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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin Hardcover – October 12, 2010

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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


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.”

The Wall Street Journal
“The story of World War II, like that of most wars, usually gets told by the victors. Diplomatic and military accounts are set largely in the West and star the morally upright Allies—the U.S., Britain and Soviet Union—in battles against fascism. The Holocaust gets its own separate history, as a case apart in its genocidal intent and human tragedy. Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin forces a dramatic shift in these perceptions…. Among his other goals in Bloodlands, Mr. Snyder attempts to put the Holocaust in context—to restore it, in a sense, to the history of the wider European conflict. This is a task that no historian can attempt without risking controversy. Yet far from minimizing Jewish suffering, Bloodlands gives a fuller picture of the Nazi killing machine.”

Guardian (London)
“[Bloodlands] modifies our view of this appalling period. . . . Snyder insists that the colossal atrocities in his ‘bloodlands’ have to be set inside a single historical frame. To look at them separately – for instance, to see Hitler’s crimes as ‘so great as to stand outside history’, or Stalin’s as a monstrous device to achieve modernisation – is to let the two dictators ‘define their own works for us’. . . .This book’s unforgettable account of the Ukraine famine shows conclusively that Stalin knew what was happening in the countryside and chose to let it run its course. . . . The figures are so huge and so awful that grief could grow numb. But Snyder, who is a noble writer as well as a great researcher, knows that. He asks us not to think in those round numbers.”
The Sunday Times (London)
“This is a superb work of scholarship, full of revealing detail, cleverly compiled from a number of previously little-known sources, and in places beautifully written…. He searched hidden archives in five countries and judiciously mined unknown memoirs and diaries. . . . Snyder does justice to the horror of his subject through the power of his storytelling.”
Foreign Affairs
“[A] magisterial work…. Snyder’s account is engaging, encyclopedic.”
David Denby, The New Yorker
“[A] stunning book…. Certainly, we need to know everything, understand everything, feel everything. Snyder’s book, by making an original account of the period in copious detail laid out in sombrely blunt declarative sentences, should expand these three faculties in anyone who engages its grim but lucid exposition.”
Washington Times
“Statistics are an important part of Mr. Snyder’s narrative, but he does not forget that every number was once a human being…. This book is a grim but important read.”
Seattle Times
“To us in the West, the horrors of World War II are associated with the names of Auschwitz, Iwo Jima and Hiroshima. Without denying the significance of these places, Snyder, an immensely talented historian at Yale University, radically alters our understanding of the mass murder that went on during these years by showing in convincing fashion where and how most victims met their end. Bloodlands overflows with startling facts and revelations…. In a conclusion that should be required reading for all, Snyder addresses the moral questions raised by this murderous history with insight and recognition of the shades of culpability that make it difficult at times to neatly separate victims from perpetrators. He also shines much-needed light on the dangers of ‘competitive martyrology’ of the recent past, as the nations of the bloodlands have tried to claim greatest victim status.”
Stephen Howe, Independent (UK), Book of the Year
“For deliberate mass murder, Hitler and Stalin still stand unsurpassed. Although we have long possessed vast stores of knowledge about their crimes, it may be that we still misunderstand their character and extent—not least because we fail to see how the two great dictatorships interacted. We miss the significance of where, between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s, the worst horrors took place: Poland, western Russia, and what are now Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic republics. So argues Timothy Snyder in Bloodlands, which seeks persuasively and movingly to offer a new interpretive framework for the nightmare of Europe’s mid-20th century.”
BBC History Magazine (UK)
“A talented historian and an accomplished storyteller, [Snyder] expertly negotiates an extremely complex story, debunking myths, correcting misconceptions and providing context, analysis and human interest in equal measure, always with a sympathetic ear for the victims themselves.... Bloodlands is an excellent, authoritative and imaginative book, which tells the grim story of the greatest human demographic tragedy in European history with exemplary clarity. Snyder set out to give a human face to the many millions of victims of totalitarianism. He has succeeded admirably.”
The Wichita Eagle
“Snyder has written a painstakingly researched book which manages to strike a balance between superb scholarship and gut-churning drama. To say that the horrors depicted in this book demand a strongly gifted storyteller is an understatement. By combing archives, depicting the victims as individuals and not numbers or statistics, and by exposing the interior motives of both Hitler and Stalin, Snyder has produced a unique work, something brand-new, riveting and monumental.”

