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Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning Paperback – September 6, 2016
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A New York Times Bestseller
A 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 and the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Book Award
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
"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 On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century and 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.
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This book absolutely requires a solid background on the history, because Snyder's analysis, while interesting, at times takes some flights of fancy and rejects the more widespread and accepted theories of the "Final Solution." If this is a first in-depth read on the Shoah, it would be a poor choice indeed. But for informed readers, Snyder makes some very interesting points and observations which can be profitably filtered through more conventional interpretations.One of his major threads is that the destruction of nation states by both the Nazis and the Soviet Union, such as Poland, Latvia and Estonia---anti-Semitic as they certainly were--deprived the Jews of any protection offered by even the minimal formerly existing laws, And thus, in stateless, and lawless societies, the path to mass murder was paved. Definitely not a basic text, but worth reading and thinking about.
Two important themes run through this book. First, that most victims of the Holocaust had already been murdered, over open pits by "ordinary men," before Auschwitz began systematically gassing Jews:
"Auschwitz has also become the standard shorthand of the Holocaust because, when treated in a certain mythical and reductive way, it seems to separate the mass murder of Jews from human choices and actions.... When the mass murder of Jews is limited to an exceptional place and treated as the result of impersonal procedures, then we need not confront the fact that people not very different from us murdered other people not very different from us at close quarters."
And second, that the integrity of a state--whether it had been occupied by the Nazis or doubly occupied, first by the Soviets and then by the Nazis, and in the process essentially rendered a non-state--was closely linked to survival:
"The likelihood that Jews would be sent to their deaths depended upon the durability of institutions of state sovereignty and the continuity of prewar citizenship. These structures created the matrix within which individual choices were made, the constraints upon those who did evil, and the possibilities for those who wished to do good."
Snyder's previous book "Bloodlands" has much to say about the first theme; it's the second that has made me think about the Holocaust from a new perspective and is an idea that makes it both necessary and possible to gauge our future with an appropriate dose of caution.