11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Racial War
Hitler's foreign policy in Eastern Europe was designed to create Lebensraum (living space) for Germans to live and produce resources, primarily from agriculture, to support the expanded German nation. There were already 800,000 Germans living in Poland at the outbreak of war although these were small in number compared to the number of Ukrainians, Jews and Belorussians...
Published 17 months ago by Neutral
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Communist Perspective of the Warsaw Uprising?
If I had little knowledge of the Warsaw Uprising, I would have concluded after reading Alexandra Richie’s book that her account was superbly written, well researched and an excellent historical reference document. However, as the son of an uprising battalion commander I have had access to primary sources and heard first-hand accounts of the uprising from my father...
Published 15 months ago by Andrew Bilski
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Racial War,
Hitler's foreign policy in Eastern Europe was designed to create Lebensraum (living space) for Germans to live and produce resources, primarily from agriculture, to support the expanded German nation. There were already 800,000 Germans living in Poland at the outbreak of war although these were small in number compared to the number of Ukrainians, Jews and Belorussians. Very few of the ethnic communities had loyalty to the Polish state created after the First World War at Versailles and in military conflicts with the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Internally, democracy collapsed in 1926 when Marshal Pilsudsky led a left wing coup and was the effective ruler for the next nine years. Immediately before his death in 1935 the April constitution was passed, increasing presidential powers, including the right to name a successor in the event of war. As such it served as the constitutional framework for the Polish government-in-exile which did not dissolve itself until the election of Lech Walesa in 1990.
The decision to remove 'Polish Warsaw' from the map was not new but was included in the Pabst Plan of 1939 which envisaged the obliteration of Warsaw and its replacement by a smaller town for the new German elite to live. Architects Gross and Nurnberger presented a full plan of the 'New German City of Warsaw' to Hans Frank in 1940. The Warsaw Uprising did not take place in a vacuum. The success of the Soviet Operation Bagration, the failed assassination attempt on Hitler's life and Model's counter-offensive provided the military and political background. Model stopped the Soviet advance in its tracks. Sadly, the AK's Warsaw commander misread what was happening and launched the AK into action prematurely. In response Himmler convinced Hitler it should be put down by the SS rather than regular troops. Hitler, suspicious of his generals, readily agreed. Thus, while the specific order to raze Warsaw to the ground was issued in response to the Uprising it was an implementation of the Pabst Plan not a new policy. Stalin characteristically blamed the Poles for not contacting the Soviet army before starting the Uprising while in eastern Poland he was killing non-communist AK partisans.
Richie makes the point that ' from the first day of the war Poles began to organise resistance movements throughout the country. By 1942, these had been consolidated under the AK - the Armia Krajowa, or Polish Home Army, which was under the auspices of the Polish government-in-exile in London'. The reason for the absence of Polish quislings lies in the bitterness created by the invasions from the West by Germany and the East from the Soviet Union. The latter was inflamed by the Katyn Massacre which most Poles suspected was carried out by the Soviets. Although there were Polish citizens who collaborated with the Nazis these came from the ethnic minorities, especially Germans, while a number of 'collaborators' worked as double agents against the Nazis. Significantly, on the day of capitulation, 3 October 1944, General Bor-Komorowski was invited by Erich von dem Bach, who had overall control of the troops charged with putting down the Uprising, to join him in the coming fight against the Bolsheviks which Bor rejected out of hand.
Richie reminds readers of the savagery employed by the Germans, especially that used by the Dirlewanger SS, whose leader Oskar Dirlewanger was a law unto himself. His actions were those of someone who regarded non-Germans as sub-humans to be put down without mercy and regardless of age or sex. Such atrocities have occurred in other conflicts but not on such a systematic scale. For Dirlewanger it was a war to the death, although that did not prevent him from trying to escape the consequences by adopting a disguise, as did his SS chief, Himmler. The AK fought bravely but took too long to recognise the hopelessness of their situation before surrendering. The fear, especially amongst the Jews (whom the Germans were still hunting mercilessly), was well-founded. 350,000 Poles were sent to other parts of the country although some stayed, hiding in improvised concealed places.
