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30 review for Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    First to Fight – Setting the record straight Ludwig Podolański had celebrated his 18th birthday on the 2nd August 1939, he could not celebrate with his family, as his unit had been mobilised. By the 24th August 4th Engineers Battalion had been moved to their forward position and on the 1st September was fighting in the defence of the country he loved. At 18 years old he witnesses horrors we can only imagine, his friends and comrades, some his own age dead, and as they slowly retreated back civili First to Fight – Setting the record straight Ludwig Podolański had celebrated his 18th birthday on the 2nd August 1939, he could not celebrate with his family, as his unit had been mobilised. By the 24th August 4th Engineers Battalion had been moved to their forward position and on the 1st September was fighting in the defence of the country he loved. At 18 years old he witnesses horrors we can only imagine, his friends and comrades, some his own age dead, and as they slowly retreated back civilians of all ages killed. He was eventually captured on 19th September, became a Prisoner of War, before escaping and rejoining the Polish Army in 1940 now in France. While Roger Moorhouse does not use Ludwik Podolański, he uses the story of Poland and how they were the first to fight. Drawing out the stories of others, of places and of the Germans too. For far too long the Story of the Second World War has been told with a western perspective, and what actually happened in Poland is ignored. Often, we hear how good Blitzkrieg and the Polish used cavalry to attack the tanks. Moorhouse, breaks a few taboos and sets the record straight. Yes, the Poles did use cavalry, but the Germans also happened to fear said cavalry. Blitzkrieg was not all conquering and got held up in places. There is an excellent chapter ‘The Temerity to Resist’, where Moorhouse lays out what became not only the grim fate of the Polish forces but of the civilians also. Bydgoszcz became a by-word for “ethnic-cleansing”, which all happened away from the cameras and journalists. This book also highlights how Germany orchestrated the war, using many techniques that are still used today. Painting the German’s of innocent victims of Polish aggression, whereas the SS had volunteers trained how to use Polish weapons, and a rudimentary grasp of Polish. How they staged the brave German customs officers, dead, forgetting to mention that they were actually concentration camp inmates. When the German enablers, the Soviet Union rolled into Eastern Poland on the 17th September, a new type of war was about to begin. The Germans made no distinction between combatants and civilians, and as Moorhouse states “Almost every town and village in Poland witnessed an atrocity in the autumn of 1939, against civilians and prisoners of war, Poles and Jews alike. It became clear that Hitler was raging a race war, and everyone already is aware their murderous attitude towards Jews, what people tend not to know is that Poles were murdered en masse. Poland lost six million citizens between 1939 and 1945, three million Jews and three million Poles. What this book do is shine a light on what happened after the war, how West Germany portrayed the Wehrmacht was in the main honourable and the atrocities were down to the Waffen SS. Pity the evidence present here shows that to be a lie. But also, how Britain and France appeased Stalin at the end of the war added to the shame of not coming to Poland’s aid at the beginning of the war. As Moorhouse points out that many post-war historians have never looked in depth at the attack on Poland, as answers would be sought about the failure of the Polish guarantee and the pact of Marxist historians not to look at what the Soviets did in Poland. While the Germans were conducting a race war in the part of Poland, the Soviets were conducting a class war in Eastern Poland. In fact, some of the carriages that the Soviets used to transport Poles to the Kazak Steppe or murder at Katyn would later be used by the Nazis when they decided to exterminate Europe’s Jewry on a factory scale. This is an excellent history that shows you when two totalitarian regimes become allies it those who are unfortunately in their way that will be crushed. Like all children and grandchildren of Polish soldiers, I know my September war, the exile, the continued occupation of Poland between 1939 and 1989. Fifty years of occupation while the world watched and muttered warm words. This is a story that has needed to be told for many years and thanks to Roger Moorhouse he has shone a light on a subject that has often been ignored. It also helps to shatter the old British lie that we “stood alone” no Britain did not, the only country that stood alone was Poland and you allowed that to happen. Read this book and there is something to learn on every page.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ionia

    Finally, a book that actually explains Poland's attempted defense against Germany, rather than just glossing over it. I really enjoyed this book. It was thoughtfully-written, well-researched, and presented in a manner that made it interesting for the reader. I've read a good few WWII histories, and even some of the more comprehensive studies do not devote much space to the incidents related to the invasion of Poland, at least not from the Polish point of view, so this book was refreshing. I lear Finally, a book that actually explains Poland's attempted defense against Germany, rather than just glossing over it. I really enjoyed this book. It was thoughtfully-written, well-researched, and presented in a manner that made it interesting for the reader. I've read a good few WWII histories, and even some of the more comprehensive studies do not devote much space to the incidents related to the invasion of Poland, at least not from the Polish point of view, so this book was refreshing. I learned quite a lot about the first few days of the invasion and feel this would be an excellent book for history teachers to use when giving a more complete overview of the early events that led to WWII. Of course, this book is also great for anyone with a general interest in this period or Poland. This book pulls together the facts that aren't discussed very often, as well as the kind of humanistic stories that remind you that war is more than something that happens between governments. You get to experience the loss and heartache, the confusion and displacement up close when you read this book. Perhaps we could all use a dose of that right now. Highly recommended. This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dimitri

    By his own estimate, Moorhouses's account of the 1939 invasion must be the richest in Polish sources (and written in English). It would certainly explain the passion felt in judging the flaws & strengths of the Second Republic's armed forces' planning. Most of all, it brings home the suffering of the civilians, whether under the bomb in Warsaw or under the Luftwaffe's strafing along the country roads. By his own estimate, Moorhouses's account of the 1939 invasion must be the richest in Polish sources (and written in English). It would certainly explain the passion felt in judging the flaws & strengths of the Second Republic's armed forces' planning. Most of all, it brings home the suffering of the civilians, whether under the bomb in Warsaw or under the Luftwaffe's strafing along the country roads.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Perato

    3½ stars rounded up. Moorehouse argues in the beginning of the book, that because major countries had reasons to downplay the whole 1st chapter of WW2, it has been neglected in the history of World War 2. Yet I would argue that most of the smaller countries are neglected in favor of major countries and major players. Usually you would read more about Churchill's drinking habits than about any of the smaller countries in any book covering the whole WW2. But considering my bookshelf is mostly about 3½ stars rounded up. Moorehouse argues in the beginning of the book, that because major countries had reasons to downplay the whole 1st chapter of WW2, it has been neglected in the history of World War 2. Yet I would argue that most of the smaller countries are neglected in favor of major countries and major players. Usually you would read more about Churchill's drinking habits than about any of the smaller countries in any book covering the whole WW2. But considering my bookshelf is mostly about WW2 I can agree that the subject is fairly superficially covered in most books. Moorehouse's book First to Fight/Poland 1939 tries to tell the story of Poland in war and manages to do it quite decently. The focus is on the war, the main actors are mainly Polish military men and civilians and the occasional invader(both German and Soviet). There's plenty of anecdotes but they are there to prove a point, not just for general merriment. Politics aren't really a focus of this book and only briefly covered. The book is fairly short (270 pages) and although I'm more and more enjoying the shorter books, I felt this could've used 50-100 pages more just to cover the politics of Poland before WW2. Instead we got to read about Chamberlain et al. more than maybe was necessary considering the focus and length of the book. The book could've used more and better maps, my lack of knowledge of Polish cities (especially them having multiple of names depending who controls them now) made the battles occasionally a bit hard to follow. It's not the only book you would need or want about the conflict, more like a bite sized appetizer before the more complete work.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Arthur

