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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin Paperback – October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

If there is an explanation for the political killing perpetrated in eastern Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, historian Snyder roots it in agriculture. Stalin wanted to collectivize farmers; Hitler wanted to eliminate them so Germans could colonize the land. The dictators wielded frightening power to advance such fantasies toward reality, and the despots toted up about 14 million corpses between them, so stupefying a figure that Snyder sets himself three goals here: to break down the number into the various actions of murder that comprise it, from liquidation of the kulaks to the final solution; to restore humanity to the victims via surviving testimony to their fates; and to deny Hitler and Stalin any historical justification for their policies, which at the time had legions of supporters and have some even today. Such scope may render Snyder’s project too imposing to casual readers, but it would engage those exposed to the period’s chronology and major interpretive issues, such as the extent to which the Nazi and Soviet systems may be compared. Solid and judicious scholarship for large WWII collections. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Fareed Zakaria GPS, Book of the Week
“If you want to understand the real history of what is going on between Ukraine and Russia and the West, you have to read this harrowing history. Between 1943 and 1945, 14 million people died in Eastern Europe, killed by Stalin or Hitler. Snyder explains why and how this part of the world became the 20th century’s hell hole.”

New York Times Book Review
“Timothy Snyder…compels us to look squarely at the full range of destruction committed first by Stalin’s regime and then by Hitler’s Reich. Each fashioned a terrifying orgy of deliberate mass killing.... Snyder punctuates his comprehensive and eloquent account with brief glimpses of individual victims, perpetrators and witnesses.”

The New Republic, Editors’ Picks: Best Books of 2010
“Between 1933 and 1945, 14 million people were murdered in Eastern Europe. Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin catalogues how, where, and why these millions died. The cumulative effect makes you reconsider every aspect of modern Europe and World War II. Along the way, Snyder achieves something more vital: he wrests back some human dignity for those who died, without treating them solely as victims.”
 
Washington Post
“Snyder’s research is careful and thorough, his narrative powerful.... By including Soviet with German mass atrocities in his purview, Timothy Snyder begins the necessary but as yet still taboo examination of the full depravity of total war as it was practiced in the 20th century, before the advent of nuclear weapons foreclosed it.”
 
The Economist, Books of the Year
“How Stalin and Hitler enabled each other’s crimes and killed 14m people between the Baltic and the Black Sea. A lifetime’s work by a Yale University historian who deserves to be read and reread.”

The Financial Times
“[A] superb and harrowing history.... Snyder presents material that is undeniably fresh – what’s more, it comes from sources in languages with which very few western academics are familiar. The success of Bloodlands really lies in its effective presentation of cold, hard scholarship, which is in abundance.”
 
Ian Thomson, Telegraph (UK)
“In this scrupulously researched history.... Snyder does not argue for a supposed moral equivalence between Hitler’s extermination of the Jews and the earlier Stalinist extermination of the kulaks. On the contrary, the industrial exploitation of corpses and their ashes was a uniquely Hitlerian atrocity—a unique instance of human infamy. Nevertheless, this is the first book in English to explore both German and Soviet mass killings together. As a history of political mass murder, Bloodlands serves to illuminate the political sickness that reduced 14 million people to the status of non-persons.”

Samuel Moyn, The Nation
“Snyder is perhaps the most talented younger historian of modern Europe working today. Astonishingly prolific, he grounds his work in authoritative mastery of the facts, mining tomes of information in multiple languages and brilliantly synthesizing his findings. At the very least, Bloodlands is valuable for its astounding narrative integration of a gruesome era of European history.... A preternaturally gifted prose stylist, [Snyder] strives for a moral urgency appropriate to his depressing topics, and he rarely succumbs to bathos.... [B]y any measure Bloodlands is a remarkable, even triumphant accomplishment.”
 
Istvan Deak, The New Republic
“[A] genuinely shattering report on the ideology, the political strategy, and the daily horror of Soviet and Nazi rule in the region that Timothy Snyder calls the bloodlands.... Timothy Snyder did archival research in English, German, Yiddish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Russian, and French. His learning is extraordinary. His vivid imagination leads him to see combinations, similarities, and general trends where others would see only chaos and confusion.... This is an important book. I have never seen a book like it.”
 
The Economist
“[G]ripping and comprehensive.... 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…. Even those who pride themselves on knowing their history will find themselves repeatedly brought up short by his insights, contrasts and comparisons.... Mr. Snyder’s scrupulous and nuanced book steers clear of the sterile, sloganising exchanges about whether Stalin was as bad as Hitler, or whether Soviet mass murder in Ukraine or elsewhere is a moral equivalent of the Nazis’ extermination of the Jews. What it does do, admirably, is to explain and record. Both totalitarian empires turned human beings into statistics, and their deaths into a necessary step towards a better future. Mr. Snyder’s book explains, with sympathy, fairness and insight, how that happened, and to whom.”
 
Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books
“[A] brave and original history of mass killing in the twentieth century.... Snyder’s original contribution is to treat all of these episodes—the Ukrainian famine, the Holocaust, Stalin’s mass executions, the planned starvation of Soviet POWs, postwar ethnic cleansing—as different facets of the same phenomenon. Instead of studying Nazi atrocities or Soviet atrocities separately, as many others have done, he looks at them together. Yet Snyder does not exactly compare the two systems either. His intention, rather, is to show that the two systems committed the same kinds of crimes at the same times and in the same places, that they aided and abetted one another, and above all that their interaction with one another led to more mass killing than either might have carried out alone.”

