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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to better by any historians, including Poland's own
This book has finally and definitively placed the Warsaw Rising of 1944 on the map of World War II. Norman Davies shows how the Rising, far too long overlooked, confused with the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, or downright forgotten, marked the start of the War's endgame, contributed to the shaping of post-War Poland and the division of Europe, anticipated the...
Published on 13 Feb. 2004 by BlackCat

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars I surrendered to the author's unreadable writing style.
I so wanted to read this book and was really interested in the subject. Unfortunately, the author cannot see a blind alley without marching up it. He goes off on one tangent after another, for page after page after page, and eventually I couldn't stand it any more and just gave up. This is a book that is crying out for a good editor who would have slashed it in half and...
Published 13 months ago by Breandan


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely excellent, 24 July 2014
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This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
Rising '44: The Battle of Warsaw is a masterpiece. Let me explain why.

Primarily, before we discuss the actual content of this book, we have to mention the writing style of Norman Davies. I have never witnessed a historian manage a tonne of facts, historical sources and testimonies so well, and never seen one incorporate them into a scheme which is enjoyable to read, and is as straightforward as you would wish it to be.

Now, for the book itself. It is split into more or less three sections which, quite simply, explain what happened BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the Rising itself. The text is scattered with soundbites of heartbreaking and more often than not, fascinating primary accounts of people who lived through particular episodes of the Rising, from various perspectives. They contain accounts from Poles, Jews, Germans, Hungarians: anybody who witnessed the horror of the Uprising, from any background imaginable.

Davies' account is accurate, but still remains passionate and extremely rewarding. It vindicates the ridiculous accusations of anti-Semitism in the Home Army (AK henceforth), by showing how the AK not only consisted of many Jews, but also prioritised their liberation, and the punishment of their captors or murderers, both explicitly during the Rising, and covertly before it, through the dynamic organs of its underground police force.

Another crucial motif of the book is the reluctance of the USSR to act to save the struggling capital and the later criminalisation of the AK altogether. Combined with the melancholy inaction of the Allies, at every step blinded by Stalin's sheer cunning and overwhelming feeling of impunity, Davies concludes by discussing the fate of the AK. Sandwiched between Nazi Germany, whom the AK had fought for four years, and the impending Red Army, which openly accused the AK of collaboration with the Nazis and entitled the partisans as 'reactionaries','fascists' and 'bandits', a decision was made to dissolve it; its leader made it to the West amid many difficulties, his successor was arrested and tried in Moscow like a common criminal.

Overall, a fantastic book. Not only well-written, but also imbued with passion and pristine historical fact. A solid investigation into the tragic Warsaw Rising, a worthy vindication of its heroes, a must-read for any historian, or simply anyone feeling the need to understand WW2 like it was, not as it was presented immediately afterward. Poland remained a faithful Ally of Great Britain and the United States, never even dreamed of collaboration with the Nazis, and always strove for freedom; this struggle culminated on the 1st of August, 1944, at 5pm.

It was the Warsaw Rising.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars But Davies is most assuredly worthy of being hailed as a great historian by virtue of his tenacious pursuit of information, 3 July 2014
By 
WSH (NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
This is the book, in English, that the Warsaw Uprising deserved. It is passionate, opinionated and devastating in its exposure of the betrayal of Poland by its supposed allies. Some might challenge its right to be called 'history', on the basis that an historian should remain detached from his subject-matter and even-handed in his judgements. But Davies is most assuredly worthy of being hailed as a great historian by virtue of his tenacious pursuit of information, his command of a complex political and military narrative, and his willingness to state reasoned judgements in unalloyed terms. Late in the book he quotes the British Ambassador's equivocal opinion on the 1945 Soviet Show Trials of the Polish underground leadership: "The Trial was a blunder...but not a crime." If this sort of balancing act is the "historical method" then Davies is right to depart from it. He is right when he characterises official British responses to the Uprising and the fate of Poland from 1944 as "cynical" in the extreme, and American responses as ignorant and cold-blooded. Cynicism can only be flushed out and exposed for what it is by its opposite: a determination to state the truth and stand up for it. Davies does that.

The book is unusual in the way it is organised, and in this respect it is less successful than its compelling argument. On the grounds, as Davies (or his editor?) sees it, that Polish names are impossible for an English reader to cope with, the author renders the names of people and places into 'English' and provides an extensive glossary at the back of the book. As a result (although the book does provide some maps) it is hard to follow the descriptions of street fighting by using a regular map of Warsaw. The use of pseudonyms, and multiple pseudonyms, can also be confusing and even mind-dumbing. Somewhere behind the layers of anonymity is a person, and one tends to loose touch with the players as people. One, I think, highly successful innovation in the design of the text is the use of numerous "capsules" that provide first-person accounts related to various aspects of the story. These capsules greatly enrich the reading experience, as do the several appendices that reproduce important documents mentioned in the text.