    A 13 hour audiobook. A modern scholarly view of the Nazi invasion of Poland? 13 hours devoted to it rather than a few pages that are common in most ww2 history books? Sign me up! It's only been the past 30 years where the review of noteworthy Polish records was not contingent on a Communist government determining what can records can be accessed, studied, and published (without censorship or demanding a pro Soviet view (to this day many Russian sources claim their invasion of Eastern Poland was A 13 hour audiobook. A modern scholarly view of the Nazi invasion of Poland? 13 hours devoted to it rather than a few pages that are common in most ww2 history books? Sign me up! It's only been the past 30 years where the review of noteworthy Polish records was not contingent on a Communist government determining what can records can be accessed, studied, and published (without censorship or demanding a pro Soviet view (to this day many Russian sources claim their invasion of Eastern Poland was a liberation rather than a pre-planned conquest and partitioning). This book deals with the lead up to the invasions and the start of the occupation by both the Nazis and Soviets. Essentially very late August until the second week of October 1939, with some historical back story added in. I'm tempted to say it's biased in favor of Poland in how the details are presented, but thats countered by decades of misrepresentations, and downright lies against Poland on behalf of both her invaders, and even her allies. Each country coming up with propoganda and versions of the truth most suitable to their own preferences. I really enjoyed this book, it gave this phase of Polands struggle in WW2 a much needed, and overall in depth overview.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stefania Dzhanamova

    As the sun rose on September 1, 1939, Hitler’s forces crossed the Polish frontier from the north, west, and south, hurtling forward in their truck and tanks and on foot, while the Luftwaffe scoured the skies, bombing seemingly with impunity. After little more than two weeks, with Polish armies in disarray and lacking any assistance from their western allies, Stalin delivered the coup de grâce, and the Red Army invaded from east on September 17. As Soviet and German forces met on Polish soul and As the sun rose on September 1, 1939, Hitler’s forces crossed the Polish frontier from the north, west, and south, hurtling forward in their truck and tanks and on foot, while the Luftwaffe scoured the skies, bombing seemingly with impunity. After little more than two weeks, with Polish armies in disarray and lacking any assistance from their western allies, Stalin delivered the coup de grâce, and the Red Army invaded from east on September 17. As Soviet and German forces met on Polish soul and professed their eternal brotherhood – conveniently forgetting the former rabid antipathy – Poland entered a dark, totalitarian age. By the end of WWII, one in five of its population had been killed. Thus, Poland was – according to a slogan devised by its wartime propagandists – the “First to Fight”. Its defensive campaign started the Second World War: a five-week struggle that prefaced 300-week slaughter. Occupied by Europe’s two totalitarian powers, Poland was exposed to all the horrors modern conflict could create. While the Nazi unleashed race war in the west, the Red Army imported class war in the east. The Polish people was sifted and sorted by either side, with those undesirable arrested, deported, or killed. The Polish campaign had significance much beyond Poland’s borders: it drew France and Britain in the war. Both countries had guaranteed Poland’s territorial integrity in Spring 1939 in the vain attempt to pause German expansion. Thus, the Western Allies’ defence of the occupied country transformed the war from a central European squabble into a conflict of global significance. Surprisingly, Poland’s brief but brave war of 1939 has been mostly ignored outside the country. After the war, when the extent of German crimes was known to the world, the invasion of Poland was regarded as “insignificant”, a quaint prelude to the major murderous act. The Soviets, meanwhile, did everything possible to pretend that they did not invade Poland in 1939. The post-war history, which presented the USSR and its people as the victims of the war, could not tolerate an honest acknowledgement of the fact that Stalin had helped Hitler start the conflict, and the Red Army’s invasion was dressed up as humanitarian intervention. In his book, Roger Moorhouse brilliantly narrates this forgotten story of the Second World War’s first campaign. Starting with a detailed account of the intense Nazi propaganda against Poland and the orchestrated attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, Moorhouse proceeds to describe the heroic defence of Westerplatte, the Soviet invasion, the Western Allies’ reaction, and the situation in Warsaw, which, in 1939, was one of central Europe’s most impressive capitals. First to Fight is a very interesting and compellingly written work about an WWII event that deserves much more recognition than it has been given.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    Amateur military history buffs no doubt will find this well-researched study engaging, as it recounts the 1939 Polish campaign which to date has received little coverage in the English literature. Better yet, the author incorporates Polish sources as well as German ones, so that the reader hears the Polish perspective on events as well as the German one. In this way, the author is able to debunk many myths about the conduct of the war between 1939-1940. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publis Amateur military history buffs no doubt will find this well-researched study engaging, as it recounts the 1939 Polish campaign which to date has received little coverage in the English literature. Better yet, the author incorporates Polish sources as well as German ones, so that the reader hears the Polish perspective on events as well as the German one. In this way, the author is able to debunk many myths about the conduct of the war between 1939-1940. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a copy of an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emmanuel Gustin

    I've read several general histories of WWII in which Poland's war in 1939 was quickly dismissed as a foolish anachronism: Heroic, perhaps, but a badly led, out-of-date effort that was doomed to fast defeat. That narrative suited the Germans, who had a swift victory to celebrate. It suited the Russians, who claimed that they had merely moved in because Poland had already collapsed. And it suited the French and British, whose strategy was set on fighting a long war and who did not want to disrupt I've read several general histories of WWII in which Poland's war in 1939 was quickly dismissed as a foolish anachronism: Heroic, perhaps, but a badly led, out-of-date effort that was doomed to fast defeat. That narrative suited the Germans, who had a swift victory to celebrate. It suited the Russians, who claimed that they had merely moved in because Poland had already collapsed. And it suited the French and British, whose strategy was set on fighting a long war and who did not want to disrupt that plan to assist Poland. Moorhouse's account is a well-researched effort to give a voice to the Poles of 1939. The country may not have had a chance, but the Polish soldiers fought nevertheless, and had some local successes; and the civilians often volunteered to join the battle. From archives, letters, memoirs and testimonies, this is the telling of a desperate struggle. It was a bitter war in which both invading armies were guilty of numerous atrocities. (And those were only a sign of worse to come.) The book translates grand strategy in the numerous small events, told in painful detail, that affected people's lives. The structure of this book is mostly chronological, and its strikes a balance between politics and strategy on the one hand and the personal experiences on the other. What is missing, perhaps, is more background on Polish society and politics in the 1930s, so that we do not only witness it in its destruction.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim Mercer

