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POLAND BETRAYED: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939

Jan Paczkis|Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This comprehensive work discusses such things as the background to WWII, the Poles' cracking of the "invincible" German ENIGMA Code, Polish alliances and preparations for war, the Polish Air Force and Navy, the course of the 1939 campaign, the German and Russian occupation zones of Poland, biographies of key figures, survivors' reminiscences, etc. Unlike most other books on this subject, Williamson gives significant details about the Russo-Polish war in eastern Poland in 1939, countering the mistaken notion that Poles offered almost no resistance to the invading Soviets.

      POLAND BETRAYED: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 (Campaign Chronicles)   POLAND BETRAYED: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 (Campaign Chronicles) by D. G. Williamson
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  5.0 out of 5 stars A New Look at Poland's 1939 Defensive War against Nazi Germany, December 7, 2009 This comprehensive work discusses such things as the background to WWII, the Poles' cracking of the "invincible" German ENIGMA Code, Polish alliances and preparations for war, the Polish Air Force and Navy, the course of the 1939 campaign, the German and Russian occupation zones of Poland, biographies of key figures, survivors' reminiscences, etc. Unlike most other books on this subject, Williamson gives significant details about the Russo-Polish war in eastern Poland in 1939, countering the mistaken notion that Poles offered almost no resistance to the invading Soviets.

No sooner had Poland been resurrected in 1918, in the wake of WWI, than the Germans and Russians began planning to destroy the new Polish state. Writing in 1922, at a time when Hitler was barely a blip on the political screen, General Hans von Seekt, the Commander-in-Chief of the German army, stated that Poland's existence was intolerable to both Germany and Russia, and that Poland must disappear. (pp. 6-7).

Although Polish industry was too small to even begin to match the modernity and quantity of German war production, a bright spot was the existence of a number of arms factories that earned the praise of British visitors. (pp. 27-29). For instance, the Stalowa Wola steel mills had been made from scratch just 18 months before Colonel Sword's visit, with the first gun rolling off the assembly line only several months later. It had a high standard of works and plant that was far superior to the parent Bofors equipment factories in Sweden. (pp. 28-29).

The author includes discussion of Polish civil defense before the war. He quotes a British observer who was impressed with it. (pp. 47-48).

Williamson debunks the myth of the Polish Air Force getting destroyed on the ground in the first day or two of the war. The planes had been scattered to secret airfields to avert such an occurrence. (p. 70). He provides examples of Polish aerial combat against the Luftwaffe and against German military objectives.

As for another perennial Polonophobic myth, Williamson comments: "Far from charging tanks and armoured cars, Polish cavalry was trained to withdraw to cover and use their anti-tank guns." (p. 83). Also: "The cavalry, far from indulging in useless deeds of derring-do, were often used effectively. Armed with anti-tank rifles and dismounted, cavalrymen were able to surprise and destroy German armoured units." (p. 167). Examples of cavalry success are included. (p. 88, pp. 93-94).

Several temporary Polish combat successes are noted, such as the Battle of Mokra and the Bzura counteroffensive. The Poles also managed to blow up the Tczew bridge near the Corridor despite the herculean efforts of the Luftwaffe and German commandos to prevent it. For this, the Germans later murdered 19 Polish officials and railwaymen in reprisal. (pp. 80-81).

Poland was overwhelmed by the two military giants. However, some 100,000 Poles managed to escape into Romania, Hungary, and the Baltic States. (p. 136). They continued the fight for Poland.

Williamson touches on the Polish forces fighting in 1940 France, and comments: "The final praise of the Polish fighting man was given by no less a person than Marshall Petain in June 1940, when he told Sikorski that he had witnessed the 1st Polish Division on the eastern front in France drive back four German divisions. He added that `if there had only been ten Polish divisions, victory would have been certain.'" (p. 169).
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