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The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War [NOOK Book]


World War II gripped Poland as it did no other country. Invaded by Germany and the USSR, it was occupied from the first day of war to the last, and then endured 44 years behind the Iron Curtain while its wartime partners celebrated their freedom. The Eagle Unbowed tells, for the first time, the story of Poland’s war in its entirety and complexity.
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The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War

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World War II gripped Poland as it did no other country. Invaded by Germany and the USSR, it was occupied from the first day of war to the last, and then endured 44 years behind the Iron Curtain while its wartime partners celebrated their freedom. The Eagle Unbowed tells, for the first time, the story of Poland’s war in its entirety and complexity.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kochanski, a British military historian, integrates concise, clear, and persuasive campaign analyses with an account of the brutality suffered by Poles under German and Soviet occupation during WWII. She also examines the complex internal politics of Poland’s armed forces in exile, and Poland’s international position. She incorporates the creation and performance of the 1st Polish Army on the Eastern Front into a narrative that in most Western accounts is too often dominated by action in Italy and Northwest Europe. Her treatment of the Polish Resistance and the 1944 uprising is excellent. She also establishes the complex mix of operations, logistics, and politics behind the Allies’ limited support for the Home Army in Warsaw. Kochanski’s sympathies clearly lie with Poland’s exile government in London, but she neither conceals nor trivializes policies and decisions that often proved self-defeating. Kochanski also gives an account of the Holocaust and the thorny issue of Polish collaboration in it. Above all, this is a story of expedience: “the critical decisions that had to be taken, the terrible role of sheer chance, ...the simple desire to survive under the most difficult circumstances.” And expedients, as Kochanski ably demonstrates, are not always wise. 32 b&w illus., 5 maps. Agent: Robert Dudley Agency (U.K.). (Nov.)
The Economist
Poland fought from the first day of the second world war until the last--and lost a fifth of its population. The first comprehensive English account of Poland at war weaves together the political, military, diplomatic and human strands, interspersing them with observations drawn from the author's family experiences.
Dennis Showalter
An unmatched synthesis of Poland's wartime experience and fate. Kochanski deftly integrates operational analysis with the complex internal politics of Poland's armed forces in exile. Her campaign narratives are concise, clear, and persuasive; her account of the Polish Resistance and the 1944 uprising is excellent; and her treatment of Polish–Jewish relations is balanced without being anodyne.
Hubert Zawadzki
An informative, authoritative and wide-ranging account of the tragedy that befell Poland and its inhabitants—gentiles and Jews—during the war and its aftermath. The less-well-known story of the Poles deported to the Soviet Union is particularly vivid and moving. An engaging and important book.
New Statesman - Olivia Bullough
[Kochanski's] book is opinionated, fluid and forceful. It lays out in impressive detail how ordinary Poles lost the Second World War, kept losing and yet refused to be beaten.
The Guardian - Richard J. Evans
This is a comprehensive study that provides a fair-minded introduction to the subject.
The Herald (Scotland) - Brian Morton
Kochanski's extraordinary achievement is to bring together the threads of a story only known in fragments or through well-meaning fictional versions like Ian Serraillier's The Silver Sword. This is the first fully comprehensive account in English of Poland's war. It is also a brilliant exercise in historiography, showing how the myths and misconceptions that surround the Polish story were constructed and reinforced.
Wall Street Journal - Daniel Ford
Kochanski tells Poland's 20th-century story in absorbing detail, from the rebirth of modern Poland in 1919 to the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989. But her great interests are the war years, 1939 to 1945, and the multiple and repeated atrocities inflicted upon the Polish people...Kochanski...compellingly conveys Poland's wartime agony and the ordeals of those caught between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
New York Review of Books - Norman Davies
Given the unending flow of misconceptions about wartime Poland, a comprehensive survey of this neglected subject is long overdue, and Halik Kochanski's study fits the bill...Kochanski has a good chance of reaching a wide readership.
New Republic - Anne Applebaum
Owing to the nature of the subject, The Eagle Unbowed is an extraordinarily ambitious book. Kochanski sets out to pull together, for the first time in English, the many different strands of the Polish war experience. These include, among other things, the stories of the German occupation of Western Poland, the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland, the Holocaust, the Polish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, the Polish infantry who fought with the Allies at Monte Cassino, the Polish soldiers who fought with the Red Army, and the Polish Home Army--the military wing of the underground Resistance--which suffered extraordinary losses during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944...She also moves deftly between individual stories and wider themes...Here, for the first time in English, the entire Polish experience of the war is captured in a single volume. The result is a book far bleaker, and far more ambiguous, than anything most Americans have read about the war...Kochanski tells the story of the war from the perspective of the people who lived between the two great totalitarian powers [Russia and Germany] and who suffered the most from their murderous politics...Her story is about Poland, the Polish state, the Polish armies, the Polish population, and--inevitably--the nature of Polishness itself...The Eagle Unbowed is one of the first books to make comprehensive use of the many new sources in English, putting a complicated story into a clear narrative.
Kirkus Reviews
A much-needed account of Poland's betrayals at the hands of allies and enemies alike in World War II. A nation long accustomed to being squeezed by its two powerful neighbors, Germany and Russia, Poland's plight has not been adequately highlighted in more sweeping, general histories of World War II because much of its suffering during the war has been diffused by the allegations of Polish anti-Semitism. Royal Historical Society fellow Kochanski, while of Polish descent, is not an apologist of the well-documented persecution of the Jews by ethnic Poles resentful of Jewish prosperity during the 1920s or the willing collaboration of some Poles when the Nazis invaded in 1939. Instead, she fashions a cleareyed, rigorous look at the horrendous toll the Nazi invasion and occupation took, as well as that of the subsequent Soviet opportunistic grab at territory and influence that extended well into the Cold War. After finally gaining a modicum of independence after World War I, with the accommodation of its many minorities, Poland remained poor economically and weak militarily and was powerless to withstand the renewed expansionist plans of her two hostile neighbors. The country's worst nightmare came true with the blitzkrieg of September 1939 and the Soviet invasion from the east, ostensibly to protect the Ukrainian and Belorussian minorities; despite British protestations to the contrary, Poland was largely abandoned. Kochanski pursues the deportations of thousands of refugees and prisoners into the Soviet Union and the executions and gassing by the Germans. The author also unveils the spirited contribution to the Allied war effort by exiled Poles such as in the RAF and intelligence, and she reports extensively on the Warsaw uprising and the end-of-war confusion. An important study of a long-suffering country that has gained closure from the war only recently.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674071056
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 222,204
  • File size: 16 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Halik Kochanski has taught at both King’s College London and University College London. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Two: Polish Foreign Policy, 1918-1939