    An excellent one volume history of the first Polish campaign of World War II. Covers the political positions and maneuvers preceding the outbreak of war through to the collapse and escape of many of the Polish survivors to the West. It doesn't ignore the Soviet portion of the Polish campaign as Stalin invaded from the East after Germany invaded from the West. Given this campaign is usually glossed over in other accounts the details provided on many mostly unknown episodes are more than welcome. An excellent one volume history of the first Polish campaign of World War II. Covers the political positions and maneuvers preceding the outbreak of war through to the collapse and escape of many of the Polish survivors to the West. It doesn't ignore the Soviet portion of the Polish campaign as Stalin invaded from the East after Germany invaded from the West. Given this campaign is usually glossed over in other accounts the details provided on many mostly unknown episodes are more than welcome. The author's writing is not as dry as some and the book is well served by lots of notes. 4.5 stars and a great read if you are interested in this campaign

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Robinson

    Roger Moorhouse's First to Fight: The Polish War 1939 is an excellent account of the Polish Campaign. A long overdue book that does justice to Polish points of view which have been long neglected in English language World War II books. Moorhouse has done excellent research, acquiring numerous Polish primary sources, which has allowed him to give vivid details on the mindset of the Polish High Command as well as stories of ordinary soldiers and civilians facing the onslaught. Another good aspect Roger Moorhouse's First to Fight: The Polish War 1939 is an excellent account of the Polish Campaign. A long overdue book that does justice to Polish points of view which have been long neglected in English language World War II books. Moorhouse has done excellent research, acquiring numerous Polish primary sources, which has allowed him to give vivid details on the mindset of the Polish High Command as well as stories of ordinary soldiers and civilians facing the onslaught. Another good aspect is Moorhouse's account of the Soviet invasion of Poland which is often barely mentioned if at all in other books.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Ayres

    Fascinating read. For someone interested in learning about the start of WW2 through a polish perspective rather than British I would highly recommend. Roger Moorhouse tackles the history we thought we knew and reveals what really happened during the Polish War of 1939. He writes with great detail and makes it an extremely engaging read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bates Bland

    Some books have a greater impact than others. Poland 1939 by Roger Moorehouse is an eye-opening book. The book goes into depth on the events surrounding the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939. While this chapter of WW2 has long been overlooked by history, it is filled with stories of battles, political fights, and bravery. While the entire book is great, some stories really make an impact. Roger Moorhouse talks at depth about how Nazi Propaganda has infiltrated what we are taught about t Some books have a greater impact than others. Poland 1939 by Roger Moorehouse is an eye-opening book. The book goes into depth on the events surrounding the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939. While this chapter of WW2 has long been overlooked by history, it is filled with stories of battles, political fights, and bravery. While the entire book is great, some stories really make an impact. Roger Moorhouse talks at depth about how Nazi Propaganda has infiltrated what we are taught about the Poland Campaign. The Polish did not just roll over and admit defeat. They fought for every inch of Poland and deserve to be remembered today. As a lover of history, it affected me to see that I had been taught the wrong thing. Poland 1939 really made me wish that our school curriculum was different. In Pelham, we spoke in Social Studies class for maybe 5 minutes about the Polish Campaign. This is an insult to the hundreds of thousands massacred in Poland when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. In reality, Poland lasted 3 weeks against two superior forces. I wish that the school would teach us how Poland laid traps, and used calvary to hold off German tanks for 3 weeks. One of the other things this book made me realize is that we need to learn to check our sources. If the history textbooks wrote down something wrong about Poland, what else could be wrong. Public opinion can be very biased and should not be taken for fact. I realized that maybe some of the other subjects that are in the news, textbooks, and online may not be true. Poland 1939 helped me realize that I should be double-checking everything I read before I spread it. One thing that this book made me wonder about was the Polish Resistance. The book ended right after the last Polish Forces fled to Lithuania and Romania. After the leaders had fled, the Mayor of Warsaw founded a Polish resistance group that eventually was named the Home Army. The book says it was one of the world's greatest resistance groups at the time, but does not say why. I was left wondering why the Polish had such a good resistance group. One thing that I observed in this book was the Polish government bureaucracy. While the soldiers fought for every inch of their land, the government did nothing. In 1939, the Polish government was very paranoid and the government was set up so that everything had to go through Warsaw, Poland’s capital. This presented a big issue for the soldiers because if they wanted to get the positions of friendly troops they had to send multiple telegraphs to Warsaw. This was time-consuming and dangerous because the troops might get surrounded and not know it. This story made me see that there is a need for openness. If everything is locked away as a state secret then the people can not be well informed. If there's a war or disaster every person needs to know what to do. The only way to have everyone know what to do is to have effective communication. Poland 1939 left me believing that the underdog could score small victories. One of the most incredible stories from the book was about the Polish Gold Reserves. The Polish government had millions in gold stored in Warsaw. The Nazis were doing everything they could to try and take hold of the gold. At the onset of the war, the government loaded all of the gold into a convoy and started to drive towards Romania. They were under constant attack from both Nazi and Soviet Forces. Eventually, they were able to get the gold to Romania, and from there on to London. This small, important victory showed how the underdog can come out on top in some battles. There were many other examples of battles that the Polish won during the war. Poland 1939 was inspiring in showing what the will of the people can do. When I picked up Poland 1939 I thought it was going to be informative but not have much emotion. I was very wrong. Roger Moorehouse did an excellent job of making the reader feel both sad, excited, and if you live in the Allied Countries guilt. The entire Polish defense plan was built upon waiting for the allies to show up. They had lots of treaties which said that Britain and France would go to war against Germany if Poland was invaded. On September 1, 1939, Nazi forces rolled over the border into Poland. The Polish picked up their guns and waited for the Allies to arrive. In France and Britain, there was no action. Neither country wanted to go to war so they sat back and let Germany invade Poland. It was very disheartening to watch as the allies did nothing to help their friend. There was so much emotion in Poland 1939. Every chapter was a roller coaster of feelings. Despite all of the bad events that took place that fateful September, I still believe there is hope for the world. It is impossible not to be inspired by the stories of the Polish Scouts defending every building and street in the country, the soldiers digging their trenches, and the Mayor of Warsaw refusing to leave his city. I hope that if anything as tragic as the invasion of Poland ever happens again the world will be ready. The Polish collapsed because the Allies were not there for them. I n the future, I think all countries should stand up for their friends, and not sit idly by. I also hope that our education in school changes. We should be taught the stories of the brave Polish heroes who defended their country. Poland 1939 is a must-read for anyone who cares about getting the truth about the beginnings of WW2.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Too dry. DNF. Was so interested given Poland is undergoing political chang at this moment but.... i need a chapter by chapter book group to get through it. And a hard copy. The polish names are difficult to follow on audio.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laurence Westwood

