Friday, September 28, 2012

The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War by Halik Kochanski

The Economist
The Vivisection of Poland
Poland's wartime suffering was extraordinary. It has been greatly neglected by the rest of the world
Sep 29, 2012
The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War.
By Halik Kochanski.
Harvard University Press

Excerpts from the article:

The biggest gap in most histories of the second world war is what happened to Poland. By the war's end it had lost not only a fifth of its population but also its freedom—despite having fought from the first day to the last against the Germans.

Many histories deal with the greatest crime of the war years: the annihilation of Europe's Jews. That chiefly took place in occupied Poland, and the largest number of its victims were citizens of the pre-war republic. But these are books about the Holocaust, not about Poland. Books about Poland abound too. Some deal with the spectacular military events of the war: the Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Others have highlighted the great neglected scandals of the war, such as the Soviet massacre of 20,000 captured Polish officers. A book called "Dark Side of the Moon" tried to alert the West to the Soviet deportation of hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians to privation and death. There are even books about Wojtek, a bear cub adopted by Polish soldiers, who drank beer, ate cigarettes, carried ammunition and died in a zoo in Scotland.

But until Halik Kochanski's "The Eagle Unbowed" nobody had written a comprehensive English-language history of Poland at war. A British-born historian whose own family's experiences dot her pages, she weaves together the political, military, diplomatic and human strands of the story. She ranges from the fatal weaknesses of pre-war Poland (divided, cash-strapped and isolated) to the humiliation of Britain's victory parade in 1946 when the organisers invited Fijians and Mexicans, but not Poles.

Readers reared on Western accounts of a war between good and evil may be shocked to learn that for Poles the war was three-sided. The Western allies were duplicitous and the Soviets for the most part as bad as the Nazis.

Read the full article here.
Purchase "The Eagle Unbowed" here.
Thanks to Sue Knight for alerting me to this story.


  1. Another book I should recommend is "Faith and Fatherland" by professor Brian Porter-Szucs, an invaluable resource when trying to understand the causes of Polish religiosity (and yes, that includes Anti-Semitism).

  2. Glad you appreciated it Danusha. I thought it was definitely in the Bieganski arena. It seems like a must for my bookshelf, alongside your Bieganski.

    Not sure about "Faith and Fatherland" Jakub. I am not a Catholic. I am a Jehovah's Witness. But i do feel that The Little Red Book of Political Correctness allows Polish Catholics to be judged and criticised in a way that other religions and ethnicities are not.

    Does the book avoid that attitude? If so, I might have a read of it.

  3. Yes, it is a great book. Here is a quote from Mr. Shucks:

    "Of particular concern is the continued presence of catechism classes in the public schools." that pretty much sums it up.

    In addition, he is affiliated with TOL which is a front for the Open Society Institute, i.e., Soros, Soros, Soros. why he is so interested in Poland, I do not know.

    1. Could you please tell us what TOL is and what proof there is that TOL is connected with the Open Society Institute.

      Just asking.

  4. Perhaps it's time to read the book and understand its arguments before judging. Porter Szucs is an outstanding scholar and the issue of the connexion between religion and right wing, ultra patriotism which was particularly strong in European Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Poland needs to be studied and undersood. In FRance it produce the Action Francaise and was central to Petain's Vichy regime, in Spain it produced the Falange and Franco, while in Poland it was central to the Endecja and even more extreme quasi-fascist groups like the ONR. It's a historical topic and an important one, the exploration and close study of which has nothing to do with "political correctness". There are books on this topic in relation to French Catholics, Spanish Catholics and other Catholics. Why? Because those were Catholic movements.

    Sheibe, I can see that you aren't in favour of open, tolerant societies. How sad. By the way, Brian Porter has a Polish background, speaks and reads Polish and is President of the Polish American Studies Association. He also loves Poland. How do I know? I've corresponded with him.

    For the above, and for the fact that he is an outstanding scholar he is worthy of respect and should have his name spelled correctly in correspondence.

    1. Oh c'mon, now you are stretching it - open and tolerant societies are all fine in principle, but what does that mean in practice? Please take a look at what the UK looks like today as a result of being an open, tolerant society.

      Poland, as I understand it is the homeland of the Poles - the non-Poles have 100s of other countries to choose from and go to. Why can't there be a Polish Poland? Do you also not believe in a Muslim Arab Saudi Arabia, a Jewish Israel? In principle, do you think that, e.g., 50 million [fill in the blank] ought to be able to move to Poland at will (assuming logistically possible)? As Lee Kwan Yew said, if a few people come into your country your society can mold them but if too many come in, they will mold your society. There are numerous examples of this - not the least the arrival of Slavs in Poland and all over Eastern Europe.

      If someone self identifies as other than Polish first then I do not see a reason of why the person ought to be either let into Poland or (want to) remain in Poland. Unless they are a Kurd, chances are there is a homeland for them somewhere.

      Organizations like the Open Society Institute (I don't know what the other one is) are, on the record, as intending to promote "multi-culturalism" - this is not a "melting pot" concept but rather a concept where each person retains their culture but, surprise, can move around freely into other countries - result = Yugoslavia or worse. Even absent that, I do not wish that 10m Germans, Russians, Ethiopians or whatever were allowed to move to Poland even in principle. But maybe you tihnk Australia ought to take in all the Muslim immigrants it can get its hands on? The Lebanese riots apparently don't matter.

      And I don't think using terms like "ultra" patriotism etc, is helpful to the debate.

  5. Just out of curiosity, I have just reviewed one of the books by Brian Porter-Szucs. To see it, please click on my name in this specific posting.

  6. I have now reviewed Brian Porter-Szucs' FAITH AND FATHERLAND. To see my review, please click on my name in this specific posting.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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