Poland, 1918-1945. an Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic

Article excerpt

Peter D. Stachura. Poland, 1918-1945. An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic. London: Routledge, 2004. xii, 221 pp. Bibliography. Chronology. Statistical Data. Index. Paper.

The appearance of a primary source collection devoted to the second Polish Republic and to the war-time period should be welcomed by undergraduate instructors. Peter Stachura's Poland 1918-1945 is divided into the following 10 thematically defined chapters: Independence Regained; Consolidation; Society and Economy; Politics; Ethnic Minorities; Culture and Education; Foreign Policy; Occupation and Resistance; the Jewish Holocaust and the Poles; and Defeat in Victory. Each chapter begins with Stachura's own several-page-long summary of the given theme and period and is designed to contextualize, in broad ways, the documents that follow. While these introductions provide an interpretive framework and background for understanding the documents, they stop short of analyzing each specific selection directly. As such, there remains plenty of opportunity for students to engage in this analysis themselves.

The majority of documents come from Polish primary sources, both published and unpublished, and these are supplemented by a good number of extracts from British primary sources, in addition to some German, Jewish and Ukrainian ones. Stachura has also included the occasional extract from secondary sources. We have here arguably famous texts, like the 1919 Minorities' Treaty (Doc. 59) and the secret protocol of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939 (Doc. 94). But we also have little-known but also interesting texts, such as a 1920 propaganda leaflet from the Polish Communists (Doc. 24), for example, and a contemporary reaction to the 1930 elections drawn from the Manchester Guardian (Doc. 53).

The few chapters of the book that deal with the World War Two era are designed to eomincnd Poles for their war-time heroism and patriotism, and to condemn what Stachura regards as the great betrayal of Poland by the western Allies. In these chapters, too, Stachura's antipathy to Communists and to the postwar Communist regime is pronounced. …