    In a week when Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, tried yet again to rewrite the history of the beginning of the Second World War in Europe, Roger Moorhouse’s First to Fight – a history of the conquest and partition of Poland in September 1939 by Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union – is a timely reminder of what really happened. It is also a more than useful addition to all the general histories written about the Second World War in Europe, where the tragedy of what befell Poland i In a week when Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, tried yet again to rewrite the history of the beginning of the Second World War in Europe, Roger Moorhouse’s First to Fight – a history of the conquest and partition of Poland in September 1939 by Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union – is a timely reminder of what really happened. It is also a more than useful addition to all the general histories written about the Second World War in Europe, where the tragedy of what befell Poland in 1939 is usually reduced to a few paragraphs before the ‘real story’ begins, when Nazi Germany began its invasion of France and the Low Countries. In March 1939, Hitler’s troops marched into Prague which rendered the Munich Agreement (‘peace in our time’) – signed with much fanfare in 1938 by Germany, the United Kingdom and France – a dead letter. Understanding that Poland would be next in Hitler’s sights – Hitler thought it a state with no right to exist – the United Kingdom and France extended a guarantee to Poland that every assistance would be lent if ever its independence was threatened. Unfortunately, this ‘guarantee’ was interpreted differently by Poland than by the United Kingdom and France. To Poland it meant the sending of men and matériel in a time of war; to the United Kingdom and France, the guarantee was meant only as a threat to Hitler – nothing but a line in the sand he was not supposed to cross. Sadly, for Poland, this all became too evident when Hitler, who was not to be deterred, invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939, with the United Kingdom and France in turn declaring war on Germany on the 3rd September 1939, but doing not much more. If that wasn’t enough of a tragedy for poor Poland, in 1939 Stalin had seen the material benefits of a possible rapprochement with Nazi Germany, even though the two countries were supposedly ideologically opposed – a rapprochement which Hitler was all too happy to encourage. And so in August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact was signed, which contained a ‘secret protocol’ splitting Poland into two zones of influence: the west of Poland to Germany, the east to the Soviet Union. And so, while Poland was fighting for its life against Nazi Germany, on the 17th September 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east and from then on the war – if it had not been already – for Poland was done. First to Fight is an outstanding work of military history. We are taken from the first not-so-subtle act of subterfuge by Nazi Germany so it could claim it had been attacked by Poland first, to the spirited defence of Westerplatte – the first of many demonstrations that the Polish Army did not simply fold under the weight of Nazi aggression – and then on to the large-scale engagements where the Polish army, though technical inferior and suffering from strategic blunders made by its high command, sometimes succeeded even if in the long term their cause was doomed. Roger Moorhouse debunks many myths – myths that have often arisen from the wholesale acceptance of Nazi propaganda at the time. He also spares no effort in revealing racial war that was waged by the Wehrmacht and the Einsatzgruppen that led to numerous atrocities against Polish POWs and civilians alike, and the class war waged by the Soviet Red Army that led to the massacring of Polish officers during the war itself and later of a further 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia in the Katyn forests in the Soviet Union. Some of the first writing is reserved for the destruction of Warsaw, once known as the ‘Paris of the North’. In all, this book is superb. My only reservation is that the structure of the beginning of the book appears a little clumsy, in that – much as novelists are often advised by editors to do – we are straight into the action with the first two chapters before returning to an extended history of how Poland in 1939 came to be, both geographically and at the mercy of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. My own preference would be for this extended history to be outlined from the very start – the writing being more than good enough to sustain this approach. But that’s a personal preference and takes nothing away from Roger Moorhouse’s achievement with this work.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Youngs

    I'll be frank: I had to read this book for work. I was not anticipating enjoying a book about military history, about World War II, about the British and French roles as allies of Poland at the outbreak of the war. But gradually I became sucked in. Bit by bit, Roger Moorhouse lays out for us what the invasion of Poland meant for the Poles. There are maps so you can see where the places are that he talks about, with diagrams so you can see how the Germans invaded from one side, while Stalin's Red I'll be frank: I had to read this book for work. I was not anticipating enjoying a book about military history, about World War II, about the British and French roles as allies of Poland at the outbreak of the war. But gradually I became sucked in. Bit by bit, Roger Moorhouse lays out for us what the invasion of Poland meant for the Poles. There are maps so you can see where the places are that he talks about, with diagrams so you can see how the Germans invaded from one side, while Stalin's Red Army put pressure on from the other side. There is such attention to detail here that the book must have been a labour of love. There are horrors aplenty within it, as you would expect in any book devoted to detailing what happened when the might of the German Army stood like Goliath against the underfunded, under-resourced Polish Army, while the Red Army sneaked in on the other side of Poland, claiming to be liberators of the oppressed. Every few pages there was some new description of one or more atrocities. I wept my way through this book. I wouldn't have taken it all in one go except that it was needed that I did for my work - I would have absorbed it more slowly by preference. It was very moving to read of the bravery of many of the Poles, against what were ultimately always going to be overwhelming odds, some notable victories notwithstanding. What a wonderful job Roger Moorhouse has done in bringing together all this material from a variety of sources to show us in painstaking detail how truly terrible war is - and how politicians will always try to wriggle out of unpopular decisions. It made me embarrassed and rather ashamed to be British, when we called the Poles our allies but gave them little but words when they actually needed us there. If a book like this was compulsory study, people would be a lot less keen to go to war. It is such a terrible, senseless waste of life, on all sides. I am thankful that I had the chance to read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Peg - The History Shelf