The destruction of Warsaw was a military blunder as it removed a defensive position that could have held up the Soviet advance for a longer period of time. Hitler's policies, however, were as insane as the dictator himself. Against Speer's advance he was killing people who could have served the Reich as slave labour, diverting resources in doing so. The insanity of Hitler's racism destroyed his rationality and facilitated Stalin's take over of Eastern Europe. Stalin prevented Allied planes from using Soviet airfields to supply the AK in Warsaw. The failure of supplies from the West made it easy for the 'Lublin' Poles to claim the West had deserted Poland. By the time of Yalta it was clear that possession was nine-tenths of the law and Stalin held that possession as far as Poland was concerned. The anti-German alliance were still allies in the demand for 'unconditional surrender'. Beyond that war aim there were divisions between Stalin who wanted to extend spheres of influence in line with his communist ideology, Churchill who wanted to preserve the Empire and Roosevelt who wanted to extend American power. The death of the latter and Churchill's loss of the 1945 election meant the only constant was Stalin.
Richie lives in Warsaw with her Polish family and had access to many original sources including her Polish father in law's archives. Her book reflects this originality although this reviewer is not convinced the Warsaw Uprising has been erased from western consciousness in the post-war period. Archive footage frequently referred to it, including the conviction the Red Army had refused to assist the AK. Neither is it valid to suggest that the Uprising was the first battle in the Cold War which only began after the dropping of the Atom Bombs on Japan and the dissipation of the Alliance. However, this book is essential reading on the subject and receives five stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class History,
If you have been to Warsaw you will have seen post cards showing the city before, during and after. This book is on similar lines. The "before" is the build up to the Uprising in Warsaw. Poland never surrendered and by 1944 the Home Army (AK) was 300,000 strong. There were very few collaborators with the Germans and unlike all other conquered countries there was no Polish SS. The AK was well organised but seriously lacking in weapons. This was the situation in the summer of 1944. "Warsaw 1944" builds up the situation brilliantly: you can see success was likely to be difficult. Poland was sandwiched between between two hellish regimes. As the Soviets advanced through East Poland they executed members of the LA. Thus the scene was set for the Uprising. The next stage in the book is the actual fighting in Warsaw and how the Germans dealt with this-by murder,rape, looting and arson. I found this part of the book almost too realistic as there are numerous descriptions at first hand . The fighting ceased after two months with a surrender negotiated between the LA and the Germans only to prove that the Germans were not to be trusted. This is a story of bravery, courage and honesty by the Poles let down by the Allies not only in their time of need but after the war. Alexandra Richie's prose is easy to read and the story flows faultlessly and logically in the time frame. The maps (so often a failing in historical works) are good. After reading this book I defy anyone not to admire the Polish people. A totally brilliant book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delenda Est,
this is a chilling examination of one of the darkest moments of World War II-a title for which there is stiff competition, but the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 must be a strong contender. This is a well-covered historical event, not least by the book Rising 44 by Norman Davies in 2003; I even have a MacDonald/Purnell History of the Second World War volume on the uprising, dating back to the early 70s. The publicity for this book claims to do for the Warsaw Uprising what Anthony Beevor did for the Battle of Stalingrad-and I think there is some justification this description. This is undoubtedly popular history, but being popular is no criticism-this is thorough, engaged and empathic treatment of a turning point in European history. The opening of the book covers the seismic destruction caused by the annihilation of Army Group Centre in the Soviet Operation Bagration, before moving back into Polish history to describe the Renaissance of the city in its 20s and 30s heyday. This is Polish centred history, but it is hard to imagine being anything else as it evokes the destruction of a cosmopolitan and eclectic urban life and the savage annihilation of Poland's Jewish population. The horrors of Treblinka receive a couple of pages, but they are haunting. Again, disturbing and described with candour is the psychopathic activity of the Dirlewanger Brigade. It's a credit to the writing that on several occasions the outcome seems in doubt, despite what you already know when reading this book. Bravery and resolution and the almost unimaginable sacrifices of the Polish Home Army are deeply moving, as in a different way, is the almost unbearably pyrrhic attempts to supply the uprising by Allied air forces, knowing no refuelling airfields were available in Russian held territory, and the icy cynicism inextricably combined with military necessity that allowed the Soviet armies to watch the annihilation of the uprising from so appallingly close to the city itself. Popular history, compellingly written, which does honour to the subject.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing account of the Warsaw uprising...,
It took me a while to read this, which is unusual for me. I was initially concerned that the objectivity of Richie may be compromised by her relationship to one of the protagonists, namely her father in law, whose archive is extensively used throughout the book. The more I read the more convinced I became that this was a skewed history of that time as large parts of the narrative simply ignored the motivation of all the protagonists to concentrate on the civilian experience and largely paint the home army as heroic. I add straight away to this observation that I feel that of all the peoples caught up in the Second World War the Polish people were probably the most hard done by in the European theatre and after reading several narratives about Poland at that time I have a huge admiration for their resilience and fortitude - Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust.
