18 December 2019 19:30
Roger is a fluent German speaker and a specialist in modern German history, particularly on Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. He has written for many national newspapers including, The Times, The Independent on Sunday, and the Financial Times, and is a regular contributor to both the BBC History magazine and History Today.
As a speaker he has appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Bath Literature Festival. Since 2016, he has been a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Natolin near Warsaw. He also conducts educational tours of Germany and Poland and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
He is also the author of books including – ‘Killing Hitler’, ‘Berlin at War’, ‘The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941’ and the subject of tonight’s talk, ‘First to Fight: The Polish War 1939’.
The Second World War began on 1 September 1939, when German tanks, trucks and infantry crossed the Polish border, and the Luftwaffe began bombing Poland’s cities. The Polish army fought bravely but could not withstand an attacker superior in numbers and technology; and when the Red Army invaded from the east – as agreed in the pact Hitler had concluded with Stalin – the country’s fate was sealed.
Despite prefacing many of that conflict's later horrors – the wanton targeting of civilians, indiscriminate bombing and ethnic cleansing etc., the Polish campaign is the forgotten story of the Second World War.
Polish forces put up a spirited defence, in the expectation that they would be assisted by their British and French allies. That assistance never came.
Poland was the first to fight the German aggressor and it was the first to suffer the full murderous force of Nazi persecution. By the end of the Second World War, one in five of its people had perished