The Boston Globe
“Part of the freshness of Bloodlands is that it flips around our traditional viewpoint on the Second World War and the years that led up to it: Instead of seeing the conflict from the top down, as a struggle between powers, it begins with the perspective of the victims and those who were closest to the murder.”

“[A] groundbreaking new book about Hitler’s and Stalin’s near-simultaneous genocides…. Certainly one’s understanding of both Stalinism and human nature will be woefully incomplete until one does read Snyder’s pages.”
Adam Hochschild, Harper’s Magazine
“[M]eticulously researched…. [A]s a corrective to our usual picture of the period, Bloodlands is immensely valuable…. [A] forceful and important lesson in historical geography.”
Globe & Mail
“A must-read for anyone interested in the history of Eastern Europe.”
Michael Savage, New York Times bestselling author and host of The Michael Savage Show
“[T]he most definitive book ever written on the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin…It’s one of the most shocking books I have ever read in my life…written by a genius, Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale. This is a really amazing book…I thought I’d seen it all, heard it all—I didn’t.”
Adam Kirsch, Tablet
“[An] important new history…. One of Snyder’s major achievements in Bloodlands is to preserve this sense of the singularity of Jewish experience, even while showing its complex relationship to the terrible experiences of the peoples among whom Jews lived.... The relationship between Jews and Communism is probably the most explosive of all the subjects Snyder addresses, and here he benefits most from the strengths he shows throughout the book—deep learning, wide compassion, and clear, careful moral judgment.... [A]nyone who wants to fully comprehend the Holocaust—at least, as far as it can be comprehended—should read Bloodlands, which shows how much evil had to be done in order to make the ultimate evil possible.”
National Review Online
 “In page after grueling page, Snyder depicts the pogrom that erupted across the Bloodlands. After all these years, after all the histories, there are still details that appall…. In an interesting twist, Snyder reveals how the usual Western understanding of the Holocaust, centered on the almost clinical danse macabre of deportation and eventual extermination in a camp far from Paris, Amsterdam, or Rome, fails to reflect the more typical experience to the east.”
Maclean’s (Toronto)
“[A] masterful history…. Snyder forces many of us to change the way we understand the Second World War.”
“Solid and judicious scholarship.”
Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford, and author of The File
“Timothy Snyder has written a nuanced, original and penetrating analysis of Europe’s twentieth century killing fields between Russia and Germany, drawing on many little-known sources. History of a high order, Bloodlands may also point us towards lessons for our own time.”

Kirkus, Starred Review
“A chillingly systematic study of the mass murder mutually perpetrated by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany…. A significant work of staggering figures and scholarship.”

Professor Norman Davies, F.B.A., author of Europe: A History:
“Nearly seventy years after VE-Day, World War Two continues to be perceived through a narrow Western perspective, and many basic problems about the war of 1939-45 remain unresolved. In Bloodlands – which refers to the huge belt of territory between Germany and Russia – Timothy Snyder examines the little known tract of the European continent that was scourged by Stalin as well as Hitler, and reaches some disturbing conclusions.  Combining formidable linguistic and detective skills with a fine sense of impartiality, he tackles vital questions which have deterred less courageous historians: Where and when were the largest casualties inflicted?   Who were the perpetrators, and which ethnic and national groups were victimized? How can one calculate and verify the numbers?  This is a book which will force its readers to rethink history.”
Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
“Historians of Nazi Germany have analyzed Hitler’s war of destruction in the East, Final Solution, and vast racial revolution and colonization project outlined in the Generalplan Ost.  Historians of the Soviet Union have analyzed Stalin’s collectivization, Great Terror, Gulag archipelago, deportation and exile of mistrusted minorities, and rapid sovietization of newly-annexed territories on the western border.  In both cases the focus has been more often on the politics and decision-making of the dictatorships than on the fate of their victims.  The stunning contribution of Tim Snyder’s book is to present a synthetic account by an East European historian in which the focus is on the geographic zone where the lethal policies of Hitler and Stalin interacted, overlapped, and mutually escalated one another.  As Snyder vividly demonstrates, their combined impact on the people living in the ‘bloodlands’ was quite simply the greatest man-made demographic catastrophe and human tragedy in European history.”
Tony Judt, author of Postwar and Ill Fares the Land
“For over a decade in the middle of twentieth century, the lands between Russia and Germany were the killing fields of Europe. Tens of millions of civilians from Poland to Ukraine, Lithuania to Belarus were starved, beaten, shot and gassed to death by the authorities and armies of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. We think we know this story and we assign it shorthand labels: Auschwitz, the Gulag. But neither the concentration camps (which were mostly not death camps) nor the Soviet network of labor camps in Siberia (from which many survived) were representative of the worst crimes committed in these years. Jews were without question the supreme victim (and in the Nazi case, the dominant target); but there were many other victims with whom western readers are far less familiar. Without a better grasp of the scale and breadth of the suffering experienced in these lands, we cannot hope to appreciate the true impact of the twentieth century.
“In his path-breaking and often courageous study of Europe’s ‘bloodlands,’ Tim Snyder shows how very much more complicated the story was. His account of the methods and motives of murderous regimes, both at home and in foreign war, will radically revise our appreciation of the implications of mass extermination in the recent past. Bloodlands – impeccably researched and appropriately sensitive to its volatile material – is the most important book to appear on this subject for decades and will surely become the reference in its field.”
Jewish Book World
“Snyder’s book forces us to framethe Holocaust within a wider landscape ofgenocidal policies by both the Nazis and theSoviets without diminishing the uniquenessof Hitler’s war against the Jews.”


