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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The Second World War began on 1 September 1939, when German tanks, trucks and infantry crossed the Polish border, and the Luftwaffe began bombing Poland’s cities. The Polish army fought bravely but could not withstand an attacker superior in numbers and technology; and when the Red Army invaded from the east - as agreed in the pact Hitler had concluded with Stalin - the country’s fate was sealed. Poland was the first to fight the German aggressor; it would be the first to suffer the full murderous force of Nazi persecution. By the end of the Second World War, one in five of its people had perished.

The Polish campaign is the forgotten story of the Second World War. Despite prefacing many of that conflict's later horrors - the wanton targeting of civilians, indiscriminate bombing and ethnic cleansing - it is little understood, and most of what we think we know about it is Nazi propaganda, such as the myth of Polish cavalry charging German tanks with their lances. In truth, Polish forces put up a spirited defence, in the expectation that they would be assisted by their British and French allies. That assistance never came.

First to Fight is the first history of the Polish war for almost half a century. Drawing on letters, memoirs and diaries by generals and politicians, soldiers and civilians from all sides, Roger Moorhouse’s dramatic account of the military events is entwined with a tragic human story of courage and suffering, and a dark tale of diplomatic betrayal.

©2019 Roger Moorhouse (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"This deeply researched, very well-written and penetrating book will be the standard work on the subject for many years to come." (Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny)

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  • David_Cockayne
  • 03-05-20

A good work spoiled by fashionable prejudice

The author privides a good account of the German and Russian partition of Poland in 1939. In so doing, he fills a gap in the shelf for those of us interested in the broader story of World War II. The problem is that he both mocks the supposed Anglocentric nature of much of the history of the period and several times accuses the French and British of betrayal. The first is both wrong and tiresome. As he admits, much of what is believed about the war in Poland comes from German sources and perpetuates Nazi myths. Tiresome because no history can ever be written transcendentally: a Russian or Chinese historian writing about World War II is going to write from a Chinese viewpoint, and so they should.

Worse, however, is the accusation of betrayal, particularly against the British. By declaring war, Britain committed itself to resist the Nazis by all possible means; we stood alone at a time when Russia was a Nazi ally and the US was content to leave the continent to its fate. Had we surrendered to the Nazis, then such an accusation might have some merit. The idea that our 10 infantry divisions could defeat Germany's 100, and at a distance of a thousand miles, is a fantasy that historians ought not to subject themselves to.

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  • Kristoffer
  • 08-03-20

An excellent account of the Polish campaign.

An excellent account of the Polish campaign. Very informative and taught me a lot of things I never knew about the campaign. It is also good for it to come out now countering lies about Soviet innocence. Furthermore, Mr. Moorehouse narrates it well and it was a pleasure to listen. I highly recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marea
  • 11-02-21

Fascinating

I thought I knew most things about the Second World War but I knew very little about the Polish campaign. This comprehensive work fills in the gaps in an interesting and informative way and sheds light on a shocking and overlooked part of the war.

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  • Martin G Burgess
  • 29-10-20

A wonderful audio book.

This book brought the truth about the war in Poland and was beautifully written and presented, I’m going to buy the book and read it with a map of the region by my side.This is in my top 3 books. Brilliant.