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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin…

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Timothy Snyder

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Title:Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
Authors:Timothy Snyder
Info:Basic Books (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 544 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder (2010)


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A comprehensive catalog of the policies of mass killing carried out in lands occupied at one time by the Nazi regime and another by the Soviet regime. The concluding essay is pretty. ( )
  jcvogan1 | Mar 28, 2014 |
Quite an unique and intelligent work bringing out the new information on this part of the world since the fall of the Soviet system. ( )
  JayLivernois | Mar 10, 2014 |
Reviewing a book you love, can be as difficult as reviewing a book you hate. In the latter case, you want to be fair and not flaming. In the former, you want to be fair and not fawning. When it comes to this book, however, I can’t help but gush. I thought I knew a fair amount about the Holocaust: it’s history, it’s victims, and even the more subtle question of Why? But in [Bloodlands], Timothy Snyder takes everything I thought I knew and puts it in a new context that completely changes the way I view the entire period from 1933 to 1945.

The premise of the book is that in the area between the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line and the Urals lie territories that were under the control of both the Germans and the Russians at some point between 1933 and 1945, an area he calls the Bloodlands. It includes Latvia and Lithuania, eastern Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia. In these lands, 14 million people were deliberately killed by a combination of Nazi and Soviet policies. This number does not include those who died of exertion, disease, or malnutrition in the camp or during deportment; forced laborers; civilians who died in bombings or wartime hunger; nor does it include the 12 million German and Soviet soldiers who died in WWII. It’s 14 million civilians who were murdered by deliberate policy in this strip of ground unfortunate enough to be occupied by the Germans and the Soviets (often undergoing three separate occupations: Soviet, German, then Soviet again).

So who were these 14 million people? To begin with, the 3 million Ukrainians that Stalin deliberately starved to death in pursuit of collectivization. Although I knew somewhat of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, I was shocked by some of the policy decisions that makes this a premeditated mass murder. For instance, that Stalin had the borders of the country closed so that the starving peasants couldn’t escape; that after requisitioning all the food that they had and imposing a meat tax in order to take the livestock, he then black listed the villages so that they could not even trade for food with other villages; that he closed the Ukrainian cities so that peasants could not beg for food. And perhaps most astonishing of all, goes from calling the famine a plot by saboteurs, to a deliberate attack on him, Stalin, and the progression of the Soviet Union to a communist ideal. Stalin becomes the victim, and starvation becomes an aggressive act tied to Ukrainian nationalism that turns the starving into traitors subject to the death penalty.

Hitler too had a “Hunger Plan” even more ambitious than Stalin’s. Hitler had imperialist dreams, but had to confine them to Eastern Europe because of the British Navy’s supremacy on the seas. He started to see the Soviet Union as less of an ally and more of a future colony. His plan? Conquer the Soviet Union in a blitzkrieg, starve roughly 30 million Slavs to death in the first winter (1940-41), raze the cities, and create German settlements all the way to the Urals. The Ukrainian breadbasket only produced enough food for Germany, he lectured the Wehrmacht, so every time you shoot a woman or child (something ordinary soldiers had a hard time doing), you are putting food into the mouths of your own wives and children. It’s us or them. The first step in the plan, conquer the Soviet Union, was not the quick work Hitler had expected, however, and only those Slavs who fell under his direct control were starved: 4 million civilians, mostly in Leningrad, Kiev, and Kharkiv, as well as 3 million Soviet POWs (not counted in the 14 million).

As the war in the East bogged down, Hitler needed both a scapegoat and a new Final Solution to the “Jewish problem”. The first four versions of the Final Solution had to be abandoned: the idea of a giant reservation for Jews in the area of Lublin; sending the Jews to Stalin who could put them into his already existing gulag (after all Stalin had all that land east of the Urals); sending all the Jews to Madagascar; and conquering the Soviet Union and then putting all the Jews into the gulag. Himmler and Heydrich realized that Hitler needed a new plan that would reaffirm his genius and give him a new focus for the war. The new ultimate objective was not the subjugation of the Soviet Union, which was looking less likely, but the elimination of the Jews. Instead of working the Jews to death in a reservation or gulag, they were now to be systematically shot in every area the Germans conquered.

