This section is dedicated to the men and women I have interviewed who witnessed the Second World War.
It's no exaggeration to say that the world in which we live was created in the white heat that was the Second World War. But as a social and cultural historian, I find myself less interested in the geo-political or 'Top Down' considerations, important as they are; I'm more intrigued by the thoughts, hopes and goals of the individual and how they tied in to the overall experience of being at war.
It is worth reflecting that we are the last historians able to question the men and women alive to witness the events we so often write of and read about. Thus it is important we try to capture as many oral accounts as possible. And while oral history is full of pitfalls and sometimes raises more questions than answers, not to record these voices and memories would be an academic loss of unimaginable proportions. Fortunately, museums, archives and agencies have been doing this with great zeal over the past decade or more. Still, there is much work to be done but with time now running out as the last generation to fight in the frontlines fades away.
I hope readers will find the stories of the Poles in the Second World War of particular interest. The Polish war record, while ably recorded in their mother tongue, has, for one reason or another, often been overlooked by many English-speaking historians. Thankfully, this is being fast corrected and the number of excellent works carefully charting Poland's war and the wider conflict in Central and Eastern Europe continues to grow, offering valuable reappraisals that are essential reading. In some small part, I hope to offer readers a little bit more insight here.
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