- Series: East European Monographs (Book 604)
- Hardcover: 399 pages
- Publisher: East European Monographs; 1st edition (September 15, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0880335025
- ISBN-13: 978-0880335027
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,004,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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World War II through Polish Eyes 1st Edition
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Szonert shows a novelist's skill in providing a richly detailed account of the war's devastating impact... The book should attract readers interested in recent Polish history, including young people.(Monika Mieroszewska Polish Library News)
About the Author
Maria Szonert-Binienda is an attorney living in Akron, OH.
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Null and Void is a tremendous contribution to the Polish WW II experience and the post war experience bringing to light the suffering of Polish AK members at the hands of their own country. This is not something that has been written about widely and her thesis of the subject of her book being between two imperialist powers stood as a powerful metaphor for Poland and its history.
WW II Through Polish Eyes is a different kind of contribution. It is the story of Danuta, her family and their live before the war and during the war. It is the story of an ordinary woman; not a privileged woman but an ordinary one and the extraordinary experiences during this time in history. There are not many books written in English on this subject, especially in recounting what it was like to live from day to day in this turmoil and with constant terror. This is among the handful of books that fills that gap. It is one thing to read about the WW II experience and narrative from the standpoint of a historical or military work; it is altogether a more interesting one to read how people experienced it and coped from reading about the intimate details of that day to day coping. It expands the narrative in a rich way. Bravo to Ms. Szobert for adding this and helping to put a very human face on WW II in Poland.
Ms. Szonert is successful in making us truly engage with this delightful woman, Danuta who I am sure was somehow related, by blood or marriage to Ms. Szonert. The smallest facets about Danuta are detailed in the book, and I cannot imagine that they would have been shared with Ms. Szonert if there was not some relationship there. Danuta was an enchanting woman and I took great pleasure in "getting to know her."
There are a few observations that I have about this book. First, the use of the present tense did not really work for me. I'm not sure whether her editors suggested it to increase a sense of immediacy, but I found it a bit ungainly to read, as opposed to a more conventional past tense.
There are also a number of places which I thought needed editing for sentences to be re-worked because they were a bit awkward. E.g. "Alek pulls out from his infinite pocket a white handkerchief, nearly the size of a tablecloth". Infinite is an odd word to use there, but aside from that, the sentence would have been smoother if written: Alek pulled a table sized handkerchief from his pocket. I'm not sure if the book had the benefit of a professional English or American editor but it would have helped immensely for one to have had a go at the manuscript. Sentences like this are easily re-worked.
Which brings me back to Null and Void, in which I didn't stumble on any such sentences - a much better written and gripping book. Both are very worthy efforts and it was exciting for me personally to compare the two and see the growth of a very, very good writer.
The taking of a tiny disputed border area of Zaolza (Trans-Olza, of Cieszyn: Teschen), during the 1938 Nazi-sponsored dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, has at times been misrepresented as a Polish aggressive act. In contrast, Szonert understands this event as follows: "His (Beck's) defenders argue that his annexation of Zaolzie was aimed at the Munich policy and Germany's increasing power rather than at Czechoslovakia as such. If not Poland, then Germany would take over Zaolzie with its sizable Polish population and strategic industrial base with the largest steel mill in Europe. Colonel Beck makes this bold move to prevent the German penetration of Poland's southern borders vital to Polish defense." (p. 25).
The events up to the 1939 German attack included German fifth-column activities. These are well described. (e. g., p. 70). The brutalities of the German occupation are featured. There is an extensive account of a Polish prisoner at Auschwitz. Projected to live no more than 3 months, he survived. In time, he was released.
Holocaust-uniqueness proponents have argued that Polish prisoners could sometimes be released from Nazi custody, but Jews never. [Actually, some Jews were released--such as the 1,500 in the Kastner-Eichmann deal.] Szonert's data (p. 258) makes it obvious that, while it is true that Polish prisoners could be released, this also was very exceptional. Of several tens of thousands of prisoners at Auschwitz in 1941, some 300 were released, amounting to less than one percent.
Szonert puts the Nazi system in perspective, going beyond the usual Judeocentric approach. She comments: "Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis built or set up about nine thousand concentration camps including main camps and their auxiliaries. It is estimated that about 18 million people from 30 nations went through these concentration camps." (p. 271).
Throughout this book, seldom-mentioned information is included. For instance, Szonert cites sources that estimate that the Germans employed the same number of soldiers to crush the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 as they had in Rommel's North Africa Campaign of 1941-1943. (p. 341).
Szonert's work also includes brief flashbacks to earlier times in Polish history. The szlachta, or Polish nobility, ranged from magnates that owned vast estates and even their own armies, down to petty gentry that worked the land like the peasantry. The szlachta at times reached the unheard-of 15% of the Polish population--the largest noble class in any country at the time. (p. 324).
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This powerful story depicts the gehenna of one Polish family during the greatest human catastrophe in Poland's...Read more