Among the 'new' countries of eastern Europe, Poland occupied an unenviable position. As the largest country in the region she aspired to great power status, yet she was too weak economically and militarily to fulfill such a role. Sandwiched between two weakened yet potentially powerful countries, Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland struggled to find a satisfactory and long-lasting way to ensure her security. Poland's rebirth had been a difficult struggle and one which left Poland largely surrounded by hostile neighbors: only Rumania, with whom Poland had a treaty of friendship, and Latvia were on good terms. Germany was angered by the existence of the Polish Corridor which separated East Prussia from the rest of the Reich. The Soviets had been thwarted in their ambition to spread world revolution through their defeat in the Polish-Soviet war. The Lithuanians were outraged by the Polish seizure of Wilno, the city the Lithuanians coveted as their capital. The Poles themselves were furious with the Czechs for having taken the opportunity of the distraction of the Polish-Soviet war to seize the majority of the Duchy of Teschen, including areas where the Poles were in a clear majority.

Poland was restored as an independent country at the time of the prostration of the countries who had partitioned her during the eighteenth century. Two of them, Germany and the Soviet Union, were united in their hatred of this new Polish state. In 1922 representatives of the two states met at Rapallo in Italy and signed a treaty by which they renounced territorial claims against each other. The rationale behind this treaty, however, eerily foreshadows the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. As the head of the German Army, General Hans von Seeckt explained to the chancellor, Joseph Wirth:

“When we speak of Poland, we come to the kernel of the eastern problem. Poland's existence is intolerable and incompatible with Germany's vital interests. It must disappear, and will disappear through its own weakness and through Russia with our aid… The attainment of this objective must be one of the firmest guiding principles of German policy, as it capable of achievement – but only through Russia or with her help. A return to the frontier of 1914 should be the basis of agreement between Russia and Germany.”

Throughout the inter-war period, the German foreign ministry followed a strongly anti-Polish line. This policy reflected the sentiments of German statesmen even before Hitler came to power. For example, in August 1930 a German minister without portfolio, Gottfried Treviranus, spoke emotionally in front of the Reichstag: 'In the depth of our souls we remember the torn land of the Vistula, the bleeding wound on the eastern border, this crippled split in the Reich's lungs', and added an ominous warning for the future: 'Frontiers of injustice will not withstand the right of the nation and the national will to live'.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

List of Maps xi

Acknowledgements xiii

Abbreviations xv

Definitions of Poland and the Poles xvii

Guide to Polish Pronunciation xix

Preface xxiii

1 The Rebirth of Poland 1

2 Polish Foreign Policy, 1920-1939 34

3 The September 1939 Campaign 59

4 The German and Soviet Occupation of Poland to June 1941 94

5 Exile in the Soviet Union 136

6 Escape from the Soviet Union 163

7 Poland's Contribution to the Allied War Effort, 1940-1943 204

8 Polish Non-combatants Outside Poland, 1939-1945 237

9 The Dark Years: Occupied Poland, 1941-1943 257

10 The Holocaust, 1941-1943 291

11 Sikorski's Diplomacy, 1941-1943 325

12 Threats to the Standing of the Polish Government-in-Exile and the Polish Underground Authorities 358

13 The Polish Dilemma: The Retreat of the Germans and the Advance of the Red Army 384

14 Poland: The Inconvenient Ally 434

15 Fighting under British Command, 1943-1945 464

16 The End of the War 499

17 The Aftermath of the War 532

18 The Final Chapter 579

Appendix 1 Order of Battle of the Polish Army, 1939-1945 593

Appendix 2 Principal Polish Personalities 604

Notes 625

Bibliography 694

Index 717

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

    Highly recommended!

    Excellent and greatly needed book. "The Eagle Unbowed" provides a comprehensive account of what happened to Poland during the second world war. Poland's wartime suffering was extraordinary and its subsequent neglect and distortion leave a sense of outrage. The country lost a fifth of its population and its freedom. For Poles the war was three-sided. The Western allies were duplicitous and the Soviets for the most part as bad as the Germans. This book closes the biggest gap in most histories of the second world war.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    The most comprehensive, objective and "anodyne," histo

    The most comprehensive, objective and "anodyne," history of Poland during WWII ever written!
    To Harvard & Dr Halik Kochanski: Superbly done!
    The research and writing make for an immersing and flowing read.
    A must for every university!

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    Posted February 8, 2013

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