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Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 8, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


New York Times Bestseller
New York Times Editors' Choice
Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by The Washington Post, The Economist, and Publishers Weekly
Finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize
Shortlisted for the 2016 Mark Lynton History Prize

Praise for Black Earth:

"Clear-eyed . . . Arresting . . . An unorthodox and provocative account . . . Snyder is admirably relentless." The New Yorker

"Black Earth is mesmerizing . . . Remarkable . . . Gripping . . . Disturbingly vivid . . . Mr. Snyder is sometimes mordant, often shocked, always probing.” —The Wall Street Journal

"Revelatory . . . Evocative . . . Most relevant today." The Atlantic

“A very fine book . . . Snyder identifies the conditions that allowed the Holocaust—conditions our society today shares . . . He certainly couldn’t be more right about our world.” The New Republic

“An unflinching look at the Holocaust . . . Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present.” —The New York Times

“Snyder’s historical account has a vital contemporary lesson . . . It’s a testament to his intellectual and moral resources that he can so deeply contemplate this horrific past in ways that strengthen his commitment to building a future based on law, rights, and citizenship.” —The Washington Post

"Black Earth elucidates human catastrophe in regions with which a Western audience needs to become familiar.” —The New York Times Book Review

“An impressive reassessment of the Holocaust, which steers an assured course [and] challenges readers to reassess what they think they know and believe . . . Black Earth will prove uncomfortable reading for many who hew to cherished but mythical elements of Holocaust history.” The Economist

“Excellent in every respect . . . Although I read widely about the Holocaust, I learned something new in every chapter. The multilingual Snyder has mined contemporaneous Eastern European sources that are often overlooked.” —Stephen Carter, Bloomberg

“In Black Earth, a book of the greatest importance, Snyder now forces us to look afresh at these monumental crimes. Written with searing intellectual honesty, his new study goes much deeper than Bloodlands in its analysis, showing how the two regimes fed off each other.” —Antony Beevor, The Sunday Times

"Snyder is both a great historian and a lively journalist . . . If we understood the Nazi horror more clearly, we might be less susceptible to those who misremember the past to mislead us in the present. Snyder's Black Earth, like Bloodlands before it, is an indispensable contribution to that clearer understanding." —Commentary

“Snyder writes elegant, lucid, powerful prose. He has read widely in literatures not widely read. In Black Earth he has synthesized previous work into a narrative of the Holocaust that recasts the familiar in unfamiliar terms that challenge the thinking of experts and non-experts alike.” —Haaretz

“No matter how many histories, biographies, and memoirs you may have already read, Black Earth will compel you to see the Holocaust in a wholly new and revelatory light.” The Jewish Journal

"Timothy Snyder is now our most distinguished historian of evil. Black Earth casts new light on old darkness. It demonstrates once and for all that the destruction of the Jews was premised on the destruction of states and the institutions of politics. I know of no other historical work on the Holocaust that is so deeply alarmed by its repercussions for the human future. This is a haunted and haunting book—erudite, provocative, and unforgettable." —Leon Wieseltier

"In this unusual and innovative book, Timothy Snyder takes a fresh look at the intellectual origins of the Holocaust, placing Hitler's genocide firmly in the politics and diplomacy of 1930s Europe. Black Earth is required reading for anyone who cares about this difficult period of history." —Anne Applebaum

“Timothy Snyder's bold new approach to the Holocaust links Hitler's racial worldview to the destruction of states and the quest for land and food. This insight leads to thought-provoking and disturbing conclusions for today's world. Black Earth uses the recent past's terrible inhumanity to underline an urgent need to rethink our own future." —Ian Kershaw

"Part history, part political theory, Black Earth is a learned and challenging reinterpretation." —Henry Kissinger

"Black Earth
is provocative, challenging, and an important addition to our understanding of the Holocaust.  As he did in Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder makes us rethink those things we were sure we already knew." —Deborah Lipstadt

“Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth is not only a powerful exposure of the horrors of the Holocaust but also a compelling dissection of the Holocaust’s continuing threat.” —Zbigniew Brzezinski

"Timothy Snyder argues, eloquently and convincingly, that the world is still susceptible to the inhuman impulses that brought about the Final Solution. This book should be read as admonition by presidents, prime ministers, and in particular by anyone who believes that the past is somehow behind us." —Jeffrey Goldberg

