Roger Moorhouse reexamines the least understood campaign of World War II, using original archival sources to provide a very human account of the events that set the bloody tone for the conflict to come.
As Moorhouse helps us to see in this exemplary military history, to begin at the beginning of the war reveals where choices were made, and how they mattered ... Moorhouse’s main argument, which is unanswerable, is that the campaign in Poland was a real war. It was not the 'phony war' or 'dróle de guerre' of British and French memory ... The heart of this book is the description of the fighting, which is about as good as military history can be. Moorhouse has visited the places he writes about, and understands weaponry, tactics and the structures of the German and Polish armed forces ... Moorhouse uses personal accounts from Poles and Germans to great effect, bringing battlefields, burning towns and cities and even the strafed countryside into clear view ... Like all good histories, Moorhouse’s answers an old question and raises a new one. This book, although it fills a historical gap in a way that many Polish readers will find satisfying, also challenges the way that official Poland today remembers the war. If Poles were able to make choices in the terrible circumstances of 1939, as Moorhouse shows, one can reasonably ask about the choices they made before then.
The purpose of this very valuable addition to the literature on the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 is straightforward. Roger Moorhouse insists that too little attention has been paid in the West to the heroic resistance of the Poles to German aggression. They were, indeed, the first nation to stand up to Hitler’s appetite for empire and they paid a grim price for that decision. By the end of the war close to six million Poles, half of them Polish Jews, had perished ... The great strength of this new account lies in the extensive use of Polish sources, all too often overlooked entirely when trying to piece together the history of the campaign ... Moorhouse is at his most original in his extensive narrative of the war. He provides searing accounts of the sheer brutality of German forces almost from day one, as they massacred local villagers and townspeople on the flimsiest of evidence that they had attacked German troops ... One thing is certain about Moorhouse’s account. He admirably achieves his aim of putting the Polish-German war back onto the broader canvas of the Second World War.
...[a] chilling, indignant narrative ... Roger Moorhouse is well equipped to write this book ... All Poles know that their September war — and of course the many subsequent years of occupation, resistance and exile — was no side-show. Now Moorhouse has expertly laid bare this simple truth: that when two totalitarian regimes make common cause, everyone in their immediate neighbourhood is likely to be trampled underfoot.