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Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939

By David G. Williamson, Barnsley. Pen & Sword Military.
ISBN 978 1 84415 926 0

Poland Betrayed is part of a series "Campaign Chronicles" covering a selection of key military events in Europe over the centuries edited by Christopher Summerville. Williamson has reappraised the Nazi-Soviet invasion in 1939 with a fresh approach. By drawing upon contemporary and archive material, Williamson has 'peppered' the chronology with first hand accounts and manages to dispel many myths and misunderstandings that have plagued the interpretation of Poland's history. Few today understand the political or economic complexity of an emergent nation previously partitioned between Germany, Russia and the failed Austrian Empire. The fabric and structure of the country was not Polish. Then re-creation after the Treaty of Versailles forced an emergent nation into a European political vacuum, which Williamson points out Poland used ruthlessly to its own diplomatic and political advantages.

Poland's inter-war re-industrialization and reconstruction of the Polish state where economic growth allowed politics and culture to thrive also enabled a country to block Sovietization of Europe in the 'Miracle on the Vistula' in 1920 when Polish forces almost annihilated the Soviet army. Both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia saw Poland as a wedge between their own geo-political aspirations. Williamson analyses in meticulous detail from the German, Russian, French and British stance and manages to contextualize the political ideology and strategies of key Polish politicians or parties.

The re-appraisal of the Polish defence planning and re-armament also sheds light on Britain's Foreign Office reluctance to financially support or assist in military procurement right up to the brink of war where the bickering with the Treasury significantly undermined Poland's ability to effectively defend its self. The cracking of German ciphers was Poland's 'Ace' and played too late for diplomatic sanctions to be effective against the orchestrated campaign by Nazi Germany. Once the secret protocol signed in August 1939 between Ribbentrop and Molotov, Poland's fate was sealed.

Williamson's detailed analysis of the invasion of Poland and its subsequent partition, demonstrates meticulous research and ability to present the reader with a refreshing account that challenges many previously held opinions and misconceptions about the 1939 campaign.

Julian Hoseason, editor polandinexile.com


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