The Misunderstood Victory in Europe

Fifty years would seem to be time enough to prepare a definitive history of the Second World War. In an age of instant data-gathering, one might think that the historians could have arrived at a consensus for interpreting the main events of the war. In reality, no such consensus exists. In a season filled with fiftieth anniversaries, controversies arise over everything from the liberation of Auschwitz and the Dresden raid to the Smithsonian exhibition of the Enola Gay. Misunderstandings are particularly evident concerning the zone of Eastern Europe in which the decisive military campaigns were fought and the crucial ideological confrontation occurred. To commemorate the events of 1945, one needs a broad view of all that happened, and a broad view is often lacking.

The following article is a modified version of a lecture presented at the Polish Consulate in Montreal in conjunction with the local Polish-Jewish Society, on August 16, 1994.

Why are some things remembered and others forgotten? That is the theme I want to pursue about the Second World War. I should say, incidentally, that my own memories of the war are extremely selective. I can just remember the blitz of Manchester, or perhaps my father’s tales about the blitz of Manchester. I can remember the blackout, the powdered eggs, and the gas masks. But I think no British person should pretend that being resident in England could count as being in the thick of the action. If my own memories are peripheral, it is partly because Britain’s own position in the war was peripheral. There should be no illusions. The heart of the conflict in Europe was not in the West, but in the East, centered on the mortal rivalry of the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin. Much of the pain of that war, more acute than anything in Western Europe, was borne by the unhappy peoples who lived within the reach of the two dictators. Unfortunately, they are not the ones who have dominated the history-writing.

Fifty years ago, on August 16, 1944, the American ambassador in Moscow visited the Soviet Foreign Commissariat to discuss the coordination of Allied assistance to the Warsaw Rising. He was bluntly told that the Soviet government had no intention of giving assistance to an event which other Soviet agencies were describing as “the escapade of a criminal gang.”

The Rising had broken out almost three weeks earlier, much in the way that Paris rose against the Nazi occupier that same month. The insurgents’ goals in Paris and Warsaw were essentially the same. They aimed to liberate their capital city by attacking the German garrison at the critical moment when it came under fire from the advancing Allied armies—in Paris from the US Army, in Warsaw from the Soviet Army.

But when it emerged that the Soviets were going to halt their offensive in Warsaw’s eastern suburbs for almost five months, the impending catastrophe was self-evident. The Rising, planned to last for two days or at most a week, lasted for sixty-three days. Instead of retreating, the Wehrmacht was able to bring up heavy reinforcements, among them some of the most brutal units of the Nazi war-machine. The heroic defenders fought on alone, amid savage reprisals. A quarter of a million people were killed. At the end, Hitler in his fury decreed that Warsaw should be razed. The survivors were deported to camps. Instead of defending Germany, thousands of German troops were kept in the deserted ruins of Warsaw until January 1945, blasting and burning it to pieces, house by house, street by street.

One might expect that the physical obliteration of one of Europe’s historic capitals would be well known to everybody who knows anything about the war. Apparently not. When the president of Germany was invited to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Rising, he sent a reply which said in effect: “The President of Germany will be honored to attend the commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Rising.”1 The president of Poland’s neighbor, it seems, or at least the president’s office, did not know that two great wartime risings broke out in Warsaw—the first in April 1943 in the Ghetto, and the second in August 1944. President Herzog duly redeemed himself by a fine speech in Warsaw on the theme of reconciliation. But the incident underlines how often the basic historical facts are simply not known.

Prompted by the German president’s faux pas, I thought that I should talk about the theme of selectivity, that is, why our knowledge of the war is so disjointed, distorted, disproportionate. What exactly is it that impedes the full and evenhanded recall of the events of 1939–1945? I have fixed on nine categories of selectivity. One could probably find more.


The first category is what I would call the selectivity of propaganda, that is, the deliberate and systematic technique of presenting only those facts and falsehoods which suit a particular political goal. Between 1939 and 1945, propagandists were at work on all sides. The main building of London University, where I now work, was taken over by something coyly called the “Ministry of Information.” Yet in this sphere, there is no doubt that the real specialists worked elsewhere.