Overall this is a book any student of World War II should read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Warsaw Tragedy, 31 Aug. 2013
By 
Hereward the Wakeful (Northern Euro Region, Former UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
I especially liked the fact that Davies puts the Rising into its historical context - covering its prelude and, most interestingly for me, the aftermath. I am pretty familiar with Poland's earlier history but Davies has made me feel I want to dig deeper into Poland's post-war Communist period. Much of what I wanted to say about this book has already been said: it is authoritative, it throws light on a much-ignored story, and that Davies has probably done a better job than most Polish historians etc. I also wanted to echo the complaints of others who were irritated by the abbreviated Polish names which, in my opinion, turned personalities into abstractions. Premier "Mick" was particularly irksome and verging on the disrespectful. Would it ever be OK to rename Churchill as a "Winnie" or a "Churchy" in a serious history book? As for reducing people to their initials, well, Davies might as well have given them numbers! Ironically the Russians didn't get the same treatment in this book. I agree with Davies that Polish names can be difficult but I am convinced that those who can't cope would naturally create their own anglicised forms in the act of reading. This is the only thing that spoiled the book for me.

Beyond those points there is one question which pops up with regard to the Allied, and particularly the British, attitude towards the Poles, both in exile and at home during the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Davies barely skims over the role and influence of the Foreign Office and the pro-Communist Cambridge spies (Philby & Co) who manned its desks. I have a gut feeling there is a much, much bigger story to tell.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is incredible. I wanted to read, read and read some more., 14 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw
This book is amazing and the style in which it is written - wow!
Davies gives a whole pile of background information to allow the reader to understand the significance of the Warsaw rising. It details what is happening at the eastern and western fronts and of all the sides involved. Seriously, if you are interested in what happened at Warsaw in '44, or WW11, or Stalin or the cold war then this book should be read. It gives so much information on these topics and allows a real understanding of the subject and surrounding topics.
It is a big book to read but the way it is written in chapters and sectors, helps to guide the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About time too, 13 Feb. 2013
By 
atticusfinch1048 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
Too often when people hear of the Warsaw Rising they think of the Jewish Ghetto uprising in 1943, and this story of how the Poles rose up against the Germans in 1944 is often forgotten.

This book helps to bring the background and the events that led to and was part of the uprising and how the Germans responded by levelling the City in the process. While this was going on the Soviets were on the outskirts watching on as the Germans destroyed the Poles who were their allies and after the uprising then attacked the Germans.

