THE GERMAN INVASION OF POLAND IN 1939 AND THE FINAL SOLUTION
Films to Watch
Listening to the stories in Centropa's new exhibition at the Galicija Jewish Museum in Krakow take us into the prewar lives of our ten interviewees, how they survived the Holocaust, and about their lives afterwards. Listen to this podcast in English, German, Hebrew, or Polish.
Books to Read
Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II , by Roger Moorhouse
A page turner and an excellent military history. Moorhouse tells the story of how Poland was torn apart by Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union that fateful September. Timothy Snyder praises the book in this New York Times review (possibly behind a paywall) and Moorhouse generously quotes from both German and Polish original sources.
Moorhouse does pull his punches, though, and does not delve into Poland’s duplicitous interwar foreign policy: it sold arms to both sides in the Spanish Civil War, then helped itself to territory when the Germans tore Czechoslovakia apart. Still worth the read.
In the Garden of Memory: a Family Memoir, by Joanna Olczak-Ronikier
Published in Poland in 2001 and in Great Britain in 2004, this award-winning family story reads like one of the great 19th century novels. Olczak-Roniker is a journalist as well as a screenwriter for the late Andrzej Wajda. Remarkably, all but two of her family members made it through the Holocaust.
Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film, by Glenn Kurtz
The author, who received his PhD from Stanford in German Studies, is also a musician and freelance writer. In 2009 Kurtz stumbled upon a 1938 home movie, when his grandparents took a vacation to Europe and visited his hometown of Nasielsk in Poland. Watching the three minutes of footage from the town, Kurtz began a journey that took him four years, led him to several dead ends, and eventually brought him face to face with eight people identified in the footage. This is a deeply felt, well researched book and we highly recommend it. Here is Peter Lewis’ review in the CS Monitor.
Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews and Ukrainians, 1919-1945, by Shimon Redlich
Redlich, a historian, specializes in Lithuanian and East European Jewry at Ben Gurion University in Israel. In this book, he combines his personal recollections of a small town that had been in Poland, is now in Ukraine, and will forever be part of the lost land of Galicia.
Galicia was peopled by Poles, who remember the region one way, Ukrainians, who have their own stories, and Jews, who had lived there for a millennium. So different are their memories that a recent exhibition entitled The Myth Of Galicia, actually had four different entrances to it: Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, and—not to be forgotten—Austrian. It was, after all, the Austrians who invented the name Galicia in the late 1790s.
Redlich accomplishes something remarkable: he combines all three narratives into one so he can compare and contrast them. With interviews he conducted in Brzezany, in Canada, and in Israel, he paints a picture of life in the town before, during, and after the war. Marco Carynnyk has written this insightful review for Gesher Galicia.