One example would be the Russian custom of talking not about “the Second World War in the USSR” but about “The Great Patriotic War of 1941–1944.” You might think that nations can call the war whatever they choose. But then you realize that the title is a device for suggesting two things: first, that the Soviets did nothing but fight heroically in defense of their homeland, and second, that they were somehow not involved in the period preceding the German attack. How often have I read that the USSR in 1939–1941 was “neutral.” If you had lived in Poland or Finland or the Baltic States or Romania, and had seen the Red Army marching in, it would never have struck you that these were acts of neutrality.

I mentioned the Warsaw Rising. Not everyone realizes that it was the subject of elaborate postwar propaganda. Poland’s Communist regime was to contend that the only authentic anti-Nazi resistance had been led by Communists. In reality, it was the Communists who after the war annihilated the forces, the Home Army (AK), which had provided the backbone of wartime resistance. Many of those Resistance leaders were cast into the same cells as Nazi criminals.2 The AK was virtually unmentionable for decades. The postwar Polish regime only started to mention it in the 1970s; it was then smeared as somehow “collaborationist” and “anti-Semitic.”

If you are ever in Warsaw you should look at the monuments. In 1947, a fine monument was raised to the Heroes of the Ghetto, where Chancellor Willy Brandt would one day kneel in contrition. But nothing was raised to commemorate the general rising of 1944. When I first visited Warsaw in the 1960s, our guide took us to Dluga Street to show us the entrance to the sewers, which the Home Army fighters had used for their lines of communication. But we had to be shown it in secret. There was no explanation of the Warsaw Rising in any of the guidebooks of the time. The Home Army veterans were unable to raise a suitable monument to their fallen comrades until 1988. It is not surprising that a nation whose own memories were shackled for so long was not able to publicize the full facts of its wartime history to the world at large.


The second category I would call the selectivity of personal perception. This is the opposite of the first one, namely the selectivity that derives from the involuntary and very often unconscious preferences which we all harbor. Every human being has a store of knowledge, of emotions, of loyalties, which automatically filters all incoming information. Although some of us, especially historians, pretend to be impartial and scientific, none of us in my view can be completely unbiased.

The two scholarly studies of the Warsaw Rising available in English for the last twenty years were written by historians who had lived through it in person. They were both caught in the same bloody fighting, and saw their friends slaughtered. One of them, Janusz Zawodny, later became an American scholar; the other, Jan Ciechanowski, a professor in London. Both were free to write whatever they wished. Both had the same access to sources. Yet they produced diametrically opposed analyses. Zawodny, essentially sympathetic, saw the Rising as a Greek tragedy, in which the Poles, abandoned by their Allies, were doomed to be crushed. Ciechanowski was highly critical of the Rising’s leaders and of their determination to take up arms without having secured the prior consent of the Soviets. Zawodny’s book was banned by Poland’s Communist censorship. Ciechanowski’s was welcomed. The startling discrepancies can only lie in the perceptions of the historians themselves.3


The third category is that of geographical selectivity: if you like, the sin of parochialism. The Second World War was fought in two major theaters of action: in Europe and in the Pacific. Yet the two parallel theaters are often described separately. Few accounts of the war in Europe refer, for example, to the Japanese factor. And yet, at two moments at least, it was crucial.

In September 1939, after the secret protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Pact had prepared for the partition of Eastern Europe, it was clear that Hitler and Stalin were both out to reap the spoils of war. The so-called Pact of Non-Aggression was a deal to facilitate aggression by both signatories. The Wehrmacht attacked Poland on September 1. Its onslaught was so fierce that the whole of the country was soon falling into its hands. But the Soviets held off. The Nazi command was much concerned by the failure of the Soviets to assist them more promptly. Suddenly, the Red Army appeared on September 17, nearly three weeks late, crushing all resistance. Nazis and Soviets held a joint victory parade in the symbolic location of Brest Litovsk. On September 28, they signed a Treaty of Friendship, Demarcation, and Cooperation.

The question is: Why did Stalin delay? Was he just playing the hyena? Perhaps so. But the best explanation lies in Central Asia. In early September 1939, the Soviet Union was still engaged against Japan in a campaign in Mongolia, where a young general, Georgy Zhukov, distinguished himself.4 The truce with Japan was signed on September 15. Stalin gave the order to invade Poland on September 16, and at dawn on the seventeenth the Soviet troops marched across the Polish border.

