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The Pole truthMicrocosm - Portrait of a Central European CityNorman Davies and Roger MoorhouseJonathan Cape 20 pp585The irrepressible Norman Davies returns with yet another weighty tome This time he is aided by his former student Roger Moorhouse who also assisted with Daviess The Isles A History Such is the ambition of Microcosm that Davies enlisted the research skills of a further 60 specialists which may leave you wondering whether this compendious book is itself best read in teamsThe city in question is Wroclaw in Silesia west Poland now a thriving university city 190km south-west of Warsaw and 160km from the German border Wroclaws location in the corridor of central Europe the lands in-between granted it a position on the busiest east-west trade routes and since its origination in the eighth century the city has attracted a relentless flow of migrants and no end of troubleIn his introduction undoubtedly the most cogent section of the book Davies outlines his long-standing efforts to overcome the artificial division of European history into East and West Already something of a cultural hero in Poland due to the success of Gods Playground A History of Poland in two volumes Davies has in mind a reconciliation between the competing versions of the citys history as German Breslau and Polish WroclawThe opening chapter Gtterdmmerung 1945 sets the scene It is a searing account of the fall of German Breslau at the end of the Second World War Amid the rubble of a city in utter confusion and in temperatures of minus 20 the remaining Germans attempt to flee as the Red Army thunders in mass murder rape and looting all savage manifestations of the vengeance they seekHere the authors have marshalled their formidable research into readable prose while maintaining that distinctive Davies touch of an even-handed history For a city whose national identity language and borders have been endlessly contested this is an achievement in itselfThe authors approach is to travel through
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