31 of 31 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
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 4 months ago by Breandan
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31 of 31 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 disintegration of the wartime Alliance and the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Norman Davis approaches the Rising from many angles: political and military, national and international, collective and individual. The author presents many a detail unknown or vaguely realized even by Poles, and explains how the Rising spawned persistent myths, both negative and heroic.
He does it all in an immensly readable style and innovative form, known from his previous work, inserting "asides" into the exhaustively researched and coherent narrative, free-standing testimonies by individual participants from all sides to illustrate their personal experience of the Rising and its aftermath, which he extends up to our own times.
Perhaps it may be too much to expect that Rising '44 should become a world bestseller, illuminating the subject for all and once for all, although the book certainly deserves it. But at least from now on there will be no excuse for those who pronounce on the subject, in or outside Poland, to misconstrue the facts and perpetuate ideologically-based misconceptions.
It would be petty to point out insignificant and inconsequential errors and omissions (very few and far between). However, one might question the stylistic device of weeding out and translating ALL but a handful of Polish personal and place-names. The author explains, feasibly, that he aimed to spare his global readership the confusion of exotic Polish spellings, but, perhaps, that has been taken a name too far.
This reservation does not detract, though, from the immense achievement of the best among contemporary historians writing on Polish affairs, and that includes Poles as well.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Comprehensive New Work,
The only other work dedicated to the uprising that I could find available in English was T. Komorowski's "The Secret Army." This new book goes much deeper into the political dealings surrounding the decisions made and provides a much more comprehensive look at the subject using the latest and best sources currently available. I really liked this book. I have been a big fan of Norman Davies’ work for some time and I like some of the techniques he uses in the book, including the vignettes. But I absolutely hated his use of Anglicized names for the Polish proper names and place names. I found it completely distracting to have to refer to the appendices to find who or where he was talking about. I think it would have done a greater service to readers interested in Polish history to keep the names in Polish and cross reference them to English in the Appendix and not the other way around. A cross reference of the key players and their positions in the organizations would have been helpful as well. All in all I found the book to be an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poles don't give up.......ever,
A soul stirring book. A nation with along tradition of rebellion, the Poles were always going to rise..it was just a matter of when. The Germans seem to have known this and therefore meted out special treatment during their occupation.
All the various aspects of politics, planning, communication and intelligence are covered without any great emphasis on military technicalities.
The only real issue I have with the narrative is the use of "The resistance" to cover the AK. They were the "home army", a fully military force with "proper" ranks and organisation and fought in uniform. I feel "resistance" gives the general reader the impression of civilians with a gun.
When you read this and pick up on how Poles were fighting alongside their "allies" in Italy, Western Europe, with the Red Army (The polish paras were dropped into Arnhem whilst the rising was on...guess where they wanted to go! Read Poles Apart for their story) and yet so little positive help was extended towards Warsaw you feel humbled.
This book may just make you ask the next old chap you meet with a Polish surname "how did you get here?" and you may feel grateful to him for his sacrifice rather than maybe expect him to be grateful for being allowed to live here.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tribute to Polish bravery,
Davies is right in pointing to the fact that in the West there hardly has been recognizing for all what happened in the East during the Second World War. At least not during the Cold War. Of course the Allied governments never took responsibility for their failures concerning the `First Ally' (as Davies keeps referring to Poland in this way). But at least the destruction of Warsaw and the slaughter of tens of thousands of Polish citizens should have its place in history. Luckily, Davies has given it.
Whether or not the Polish should have risen in 1944, it once again showed their bravery. The Polish already made name during the Battle of Britain and were unfairly blamed by Montgommery for their Arnhem 1944 participation, despite their heroic effort near the Bridge. During the Battle of Warsaw they were outnumbered in quality and quantity against special German forces, but nevertheless kept them busy for two whole months! They could have been relieved by the Russians, or been helped more by the Allies, but that wasn't to be. The rising was smashed and Poland entered 45 years of communist terror.
And this latter subject is relevant, as Davies points out. The war hadn't a happy end for Poland in 1945: the horror simply continued. One third of the book is dedicated to the years after the final shot was heard, but I think it's relevant. It only describes better how tragic this Rising ended. Another third Davies dedicates to the build-up, but it completes the whole picture he wants to give. So, readers only interested in the actual fighting can find their satisfaction in two hundred pages. The remainder of the book only adds more drama to the story.
Finally, I share criticism about Davies handling the names of the Polish involved. He uses their `nicknames' to make them easier to remember, but I think he's wrong here. Let's hope a reprint will see this changed.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destined to become the standard volume on the subject,
Curiosity made me pick up Rising 44. I was born after the war, but I remember my parents telling me that there was a rising in Warsaw in 1944 but that it failed because the rising was sold out by the Russians. Having read the book I can't escape the conclusion that Poland was screwed by everyone, the British, the Russians and the Americans.
In part one, Norman Davies does an in-depth study of the history leading up to the rising. He thoroughly discusses all the political factions and their various aims and political manoeuvrings. Following this network can be a bit confusing but Norman Davies manages to explain the complexity of the matter in readable style. His naming Poland as "The First Ally" in the first part of the book does become a bit tedious but I suppose he does it to remind his western audience of the fact.