In February 1945, the Yalta conference began. One is often asked how Roosevelt and Churchill, on the brink of victory, could, in effect, have handed Eastern Europe to Stalin “on a plate.” Once again, the best answer lies in Japan. The Americans still did not possess an atomic bomb. The battle on Okinawa had cost fifty thousand casualties. If the Japanese mainland had to be stormed, the cost would be much higher; some estimates ran as high as a million casualties. To avoid that, it was prudent to call in the Soviet Army. Stalin’s unspoken price was a free hand in Eastern Europe.

Which reminds me of the curious art of geographical name-changing in which Russians have shown such expertise. All Poles know about the “Vistula Land,” which the tsarist government created when it abolished the Kingdom of Poland in 1864. But particularly worth attention is the clause of the Yalta Agreement which authorized the Soviet Union to annex the long-disputed Kurile Islands. In 1945, the Soviet Army duly occupied the “Northern Kuriles” and the “Southern Kuriles” before seizing four more islands which had never belonged to the Kurile chain. These four islands were promptly renamed the “Lesser Kuriles” and the Japanese population was deported. Whenever one tries to explain why the government of Japan has never accepted this trick, one invariably hears, “But surely Stalin took the Kuriles with Allied agreement.”


The fourth category concerns the selectivity of stereotypes. It’s generally understood, I think, that we can only conceive of human activities by using collective names and stereotypes. When describing a great war, we can’t qualify every sentence about “the Germans” by exactly describing all the individuals who were subsumed in any given action. Without collective names, we could not process the otherwise unmanageable material. For the Allies, “the Germans” were the enemy. And the enemy were “Germans.” This largest central European nation was presented to us either as consisting almost entirely of sympathizers of Hitler or of his passive servants. A major stereotype was based on the “bad Germans,” and a complementary minor stereotype on the ineffectual “good Germans.”5

If one looks deeper, however, one finds all sorts of interesting information. One German unit, which has been studied in great detail, was known as Battalion 101. Its members were all Hamburg policemen, citizens of one of the German cities least susceptible to Nazi ideology. In July 1942, these two hundred middle-aged men were drafted without warning into the army, and transported to Poland. One morning they were given their orders. Surrounded by SS officers in the village of Józefów, they were told to enter the neighboring town, to shoot every adult Jewish male they met, and to pack every Jewish female or child into railway wagons. For one small unit, it was their introduction to a war in which they killed more than 80,000 people. Twenty years later, a West German court compiled detailed files about all of them. They were the most ordinary of men. None, when he joined, was a Nazi. None knew about his future duties. Some, when ordered to butcher innocent civilians, claimed that they shot into the air. Others said: What could we do? This is not the picture of the beastly Germans one is used to.6

Another example concerns the Waffen-SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military forces. Since they were headed by the fearsome names of Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler or Totenkopf, one naturally thinks of them as the most German and the most ideologically committed of all formations. And yet if one examines the full list of the thirty-nine Waffen-SS divisions in the field by 1945, one finds that the majority of them were not German at all. After 1939, the recruiting criteria were relaxed. In the end, there were three Dutch Waffen-SS divisions from Holland and three Hungarian divisions; two Belgian divisions, two Russian divisions, and two Latvian divisions. There were Waffen-SS divisions from Serbia, from Croatia, from Albania, from Bohemia; Waffen-SS divisions composed of Estonians, of Ukrainians, of Italians, and of Finns. The Waffen-SS Wiking and Nordland consisted of Danish and Norwegian volunteers: the Waffen-SS Handschar of Bosnian Muslims, the Waffen-SS Charlemagne of Frenchmen. The Waffen-SS even listed an embryo British division, the Legion of St. George. There was no Polish SS.7


Selective Statistics. “Lies, damned lies, and statistics,” as Mark Twain put it. In order to comprehend any vast event such as a world war we have to quantify. We have to know roughly how many soldiers, how many divisions were fighting, how many casualties and civilian victims were affected.