The Polish people were caught between a rock and a hard place in the Second World War. On the western marches you had Hitler and his fascist regime chomping at the bit wanting to get at the resources of the Soviets (Oil & Minerals), Danzig and the Baltic Ports and the 2nd Polish Republic was in the way, and to the east you had Stalin and the Soviet state that saw Poland as land up for grabs, if only as a buffer state; initially keeping Hitler at arm's length and then against the western allies once the war had run its course. In effect the Polish people and the 2nd Polish Republic were abandoned, to all intents and purposes, despite treaties and promises to the contrary. I know that Germany invading Poland took us formally into a state of war, but we effectively did nothing as they steamrollered east. Likewise when the Soviets came west to join up with the western allies in 1944 Poland was steamrollered again by a `liberating' army and razed by a retreating one - triple whammy.
One of the most harrowing times in the whole of the Second World War for the Polish people was the 1944 Warsaw uprising. As the Soviets approached and the German army was in retreat, a number of things went dramatically wrong for the home army. Firstly the home army leaders thought that the Soviets would come straight over the Vistula and not wait if they attacked the Germans, secondly a homicidal maniac in the form of Bronislaw Kaminski was put in charge of two German SS units to put down the uprising - so brutal the Germans themselves were appalled and eventually shot him, and thirdly, as happened on so many occasions during that war, the home army couldn't believe that people would go to such extremes of depravity against a civilian population.
The initial uprising was started with the belief that the Soviets would quickly weigh in on the side of the home army to push the Germans from retreat to rout, why else would you start a rebellion with a very poorly armed militia - estimates are that only 10% of the army had useable arms and the majority of those were of questionable quality. As the uprising took hold the barbaric ferocity that the German units employed to quell the insurgency was horrific; civilians massacred, tied to tanks, forced to walk in front of advancing German troops to shield them and large areas of the historic city razed, sapped the moral of those troops left fighting. Even when the communist controlled Polish Army was allowed to join the fray they sent in conscripts unused to street warfare and as a result took huge casualties and eventually withdrew back to the Vistula.
That the Soviets waited was baffling to the home army leadership who completely failed to understand that even at this point Stalin had an eye on the division of Europe after the war and the Germans knocking seven bells out of the only organised resistance in Poland played nicely into Stalin's longer term objectives for the cultural and political domination of eastern Europe post-war: i.e. The fewer Free Poles dedicated to a free Poland that are alive after the war the easier to subjugate the nation to a communist ideal, in other words don't give them a chance to re-establish a separate identity, just the identity we want them to have, controlled from Moscow.
As a description of the horrors of that time for the civilian population this book will leave you wondering how one group of humans can do this to another, it is truly horrific. However, as a rounded piece of historical interpretation of what was going on there are gaps. Particular omissions are around the motivations of the various leadership groups at the time of the uprising; from the western allies to the Free Polish government in exile and what pressure they were putting on the Soviets to intervene. The question as to why the German High Command ordered such a brutal response to the uprising, given that the war in Poland was already lost, is also never fully explained. I would point people in the direction of a couple of other histories of this period: The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War, Warsaw 1944: Poland's Bid for Freedom (Campaign), Warsaw 1944: An Insurgent's Journal of the Uprising Written by Zbigniew Czajkowski and The Civilian Population and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The definitive book on the subject.,
I have read many a book on the Warsaw uprising, ranging from Norman Davies Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw through to the pulp fiction of Will Berthold Death's Head Brigade in his book based on the Dirlewanger gang of criminals, but this tops the lot. One cannot fail to be moved at the atrocities that litter the book throughout, as the Germans slaughter and rape their way through Warsaw. The author, understandably, lets her emotions through on occasions, but this lends the book a more personal flavour as the average reader would share her indignation at the events she describes in detail. I liked the way that she put the uprising in its correct context, by devoting a sizeable chunk of the book to cover Operation Bagration and the German resistance to the Russians. Of course, Stalin was perfectly happy for the Germans to destroy the AK army before the Russians 'liberated' the Poles and the author clearly shows how the Russians contributed to the ultimate failure of the rising. She also covers events after the rising, be they the taking of the city by the Russians, or the cynical way in which the German leaders cheated the gallows after the war - especially the odious von dem Bach-Zelewski. Anybody interested in the subject would also love the series Days of Honor / Czas honoru --- Season 2 (BOX 4 DVD) as it depicts the Polish resistance to the Germans throughout the war. Series 7 of this outstanding series will deal with the Uprising and should be essential viewing.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first battle of the Cold War,
This review is from: Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the Crushing of a City (Kindle Edition)
The Warsaw Uprising began on 1st August 1944 and lasted for 63 days as the Polish Home Army [Armia Krajowa] fought to liberate Warsaw from Nazi occupation. Betrayed by Stalin, whose nearby forces refused to help the Poles for political reasons, and let down by the allies, the AK were finally forced to surrender on 2nd October 1944. By then, tens of thousands of people had lost their lives and the city was in ruins. However, as Alexandra Richie points out in her introduction to this well-researched and detailed account of the events of 1944, despite the destruction of Warsaw being one of the greatest tragedies of WWII, "after 1945, the Polish capital's terrible ordeal virtually disappeared from history". This, she believes, was because the Warsaw Uprising was essentially the first battle of the Cold War and, once the Second World War was over, it was not in the interests of either the Soviets or the Allies to dwell on what had happened to the Polish capital in 1944.
