Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II

Basic Books. Jul. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780465095384. $30. HIST
There remain a number of myths about the invasion of Poland in 1939. Moorhouse (Berlin at War; The Devils’ Alliance) seeks to use modern historiography to correct these falsehoods. He reminds readers that all of Germany’s surprise attacks on the morning of September 1, 1939, were failures. Polish forces, for the most part, fought valiantly, winning minor victories first against Germany and later against Stalin’s Red Army. In return, both Germany and the Soviet Union engaged in executions, mass killings, and other atrocities against both military personnel and civilians. Moorhouse estimates that Germany committed 15 massacres every day while the Soviet Union killed 22,000 Polish officers and officials in the Katyn Massacre. One overriding theme is that Germany imposed a race war in western Poland while the Soviet Union embarked upon a class war in the eastern half of the country. Although Stalin painted the Soviet invasion as a liberation, the Red Army’s presence was nothing more than a military invasion meant to secure land promised from the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, maintains Moorhouse.
VERDICT A solid analysis of World War II’s first major operation, this work should appeal to any readers interested in Polish history or the war’s beginnings.

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