Norman Davies is the author of, among other books, Europe: A History, Rising 44: The Battle for Warsaw, and, most recently, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe.

 (May 2013)

The Deep Stains of Dictatorship

Polish Foreign Minister Stefan Oszowski, Deputy Minister of National Defense Józef Baryła, Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, and Party activist Felicja Fornalska at a Communist Party Congress in the Hall of Culture, Warsaw, 1981
For people familiar with Eastern Europe, Marci Shore’s The Taste of Ashes is, in spite of its subject matter, delicious. A professor at Yale with much experience in Eastern Europe, she writes with great sureness of touch, weaving personal recollections with intellectual commentary, and ideas with emotions, including her own.

Poland: Malice, Death, Survival

A wounded protester being carried away after an anti-Soviet demonstration, Berlin, June 17, 1953; the photographs on this page and page 48 are from Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956
Henry Kissinger used to complain that no one could give him a number on which to ring Europe. Nowadays, the high representative for foreign affairs in Brussels does have a number. If you ring it, they say, an automated voice advises: “Press one for Germany, two for France, three for …

On the Barbary Shore

The Black Sea is Eastern Europe’s counterpart to the Mediterranean. Indeed, it is an extension of the Mediterranean, joined to its larger twin at the Bosporus. Together, like America’s Great Lakes, they form a magnificent complex of navigable waters, set in a sun-drenched climate and surrounded since the earliest times …

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.

The Misunderstood War

Nineteen ninety-four, the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day landings, has spawned a festival of what A.J.P. Taylor once called “the Nuremberg Consensus.” Taylor was pointing to the fact that the history of World War II had largely been written by the victors, and that the moral and political assumptions of …

Lament for Russia

The historical profession is nowhere famous for its tolerance, but there are not many countries where historians can expect to pay for their opinions with penal servitude or the firing squad. In the Soviet Union, however, the persecution of nonconformity has been the norm until very recently. In the years …

The Survivor’s Voice

Marek Edelman is one of several key witnesses who do not appear in Claude Lanzmann’s film Shoah, though he saw much more than most. In 1942 he had stood every day by the gate of the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw and watched 400,000 people walk by to their deaths. He still …