About the Author

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, which received the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hannah Arendt Prize, and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. Snyder is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement and a former contributing editor at The New Republic. He is a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences, serves as the faculty advisor for the Fortunoff Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tim Duggan Books; 1St Edition edition (September 8, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1101903457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101903452
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

From the Manufacturer

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ash Jogalekar TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 3, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Every time there’s a new upcoming book on the Holocaust one is compelled to ask what could be different about it. While no amount of literature on this unspeakable tragedy can suffice to truly allow us to comprehend it, it’s worth asking whether we can potentially learn new insights about it that could lead to understanding and wisdom. Fortunately historian Timothy Snyder’s book answers this question with a resounding yes. Snyder has produced an original and nuanced interpretation of the Holocaust that goes beyond almost every single simplistic and overarching belief that we may harbor about it. It is a valuable addition even to the vast literature on the topic.

The principal argument of Snyder’s book is that the Holocaust was made possible by the obliteration of the identity of the state in various countries. While it wouldn’t have been possible without Hitler’s murderous racial beliefs, it would have been far more difficult to implement had not the right political conditions existed in the various countries which the Nazis conquered. Where the state retained its prewar political, bureaucratic and legal machinery far fewer Jews were killed; where it did not Jews saw almost complete obliteration of their communities. And it is this emphasis on the state as the enabler or disabler of the Holocaust that leads Snyder to see both disturbing complicity and hope in human nature. This is because the state is yours; it is not foreign. Your own state abandoning you is far damning that any kind of foreign invasion.

The key role that the preservation or destruction of the state played in saving the lives of Jews is apparent in the fact that the vast majority of Jews – including German Jews - were killed by the Nazis in stateless zones.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
History, particularly as it is taught in our public schools, comes to us filtered down through the perspectives of those involved. Nations want to see themselves in the best light, and we, as citizens, want to accept that what we're taught is the unbiased truth. The whole truth; not just the bits and pieces considered relevant by those in charge of textbooks and curriculum. Often only time and distance allows us to see clearly the entire picture, exactly as it played out, without distorting the view. Timothy Snyder gives us that gift here, and it's one we need to accept and acknowledge.

This book is not an easy read. We can't expect it to be. The content is harsh, disturbing, and frightening. The facts are laid out for us here and we can't look away. We can't make excuses. Millions of innocent people were murdered, while nations stood by and allowed it, or even assisted.

The content here is also complex. It's not a book you're likely to read quickly. This is one of those books that takes time to absorb. That being said, the author does a phenomenal job of putting it all together. The timeline is consistent and precise. We start well before WWII, back when the USSR was formed and forced starvation was taking place in the Ukraine. We see how this, along with other events, paved the way for Hitler's Holocaust. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, least of all international events of this magnitude. Hitler, as vicious as he was, did not act alone. Germany did not act alone. Somewhere, the spark turned into a flame. Along the way, others were complicit. Nowhere have I read such an intricate, detailed, terrifying account exposing the truth of WWII.

This is a timely read. History does not repeat itself, exactly. We don't have a second Hitler on the rise.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As an avid reader of the Second World War, I own numerous volumes covering the Holocaust. Most of these books are either first-person accounts (victim and perpetrator) or works of historical reference. Timothy Snyder’s BLACK EARTH offers a unique view of (arguably) history’s greatest atrocity by focusing on the elements that enabled such “effortless” mass-killing. While I found the book’s basic premise to be stimulating; I felt the author’s penchant for reiteration on some subject matters to be tedious and, at times, confusing. Additionally, the final “history as a warning” chapter seemed unnecessarily out-of-place and somewhat alarmist (and opinionated) in nature.

Snyder’s view on the Holocaust is both eye-opening and unique. Rather than focusing on what happened and why, he delves into the issues that enabled such an atrocity to not only happen, but grow with impunity. We get a better understanding that while Hitler and the Nazi’s carry the banner of notoriety associated with the “Final Solution”, they were certainly not alone in implementing its goals. Additionally, Snyder sheds light on how the very elements that permitted mass killing dictated why the probability of survival favored some Jews over others.

I found much of Snyder’s work quite fascinating as he explains how statelessness became the chief facilitator in executing the Nazi’s anti-Semitic quest of “Lebensraum”. His argument that the dissolution of the state leaves people powerless, un-represented and ultimately unprotected. Answering the question of what to do with such people is simple … anything you want. Although not the CAUSE of the killing (an ideological matter), it enabled the killing to spread relatively unchecked.
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