Until recently, four well-known round figures were constantly repeated. One was: “twenty million Russian war dead”; another “six million murdered Jews”; a third one “six million Polish citizens killed”; and lastly, “four million victims of Auschwitz.” Of those four statistics, I am convinced that the “six million Holocaust victims” is the only one that will withstand sustained scrutiny. All the others are being revised up or down. The Auschwitz figure has already been officially reduced by the State Museum of Auschwitz from 4 million to between 1.2 and 1.5 million.8

For example, the “twenty million Russian war dead” were suddenly produced in Moscow after the Soviet census of 1959 showed that demographic projections based on prewar estimates left a shortfall of twenty million. What it didn’t reveal is that there were some six million people whose unnatural deaths during the war years can be attributed to Stalin. Should they be counted among the victims of fascism? Equally, it doesn’t show that Russians accounted for only 55 percent of the Soviet population. Moreover, if you look at the map, you see the Nazi occupation barely reached Russia proper. What the Nazis occupied was not Russia, but the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. And that is where the worst casualties were often inflicted, not least among the Poles and Jews of those republics. How often do you hear what I think probable, that the largest number of civilian casualties of the war in Europe was sustained by the Ukrainians? Soviet propaganda and its Western imitators generally portrayed Ukrainians in the role of SS collaborators and concentration camp guards.

Controversial episodes, such as the bombing of Dresden, attract different forms of manipulation. East German propaganda, seeking to maximize the sins of the “Anglo-American imperialists,” used to compare Dresden’s losses to those of Hiroshima. Allied commentators usually quote the figure of 35,000 without caring to note that it refers only to the identified dead. Yet it is evident that many more tens of thousands must have been incinerated without trace in the Dresden fire-storm. In all such cases, both minimum and maximum estimates are an absolute necessity.


The next category, the selectivity of special interests, deserves perhaps the most attention. It is proper that every nation and every ethnic group should take a special interest in the fate of its own people. The danger comes when one group presents its findings in isolation from the experiences of others involved in the same places or in the same events.

What would nowadays be called “ethnic cleansing” in the provinces of Volynia and Galicia is a case in point. When I lived in Poland as a student, I used to hear talk about the massacre of tens or hundreds of thousands of Poles by Ukrainian nationalist bands during 1942, 1943, and 1944. No discussion of the subject had then been published. The first book I know to deal with it was published in the 1980s by the Bishop of Wroclaw, who had formed a commission to search the surviving diocesan records. And that little book made terrible reading. A village priest would report that on the night of, say, November 7, 1943, the Ukrainian bands would emerge from the woods, cut the throats of all the Catholics in their beds, or hack them to pieces with axes, or drive them into the church and set it alight. And so on, village after village, district after district. That a major campaign of genocide took place in those dark days in which very large numbers of people perished is now beyond doubt. It is one of the many lost stories of the war.9

But it is not enough to leave it there. The provinces where these horrors occurred had multinational societies. Before the war they were inhabited by similar numbers of Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians. By examining the whole picture, one finds that the “cleansing” of Poles was but one of a series of atrocities. Extensive Soviet repressions and deportations had scourged all communities of the region after it was forcibly annexed to the USSR in 1939.10 In 1941–1942, the Jewish community was wiped out by the Nazis after their advance during Operation Barbarossa. Beginning in 1942, the Catholic Poles were murdered en masse by the Ukrainian nationalists, together with many ordinary Ukrainians who got in the way. And then at the end of the war, when the Red Army returned, there was an unrestrained purge of all so-called collaborators. When units of the Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army (UPA) took refuge in the Bieszczady mountains, a large area was laid waste and left without a living soul.

Hence all communities suffered appallingly. Bystanders in one operation became victims of the next. A community that was victimized in one round could spawn murderers later on. To confine one’s sympathies to just one group is to miss the essential truth.

Similar stories can be told from the eastern borders of Germany. The revenge visited on innocent German civilians by the Czechs, or by Poland’s postwar security forces,11 amounts to criminal conduct by any standards one applies.

One of the most obscene features of life in wartime Eastern Europe is to be found in the mass killing and grotesque maltreatment of children. There are accounts of children selected on the ramp for the gas chamber or for genetic experiments. There are studies of colossal numbers of other young innocents orphaned in Siberia or kidnapped for racial breeding in the Reich. Many of these facts have been recorded, but they deserve more attention.12


Next, a favorite of mine, the selectivity of professional historians. As I said earlier, historians often think of themselves as the most impartial of commentators. I have my doubts. There are several failings to which they are susceptible. One is their ultra-specialization. They tend to pick a tiny part of a subject during a very short period of time and to ignore everything that was going on around it. The body of historical knowledge is now so enormous, they feel incapable of reaching for the broader perspective.