    Read my full review at Open Letters Review here: https://openlettersreview.com/posts/p... Read my full review at Open Letters Review here: https://openlettersreview.com/posts/p...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Last year I read 'Berlin at War' by Moorhouse and so I approached 'First to Fight' with some degree of confidence in the author's capabilities as an historian, and interest in a subject that I have not as much knowledge of as I would like. Having now completed the book I can say that the former attitude has been mostly confirmed, and the latter mostly satisfied. Roger Moorhouse has written a seriously good text that meets most of the aims of author and reader alike. There are some quibbles, and Last year I read 'Berlin at War' by Moorhouse and so I approached 'First to Fight' with some degree of confidence in the author's capabilities as an historian, and interest in a subject that I have not as much knowledge of as I would like. Having now completed the book I can say that the former attitude has been mostly confirmed, and the latter mostly satisfied. Roger Moorhouse has written a seriously good text that meets most of the aims of author and reader alike. There are some quibbles, and I will outline these later. However, first I must comment on the positive aspects of the book. Firstly, Moorhouse more than adequately addresses the prime concern of the book, i.e. restoring the importance and breadth of the historical narrative of Poland's fight for survival against Nazi & Soviet invasions in September 1939. 'First to Fight' is a well detailed and well articulated account of the military resistance offered by the Poles against their invading enemies. The coverage given to the Polish army's defensive actions is a more than eloquent testimony to their bravery, and an appropriate negation of the 'blitzkrieg myth', that has become the popular explanation of why and how Poland capitulated. Next, the author should be praised for restoring to historical primacy the genocidal impacts of the combined German and Soviet invasions of Poland on the civilian populace. The litany of atrocities committed by Nazi and Soviet forces against the Poles is given much attention and this helps re-establish the barbarity of both totalitarian regimes whilst reinforcing the understanding of the suffering of the Polish people. This is not some simplistic polemical tale of evil men killing the innocents; this is a sober and historically valid accounting of war crimes and those who perpetuated them that were (arguably) never adequately punished. There is no doubt that Moorhouse presents a compelling historical synopsis of how badly Poles suffered during this first phase of their war. He also ensures that those crimes are not going to be forgotten outside Polish, German or ex-Soviet interests alike. Moorhouse presents a convincing historical analysis of the Soviet invasion of Poland, and ties this in with one of his most key arguments in the book, i.e. the culpability of both Nazi and Soviet regimes in collaborating in a war of genocidal aggression. The traditionally accepted constructs of the German invasion are discussed and analysed to great effect. However it is to the author's credit that he strives to negate the accumulated lies and misunderstanding of the Soviet invasion of Poland, and by association the degree to which Stalin's regime cooperated with and facilitated Hitler's regime. 'First to Fight' also does well to depict and analyse the Anglo-French reaction to the invasions of Poland in September 1939, cogently arguing for the inchoate impotence of the Chamberlain & Daladier governments and their associated armed forces when it came to offering concrete military assistance to the Poles. Moorhouse walks the fine line of excoriating and appreciating the dilemma the western allies faced in their declarations of war against Germany well, and offers some provocative thoughts vis-a-vis the relationship between Polish expectations of British and French aid and the actual realpolitik of each parties' situation. Finally, the book concludes with a coherent and well argued synopsis of the overall historical nature and relevance of the Polish War of September 1939, and Moorhouse is to be commended for this. It serves as an historically valid summary of the events of the invasions of Poland in 1939 and places those historic issues into the wider context of World War II and beyond. These positive aspects of the book are all reasons why one should read the book, however there are some defects in the book that need to be mentioned. Most are to due with editing and format. For example, Moorhouse spends much of his time in the book discussing specific battles and other combat related incidents. These would have been made far more understandable if there had been more supporting maps or associated illustrations edited into the text at the appropriate point. Providing maps at the beginning of the book that are (mostly) focused on the national theatre of war and German and Soviet thrusts into Poland don't do enough to help the reader understand Polish resistance. Also, and this is my own highly subjective evaluation of the book, by placing the historical background of Poland's long tradition of struggling for a national independence against foreign invaders into the second chapter of the book the narrative loses a little of its cohesive narrative for the reader. In my opinion that chapter should've served as an introduction to the main narrative. Furthermore, it may be argued by those with more knowledge of the subject that the depiction of Polish government, military and society in the years leading closer to the events of September/October 1939 is too shallow. Of course, Moorhouse has to draw the line somewhere as to the historical context of his text, so I will leave that criticism for others to argue over. My final criticisms of 'First to Fight' are two 'niggles' that irritated me. I was a little disappointed to see so little space given to the Polish air force's problems and issues, both in terms of equipment and combat experiences, before and during the invasions. I have a high level of interest in WW2 aviation history and Moorhouse doesn't quite meet my expectations here. It's not a major problem, but more a personal matter of 'historical taste'. My other gripe was Moorhouse makes a fallacious claim re the size and state of the French army in 1939 in the book, and this kind of mistake (either by commission or negligence) does undermine the author's credibility. To claim that the French had the capacity for over thirty armored divisions leaves Moorhouse open to criticisms of "If he got that wrong, what else did he stuff up?". To make matters worse for me, I have addressed Moorhouse with a query re this claim and he has failed to respond (after receiving his praise for my initial enthusiasm for his book). Hopefully this, and some other of my concerns will be addressed in a second edition. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my general approval for 'First to Fight' and pass on my recommendation for the book to anyone who is interested in Moorhouse's subject. This is good history that is generally intellectually truthful and well-articulated, supported by comprehensive research.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles Inglin