For many Americans and Western Europeans, the Holocaust has come to be symbolized by the concentration camp, particularly by Auschwitz. But the fact is more Jews were shot in the second half of 1941 alone, than were gassed at Auschwitz during the entire war. Another million were shot in 1942. The Nazis were able to convince many Ukrainians and Belorussians that the Soviet atrocities that had so recently been committed against them were in fact caused by Jewish communists. The Germans trained and armed them to assist in the monumental task of shooting millions of people. The Nazis were less willing to arm the Poles as accomplices, and wanting to save ammunition, after two years of occupation, the Germans began gassing Jews at extermination facilities: Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Triblinka, Majdanek, and one part of Auschwitz.

It began in 1941 at Belzec. Guards were recruited from the Soviet populace (mostly Ukrainians) and trained at Trawniki, while Nazi specialists from Germany who had overseen the “euthanasia” program that had gassed 70,000 Germans deemed “life unfit for life” were brought in to supervise. Only 2 or 3 Jews who arrived at Belzec survived. 434,508 did not. And it is precisely because so few people survived the extermination facilities (combined with the fact that American and British armies did not liberate them, the Soviets did) that the concentration camp continues to loom large in our minds and places like Belzec do not. Auschwitz was actually built in 1940 to intimidate the Poles, and then to house Soviet POWs. When I.G. Farben decided the camp would be an ideal place to make synthetic rubber, Slovakia sent its Jews to be used as slave labor (all of them died). In 1942 the extermination facility was added and then expanded with the addition of Birkenau in 1943.

Auschwitz was the climax of the Holocaust, reached at a moment when most Soviet and Polish Jews under German rule were already dead.

But Jews from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands (1942); Greece and now occupied Italy (1943); and Hungary (1944) could and were sent to Auschwitz to die. Although no one survived the gas chambers, 100,000 people did survive the Auschwitz labor camp. (As opposed to less than a 100 people who survived the six extermination facilities.)

If this sounds too familiar, it is because of my ineptitude at summarizing my 62 pages of notes that is at fault, because Snyder brings to light hundreds of details that have not been previously published. His research in newly opened archives guarantees surprises. In addition, he draws conclusions about the nature of the killing and the psychology of victimhood in the double-occupied territories that are entirely his own. Simply reading the introductory and concluding chapters would provide much to consider. Even more than [Gulag: A History] changed the way I think about the Soviet camps, [Bloodlands] has changed the way I think about this region and this time period. Highly recommended. ( )
13 vote labfs39 | Jan 20, 2014 |
"One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic" --Stalin ( )
  gaeta1 | Nov 9, 2013 |
This book should be required reading in all History classes. If you are a follower of this WWII read this book. This is a very good book I learned a lot more about what happened on the eastern front. ( )
  Philip100 | Apr 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Snyder’s ambition is to persuade the West—and the rest of the world—to see the war in a broader perspective. He does so by disputing popular assumptions about victims, death tolls, and killing methods—of which more in a moment—but above all about dates and geography. The title of this book, Bloodlands, is not a metaphor. Snyder’s “bloodlands,” which others have called “borderlands,” run from Poznan in the West to Smolensk in the East, encompassing modern Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus, and the edge of western Russia (see map on page 10). This is the region that experienced not one but two—and sometimes three—wartime occupations. This is also the region that suffered the most casualties and endured the worst physical destruction.

More to the point, this is the region that experienced the worst of both Stalin’s and Hitler’s ideological madness.
Mr Snyder’s book is revisionist history of the best kind: in spare, closely argued prose, with meticulous use of statistics, he makes the reader rethink some of the best-known episodes in Europe’s modern history.
added by ekorrhjulet | editThe Economist (Oct 14, 2010)
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your golden hair Margarete,
your ashen hair Shulamit

Paul Celan
"Death Fugue"
Everything flows, everything changes.
You can't board the same prison train twice.

Vasily Grossman
Everything flows
A stranger drowned on the Black Sea alone
With no to hear his prayers for forgiveness.

"Storm on the Black Sea"
Ukranian traditional song
Whole cities disappear. In nature's stead
Only a white stead to counter nonexistence.

Tomas Venclova
"The shield of Achilles"
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"Now we will live!" This is what the hungry boy liked to say, as he walked along the quiet roadside, or through the empty fields.
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In this revelatory book, Timothy Snyder offers a groundbreaking investigation of Europe's killing fields and a sustained explanation of the motives and methods of both Hitler and Stalin. He anchors the history of Hitler's Holocaust and Stalin's Terror in their time and place and provides a fresh account of the relationship between the two regime.… (more)

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