Armia Krajowa or AK) belonged within an Allied coalition nominally fighting a common enemy in unison: 10 per cent of all Battle of Britain fliers were Polish. America under Roosevelt was compliant to Stalins wishes. Roosevelt and Churchill treated the Polish government in exile like pesky children, even after their heroic breakthrough on behalf of the “Allies” at Monte Casino. How many people know that it was only the Poles who managed to take Monte Casino and clear a path for the allies to Rome, after 3 other attempts by other countries armies failed? When Churchill - first to fathom Stalins malevolence - ordered air-drops from Brindisi, the Soviets refused the planes landing-rights, or even shot at them. The Soviets first encouraged the Poles, then stalled on the far side of the Vistula, watching the Germans do their own dirty work. Wajda’s last scene in Kanal leaves no mystery as to what the two young lovers are seeing and what awaits Poland through the sewer grate across the entrance to the Vistula. Although Churchill recognized (late in the game) what he was dealing with, the situation in Britain was muddied by infiltration of the leadership by communist spies and moles, disinformation, arrogance, an attitude that Poles were simply a nuisance, and that they were paranoid on the issue of the Soviets. They should have listened to them about Stalin; after all, Poles had years of experience with the Russians and knew what they were about and that they wanted to obliterate Poland.No less than George Orwell, who was a socialist and journalist during WW II (I had no idea he was a socialist), and author of Animal Farm, castigated the British press for their shabby attitude toward Poles and Poland.One of the strategic mistakes of the Poles was to trust their British allies to support a rising that ostensibly had the full backing of Churchill and about which the British had full knowledge in all stages of planning. Another was to assume that they could rely on the U.S. In point of fact, Poland was not even on the radar screen of the U.S. military leadership or Roosevelt and his government. I came to dislike Roosevelt after reading “Yalta: The Price of Peace” which I have reviewed on Goodreads as well. After this, I have nothing but contempt for his fawning obsequiousness with respect to Stalin. Blue blood and a Groton/Harvard education didn’t mean much – Harry Truman, who only had a high school education had more sense about who he was dealing with (see my review of The Last Empress for more). To be fair, the U.S. was distracted by the war with Japan, so perhaps my views are a bit harsh, but the kind of treatment I, and my parents, had to endure when we emigrated to the U.S. in 1952 as second class “DPs” does not predispose me kindly to any of this and it underscores what I was reluctant to learn from them. Poles have two outstanding qualities, and those do not always serve them well. They are tenacious and they are honorable. Poles determined to go against Machiavellian realpolitik and do the decent thing and to make an alliance with the British and the French early in the war, assuming that their “allies” would also do the decent thing. It was inconceivable to them that their “allies” would sit by while their country was first invaded by Germans, partitioned by the Germans and Soviets, and then almost destroyed by Germans while the Soviet troops sat across the Vistula waiting like vultures to move in on the traumatized country. The tenacity led to the Rising and the remarkable events since the 1980s during which they took back their country from communist control. Honor sometimes led to blindness with respect to the honor of their “allies.” It should have been clear what Poland was dealing with when one considers that no British soldier died fighting the Germans during the entire blitzkrieg of Poland. I found this commentary on the Rising very interesting: Norman Davies, who is probably the greatest historian of Poland ever, has laid out a brief of bravery and betrayal that all Polish statesmen might well heed. “Whom can we trust to defend Ireland?” asked the Irish bard. “We ourselves (sinn fein).OK, I could write a lot more. What about commenting on the book itself as a read? It is dense, and like many histories is not linear. This is requires a commitment because it becomes a bit difficult at times to keep events straight. But, again, this is the nature of a history, especially one as meticulously researched as this one. I have to say that I agree with the folks who reviewed the book in various venues (New York Times etc.) in that Davies’ decision to “anglesize” Polish names and assign some pseudonyms is annoying and condescending. Although he did this to keep folks from getting confused insofar as the Polish language can be remarkably tortuous, filled with multiple consonants that bump up against each other. Sometimes one feels as though some impersonal god took an alphabet and threw down the letters willy-nilly when one sees the names and words. But the language is a people and to infanticize or take away a language is a step to extinguishing a national identity. Shame on Davies for this. He should have known better and thought this through better.Another comment. A book cannot be all things to all people. But my parents were heroes of the Rising, and spoke little of those years. I would like to have seen more about the “regular people” and more about the day to day life under the Rising. Davies does go into it some, but my own selfishness in this regard begged for more. Perhaps my visit to the Muzeum Powstanje Warsawskje will fill in some blanks and connect some dots.

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