    Poor Poland! They never had a chance, with the Germans invading from the West and then Stalin almost literally stabbing them in the back and invading from the East. To add insult to injury the Poles were largely prevented from telling the story of their resistance. The Germans created a narrative that portrayed Poland as corrupt and incompetent and greatly downplayed the extent of German losses. The Russians made up a story about how they were saving the ethnic Byelorussian and Ukrainian populat Poor Poland! They never had a chance, with the Germans invading from the West and then Stalin almost literally stabbing them in the back and invading from the East. To add insult to injury the Poles were largely prevented from telling the story of their resistance. The Germans created a narrative that portrayed Poland as corrupt and incompetent and greatly downplayed the extent of German losses. The Russians made up a story about how they were saving the ethnic Byelorussian and Ukrainian populations and generally liberating Poles from their capitalist masters, who the Russians murdered in wholesale lots. The French and British went along, because portraying Poland as a hopeless cause let them off the hook for failing to take any effective action to help them. The reality was that Poland was far from an easy conquest for the Germans, even given the numerical and technical advantages they had. While the combination of indiscriminate bombing, attacks by Stuka dive bombers and German panzers caused confusion and broke some Polish units, many others fought literally to the last bullet. Units that had been bypassed by the rapid German advance counterattacked German flanks and threw off the German time tables. Even the infamous story of the Polish cavalry charging German tanks (created by an Italian war correspondent who saw the aftermath but not the battle) is more complex than presented. The Germans, with better press access, presented the story as an example of Polish backwardness. The reality was that the Polish cavalry had converted to mounted infantry, using their horses for transport. In the incident the story was based on a Polish column surprised a German column that was taking a break and hadn't established security. The Poles immediately charged and raised Hell with the German infantry until some armored cars arrived and drove them off. This was really only one of a number of incidents where the Polish cavalry operating as cavalry managed to exploit weaknesses in German positions for local and unfortunately temporary tactical success. Perhaps the most disheartening part of the story is how soon the atrocities began. The German soldiers had been conditioned to look down on the Poles by decades of propaganda. Killing of prisoners and civilians began almost immediately, the German soldiers apparently suffering from partisan paranoia (as they had during the First World War and the Franco-Prussia War). And show of resistance, discovery of weapons, to include farm tools, or even rumors were enough to trigger hostage taking and executions. Special execution units followed the frontline troops, tasked with eliminating local leaders, elites, intelligentsia and anyone Polish resistance could form around, as part of the Nazi plan to destroy Poland and reduce its population to the status on low or unskilled laborers. A vey sad story, and one that should be better understood.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Poland 1939: the outbreak of World War II,” by Roger Moorhouse (Basic Books, 2020). The general story about the start of World War II is that the Germans overran Poland in no time, and then everything begins. Moorhouse presents a fuller picture. First he spends a bit of time describing the history of the nation, which for a short while in the 15th and 16th Centuries was one of the dominant powers of Europe. After that, however, the nation was mostly the catspaw of everyone else, divided among R “Poland 1939: the outbreak of World War II,” by Roger Moorhouse (Basic Books, 2020). The general story about the start of World War II is that the Germans overran Poland in no time, and then everything begins. Moorhouse presents a fuller picture. First he spends a bit of time describing the history of the nation, which for a short while in the 15th and 16th Centuries was one of the dominant powers of Europe. After that, however, the nation was mostly the catspaw of everyone else, divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary, until finally the country itself disappeared from the map. Not the Poles themselves, however, who always had a deep sense of nationhood and a powerful military tradition. A new independent state was finally created at the end of World War I. It had a large but somewhat antiquated military (Uhlan cavalry regiments; almost no armor; obsolescent, underpowered war planes). The Poles depended---hoped---for succor from France and England, which had sworn to support them against a German invasion. But the Allies had no particular will to intervene, although the French could have wrought havoc had they invaded when the Wehrmacht was occupied in the east. So the Poles fought alone. And, by Moorhouse’s recounting, they fought fiercely, on more than one occasion stopping the Nazi drives, destroying their tanks, holding their own in the skies for a brief while, causing much more delay in the German offensive than Berlin expected. The Germans were not as well-organized as legend has it. There were cavalry charges, although the Polish troopers mostly fought dismounted; Panzers I and II were easy prey for Polish anti-tank guns; Polish defensive works were formidable---where they existed, where they had been completed, where they had been manned. But finally, Polish courage and stubbornness could not withstand motorized legions and modern warplanes. In horrible addition, the Nazis showed from the beginning how barbaric and ruthless they were. They attacked civilians, they raped, murdered, tortured, pillaged. They treated the Poles as subhumans, far worse than they dealt with the French (who had not resisted anywhere as well as the Poles). Then, of course, there were the Soviets, who upheld their part of the deal with Germany by invading from the east, where there were virtually no troops to hold them off. At first, both Poles and Russians were confused about what was happening. Many Poles thought the invaders had come to defend them from the Germans; national minorities (Byelorussians, Ukrainians) considered them liberators; many Russian troops did not understand what they themselves were doing there. Still, it was a short if hard fight. The Poles had no defense against attacks from the air. It can’t be said that the Polish forces crumbled: they were destroyed fighting. This was the only war that Hitler won. https://www.rogermoorhouse.com/rogers...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Lubbers

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I think its a good book overall. The narrative being one more portrayed as the Polish voice behind what happened in September 1939, contrary to other popular history books on the same topic, which mostly work with English, French Russian, German sources, glossing over inconveniences for said countries, to the point that the writer believed it to be fair to “set the record straight” I think the writer did gloss over the polish inconveniences somewhat himself, to mention two factualities or events I think its a good book overall. The narrative being one more portrayed as the Polish voice behind what happened in September 1939, contrary to other popular history books on the same topic, which mostly work with English, French Russian, German sources, glossing over inconveniences for said countries, to the point that the writer believed it to be fair to “set the record straight” I think the writer did gloss over the polish inconveniences somewhat himself, to mention two factualities or events that in my opinion was worth more in depth analysis especially in this book. The role of Poland during the Munch agreement, and especially the entire take over of Czechoslovakia by Germany, which left the country in an untenable geographical position, deserved more input as to why Poland “made that happen” so to say, just to get some insignificant territorial gains themselves, which the writer does mention. I think the international diplomatic reality of Poland deserved a wider mention, the German offers of cooperation as well as the ultimate 180 degrees Hitler ultimately made in his view on Poland and the polish people, could have left readers with an interesting perspective on the situation. As well as how Poland seemed to be portrayed as wholly alone, while it definitely did enjoy sympathy and productive help from other, unlikely countries? The country Japan wasn’t even mentioned once in the book, which also I believe could have made for an interesting passage at least, looking at the friendly Japanese/Polish relations, but might have deserved even more of the main body of text than that (if you mention the haitian uprising you might as well go over this?) But i do recognise this is not per se what the writer was trying to convey, he gave a heartfelt account of a well spirited defense the Polish people put up with the characteristic energy that was so well described in the book, which makes it a good read for anyone who wishes to know more about this part of forgotten history.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lee