Another failing is their characteristic reliance on documents and archives. But what do they do if the archives are not available? The largest combatant of the Second World War, the Soviet Union, never opened more than a small part of its archives to independent research. On top of that, though the ex-Soviet archives are gradually opening up, the Russians have discovered huge collections that nobody knew existed.

For example, there is something in Moscow called the Osobyi Arkhiv, or Special Archive. Since it was housed in the utmost secrecy, apart from the Party, State, and KGB archives, no one could have guessed what it held. In fact, it contains an enormous collection of documents which the Russians looted from Germany after the Nazis had looted all of occupied Europe. It is a historical treasure chest. The police records of the Third French Republic, from 1871 to 1940, later believed lost during the Allied bombing of Berlin, had been carried off by the Gestapo. They are now, it seems, in Moscow. The archives of Poland’s “Dwójka,” or military intelligence, priceless records for the prewar crisis, were also taken by the Gestapo in 1939. They, too, are in Moscow. So are apparently the archives of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the British Army archives abandoned on the Dunkirk beaches. Everywhere the Red Army went, it lifted what the Nazis had lifted before them.

One effect of this is that historians have frequently proceeded with only half the documentation to hand. The celebrated debate on The Origins of the Second World War, for instance, provoked by A.J.P. Taylor’s book, was almost exclusively confined to wrangles over the motives, priorities, and timetables of Hitler. The contestants had all the key Nazi documents in their possession, central among them the Hossbach Memorandum of November 5, 1937. Although it was generally accepted that the prewar crisis would ultimately result in a strategic clash between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, no one was willing or able to submit Stalin’s aims, priorities, and timetables to the same sort of scrutiny. And the reasons are not hard to find. Few historians were willing to ask if the country which played the major role in winning the war against Hitler might also have played a part in causing it. Most importantly, there were no documents. Stalin was not one to have ignored a threat. But if a Soviet counterpart to the Hossbach Memorandum exists, no one I know of has seen it.13


The selectivity of the victors. It is a commonplace that “History is written by the victors.” The victors have the freedom to publicize their version of the war. The defeated do not. Hence the outcome of 1945 has bred what I have called the “Allied Scheme of History.” This scheme continues to describe events according to the wartime priorities of the Grand Alliance, and in particular of “the Big Three”—the US, the UK, and the USSR.14 Those priorities included the ideology of anti-fascism. Virtually anyone fighting against Hitler was judged to be fighting for freedom, democracy, and a better world. By this reckoning Joseph Stalin was a famous freedom fighter. Similarly, the Third Reich and its partners had to be seen as the sole source of all evil. Whatever the Nazi leaders said, particularly about the Soviet Union, they were incapable of telling the truth. Thirdly, since our great Soviet ally was largely responsible for the military defeat of Nazi Germany, its own failings had to be treated with indulgence. As all historians agree, three quarters of all German casualties were inflicted on the Eastern Front, at appalling cost to the Red Army itself. “Uncle Joe” had earned our gratitude. Certainly, he was not “our sort of democrat,” but his instincts were somehow right. Certainly, the Soviet system had its faults, but it would be unjust to judge the Soviet leaders by the same standards as the ones applied to the enemy. What this led to, my old tutor A.J.P. Taylor once called the “Nuremberg Consensus.”

In setting up the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945, the Allied governments took it as axiomatic that the only crimes to be investigated were those committed by the defeated enemy. By so doing, they created the popular impression that no other serious war crimes need be considered. Of course, the Tribunal rendered an invaluable service to the world by documenting the unsurpassed crimes of the Nazis beyond all reasonable doubt. No rational person can have qualms about that. The critical matter, however, concerns the wartime events which were passed in silence. Whenever the defendants’ lawyers made reference to crimes which might have implicated Allied agents, the Tribunal’s president would cut them short. “It is not the purpose of this court,” he ruled, “to try the activities of the Allied powers.”

