1.09.2022 Events, History, Literature, Polish-Jewish Relations

Book POLAND 1939: The Outbreak of World War II by Roger Moorhouse

Book POLAND 1939
The Outbreak of World War II
by Roger Moorhouse
Basic Books Publishing

Publication date: July 14, 2020 
ISBN: 9780465095384 • $32 US / $40 CAN • Hardcover • 432 pages 
E-book ISBN: 9780465095414 

“An excellent study by a thorough chronicler that adds considerably to the historical record.” 
Kirkus, starred review 

“Moorhouse successfully fills in the gaps of an episode that receives cursory treatment in most WWII narratives…” 
—Publishers Weekly 

About the book

A gripping history of the September Campaign and the onset of World War II

Every combatant nation involved in the Second World War has its own narrative for the start of the conflict. For Americans, the war started on December 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor; in Soviet historical accounts, the war was prompted by the German invasion of June 1941; for the British and the French, the war was not taken seriously until the German forces penetrated French territory in May 1940. But for Poland, the war began on September 1, 1939 when the Nazi army invaded Poland by land and by air, where they were soon joined by Stalin’s army. 

In POLAND 1939: The Outbreak of World War II (Basic Books; July 14, 2020), Roger Moorhouse introduces the September Campaign as the triggering event of World War II, challenging the prevailing historical understanding of the start the war. This five-week struggle cost as many as 200,000 lives on all sides and showcased many of the brutal practices that would feature strongly throughout the war – the targeting of civilians, race war, Blitzkrieg, and aerial bombing. But it’s rarely given any real scrutiny and has been all but forgotten outside of Poland. 

In his close examination of the overlooked September Campaign, Moorhouse explores the Anglo-French betrayal of Poland, when both Britain and France pledged to defend Poland but then failed to act (resulting in the slaughter of 16,000 Polish civilians). He draws on extensive new primary material, including first-hand accounts from Polish politicians, generals, soldiers, and civilians, to expose the true history of the event that set the tone for the bloody conflict to come. 

The first English-language history of the campaign, POLAND 1939 is a story of heroism, of suffering, and of a gallant fight against ruthless enemies. Moorhouse unravels the myths and misconceptions that have long rendered the Poles as nameless, voiceless victims and effectively rewrites the popular narrative of the war’s early phase. 

Pilots of the Squadron 303, 1941, England, photo: Wikipedia. Source: Culture.pl.


“An accomplished British historian of World War II, Moorhouse delves deeply into this five-week opening to the larger conflict, showing how it presaged the horrors to come… An excellent study by a thorough chronicler that adds considerably to the historical record.” —Kirkus, starred review 

“Moorhouse successfully fills in the gaps of an episode that receives cursory treatment in most WWII narratives…” —Publishers Weekly 

“Moorhouse… admirably achieves his aim of putting the Polish-German war back onto the broader canvas of the Second World War.” —Richard Overy, History Today 

“Timely and authoritative… [Moorhouse] 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.” —The Spectator 

“[A] fascinating book… There are moments of heroism and defiance here that will put a catch in your throat, and a shiver down your spine.” —Sunday Telegraph 

“Moorhouse’s book remedies that gap [in the history of The Polish War], weaving together archival material, first-hand accounts, perceptive analysis and heartbreaking descriptions of Poland’s betrayal, defeat and dismemberment.” —The Economist 

“Chilling… 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.” —The Times (UK) 

Roger Moorhouse, photo: courtesy of Roger Moorhouse. Source: Culture.pl.

About the author

Roger Moorhouse studied history at the University of London and is a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Warsaw. He is the author of several books on World War II history, including Berlin at War (shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Prize) and The Devils’ Alliance. He lives in the United Kingdom. 

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