Policy Review
 “Surveying a time and subject that has been studied, dramatized, and argued about perhaps more thoroughly than any other in history, Bloodlands is an incredibly original work. It seeks to redirect our understanding of the Holocaust as primarily an eastern phenomenon, and one which took place among a spate of mass killing policies…. With this magisterial book, [Snyder] has rendered the Holocaust, and the horrors that preceded and accompanied it, their rightful place.”
Michigan War Studies Review
 “Bloodlands, is in a class of its own, a real blockbuster that profoundly reconfigures our understanding of World War II and the 1930s…. [A] triumph of measured writing and sound judgment…. The story is brilliantly accessible—clear, compelling, lively, and sparkling with insights…. Bloodlands is the perfect companion for the scholar and student of mid-twentieth-century Europe. Accessible and extraordinarily comprehensive, it will be widely read and cited as the standard work.”
Concord Monitor
“[A]n important, carefully researched and compelling story, well told…. The numbers and the narrative are gripping. But Snyder's great strength is bringing home the humanity that was being destroyed.”
Deseret Morning News
“[Bloodlands] brilliantly examines how government policies in Berlin and Moscow led to unimaginable suffering and death for millions in Eastern Europe…. Throughout Bloodlands, Snyder brings a considerable intelligence to bear as he deftly illustrates the horror and misery of the Nazi and Soviet systems in their quest for social perfection.”
The Jewish Daily Forward
Bloodlands…reassure[s] us that the pursuit of authentic Holocaust consciousness is still flourishing in the scholarly community, with no end in sight.”
The Polish Review
“Many books are useful; a handful can be called important; Bloodlands does no less than change the way we think of 20th century history, and of the deadly human cost of the totalitarian utopianism that was among its most distinctive characteristics…. Bloodlands is a wrenching, enlightening, moving, and intellectually challenging examination of the most compelling and painful topic of 20th century history. Few who study it carefully will be able to forget Timothy Snyder’s masterly autopsy of the fourteen million times one human being’s destroyed in the name of the totalitarian dystopia.”
Slavic Review
“[A]mbitious…. Bloodlands seeks to fit the Holocaust into an appropriate historical context by examining the struggle between the Third Reich and the USSR from the perspective of the civilian populations caught in between.”


“[A] popular history of the highest order. Not only does Snyder effectively relate the motivations behind Stalin’s and Hitler’s crimes, but he also exhibits a capable eye for the telling detail. The numerous stories of individuals who suffered in the ‘bloodlands’ humanize the carnage perpetrated in the name of the Stalinist and National Socialist ideologies. This is, perhaps, Snyder’s most noteworthy accomplishment.”

American Diplomacy
“[A] brilliant, profoundly unsettling volume…. [Bloodlands is] so tempting to put down because of the tragedies it describes, [but] so impossible to dismiss because of its revelations.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002399
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (524 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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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.
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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