    Here is what I think of when I imagine the German invasion of Poland in September 1939: brave Polish cavalrymen with sabres drawn, charging against modern German tanks. Horses versus steel. The problem with that image, as Roger Moorhouse makes clear repeatedly in this book, is that it’s not true. It’s an invention of the German Nazi propaganda machine. That’s not to say that the Germans didn’t start their campaign with huge advantages. They did. They had much more money and a bigger army that was Here is what I think of when I imagine the German invasion of Poland in September 1939: brave Polish cavalrymen with sabres drawn, charging against modern German tanks. Horses versus steel. The problem with that image, as Roger Moorhouse makes clear repeatedly in this book, is that it’s not true. It’s an invention of the German Nazi propaganda machine. That’s not to say that the Germans didn’t start their campaign with huge advantages. They did. They had much more money and a bigger army that was more modern. And yet the Poles had a large army too, one that fought bravely for five weeks before capitulating. And those cavalry charges? When they did happen, it often led to German defeat — because for German infantry, a mass of armed men charging at them on horseback was as terrifying in 1939 as it was for hundred of years before that. Moorhouse even finds an example of Polish cavalry clashing with German cavalry, because in 1939, both sides still relied on horses. As in his previous book about the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Moorhouse in unsparing in his description of the role played by Stalin and the Red Army. He doesn’t even need to mention Katyn — its shadow hangs over the whole story. The book is a story about two tragedies — the crushing of independent Poland between two totalitarian powers, and the obliteration of the real history of the country by both sides. The Soviets claimed that their intervention was merely to restore order once Poland had “collapsed”; they even lied to the Poles claiming that they would fight the Germans. And the Germans began lying about the Polish war even before it started, with their staged “atrocities” carried out by Poles against innocent Germans. This is another excellent book by Moorhouse, and one hopes that next time someone mentions German tanks crushing Polish cavalry, this book will be cited to set the record straight.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I knew that I didn’t know very much about the September 1939 invasion of Poland. Much of what I had read elsewhere was concerning the British and French response, or lack of one, to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, but I did not realize that several key things that I had heard many times ultimately stem from Nazi and Soviet propaganda. The Polish cavalry did not attack tanks on horseback, and in retrospect, it is absurd to suppose that someone would do this. The German army mostly motorized assault I knew that I didn’t know very much about the September 1939 invasion of Poland. Much of what I had read elsewhere was concerning the British and French response, or lack of one, to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, but I did not realize that several key things that I had heard many times ultimately stem from Nazi and Soviet propaganda. The Polish cavalry did not attack tanks on horseback, and in retrospect, it is absurd to suppose that someone would do this. The German army mostly motorized assault was impressive, especially against the army of a country that had spent as much on their military as Germany had spent on a single armored division, but the idea of Blitzkrieg was also exaggerated by Goebbels and his Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. The author has collected extensive historical information from Polish sources and written an account that illuminates the terrible tragedy of this invasion, the beginning of Germany’s brutal attack on civilian populations, but also the many tactical Polish successes and brave acts of defense and resistance. I was reading part of this history aloud and found that I was unable to get through this moving section: Among them was a group of boy scouts between the ages of twelve and sixteen. “Unaware of what awaited them,” one bystander recalled, “these poor children joked and even played games amongst themselves. They realised the truth only when they were made to line up ... and the machine guns were brought. Some of the little ones began to cry, but the others gave proof of the most admirable courage. They intoned the Polish national anthem and fell like heroes.” A priest who rushed to give them the last rites was shot as well.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Øystein Brekke

    Another World War II book? Yet, there are still so many aspects of this war people know so little about, and, curiously, the very beginning of it - the five weeks in 1939 when Poland fought their German and Soviet invaders - is one of them. Most of what was in this book was new to me. Moorhouse wants to dispel myths about Polish ineptitude and defenselessness (especially the myths of Polish defenders on horseback being crushed by German tanks). He tells us tales of brave, and often effective, res Another World War II book? Yet, there are still so many aspects of this war people know so little about, and, curiously, the very beginning of it - the five weeks in 1939 when Poland fought their German and Soviet invaders - is one of them. Most of what was in this book was new to me. Moorhouse wants to dispel myths about Polish ineptitude and defenselessness (especially the myths of Polish defenders on horseback being crushed by German tanks). He tells us tales of brave, and often effective, resistance (more German soldiers were killed during these five weeks, than the total number of Norwegians killed during the entire war), but defeat coming about as a result of German superiority in weaponry, mistakes in the Polish command structure, a total lack of support - bordering on betrayal - from Poland's western allies, and not least the fact that the Soviet Union joined the war against Poland on Germany's side. All this makes for an engaging read. Much of the subject matter here is, of course, truly horrible. Moorhouse writes of the Germans committing more than a dozen massacres a day, and countless Polish towns and villages of no military value were destroyed by German bombing. There is a balance to tread between on the one hand making it simply an unreadable litany of horrors, and on the other hand, downplaying the horrors. In my opinion, Moorhouse succeeds well. What I might wish for more of, is more information about Interwar Polish society. The book goes straight into the action, with only pretty brief background about the immediate run-up to the war. But there is also virtue in writing a compact book with limited scope. I now want to know more about Interwar-Poland, but I can probably find other books that focus on this. Highly recommended!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Adkins

    One aspect of World War II history that is glossed over is that of the defence of Poland by the Polish forces. One of the reasons for this is history is written by the winners and poor Poland was "liberated" from the Germans by the Soviet Army. The Soviets did their best to suppress knowledge of the beginning part of the War so as to keep knowledge of what they did to the poor country quiet. Poland during WWII due to its geographic location had the misfortune in September 1939 of not only being One aspect of World War II history that is glossed over is that of the defence of Poland by the Polish forces. One of the reasons for this is history is written by the winners and poor Poland was "liberated" from the Germans by the Soviet Army. The Soviets did their best to suppress knowledge of the beginning part of the War so as to keep knowledge of what they did to the poor country quiet. Poland during WWII due to its geographic location had the misfortune in September 1939 of not only being invaded by German forces from the west but also Russian forces from the east due to the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which divided the country between the two countries. This book seeks to overcome the lack of knowledge about the defence of Poland by its forces as well as dispel some of the myths that have risen about the battles. I think the book did an excellent job of describing the battles and atrocities that occurred during the occupation of Poland by two ruthless forces. The author also does a good job of explaining how due to its location the nation had been screwed over by various nations (Russia, Prussia, France, etc..) over the centuries. The author also includes some good maps and photos that help you understand the information presented. If you are interested in military history especially that of WWII history then this book is highly recommended. It will give you a greater knowledge of what occurred during what we sometimes call "The Phoney War" period of WWII, a period that no Poles would call Phoney as it is estimated that 200,000 Polish (military and civilian) citizens were killed during that period.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    If you have any interest in the real story of Poland’s valiant fight against both the German Nazis and the Soviet Union, this should be on your shelve or your tablet. The misconception of the Polish army using lancers against Nazi tanks and the idea that Germany used the blitzkrieg here for the first time are all addressed This is all about Poland’s fight in September 1939 and the valiant effort that they put up to protect their Country. After Germany signed a pact with the Soviet Union it was c If you have any interest in the real story of Poland’s valiant fight against both the German Nazis and the Soviet Union, this should be on your shelve or your tablet. The misconception of the Polish army using lancers against Nazi tanks and the idea that Germany used the blitzkrieg here for the first time are all addressed This is all about Poland’s fight in September 1939 and the valiant effort that they put up to protect their Country. After Germany signed a pact with the Soviet Union it was clear to the Polish people that it was only a matter of time before the invasion would happen. Of course, at that point they felt that their two allies, Great Britain and France would step up and honor their commitment to the Polish people. That faith was poorly placed as both Countries declared war with Germany but did very little to essentially nothing. To back that up. This books does have a lot of names (Cities, towns, generals, non-military leaders and rivers) but it never gets bogged down by this information. It would have been nice if it included a couple of maps at various places and a very quick summary of the years following the war which finally lead to a once again free Poland but neither of these take anything away from the core of the book. So if you have any interest in Poland, the Second World War, the lack of countries keeping their word or how a great country fought as hard as they could against incredible odds this book is for you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    This is an excellent account of the conquest of Poland by Germany and the USSR in 1939. The author has used a lot of primary sources, particularly from the Polish side, to present a clear narrative of events. In so doing, the author achieves his objective of rebalancing what is described as "the wonky Western narrative" which has tended to overlook what happened to Poland in 1939 and in particular the total lack of help that Britain and France gave to their ally. The writing is clear and the pace This is an excellent account of the conquest of Poland by Germany and the USSR in 1939. The author has used a lot of primary sources, particularly from the Polish side, to present a clear narrative of events. In so doing, the author achieves his objective of rebalancing what is described as "the wonky Western narrative" which has tended to overlook what happened to Poland in 1939 and in particular the total lack of help that Britain and France gave to their ally. The writing is clear and the pace of the narrative is good. Moorhouse is particularly informative about the brutal and murderous behaviour of the Germans and the Soviet Union, and on the last point, how extensive was the fighting between the Poles and the Red Army in the later stages of the campaign. Because the research is heavy on the Polish side, there are many accounts of localised victories and heroic actions. Ideally, I would want to hear more from German and Russian sources and so this book cannot be regarded as comprehensive. Focusing on small-scale Polish victories does, at times, mask the fact that the 1939 campaign was an overwhelming defeat for a nation that had supposed itself to be a significant power in Eastern Europe in the 1930s. Nonetheless, this is an important work in the historiography of the Second World War and is heartily recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Poland 1939 by Roger Moorhouse is an excellent historical piece that focusses on the events that began/sparked, happened to, and altered Poland at the beginning of WWII and the subsequent fallout. The occupation, struggles, battles, and horrific events that occurred to the citizens and people in Poland during and after the entry of the German forces during WWII is not talked about enough. It was a pivotal moment that, I feel, set a precedent and an ominous tone for what was to come. I am glad th Poland 1939 by Roger Moorhouse is an excellent historical piece that focusses on the events that began/sparked, happened to, and altered Poland at the beginning of WWII and the subsequent fallout. The occupation, struggles, battles, and horrific events that occurred to the citizens and people in Poland during and after the entry of the German forces during WWII is not talked about enough. It was a pivotal moment that, I feel, set a precedent and an ominous tone for what was to come. I am glad that Mr. Moorhouse shed some light that was very much deserved. The more we can be informed and learn about the past, the better our ability to avoid a similar situation in the future (hopefully). The author did a wonderful job at making the dialogue and thought process easy to understand and was able to keep my interest throughout. This book was meticulously researched and the author seems to have a strong knowledge base that he is able to present to the reader. I recommend this book to anyone that is a history buff or anyone that is wanting to learn more about WWII. 5/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Perseus Books/Basic Books for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Francis

