Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw

Norman Davies, Author
Norman Davies, Author Viking Books $32.95 (752p) ISBN 978-0-670-03284-6
Reviewed on: 05/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Hardcover - 752 pages - 978-0-333-90568-5
Paperback - 784 pages - 978-0-330-48863-1
Paperback - 752 pages - 978-0-14-303540-4
Ebook - 978-0-330-47574-7
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The Warsaw rising of 1944--not to be confused with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943--pitted Polish insurgents of the Home Army against the Germans in a two-month battle that left the city in ruins. Almost as bitter are the historiographical controversies over the failure of the Allies, particularly the Soviets, whose army was idling nearby, to rescue the city. Davies (Europe: A History) offers an enthralling, impressionistic account of the uprising, highlighted by vivid reminiscences from Polish and German participants, but the bulk of this sprawling book is concerned with the political background and aftermath. Delving into the diplomatic wranglings between the exiled Polish government in London, the Western Allies and Stalin, Davies sides with the anti-Communist interpretation of the episode as the opening chapter in the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. He denounces Stalin for deliberately allowing the non-Communist Home Army to be crushed, the Western Allies for acquiescing and British intellectuals for toeing the Communist line on Poland, and includes a pointed litany of Stalinist crimes in post-war Poland. Davis is correspondingly enthusiastic about the insurgents. He exonerates them of charges of anti-Semitism, reprints poems and songs about them and, working from iffy figures on German casualties, extols their combat prowess. Davis is persuasive on many points, and his somewhat romantic defense of the rising--which failed in its objectives and triggered the German massacre of tens of thousands of civilians--amply conveys its heroism, but may not convince readers of its wisdom. Photos.
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