This is an illuminating and well research book about the uprising and a great addition to the often overlooked war on the eastern front.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fitting history of a little-understood heroic stand, 9 Jan. 2006
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
There are some aspects of World War II, believe it or not, that are under-reported, or at least aren't studied as much as others. One reason for that is just lack of interest, but another reason is because a lot of the source material is simply unavailable, and what's out there is likely to be so biased that you have to sift it for useful information. For the longest time, the uprising in Warsaw in 1944, when the Soviet army was on the doorstep of the Polish capital, was one of those things. Norman Davies has done a good job of rectifying that, to an extent, with his book Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw. Still, it is not as definitive as it could be because, as Davies points out, many of the needed documents to write a complete history are still not available through Soviet archives. Davies does what he can, and he does a wonderful, if sometimes exceedingly slow, job of it.
One thing that Davies points out, which is the most important thing I take from it, is how often this uprising is confused with the uprising in the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Until I read this book, I was one of those who were misinformed about this, and the Soviet Union (and the communist Polish government) readily allowed this misconception to stand for many years. The two uprisings are *not* the same, and they deserve to have their separate histories and their separate commemorations. The Warsaw rising of 1944 began on August 1, 1944, as the Soviet army was rampaging through the countryside. They had reached the Vistula river, just east of Warsaw, and the Resistance movement (at least, the non-Communist parts of it) wished to rise up, re-take the city, and welcome the Soviets as liberated people (much like the Parisians did when Paris fell to the Americans and French). Rising '44 is the tale of this uprising, a tale of woe because the Soviets stopped to allow the Germans to crush it, because the Americans and British were too weak in relation to the Soviets to do much more than provide token airlifts of supplies (many of which didn't reach the Resistance anyway). The attempt to re-take the city, expected to last two or three days before the Soviets moved in, instead lasted 66, with the Germans taking heavy losses even as they systematically destroyed the city.
But Rising '44 is much more than that, and sometimes (especially in the beginning), that drags the book down a notch. The book begins with a wide overview of the Polish situation, both in relation to the Allied coalition (Soviets, USA, and Britain) and with the Germans. It works hard to set up the circumstances that were in effect when the Rising began. Thus, it does not move chronologically, except within each specific area, detailing first how the Poles were the First Ally of the British and French, and how they heroically stood up to the Germans as the British and French decided they did not have the resources to invade Germany from the east in 1939. The first section gives information on the Soviet invasion of 1939, along with the occupation by both sides. This chapter moved incredibly slowly, with a few annoyances as well that made me almost put down the book. Davies' insistence on renaming Poland "First Ally," presumably to make the point that Poland was there at the beginning and was let down, really got on my nerves. He even inserts that phrase in place of "Poland" in quotes from various sources. Davies' prose in this section did not help, and I found it a struggle to continue.
However, once past this section, it is well worth it, and I found that the information imparted was useful despite how it was presented, as everything becomes related when the Rising begins. The middle section gives a chronological history of the Rising, almost day by day, that is just gripping. Interspersed with the narrative are primary source excerpts that draw you in even more. The only quibble I have with the excerpts is that they're referenced in the main narrative as if Davies is trying to tell you "now is a good time to go read this excerpt and then come back" but the excerpt has nothing to do with what you just read. He gets better at that as the book goes along, but I was mystified at the placement of some of them. Davies' prose sparkles in this section, giving the reader a detailed account of the triumphs and the miseries that the Resistance suffered through, the eventually dashed hope that help would be on the way soon. He also details the political machinations behind the lack of help (at least as much as he is able to, though the Soviet side is more supposition than the Western side). Davies tells us about the problems between the various Polish organizations too, such as the conflict between the Communist-backed organization that is just waiting for the Soviets to take over the country so they can be instated as the new government, and the Government in Exile that is based out of London.
Finally, Davies does an effective job of giving us the aftermath of the Rising, both the immediate aftermath and the extended one that carries over to the current day. He details how the Rising was never referred to by the Communist government, and when it was, how the members of the Resistance were vilified as criminals. He chastises the British and American governments for their weakness in standing up to Stalin, how Churchill felt horrible about the valiant fighters' predicament but could do nothing as the weakest of the three coalition leaders. The last two sections of the book are riveting, and more than make up for the very slow beginning.
Rising '44 is a valuable book to read if you have any interest in either World War II or the beginnings of the Cold War. Don't let the beginning slow you down. It's worth it to get to the meat of the book. Davies has himself a winner.
David Roy
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 7 Mar. 2004
An overwhelming book. Leaves no loose ends untied. Davies tackles
everything remotely connected with the "Rising", from Stalinist propaganda of anti-Semitism in the Home Army, to England's patheticly left-wing press, to George Orwell's spirited defense of the uprising.
The Warsaw Uprising is lucky indeed that such a brilliant historian/writer would choose to become "the" expert on its history.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw Truth Hurts, 1 May 2007
By 
Book Raven "Ellie" (Barnstaple, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
Having recently returned from a business trip to Warsaw, but having the opportunity to visit the Warsaw Rising museum - a deeply moving and disturbing experience - I bought and found Norman Davies 'Rising' one of the best history books I have ever read. Not only is it passionate and well written, but it also leaves a nasty taste in the Western mouth as to our pathetic lack of support for the Warsaw poles in their desperate fight against the Nazis and then the Soviets. This is no light read, and no-one should approach it expecting an easy and simply factual recounting of the true Warsaw rising of 1944 so often confused with the earlier Warsaw Ghetto rising. It left me a sadder and hopefully more enlightened person. And I hope it is compulsory reading in German and Russian schools!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book makes you hungry for knowledge, 12 Mar. 2004
A great book. I knew nothing about the Warsaw Rising, now I do, and I want to learn more. Whereas before I read this book European History had not been one of my interests, it is now. I realised I was wholly ignorant of the politics of the Second World War, I want more!
Superb. A great springboard.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rising '44 The Battle for Warsaw., 15 Feb. 2013
By 
Graham Wadey (Leicester UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw (Paperback)
This book was fine for my purposes. Not brand new but in good enough condition to read and pass on to a fiend. We want to read it (750+ pages) in time for a trip to Poland later this year.
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Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw
Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw by Norman Davies (Paperback - 4 Jun. 2004)
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