Blitzkrieg Unleashed
Richard Hargreaves

This is Richard’s second book on World War II, and it is, like the first one (The Germans in Normandy), a narrative history of one of the major campaigns of the war, this time the German invasion and conquest of Poland, 1939.
This review is based on the final draft document which Richard very kindly sent to me, and I would like to also thank him for allowing us to publish this preview of the book. This does however mean that no comment can be made on pictures and maps, or quality of editing, since none of these were present in the draft available to me.
The book is an overview of the Polish campaign, starting with the background that led to the war, the final sessions in the Versailles peace negotiations of 1918. Following from that Richard takes the reader through a quick review of the political developments, with a strong focus on the question surrounding Danzig. He then discusses all elements of the campaign, from the border battles to the siege of Warsaw, in a logical manner, splitting them by time and space. The book ends on a discussion of the war crimes committed in the campaign, by both sides, and the decision to discuss these in depth is something I applaud very much. All too often campaign histories ‘forget’ that these things happened, and fail to mention them at all.

Like in his first book, Richard is mining a mix of sources, both Polish and German, and in particular a wealth of archival material from the German military sources. He also, interestingly, uses the literature that appeared in the first few years after the campaign, in which officers and soldiers published books on the exploits of their formations in the war against Poland. I cannot recall having seen somebody using these books before. They were written in the aftermath of a triumphal campaign, untempered by the smashing defeat that was to follow in 1945 and the knowledge of the crimes that the regime they fought for committed. These books therefore have a very direct link to the feelings of the time, which is in my opinion valuable in trying to understand how the participants viewed their actions then. Again, the decision to use them is laudable, and Richard manages to let the reader into the mind of the soldier at the time.

The book is a very valuable addition to the history of the Polish campaign, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the campaign. It should not be read on its own however, but should be accompanied by a campaign history focusing on the military operational moves, to help put the narrative into context. In this combination, it will provide unbeatable insight into the view of the campaign by those participating in it, and help alleviate the dryness that many find so annoying in the purely military operations narrative.

See also the interview with the author.

(Reviewed by Andreas Biermann)
Thanks to the author for the review copy.

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