When, for example, the Nuremberg Tribunal agreed to address an episode involving the cold-blooded massacre of 26,000 Allied officers, it accepted the Soviet prosecutor’s prima facie contention about this “Nazi crime.” Yet as soon as the prosecutor’s evidence was shown in court to be false, the entire case was dropped. No one at Nuremberg saw it as part of his duty to discover the true fate of those Allied officers. And so it remained for fifty years.15 Not until President Gorbachev admitted that the Katyn massacres had been carried out by the Soviet NKVD did the Allied fiction collapse.


The last category is what you might call moral selectivity. In wartime everybody has to be biased. There is a good cause to be fought for, and an evil one to destroy. But one would hope for a little more open-mindedness in peacetime. Alas, it is rarely so. Double standards abound.

One issue concerns the morality of the Allies’ “Strategic Bombing Offensive,” a policy which envisaged the systematic reduction of Germany’s cities to rubble. It was based on the mistaken calculation that it would gradually bring the Nazi war effort to its knees, and that German civilians would lose the will to continue. And it was later justified by some as retribution for Nazi atrocities. Its greatest “successes” included the raid on Hamburg in 1943, when 43,000 people perished in one night, and the still larger triumph at Dresden. Few people heeded the words of Bomber Harris’s critics, such as the Bishop of Chichester, who spoke out against the bombing of civilians at the time. If it was wrong to obliterate Coventry to no great military advantage, it was wrong to obliterate Dresden. It was not right or necessary to have pursued a just war with unjust methods. 16

Another issue has made the headlines through a notorious libel trial in London. It concerns the forced “repatriation” to the Soviet Union of various categories of East Europeans, including some who had served in the German forces. Some of those deported to almost certain death, such as the Cossack Brigade and their dependents, had never even lived in the Soviet Union. Many could only escape through suicide.17

Here I should mention an unacknowledged hero. Major Denis Hills was a liaison officer of the British Eighth Army serving with our Polish allies in Italy. He was unusual in having a close knowledge of Eastern Europe, and in speaking several of the languages. He was the man who defied his reluctant superiors and permitted the illegal sailing of a shipload of Jewish refugees bound from La Spezia to Palestine—the incident behind the famous popular novel Exodus. At the war’s end, he was assigned to the operation for collecting the refugees and prisoners whom Stalin was demanding.

He sailed on the first ship, which took five thousand ex-Soviet soldiers from Italy to Odessa, and witnessed the circumstances that convinced him that all those men were shot on arrival. Back in Italy, he was put in charge of a POW camp, with precise orders to “repatriate” a further large consignment of Russians. He was trapped in an acute dilemma. To refuse orders was treason: to obey immoral. So he left the gates of the camp unlocked at night. Also, by inventing various fictional categories of prisoner, as some of his American colleagues were doing, he was able to circumvent the criteria for repatriation. Soon a residue of fewer than two hundred remained. At their head was a Russian officer who upbraided Hills as he marched off, asking why all of them could not have been let go. The answer: “You are the sacrifice. Because of you the others will be safe.”

The incident, I think, illustrates this problem of selective morality. We are not used to the idea of Allied officers receiving immoral orders. But if it was wrong for Adolf Eichmann to plead that he was only obeying orders, it is wrong for British officers to plead the same. In due course, Denis Hills was cashiered, having been caught performing cartwheels in the main square of Trieste at dawn. His memoirs are called Tyrants and Mountains. They illuminate several of the corners of war history that remain obstinately obscure.18

Three points in conclusion.

First, selectivity is unavoidable. The past is too immense to be recaptured whole. Whether we like it or not, we all have to indulge in various forms of selection.

Secondly, good historians need to admit to their limitations. The worst are those who imagine themselves to be free of any bias.

Lastly, having recognized the limitations of historians, we should try to compensate for them. By complementing the findings of one partial perspective with the findings of other approaches we can hope to create an overall picture which will be fairly comprehensive and reasonably accurate, and will maintain a sense of proportion.

World War II is the event that largely created the setting of the life we have today. Yet for fifty years, the largest single participant in that war imposed a policy of almost total historical selectivity, while the other victors basked in the illusion of their own impartiality. The countries that once lay between the USSR and Nazi Germany were virtually deprived of an independent voice. The recent liberation of Eastern Europe is a precondition for starting to reconstruct a credible picture.

