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Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56
by Anne Applebaum
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An In Depth though Incomplete Overview of the Soviet Takeover of Eastern Europe., 17 Mar. 2013
This book is a very good overview of the situation in Eastern Europe at a crucial time. However much more reasearch needs to be done in this area. The author highlights and describes many aspects and approaches the Soviets used, military, poltical, through media, censorship etc.

In my opinion there are some issues glossed over. For example the Kielce pogrom is blamed uncritically on a primitive blood libel - which seems to be a standard line regarding Kielce. The American ambassador Bliss-Lane at the time, believed it was a communist provocation whilst Jewish leaders he spoke to blamed the high number, and highly visible members of the Soviet security apparatus who were of Jewish background. This is an exceptionally difficult topic and the author has gone some way to acknowledging this fact elsewhere in the book by stating the number of Jews involved in the leadership of the security forces as being at 30%, though I think Timothy Snyder's figure of 37% is the accepted one. In Kielce communist propaganda and subsequently historians blame ordinairy Poles when communist troops acting under communist orders were largely responsible.

President Roosevelt's selling out to the Soviet's is another area that is ignored. His establishment was well aware that the Soviet's had committed atrocities against Poles, such as the Katyn massacre, but this was delibrately ignored in favour of keeping Stalin "on board". Furthermore Arthur Bliss-Lane's reports of what was actually happening in Poland fell on deaf ears or was hushed up. To his credit Ambassador Bliss-Lane would go on to repeat his experiances on his return to the US, even as the official line was to ignore verything he said!

I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American Ambassador Reports to the American People

Between the years 1943 - 1956, some 50,000-250,000 were murdered by Soviet forces. The true figure is still to be arrived at. Hundreds of thousands were arrested and tens of thousands sent to Siberia. It is a time that is frequently referred to as a civil war, however given the prepondrance of foreign troops, and foreigners posing as Poles in communist Polish uniform this reference is suitable for propaganda purposes to make it look as if this time was one of internal Polish political conflict. This view is largely false. Had there been no Soviet back-up with literally NKVD troops holding pistols to people's heads to get things to go their way, the Soviet system would have got nowhere in Poland.

An Eye for an Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge against Germans in 1945

Overall the book is in my opinion one of the best available to give an insight into the situation in Eastern Europe just after the war, because of the authors knowledge of the area and spending time there especially when the political map began to change. Because of this the author will have a unique insight into the peoples, systems and politicians she is describing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2013 7:59 PM GMT

by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Idea and Genuinely Atmospheric in Parts., 17 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Dominion (Hardcover)
I found the idea for this novel fascinating and some of the ideas plausible. However although it is a well written story I found it overlong. The bits of imagery injected into the story of 1950's (Jive boys, Magnet comics etc) Britain were infrequent compared to the overall size of the work and I would have expected many more and some explanation or elaboration - instead had to rely on my own imagination and make use of my memories of 60's Britain. Much of the book seemed to be composed of lines of .."then he got up and went over ...then he sat down..then he got up again". A more fuller description of Europe under the Nazis would have gone a long way to putting colour in a grey story.

Also the political dimension of the book as mentioned by other reviewers is quite noticeable. Communists good Nationalists bad, Jews good and oppressed, Catholics bad and collaborators. The "borrowing" of historical British political figures to add plausability to the story and who are put in a not very positive light, has also grated with some people understandably.

Factually the scenario shown by Dominion is a possibility of many. The Nazi's would have preffered a political solution for Britain however a much less stable Britain than the one shown here would have been much more likely. The other scenario would have been the execution of "Operation Sealion", the full blown military attack against Britain - with either a succesful or unsuccessful outcome of Nazi plans.

The what ifs and alternate possibilities are endless if the Nazi's hadn't decided to invade the Soviet Union and declare war on the US.

The Nazi plans for Europe were such that although Poland was mentioned in the book in reality it was wiped off the map. Its western half was absorbed in to the Reich and central Poland become "The Generalgovernment". Its population were slated to be deported and exterminated by 1975 and replaced by German settlers - something which was underway during the war anyway.

The references to the French resistance actively taking on the Germans and setting an example to the British is stretching credibility a bit too far even for this book!! The largest resistance group during the war was Polish. The French were quite happy with their German occupation and much of the administration of France was run by the French on behalf of the Germans. Additionally due to the Hitler-Stalin pact, the communists in France refused to act against the German's until after 1941 and the invasion of Russia and in reality the Reistance in France was of neglible effect until the time of D-Day.

The other books I am familiar with, with similar themes are SS-GB, Fatherland neither of which I have yet read, but I think now definately worth a look in.