The book is based primarily on an archive given to the author by her father-in-law, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who had participated in the Warsaw Uprising as a young man and went on to become the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs after the end of communism. Over a period of eight years Richie used the authoritative contents of the archive to weave together this comprehensive account of the Warsaw Uprising and the subsequent destruction of the city at the hands of the notorious SS Dirlewanger and Kaminski Brigade. This isn't just a catalogue of Nazi atrocities though and the author isn't afraid to criticise the Poles. After all, it was the AK leadership who made the erroneous decision to launch the uprising despite intelligence which told them that the Germans had no intention of surrendering the city without a fight and that help from the Soviets and Allies might not be as forthcoming as they believed. Richie believes they must shoulder their share of the responsibility for the tragedy which befell their city.
However, it is her belief that the Warsaw Uprising was the beginning of the Cold War that I found most interesting. Richie explains that the suppression and destruction of Warsaw made no military sense whatsoever. With the Soviets only weeks away from invading Germany itself it was pointless for the Germans to divert precious resources to the Polish capital when the men and equipment were desperately needed elsewhere. It only begins to make sense when seen as a manifestation of the erratic rivalry between Hitler [who had a pathological hatred of Warsaw and wanted it razed to the ground] and his henchman, Himmler, who came to believe [somewhat correctly as it turns out] that he could use the Warsaw Uprising to drive a wedge between the Soviet Union and the Allies. According to Himmler, Stalin's reluctance to help the Poles would prove to the Allies that it was the Soviet Union - and not Germany - who was the real enemy of the West. As he grew more delusional, Himmler became certain that events in Warsaw would cause the allied coalition to break apart, World War Three would be declared and the British and Americans would turn to Germany for help against Stalin. With Hitler removed from power as the price for a ceasefire in the West, Himmler's SS Legions would fight alongside the Allies to destroy Bolshevism once and for all.
This book is a fascinating and thought-provoking read which documents one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War about which surprisingly little is known in the West. While many people, quite understandably, confuse the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 with the better known Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the scale of the destruction visited on the Polish capital during and after the 1944 event was of a different magnitude. In fact, it has to be seen to be believed. On a recent trip to Warsaw, I was fortunate enough to visit the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising where I saw a short, 5 minute film called 'Miasto Ruin' [City of Ruins]. Over a year in the making, the film is a 3D recreation of how Warsaw looked from the air after the Germans had crushed the Uprising. It's available on the internet [on both YouTube and Vimeo] and is well worth watching whether you plan to purchase Richie's book or not.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warsaw Uprising in detail.,
This is an excellent story of the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. The author is a well respected historian and fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. A lot of this book has come first hand from the author's father-in-law who participated in the uprising and who contributed his own archives to Alexandra Richie to enable he to complete this in depth study. Richie has added her own research into archives in Poland, Russia and Germany. The book is a weighty volume, with over 650 pages of text, followed by an additional 80 pages of bibliography, notes and index.
