Korbonski gives many insights into the Polish Underground State. It includes everyday life under the German terror. Special emphasis is placed on the development and protection of clandestine radio transmitters. Interestingly, a simple rope-signaling system finally overcame high-tech German surveillance systems (p. 334). Good detail is provided about the murders of Poles at Palmiry, the Katyn Massacre, the role of freed British POW John Ward during the betrayed and foredoomed Warsaw Uprising, and the subsequent systematic destruction of Warsaw by the vindictive Germans.
The recent widely-acclaimed publication of FEAR, by Jan Thomas Gross, has accompanied accusations, by Gross and his fans, of Poles being too proud to admit negative aspects of their history, specifically acts of Polish collaboration being ignored because they do not fit the ruling paradigm of Polish resistance. The utter nonsense of such charges is readily evident in Korbonski's book. He devotes considerable detail to Polish consorting with and collaboration with the Germans (e. g., pp. 256-257).
Of course, the line between accommodation and collaboration was not always clear-cut. Korbonski clarifies the Volksdeutsche. While most of them were Polish-speaking Germans, some were ethnic Poles, of which only a small fraction should accurately be reckoned collaborators: "No sentence of death was ever passed on a Pole for having registered as a `Volksdeutsche'. The reason for this leniency was that the problem was more complicated than it appeared on the surface. Roughly speaking, the problem bore different aspects in the various aspects in the various provinces of Poland. The Silesians, for example, at the very beginning of the German occupation and in sheer self-defense, decided to register as Volksdeutsche, which in my opinion did not affect their patriotism and devotion to Poland. In Pomerania, from which district large numbers were deported to the General Government, the remainder of the population was compulsorily registered as German, and all men of military age were conscripted into the German Army. The same occurred in Posnania. These soldiers by compulsion eventually deserted from the German army and jointed the ranks of the Second Polish Corps in Italy. It was only in the General Government that the Poles were not compelled to register as Germans and cases of defection were extremely rare."(p. 135).
Another borderline case of accommodation and collaboration is exemplified by the Polish Blue Police (the Policja Granatowa). Wrongly equated with the Jew-killing Ukrainian and Baltic collaborationist units (the infamous Hilfspolizei, or Hiwis), the Blue Police was, in actuality, an anti-criminal force: "The Blue Police consisted of the pre-war Polish Police force; the Germans made them co-operate for the maintenance of public order."(p. 93). Of course, individual Blue Policemen did become open collaborators, and some of these were killed by the underground for helping the Germans kill Poles (p. 130, 134) and Jews (p. 206). Otherwise, some units of the Polish Blue Police were used by the Germans, with or without their consent, for anti-Polish and anti-Jewish actions. For example, the Blue Police was warned by the underground not to take part in the roundups of Poles for forced labor in Germany (pp. 118-119, 224). All in all, the actions of the Blue Police defied simplistic classification: "The attitude of the underground authorities towards the Blue Police was hostile, because as a body it had become a tool in the hands of the German police; but a number of policemen, such as the above-mentioned Inspector, were members of the underground, and frequently carried out most dangerous instructions. The Blue Police were aware that the underground authorities had ordered the suppression of banditry, so they were always glad to take a hand against them."(p. 242).
There are common mischaracterizations of Poles being indifferent too, or even secretly approving of, the Germans' extermination of the Jews. The truth is otherwise. Korbonski recounts the fact that underground Polish reports of Jews being sent to death camps were disbelieved by the British (pp, 252-253). Neither were the events of the Warsaw Ghetto (p. 359) accepted. (The advantage of John Ward reporting on the Germans' use of Polish civilian shields around their tanks during the Warsaw Uprising was the fact that he, an Englishman, was believed: p. 359).
In a cruel irony to the malicious charges (e. g., Schindler's List) of Poles cheering as Jews were being railroaded to death camps, the laughter was actually on the other side: "However, when the trains from the various countries continued to arrive, and when here and there Polish railwaymen were able to whisper a warning to the unfortunate Jews, they were not believed and were laughed at, especially by those Jews who traveled in passenger trains with their luggage and bedding; who were convinced that they were being transported to some labour camp, and that they would be able to survive the war by working hard."(p. 254).
On the basis of the fact that the Kresy (eastern borderlands) had only an ethnically Polish minority (albeit a large one), the British supported Soviet claims to Poland's eastern half. However, most of the non-Poles on these territories were not pro-Soviet, and some were pro-Polish. Consider the following entreaty: "I am a man from Minsk. Now that the Minsk province is under German occupation we can get in touch with people in the motherland. I have come to Warsaw as a representative of the ancient province of Minsk to ask the Polish Government not to forget our country, so that after the war the Minsk territory may be reunited with the motherland. It has been a Polish land for centuries, and wherever you go you'll find evidence of it. There are Poles still living there, and they are dreaming of a reunion. And the White-Ruthenians, too, dream of Poland as their deliverer from the Soviet hell."(p. 314). This was not to be.