Lawrence of Arabia - Two Disc Set [DVD]
Lawrence of Arabia - Two Disc Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter O'Toole

5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic., 16 Mar. 2013
Sit back and enjoy this blockbuster classic of cinema, preferably in widescreen. No CGI or special effects just old fashioned location filming, loads of extras and the stars of their day and loads of stiff upper lip. This is what cinema should look like. It looks great.

A fantastic film. I remember it well when it was shown on telly years before video and it is still every bit as good now as then. Peter O'Toole plays Lawrence to perfection; A down to earth, flawed but driven officer in the British army out to take on the enemy - and his own commanders, with his army of loyal tribesmen. The control his commanders have over him at times appears suspect. At one point they do not know if they would lose control of him as Lawrence's personality becomes almost manic.

In addition for me, and I think many people Peter O'Toole as Lawrence and the film generally embodied much of what Britishness in the late 60's stood for. The battles shown were about defending the Empire which when the film was made was still of some significance. For that reason the film, I believe has wider historical importance.

Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw
Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw
by Norman Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.54

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poles Fight for the Soul of their Nation in Warsaw 1944., 15 Mar. 2013
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The third battle for Warsaw in '44 was preceded by its defence in 1939 when thousands of Poles were killed and much of the city was damaged; and the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when the Jewish ghetto was shut down. Prior to which hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to their deaths in places like Treblinka while a few hundred rebelled and fought back. In August 1944 with Soviet forces a few miles away the Polish underground under constant incitement from the Soviets and with their field units in eastern Poland clashing with Soviet forces, in many instances being arrested and their leaders frequently being murdered, ordered an offensive against the Germans still in Warsaw.

What followed could be termed the third betrayal of Warsaw. Suddenly the Soviet's constant incitement for the Poles to fight was replaced with denounciation and accusations of a criminal enterprise. The western allies were appalled at having been put on the spot by the Poles, and seemed unable to cope with the situation. Roosevelt was only interested in securing Polish votes in the US. The cynical way Poles were used and betrayed by the allied leadership led directly to the Cold War.

Had the Poles not chosen to fight they would have been accused of being facists and Nazi collaborators. They were accused of being facists anyway. Thousands of AK members were actively tracked down and arrested on false charges. Thousand were murdered, tortured, shot or exiled.

The Uprising cost the Poles 250,000 dead in two months of unprecedented savage fighting against German SS and ex-prison inmates such Dirlwinger's Brigade of psychopaths and Kaminki's renegade Russians.

For Your Freedom and Ours: The Kosciuszko Squadron - Forgotten Heroes of World War II

Poland's reward for fighting alongside the allies: Its capital flattened and inhabitants murdered!

Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold?: Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews
Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold?: Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews
by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Academic Work On Contentious Wartime inter-Ethnic relations in Poland., 12 Mar. 2013
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This book is written mostly to answer the charges brought forward in Jan Tomasz Gross's book "Golden Harvest".

"Golden Harvest" is based around a 1940's photograph showing diggers at a grave site. The book, presumably based on evidence provided, states that the photograph is of Polish peasants looting the ashes of Murdered Jews of Treblinka. This accusation sets the theme for the rest of the book with Poles standing accused of complicity and profiteering. The accusations are not substantial nor are they particularly shocking - such the fact that some Polish women had liasons with camp guards for money. Tens of thousands of French women were involved with German soldiers and the situation there was nowhere as bad as in Poland. The mopral tone invoked in that book on such insubstantial social breakdown, seems to be somewhat dispraportionate.

Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold looks at the accusations and the evidence, such as the lack of evidence for the photographs actual origin, and rounds off well an interesting discussion.

Readers please judge for yourselves.

The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War
The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War
by Halik Kochanski
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best History Books of Poland during WW2., 10 Mar. 2013
If a reader is looking for a comprehensive book on Poland in WW2 this would definately be one of the best. The book is a good read and moves one through the events at speed, but with detail.

I would also suggest For Your Freedom and Ours: The Kosciuszko Squadron - Forgotten Heroes of World War II for an insight into the political machinations as the Poles were abandoned by their allies. Kochanski's book goes further and accuses the American's of deliberately covering up Stalin's ruthless persecution of the Poles' during and after the war.

I would also suggest Richard Lukas's Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles under German Occupation, 1939-1944for further reading.

The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague
The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague
by Timothy Garton Ash
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witness To the Collapse of Communisim In Eastern Europe., 10 Mar. 2013
Timothy Garton Ash was a witness to many of the momentous events that engulfed Eastern Europe in 1989. These crucial events which had such an impact on Tens of millions of peoples lives are largely now forgotten or found in history books.

The collapse of the wall also brought about a perhaps another expected, but not fully realised catastrophe - that of the collapse of the economies of the eastern block and the mass poverty that their former citizens slipped into.