The book is not a difficult read as some similar histories tend to be.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grim though enthralling study,
A major study of Hitler's destruction of Warsaw in the autumn of 1944, based on intensive research of primary sources. including the testimony of survivors. , Of its many fine qualities as a war history I would single out its success in marrying the traditional `top down' approach- focusing on the decisions of the leadership, military and political, on each side- with a `grass-roots' survey of the foot soldiers, and in particular, the civilians of Warsaw who were the innocent victims of some of the worst Nazi atrocities of World War II. We are reminded of the unpalatable truth that in modern warfare, civilians have often found themselves caught up in military action, and the Geneva Convention governing their treatment by an occupying force has sometimes gone for naught.
It is that aspect of the Warsaw Rising that makes this a difficult, and at times harrowing, book to read. The depths of evil plumbed by the SS units that were sent into the Wola and Ochota suburbs of Warsaw at the start of the Rising, such as the systematic killing of male civilians, women and children, the wanton destruction of buildings and execution of priests and doctors, are set out here in relentless detail, revealing the barbarism that lay at the heart of the Third Reich. The author's graphic description of the Cremation Commandos, made up of Polish prisoners, who had been ordered to destroy the evidence of genocide, has grim parallels with the horrors of Trebllnka and other extermination camps.
Some relief in this account of sheer depravity is provided by the many stories of heroism and survival that are woven into the narrative. Best known of these is that of Wladislaw Szpilman, one of the `Robinsons' (after Robinson Crusoe) who hid themselves in the ruins of Warsaw to avoid detection and were saved by the liberation of the city at the start of 1945.
These `grass roots' events are placed in the wider context of the Soviet military offensive in the summer of 1944. Stalin's disarming of the Polish Home Army personnel in towns liberated from German rule, the breakdown of relations with the London Poles over responsibility for the Katyn massacres and the resulting formation of a Soviet-backed authority in Lublin, served as a warning to the Polish Army leadership in Warsaw that the Russians could not be trusted. Yet as the author has shown, that leadership was effectively in a cleft stick: if it did nothing, it might lose credibility as an effective fighting force , or worse, Moscow might simply accuse it of collaboration with the Nazi occupiers. This Hobson's choice led to ultimate tragedy: the day chosen (31st July) marked the point when the Red Army encountered stiffer German resistance. But the conscious choice of Stalin's subsequent refusal to allow Allied aircraft to refuel in Soviet-controlled areas, or to challenge the Luftwaffe's freedom of the skies over Warsaw, are stressed as important factors that contributed to the failure of the Rising, coupled with the Western Allies' reluctance to put pressure of Stalin to help the Polish Home Army.
This is a magisterial text, and a worthy counterpart to Antony Beevor's now classic studies of cities under siege.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars missing from history,
An account of the polish uprising in Warsaw in 1944. Covers all bases from those involved on both sides to it's impact on the outcome of the war (none). This is history that is missed from general WW2 texts but it is a history that deserves to be told. Tens of thousands of people were killed and one of Europe's greatest capital cities completely destroyed.
The account is well researched (indeed, the author is related to people who were involved in the uprising and several other survivors make contributions) and well written although some parts are difficult to read. This is not a criticism; simply, some of the events are harrowing. At the end of the book's 600 or so pages I felt fairly exhausted but pleased I'd been able to add this history to my knowledge of World War 2.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Communist Perspective of the Warsaw Uprising?,
If I had little knowledge of the Warsaw Uprising, I would have concluded after reading Alexandra Richie’s book that her account was superbly written, well researched and an excellent historical reference document. However, as the son of an uprising battalion commander I have had access to primary sources and heard first-hand accounts of the uprising from my father and his Home Army colleagues in London. I have also extensively researched this area for a number of years. With this background, I am unable to be complimentary about Alexandra Richie’s book. I find it difficult to agree with many of her assertions and conclusions especially regarding the Home Army leadership.
Having lived in Poland for two years during the sixties, I also wonder whether her writing may have been influenced by Polish and Soviet communist propaganda, so prevalent during the post-war period. Experienced historians know that it is exceptionally difficult to separate fact from propaganda. I would be interested to know the process Alexandra Richie used to ensure her sources were not influenced by Soviet manipulation of the truth.
