Poland's Daughter


War and Exile, 1939-1948

The Holocaust as history and warning

A few years ago, Timothy Snyder wrote the definitive history of the Bloodlands, the horror-soaked territory of Eastern Europe, from Poland's 1939 frontier with Germany almost all the way to the Ural Mountains. Now he has returned to that bloody ground to single out the worst of those horrors: the Holocaust. Black Earth is an astonishing book, often moving and often difficult, for it is as much philosophy as history. What, really, explained the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, and the extermination camps? Why did the Germans find so many "willing executioners" in Eastern Europe as compared to the countries it invaded and occupied in the West? And why, for that did, did two-thirds of French Jews survive, while two-thirds of Dutch Jews were murdered? Why did almost all of Latvia's Jews die, while almost none of Denmark's did? And even more strangely, why did mass murder begin in the east, in the Soviet Ukraine and Russia itself, and only later move west to Poland?

Snyder sees the explanation in the destruction of state legitimacy, by deliberate policy of both Hitler and Stalin. (As for the Netherlands, the prewar state was decapitated by its own queen, who moved herself and her government to London, whereas Denmark's king not only remained on his throne but famously wore the yellow Star of David on his jacket.) Minorities need the recognition of a government; with citizenship and a passport, the individual has a chance of survival even in the most desperate of circumstances.

After he has made his case, Snyder turns to the present. He sees a parallel to Hitler's politics of state destruction, in Czechoslovkia, Austria, and Poland, and Vladimir Putin's current delegitimation of Georgia and Ukraine. Similarly, Hitler's goal of lebensraum has come to life again in China's acquisition of land and natural resources in Africa and elsewhere in Asia. Anti-semitism, of course, is on the rise in France and Germany. Iran threatens the extermination of Israel, a worldview that shared more quietly by other the Middle Eastern nations, and that is being export as millions of refugees seek prosperity and safety in the rich and peaceful nations Europe. Finally, just as Poland armed a Jewish state in Palestine in the 1930s, so does the United States sponsor Israel today. An excellent book, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

A Death in the Forest

When I was researching the Katyn Forest massacres, I came across the "Findings" of the 82nd Congress, which in 1951-1952 investigated that wartime atrocity, which the Russians had blamed on the Germans. The United States and Britain swallowed the lie, because the Soviet Red Army was an essential ally in the effort to liberate Europe from German occupation. All this changed with the Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, and the onset of the Cold War that would dominate the world's politics and geography for nearly half a century. I published them as an e-book in 2011, and have now edited and expanded them under the title A Death in the Forest. See it an Amazon stores worldwide. It is also available at Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Poland's Daughter

Poland's Daughter The Second World War -- the worst thing that ever happened. It started in September 1939, with Hitler's Wehrmacht invading Poland from the west, while Stalin's Red Army stormed in from the east. Among their victims was a five-year-old named Basia Deszberg. The Russians shot her father and brother in the Katyn Forest, then loaded Basia, her sister, and her mother into a cattle car for a horrific three-week journey to the steppes of Kazakhstan, there to survive as best they could. Over the next eight years, they would escape through Persia, Lebanon, and Egypt to find safe haven in England.

Meanwhile I grew up in a United States mired by the Great Depression. Europe's agony was America's windfall! I went from hardscrabble poverty to a college degree and a fellowship that took me to the English university where Basia was also a student. This is the story of our meeting, our travels, and our parting. "It's an extraordinary book, highly original, gripping, at once full of joy and of sorrow" (Cosmopolitan Review).

From Amazon as an e-book for the Kindle reader and as a Createspace paperback.

Files about Poland's wartime agony

Stalin's order to shoot 22,000 Polish prisoners
An American eyewitness to the Katyn exhumations
Operation Unthinkable: Churchill's plan to push the Red Army back to the prewar border
A voice from the grave at Bykovnia

Some background reading

Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (Stephen Kotkin, 2014)
Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination (Stephen Fritz, 2011)
The Eagle Unbowed (Halik Kochanski, 2012) and Isaac's Army (Matthew Brzezinski, 2012)
Stalin's General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov (Geoffrey Roberts, 2012)
Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union during World War II (Katherine Jolluck, 2002)
The Russian Origins of the First World War (Sean McMeekin, 2012)
The Inhuman Land (Joseph Czapski, 1987)
The Polish Deportees of World War II (Tadeusz Piotrowski, ed., 2007)
George Kennan: An American Life (John Gaddis, 2011)
When God Looked the Other Way (Wesley Adamczyk, 2004)
Revolution From Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Jan Gross, 2002)
Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment (Cienciala et al, 2007)
A Concise History of Poland (Lukowski & Zawadzki, 2006)
Bloody Foreigners: Poles in Britain (Robert Winder)
The Gulag Archipelago (Aleksandr Solzhenitsym, 1973-1974)
Summit at Teheran: The Untold Story (Keith Eubank, 1985)
The Dark Side of the Moon (Zoe Zajdlerowa and T.S. Eliot, 1947)
Poland 1939: The Birth of Blitzkrieg (Steven Zaloga, 2002)
The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia (Tzouliadis, 2008)

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