Norman Davies, a history professor at London University, argued that Poland suffered particularly devastating losses at the hands of the Nazis during World War II in a speech at the Copley Formal Lounge Wednesday afternoon.

Davies noted that while the Pope and the Catholic Church condemned the killing of Jews, they never addressed the many Poles who were killed during the war, even though three million of each group was killed in Poland.

“Poland was a laboratory of the Nazis for racial reconstruction of all racial groups in the country, not just Jews,” Davies said. “It was the most painful place on earth to be no matter who ever you were.”

At the beginning of the war, Poland was attacked simultaneously by the Nazis on its western borders and the Soviets on its eastern borders. According to Davies, this two-front attack devastated the Polish community and ultimately the nation, which suffered the largest proportion of human casualties in Europe.

Defining Polish cultural makeup during World War II, Davies called Poland a “multinational, multi-religious nation.” He tried to erase any preconceived notions of a homogenous nation solely made of Poles.

At the time, Poland hosted the largest Jewish community in Europe – approximately 10 percent of the Polish population. The nation also had an array of other ethnicities – the Ukrainians and Germans constituted the other minorities of the nation and contrasted the Catholic Polish majority. Davies said the Nazis ignored these differences. Instead, the Nazis occupied Poland and attacked everyone.

The professor also described how Poland looked to its allies for aid when it was separated into two and divided by what was called the “peace boundary” located at the middle of the region.

Though the Poles were under British army command and assisted in the Battle of Britain among others, their territory was still poorly protected and prone to attack.

Davies said three million Polish Jews were killed as well as three million Polish Catholics, which later became the greatest category of casualties after the Jews.

In order to emphasize the catastrophic consequences of World War II, Davies divided the war losses into the three categories: the Holocaust, the Polish state and the U.S.S.R. The Holocaust resulted in six million deaths, the Polish state in six million also and the U.S.S.R. in 27 million citizen deaths.

“Poland was preyed upon by the Nazis and Soviets,” Davies said. “All in all, its history is suitably horrible.”

Sponsored by the School of Foreign Service and the BMW Center of German and European Studies, the event promoted Davies’ latest book, Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw. He signed copies of the book after his presentation.

The details of the Warsaw Rising are currently on display as part of a special exhibition at the Polish Embassy in D.C.

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