Wall Street Journal
"Bloodlands does what every truly important book should: It makes us see the world differently.”
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031474
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (447 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. Before joining the faculty at Yale in 2001, he held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard. He has spent some ten years in Europe, and speaks five and reads ten European languages. Among his publications are several award-winning books, all of which have been translated: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1998, revised edition 2016); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (2008); and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010). Bloodlands won twelve awards including the Emerson Prize in the Humanities, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Leipzig Award for European Understanding, and the Hannah Arendt Prize in Political Thought. It has been translated into more than thirty languages, was named to twelve book-of-the-year lists, and was a bestseller in six countries. His forthcoming book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, will be published by Crown Books in September 2015 and in twenty-one foreign editions thereafter. Snyder is also the co-editor of Wall Around the West: State Borders and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (2001) and Stalin and Europe: Terror, War, Domination (2013). He helped Tony Judt to compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012). Some of Snyder's essays on the Ukrainian revolution were published in in Russian and Ukrainian as Ukrainian History, Russian Politics, European Futures (2014). Other essays will be published in Czech as The Politics of Life and Death (2015). Snyder sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Modern European History and East European Politics and Societies. His scholarly articles have appeared in Past and Present, the Journal of Cold War Studies, and other journals; he has also written for The New York Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, and The New Republic as well as for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers. Snyder was the recipient of an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2015. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and sits on the advisory councils of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research and other organizations.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

417 of 430 people found the following review helpful By Richard E. Hegner on October 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rarely have I encountered a history that is as enlightening and thought-provoking as Snyder's account of the impact of forced starvation, genocide, war, ethnic cleansing, and geographic re-location on the peoples of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic Republics, and the formerly German Reich over the two decades between 1933 and 1953, when Stalin died. Residents of the region of Europe he calls the Bloodlands experienced atrocities of an unprecedented nature and scope in this period. What is especially striking is how many people were victimized multiple times in this relatively brief period--first by the Soviet authorities, then by the Germans, and then again by the Soviets as Stalin and Hitler imposed their insane doctrines on civilian populations.

Snyder is an extremely skillful writer and holds the reader's attention throughout in what could easily have been a dry treatise on the demographic dimensions of human suffering. He skillfully weaves in the gripping stories of individual people caught in the maelstrom, giving a human face to the numbers. I have to disagree with one reviewer who alleges this is just another study of the similarities between Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism; Snyder is careful to compare and contrast these two tyrannical regimes.

This is an engrossing book, but may be a bit too ambitious for people without some familiarity with modern European history. However, it is certainly worth reading and gives valuable new perspectives on the impact of the 30s, World War II, and the Postwar Era on residents of Eastern Europe. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the history of the period.
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234 of 242 people found the following review helpful By WryGuy2 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" by Timothy Snyder, is a book about the intentional mass murder of over 14 million people between 1930 and 1947 in a general area that encompasses what is now Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, and western Russia. And by murder, I mean that. As part of that 14 million number, Mr. Snyder counts only those that were outright killed, intentionally starved, or otherwise were put to death outside of military actions or by being worked to death. If you were to include the deaths that could have been predictably forseen as a result of certain actions taken, that number jumps to between 17 and 21 million people who were killed.

The author breaks the killing periods into 5 general subsets ... Stalin starving the Ukrainian kulaks in 1932-1933, Stalin's Great Terror of 1937-1938, Hitler and Stalin murdering and otherwise removing Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian intelligentsias from 1939-1941, Hitler's murdering the Jewish population and "undesirables" of many countries, intentionally starving Russian POWs and Soviet civilians, and executing civilians as part of partisan reprisals in 1941 - 1945, and people who died as a result of forced resettlements in 1945-1947.

While I've read extensively about World War II, I learned a great deal from this book. As one example, there were no purely death camps in Germany proper, the Germans built those in occupied Poland. While there were concentrations camps in Germany and many of these camps contained extermination chambers, their primary function was as forced-labor camps. Personnel assigned to the labor camps had a slim chance of surviving. There were 6 death, or extermination, camps set up in Poland ... Auschwitz, Chelmno, Belzed, Majdanek, Soribor, and Treblinka.
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122 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on October 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would suggest taking a careful look at the Kindle edition of this book (the free sample) before ordering it: I downloaded the sample of this book and quickly discovered that the maps in the Kindle version were almost illegible. The book looked fascinating, and the maps are important, so I ordered the hardbound version instead.
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I have now owned the hardbound edition of this book for a week or two, and, although the book is excellent in every way, my reading progress has been slow because the subject matter is both terrifying and depressing. So far, the book has demolished many of my hazy ideas about what happened in the Bloodlands.

For example, I had a never-closely-examined "picture" of how Hitler killed six million Jews. That would be as follows: he rounded up the Jews living in Germany, took them to concentration camps like Auschwitz, and gassed them. We have all seen the film footage, which makes an indelible impression.

It turns out that my "picture" is completely wrong. Germany simply did not have enough Jews, and a huge number escaped through emigration while it was still allowed. The total of German Jews killed was 175,000. That is (don't mistake my meaning) in itself an incomprehensible, enormous number, but it does not account for six million dead. What Hitler did, in fact, was to conquer Poland (with the connivance of Stalin) and begin massacring Polish and East European Jews. A huge number were simply shot and tossed into unmarked mass graves. There were also "killing camps" (NOT concentration camps) where the average "stay" was just a day or two, and the victims were gassed without any pretense of work whatsoever.
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