A Minor Apocalypse: Warsaw During the First World War

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A Minor Apocalypse: Warsaw During the First World War
By Robert Blobaum
Cornell University Press, 2017
320 pp.
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Germany’s barbarity in Warsaw during World War II is well known. Here, Blobaum provides the first full-length English-language account of the city’s experience of World War I. Once the Germans occupied the city, in August 1915, an economic crisis that had begun in the first year of the war, while Warsaw was still under Russian rule, considerably worsened. As a result, the hardships of the city’s Polish and Jewish populations achieved levels rivaling what they would later suffer in the next world war, a comparison that Blobaum explores in some detail. He traces the war’s tightening grip on the economy, the swelling unemployment, the growing health crisis, the influx of refugees and wounded soldiers, and the tensions these hardships generated between the Polish and Jewish communities. He also narrates the city’s cultural twists and turns—the cabarets, cinemas, and seamy nightlifeas well as the war’s more positive contributions, such as the growth of voluntary associations and, in particular, the transformation of women’s place in society.