To set her book in context, it must be emphasised that after invading Poland in 1939, the Germans began a programme of eliminating the existence of sovereign Poland, its cultural heritage and its citizens. Executions and deportations became a way of life. By the end of the war the citizens of Warsaw had lost nearly everything and wanted independence. During July 1944, with the Germans withdrawing from Eastern Europe, the Home Army (AK) leadership unanimously agreed to free their city from German occupation by initiating an uprising. It was their only chance, albeit a slim, one of setting up their own sovereign state with a freely elected democratic government after the war. The only issue was when to commence the uprising. There was divided opinion amongst the leadership on this topic. Based on the information available, General Bor, the Home Army commander-in-chief, took the decision to start the uprising on the 1st August. He believed the German counter-attack would be unable to check the Soviet advance on Warsaw.
Alexandra Richie asserts in her book that the Home Army leaders ‘miscalculated badly’ in setting this date. In order to boost her assertion she focuses on the dissenting voice of Colonel Iranek-Osmecki whom she somewhat subjectively describes as ‘one of the most thoughtful and well- informed of the group’. He believed that the uprising should have been delayed, and his view would have prevailed but for General Bor’s indecisiveness and ineptitude. She uses a disparaging dialogue between the General and Colonel Iranek-Osmecki to illustrate this point. She also concludes that ‘General Bor (who) was in many ways unsuited for the (leadership) role thrust upon him by history’. The narrative and conclusions appear to be based on scant evidence. Moreover there is little mention of the other voices in the Home Army leadership, the voices in favour of the start date. By omitting these, the reader could be left with a distorted view of the decision-making process of the Home Army leadership. In any event, considering the factors discussed below, delay of the start date would probably have had little impact on the ensuing events. As such it can hardly be described as a ‘miscalculation’.
Once the uprising had started, the Poles expected their Russian ‘allies’ to break through the enemy lines and help them liberate the city from German occupation. This, the Russians failed to do. Alexandra Richie justifies this action by stating that ‘There was now no way that the Red Army could have reached Warsaw during the first week of August’ (to support their Polish allies). This was because its advance was restricted by a formidable German counter- offensive at Wolomin. This justification is simply a naïve repetition of Soviet propaganda, so prominent in post war communist Poland. What Alexandra Richie fails to mention is that on August 2nd the day after the start of the uprising, the 28th, 47th and 65th Armies of the Soviet forces were ordered to leave the battle scene and move northwards, leaving the 2nd Tank army to fight the Germans alone without the support of infantry. The Red Army could therefore have helped their Polish allies but were ordered not to. The Russians also refused to provide their Polish allies with any artillery or arterial support during the uprising and rebuffed British and American requests to use Russian air bases for the transport of vital supplies to the insurgents. It can be concluded from these actions that Stalin wanted ‘to test the waters’ by assessing the resolve of the Western allies, before ordering his Red Army to liberate Warsaw and establish a puppet government ruled from Moscow. In the event, neither Winston Churchill nor Franklin Roosevelt was able to dissuade him from taking this course of action.
Alexandra Richie writes reproachfully of the Home Army commanders stating that “Many of those who made the fateful choices to begin the uprising were less than honest after the war”. I am not sure what she means especially as the statement is unreferenced. When I lived in Poland in the sixties, I saw first-hand how the Polish and Soviet communists manipulated the truth about members of the Home Army living in England. They were considered to be traitors. However growing up in London I met a number of the commanders and to a man they were honest about the uprising and strongly believed in the sovereignty of Poland. They wanted to return to their country, but were unable to do so for fear of arrest or disappearance.
From an objective standpoint and with the benefit of hindsight the uprising may have been ‘fateful’, the title of Dr Richie’s book. It may also have been a ‘reckless catastrophe’ as quoted in her text. But I would suggest no more reckless than the actions of the Polish pilots of 303 Squadron who helped win the Battle of Britain. And certainly no more reckless than the decision by the British War Cabinet to evacuate an army of 400,000 soldiers and thousands of tons of equipment from the beaches of Dunkirk in the face of the might of the advancing German army. This could so easily have resulted in a “reckless catastrophic” destruction of life similar to that graphically described by Dr Richie. Although some in the War Cabinet believed the UK should have negotiated for peace with Hitler rather than proceed with an extremely dangerous and risky evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk, Churchill disagreed, stating "that nations which went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished". This perfectly encapsulated the views of General Bor in ordering the start of the Uprising.
In conclusion, Dr Richie disparages the Home Army throughout her book. Instead she should be commending the Poles for their bravery in fighting for their freedom against the twin tyrannies of fascism and communism. There is now a real need for a book providing a more balanced perspective of the uprising, especially as this year is the 70th anniversary of the event.
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Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the Crushing of a City by Alexandra Richie (Paperback - 28 Aug. 2014)