In this timely and authoritative book, Roger Moorhouse dispels this and other myths concocted by German and Soviet propaganda. He has trawled through an impressive quantity of unpublished Polish and German sources, as well as a wealth of eyewitness testimonies from both sides, to produce a balanced account of this much neglected yet important episode of the second world war which is both harrowing and inspiring.
In the final days of the campaign, the German and Soviet armies completed the division of Poland and embarked on a policy of subjugating the population of the occupied territories. The vivid military picture is augmented by eyewitness accounts and profiles of the participants. But Moorhouse is surprisingly reluctant to discuss what might have caused Poland’s military defeat. He has nothing to say about the military coterie which ruled Poland until September. He feels no need to explain why Poland’s military and political leadership abandoned Warsaw and headed towards the border with Romania. This was not just a flight of desperate civilians. The government departed with the full apparatus of state in tow, including the paymaster general. It is not enough to state, as Moorhouse does, that the military plans lacked cohesion and left commanders without any idea what was happening beyond their zones of operation. A debate on the failures of the nation’s leaders should form part of the picture.
All Poles know that their September war — and of course the many subsequent years of occupation, resistance and exile — was no side-show. Now Moorhouse has expertly laid bare this simple truth: that when two totalitarian regimes make common cause, everyone in their immediate neighbourhood is likely to be trampled underfoot.