In short: selective memories cannot be avoided, but they can be counter-acted. Someday, somewhere, someone may write a fair, accurate, and comprehensive account of World War II.


Cartwheels at Dawn October 19, 1995

Correction June 22, 1995

  1. 1

    As reported in Tygodnik powszechny (Kracow).

  2. 2

    Kazimierz Moczarski, Rozmowy z katem (Conversations with an Executioner) (Prentice-Hall, 1981).

  3. 3

    Janusz Zawodny, Nothing but Honour: The Story of the Warsaw Uprising, 1944 (Hoover Institution Press, 1977); Jan M. Ciechanowski, The Warsaw Rising (Cambridge University Press, 1974).

  4. 4

    See Alvin D. Coox, Nomonhan: Japan against Russia, 1939 (Stanford University Press, 1985).

  5. 5

    See the introduction to A.J.P. Taylor, The Course of German History (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1945).

  6. 6

    Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Grove, 1993).

  7. 7

    See G. B. Stein, The Waffen-SS: Hitler’s Elite Guard at War 1939–45 (Cornell University Press, 1966); A.J. Barker, The Waffen-SS at War (London: Ian Allen, 1982), especially the appendix “SS Divisions,” pp. 121–122.

  8. 8

    Franciszek Piper, Ilu ludzi zginelo w KL-Auschwitz? (Auschwitz: Auschwitz State Museum, 1992).

  9. 9

    See Wincenty Urban, Droga krzyzowa Archidiecezji Lwowskiej, w latch II wojny swiatowej, 1939–1945 (Wroclaw: Semper Fidelis, 1983); M. Terlecki, Ethnic Cleansing of Poles in Volhynia and East Galicia, 1942–1946 (Toronto: Alliance of the Polish Eastern Provinces, 1993); Ryszard Torzecki, Polacy i Ukraincy: sprawa ukrainska w czasie II wojny swiatowejna terenie II Rzeczypospolitej (Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1993); W. Poliszczuk, Gorzka Prawda: zbrodniczosć OUN-UPA (Toronto, 1994).

  10. 10

    Norman Davies, Antony Polonsky, editors, Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939–1946 (Basingstoke: Macmillan/School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 1991); Keith Sword, Deportation and Exile: Poles in the Soviet Union, 1939–1948 (New York: Saint Martin’s Press/School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 1994).

  11. 11

    John Sack, An Eye for an Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945 (Basic Books, 1995).

  12. 12

    I. and J. T. Gross, War Through Children’s Eyes: The Soviet Occupation of Poland and the Deportations (Stanford University Press, 1981); Richard C. Lukas, Did the Children Cry? Hitler’s War Against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939–1945 (Hippocrene, 1994).

  13. 13

    A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (Atheneum, 1962); E. M. Robertson, editor, The Origins of the Second World War: Historical Interpretations (London: Macmillan, 1971).

  14. 14

    See Norman Davies, “The Misunderstood War,” The New York Review, June 9, 1994, a review of Gerhard L. Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (Cambridge University Press, 1994).

  15. 15

    Recent additions to the literature on Katyn include Allen Paul, Katyn: The Untold Story of Stalin’s Polish Massacre (Scribners, 1991); P.M.H. Bell, “The Katyn Graves Revealed,” in John Bull and the Bear: British Public Opinion, Foreign Policy and the USSR, 1941–1945 (Edward Arnold, 1990), pp. 109–127; and Vladimir Abarinov, The Murderers of Katyn (Hippocrene Books, 1993).

  16. 16

    George Bell (Bishop of Chichester), The Church and Humanity (London: Longmans, Green, 1946), especially Chapter 14, “Obliteration Bombing.”

  17. 17

    Nikolai Tolstoy, Victims of Yalta (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977); Nicholas Bethell, The Last Secret: Forcible Repatriation to Russia, 1944–47 (London: Deutsch, 1974); Nikolai Tolstoy, The Minister and the Massacres (London: Century Hutchinson, 1986).

  18. 18

    Denis Hills, Tyrants and Mountains: A Reckless Life (London: John Murray, 1992).