A welcome diary of events from 1989 with many of the key personalities of the time roles highlighted.

General Nil [ PAL, Reg.2 Import - Poland] (2009)
General Nil [ PAL, Reg.2 Import - Poland] (2009)
Dvd ~ Olgierd Lukaszewicz
Offered by AVALON
Price: £16.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WW2 Hero and Polish Officer Murdered By Communists., 23 Nov. 2012
This is a little known story outside of Polish circles, yet the story of this man deserves much greater coverage.

General Emil Fieldorf, aka General "Nil", was a Polish army officer who organised resistance in German occupied Poland during WW2. He organised assasinations of key Nazi personnel and officers.

When the war ended he preffered retirement to carrying on armed resistance against the communists installed by Stalin's occupation force. In spite of this he was considered too great a threat to the communists authority. He was arrested and put on trial. While in prison the officer in charge of his interrogation was Jozef Rozanski who was known for his violent mis-treatment and torture of prisoners. The death sentance was passed and General "Nil" Fieldorf who had fought alongside the allied forces in the Polish resistance throughout the whole war, was executed in 1953. He shared the same fate thousands of other Poles who receive at the hands of the new regime in Poland. One which the western allies recognised as the legal government of Poland - even though this was demonstrably not the case for anyone to see - if they cared to look.

Years later Helena Wolinska Brus, the Stalinist prosecutor that had been instrumental in having General Fieldorf condemned to death would be living in Oxford, UK with her husband, formerly an economist working for the regime in Poland and now an Oxford university academic. Following the fall of communism in Poland Fieldorf's daughter attempted to have the UK extradite Wolinska-Brus to stand trial.

All attempts which lasted ten years failed as the UK ignored all requests and refused to extradite her to face trial. The basis of the extradition was a 1956 army report which found the Wolinska-Brus frequently misrepresented facts in court cases which then led to executions.

Katyn [DVD] [2007]

Polish-Jewish Relations 1939-1945: Beyond the limits of solidarity
Polish-Jewish Relations 1939-1945: Beyond the limits of solidarity
Price: £3.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Contribution to Holocaust Studies., 20 Nov. 2012
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This book is an important contribution to Holocaust studies. Ewa Kurek's work is different to much contemporary Holocaust works since it looks critically at a subject many others avoid, that of the role of many Jews in collaborating with German forces in Poland after the 1939 invasion.

Much of the subject of this book, though widely known is little reproduced in modern history books and Ewa Kurek's approach is also rarely if ever matched.

It also puts into perspective much of the criticism aimed at Poles for not doing enough to help Jews during the war.

Ewa Kurek points out that in the opening phase of the German occupation of Poland the Jews saw the conflict as one between Germans and Poles and considered themselves uninvolved. The "ghettos" were considered by Jews to be autonomous districts which could be run by themselves on behalf of the German's.

No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s
No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nostalgic Step Back To The Eighties., 20 Nov. 2012
This is an easy to read book of an eventful decade. Having grown up through it I must admit at the time I did not think that much of it. Now being able to compare to that decade, our present situation excluding the odd hiccup seems quite tame.

The book summarises a lot of what those years were about and the characters and events that made them. Comedians, rock stars, politicians and of course Margaret Thatcher. Who remembers Arthur Scargill pushing for miners to strike and all the strikes that we had to endure (rightly or wrongly); CND and Greenham Common and the proests about US Cruise missiles; The Falklands War, New Romantics, Princess Diana; Bob Geldoff of Band Aid and later Live Aid with his scruffy look and hair permamently all over the place, on telly constantly telling everyone to hand over their cash; Not The Nine 'O' Clock News which gave us so many talented individuals most notably Rowan Atkinson of Blackadder, Mr Bean, Johny English and most recently of Olympics fame; The Young Ones which gave us Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall who went on to star in Bottom; I was reminded of the Spitting Image sketch of Thatcher and her parliamentary cabinet at a table for dinner and the waitress comes along and serves up her meat dish and asks; "What about the vegetables?" to which the off-hand reply is from the great lady, "They'll all have the same as me!". You couldn't beat the show for comic wickedness. Only Fools and Horses had us glued to the telly; who can forget the chandalier sketch which was based on a real event as it turns out.

Looking back with hindsight the years seem much more fuller and exciting than I thought at the time. Many people thought of the sixties as the best decade - which I'm sure was very good with fuller employment and the exploration of values and freedoms.

As some reviewers have noted already it is a step back to those years for those who remember them. For those that don't I can recommend this book for a sketch of those unique years which set the scene for the nineties and noughties.

Also a very good DVD to go with this book would be The Andrew Marr Collection: History Of Modern Britain (Series 1) & The Making Of Modern Britain (Series 2)

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