Foreword by Neal Ascherson
By any standards, Waldemar Lotnik's experience of the Second World War was remarkable. Fighting in the Polish Resistance, his unit was engaged in a bitter ethnic conflict with pro-Nazi Ukrainians. Unknown in the West, this struggle was, like that raging at the same time between Serbs and Croats, provoked by the Germans arming one ethnic group and unleashing it against a rival. Lotnik described with total and sometimes frightening candour his part in a war without rules that claimed at least half a million lives.
Captured by the Germans, Lotnik was taken to the Majdanek concentration camp. There he carted corpses to the crematorium and, like every inmate, fought a day-to-day battle for survival. When the camp was liberated, he volunteered for the new 'Red' Polish air force and, while training to fly, was recruited by the KGB to inform on his comrades. After deserting, he joined the Polish Home Army, which in the summer of 1945 was fighting a desperate but doomed battle against the country's new occupiers. With the Soviets' victory never seriously in doubt, he escaped to the West to begin a new life.
'An unforgettable book ... one of the most tragic and horrifying memoirs to emerge from the Second World War.'
'Reveals a major hidden episode in Europe's bloody history of ethnic violence .... The parallels with recent events in the Balkans are striking.'
'An exceptional book ... it tells a story from a perspective we rarely, if ever, are able to see.'
Anne Appelbaum, Literary Review
'Vivid and disturbing ... Ably reconstructed with the help of Julian Preece, Lotnik's memoir sheds lights on a relatively unknown conflict waged within the larger drama on the Eastern Front, and hence on the topical theme of how neighbours can turn on each other with terrifying savagery, as we have recently seen in the Balkans.'
Times Literary Supplement