    Roger Moorhouse’s new “Poland, 1939: The Outbreak of World War II” is not only a compelling read but a useful tool for examining the (arguable) beginning of the world’s greatest conflict. Hitler not only savaged a population but advertised how he would continue to do so throughout Europe. As Moorhouse shows, Hitler—through propaganda and invented justifications—exploited tensions to convince a war-weary Germany that military action was needed against the oft-besieged Poland. Despite valiant effo Roger Moorhouse’s new “Poland, 1939: The Outbreak of World War II” is not only a compelling read but a useful tool for examining the (arguable) beginning of the world’s greatest conflict. Hitler not only savaged a population but advertised how he would continue to do so throughout Europe. As Moorhouse shows, Hitler—through propaganda and invented justifications—exploited tensions to convince a war-weary Germany that military action was needed against the oft-besieged Poland. Despite valiant efforts, the Polish were little match for the technologically advantaged German war machine. Add the reluctance of pledged-Allies such as Britain to come to Poland’s aid (Chamberlain and Halifax make appearances), and a kinda-sorta pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, and the roadmap for continued war was rendered. “Poland, 1939” is a brisk, to-the-point read. It doesn’t shy from the cruel horrors of war, but neither does it wallow in them. Mostly it’s an in-depth assessment that shows why a relatively small development (in WWII overall) has immense, hidden importance (the aforementioned pact between Germany and the Soviet Union is an example, and one confusing in its complexity/ambiguity).

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Corleto-Bales

    A very enlightening book about the terrible events during the beginning of World War II, where Poland was besieged by the Germans and double-crossed by the Russians. Conventional historical teaching has it that the Poles were overwhelmed and outclassed by the German Blitzkrieg, but the Poles fought with fanatical bravery, the Germans suffering 30,000 casualties in a month, (including 10,000 killed) and were again and again freaked out and scattered by the last cavalry charges in modern warfare, A very enlightening book about the terrible events during the beginning of World War II, where Poland was besieged by the Germans and double-crossed by the Russians. Conventional historical teaching has it that the Poles were overwhelmed and outclassed by the German Blitzkrieg, but the Poles fought with fanatical bravery, the Germans suffering 30,000 casualties in a month, (including 10,000 killed) and were again and again freaked out and scattered by the last cavalry charges in modern warfare, (that have been long ridiculed as evidence of Polish inferiority--the Poles charging German Panzers with mounted horsemen). Poland suffered horrendous atrocities that up to that time had been uncommon in modern European wars. The Poles had little air support, the Luftwaffe bombed Polish towns and cities relentlessly, and the German Army massacred thousands of civilians and prisoners. What has also been mostly forgotten by conventionally understood history, (but not by the Poles) was how by mid-month, the Soviets had also invaded Poland, from the east. Usually the invasion of Poland is dealt with in a few pages of any World War II history, but this book fills in the gaps.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    As others have noted, this is a long-overdue treatment of the 1939 German and Soviet war against Poland. Strengths 1. Moorhouse debunks myths encouraged by German propaganda as well as Western fatalism. The Wehrmacht was no unstoppable Blitzkrieg-machine - they sent more horses into Poland than tanks (including a cavalry division of their own). 2. He moves well between the high level political and diplomatic events and the military operational and tactical level. Weaknesses 3. I would have apprecia As others have noted, this is a long-overdue treatment of the 1939 German and Soviet war against Poland. Strengths 1. Moorhouse debunks myths encouraged by German propaganda as well as Western fatalism. The Wehrmacht was no unstoppable Blitzkrieg-machine - they sent more horses into Poland than tanks (including a cavalry division of their own). 2. He moves well between the high level political and diplomatic events and the military operational and tactical level. Weaknesses 3. I would have appreciated more maps. I found it impossible to follow the flow of the campaign from the text descriptions, and I’ve worked as a history teacher, have a master’s degree in international relations, and was an army officer for 17 years. 4. The book would have benefited from more discussion of the forces involved, both in terms of equipment, force structure, and military doctrine. There was some, and it was good, I just wish there had been more. As Moorhouse notes, this has not been covered well in existing literature.

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