The Rising is similarly accounted in detail. It was sold out by Russian opposition to the whole undertaking and American indifference. It would appear that the Rising and ultimately Poland was sacrificed over the larger picture of winning the war against Nazi Germany with the Allies cuddling the Russian bear, sometimes, to extremes.
Part three deals with the aftermath. Having opposed the Rising in the first place the Stalin-installed Polish Government went after the survivors of the Rising. To me personally this is the most tragic part of the book. Instead of receiving gratitude and honour for rising against the oppressor, there is only the torture chamber and prison. The people who staged the Rising have only really come into their own since communism fell in 1989.
I like Norman Davies' use of capsules. When you read the book you will do yourself a favour if you read the capsules as you progress through the book. They provide the emotional companion to the narrative.
I don't mind that Norman Davies uses English abbreviations instead of the original Polish names, but I prefer it that way due to my lack of knowing the Polish language.
Norman Davies' work properly recounts the Warsaw rising for the first time. His book is destined to be come the standard volume on the subject. You won't find any better.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my father's footsteps,
An excellent book! Norman Davies has taken me on a journey in my father's footsteps through wartime Warsaw. Like most survivors of the Uprising my father told us only well-edited accounts of his time in the Armii Krajowa. Now I understand why. This book paints a vivid picture of the heroism, horror and despair of Warsaw in events leading up to, through and after the Uprising. Norman Davies attempts to give an impartial assessment of all sides and the very difficult decisions the Allies had to make in the face of Soviet refusal to aid Warsaw. In the year of the 60th Anniversary of the Rising and the year that Poland finally take it's rightful place in a united Europe, this book should be compulsory reading for all.
Thank you Norman Davies!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!,
My Polish girlfriend bought this for me as she knows I like military history. I had confused this episode of history with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I did not know the extent of Poland's suffering until I read this book: the Pole's were sold down the river by the allies - twice. You read this book and are at times left speechless. The book is a suprisingly easy read for something so hefty. This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the unsung battles and struggles of world War II. However,I must agree with another review that having to keep flicking to the appendices is a trifle annoying. Nevertheless the content of the book is compelling, facsinating and highly informative, thus the 5 stars.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mammoth book; a must-read,
I was born after the war, and have, I suppose, an average amount of knowledge/ignorance about it. I had some awareness of the Ghetto Uprising, but had never heard of the Warsaw Uprising until I visited Warsaw with my Polish son in law. He explained in simple terms what had happened in 1944 as we walked round the city centre and the restored 'old town'. I was returning to Poland this summer, shortly after the release of the paperback edition of this book, so could not resist taking it with me.
This is a mammoth book. Really it is more than one book. The Warsaw Uprising is at its centre, but it would also serve as a good general introduction to the Second World War in Europe as well as the Cold War that followed and the recent emergence of modern Poland. It is thoroughly reseached with a great variety of sources, and written in a very readable style.
Davies seems to have a mission to tell the world about Poland. He loves Poland and the Poles love him. (During my recent visit he starred on at least two current affairs TV programmes, speaking perfect Polish of course.) This, together with the passionate pro-Polish stance of the book, makes me wonder whether it is as balanced as it is possible to be, but never mind. Who wants a fence sitter, anyway?
The descriptions of the fighting, the backstage political machinations of all the allies, and the great variety of individual characters involved are gripping. The book is long but not tedious; I was left with the feeling of having read several books and of having learned a lot about a subject that is more interesting and more central to the story of modern Europe than I had ever imagined.
I had one or two beefs about the style and layout. I don't really think Davies needed to take all of those liberties with Polish personal and place names, and to refer to Poland not by its name but as 'The First Ally' throughout the first section of the book was a bit annoying. The 'capsules' interspersed throughout Davies' narrative were all very readable, but made the reading of the book a rather disjointed experience. Perhaps it would be better to ignore them initially, and read them all afterwards. But these are minor irritations that could never detract from the five star status of this book.
The obvious comparisons are with Antony Beevor's books on Stalingrad and Berlin. Like Davies, I may be a little biased due to my Polish connections, but I think this book knocks spots off both of them.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly authoratitive,
Having re-read this now three times, I am beginning to understand just how comprehensive this account of the Rising is. Well written, engaging and fascinating - it's a must for anyone lacking any knowledge of this part of the war (as we so often do in our UK-centric approach to it). A tale of sacrifice, tragedy and betrayal on a grand scale. In that respect the book is truly epic.
Personally, living and working in Poland, I find his simplified spellings and abbreviatiations quite annoying: I'm capable of reading out loud a Polish surname for God's sake! But, I can understand the logic of using "The President". But anyone put off by Polish surnames probably wouldn't be buying a nigh on 1,000 page book on the battle for Warsaw in any case, I would suggest.
One other minor comment, some of the references refer to Polish authors' books which appear to have English titles: these are translated unlike the books which are only in Polish, can be frustrating if wanting to read more widely on the topic.
Norman Davies has truly earned his place as Poland's foremost historian.
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.,
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!
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Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw by Norman Davies (Hardcover - May 2004)
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