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Captures the Essence of Polish Heroism During the 1939 War, With Additional Valuable Historical Insights,

john peczkis|Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There are a number of nonfictional and fictional books concerning non-Poles caught up in the German-Soviet conquest of Poland in September-October 1939, and this is one of the fictional ones. However, it is very realistic

While Still We Live          

What inspired MacInness? There is mention of the lack of rain as a major factor in allowing the rapid movement of German panzer columns, and the author being caught as a suspected spy for the Germans. In these matters, it parallels The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt: War Through a Woman's Eyes, 1939-1940 (read the Peczkis review).

The siege of Warsaw brought wealthy and poor Poles together. They faced a severe onslaught of German bombers and artillery. The Germans had vastly larger, mechanized forces.

The military defeat of the regular Polish forces was only the beginning of Poland's agony. The Germans arrested and murdered intellectuals, closed schools, and reduced the population to a very low standard of living. Guerrilla resistance was dealt with by the savage destruction of rural villages and their inhabitants, regardless of age or gender (for example, the village of Korytow. p. 379-on).

The Germans could find no Pole, of significant stature, who would serve as a collaborator. (pp. 395-396). That, and not the falsely-claimed lack of German desire for one, explains the absence of a Polish Quisling.

Contrary to the claims of another reviewer, the author does not present Poles in a unilaterally rosy light. For instance, on the matter of Polish anti-Semitism, MacInnes sees this, in large part, as something that was cultivated by Poland's foreign rulers, whose strategy was to make Jews scapegoats as a diversion of Polish anger from her real oppressors. (p. 105).

The chauvinistic Germans not only believed themselves superior to everyone else, but disbelieved the fact that Poles had ever achieved anything. Poles were treated as swine. (p. 301). MacInnes educates the reader about such facts as the University of Krakow being 600 years old, which is older than the one at Heidelberg. Also, she alludes to the military achievement of King John Sobieski: "Or if she had told him [the scoffing German] that the Poles had saved Vienna from the Mohammedan invasion; if they hadn't, there would be mosques and veiled women in Austria, perhaps even in Germany, just as these reminders of Islam remained in Serbia to this day." Remember that this is a novel only , not a research , or  sceintificaly based on facts.
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