The Eagle Unbowed : Poland and the Poles in the Second World War, Paperback

The Eagle Unbowed : Poland and the Poles in the Second World War Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In Halik Kochanski's extraordinary book, the untold story of Poland and the Poles in the Second World War is finally heard.

By almost every measure the fate of the inhabitants of Poland was the most terrible of any group in the Second World War.

Following the destruction of its armed forces in the autumn of 1939, the Republic of Poland was partitioned between Nazi and Soviet forces and officially ceased to exist.

As the war progressed millions of Poles were killed, with each phase unleashing a further round, from the industrialised genocide of Treblinka to the crushing of the Warsaw Rising.

Polish Jews were all to be murdered, Christians reduced to a semi-literate slave class.

This powerful and original new book is perhaps the most important 'missing' work on the whole conflict, describing both the fate of those trapped within occupied Poland and of the millions of Poles who were able to escape.

Reviews: "A remarkable book...Kochanski brings to the subject not only an impressive grasp of the military and political context, but also a balance, neutrality and honesty few could manage, combined with the intelligence, imagination and empathy necessary to grasp the true depth of the experience she recounts. ..This book is history at its best. It tells the whole story, and tells it well, with just the right mixture of detachment and empathy, in crisp, readable prose.

But it also speaks to the imagination and makes the reader think - and not just about the subject in hand". ("Standpoint"). "Until Halik Kochanski's "The Eagle Unbowed" nobody had written a comprehensive English-language history of Poland at war...She uncovers details that will surprise even history geeks...Ms Kochanski marshals an impressive and comprehensive array of English and Polish material". ("Economist"). "Poland's war was so terrible as to almost defy summary ...this book is opinionated, fluid and forceful". (Oliver Bullough, "New Statesman"). "An informative, authoritative and wide-ranging account of the tragedy that befell Poland and its inhabitants, Gentiles and Jews, during the war and its aftermath...An engaging and important book". (Hubert Zawadzki (author of "A Concise History of Poland")).

About the author: Halik Kochanski read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford and then completed a PhD at King's College London. She has taught at both King's College London and University College London and presented papers to a number of military history conferences.

She has written a number of articles and is the author of "Sir Garnet Wolseley: Victorian Hero" (1999).

She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has been a member of the councils of the Army Records Society and Society for Army Historical Research and remains a member of both societies.

She is also a member of the British Commission for Military History and the Institute for Historical Research.

She is currently a judge for the Templer Medal book prize.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 768 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9781846143588



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Very impressed with this book. Even though I am well versed in WWII history, I find I really had no idea of the extent of the Polish suffering, which was, as the author notes, the longest -lasting of any nation in WWII, literally from the first day of the war to the last. Everything is covered, from the trauma of the German invasion & conquest, Nazi atrocities against Poles and Jews alike, as well as Soviet atrocities against Polish refugees and captured Polish officers, the attempts to establish to a Polish government in exile and a Polish army to fight alongside the Allies, and the Big Power conniving which led to Poland being effectively betrayed and sacrificed to Stalin's ambitions by the British and Americans. Interestingly, the author, who is of Polish ancestry and whose family were caught up in the horrors described, and makes no secret of her bias, (not that I have any problem with that, if my family and nation had been subject to the same atrocities as hers was, I would feel exactly the same, in fact probably much less commendably restrained than Ms Kochanski is) devotes much more time to Soviet crimes against Poland than Nazi atrocities. It is quite clear from this book, that regardless of the horror unleashed against Poland by Hitler, Russia remains the eternal enemy as far as Poles are concerned. Even if you are not particularly interested in Polish history, it is nevertheless a great read, never becoming bogged down in excessive detail or statistics, full of passion, tragedy, triumph, and above all the fighting spirit of the Poles themselves, subjected to the horrors of occupation by two equally brutal totalitarian dictatorships, but never giving up on their dream of being free once more.

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