Read Epub ♵ Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin ♱

Reading this book is a painful experience, and when it s not painful it s even worse because you realize you ve become desensitized by statistics, the sheer number of deaths Starting with the planned famine in Ukraine, and then each subsequent chapter gets I won t say worse it s maybe a little vulgar to try and quantify these things Each subsequent chapter details something horrific enough to defy belief, and the scale of killing keeps increasing even though what Stalin did to Ukraine was already the largest planned famine in history.Snyder shies away from making any very controversial or daring conclusions a little disappointingly, in his final discussion of the political uses of memory and victimhood, he criticizes Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, among others, but refrains from even mentioning Israel nonetheless he s clearly a great historian and a remarkable writer As he says in the last chapter, totalitarianism has become over theorized what we need is a better understanding of what actually happened Snyder s ability to synthesize large, complicated moments in history is matched by a novelistic attention to individual stories He uses these gifts to provide a clearer picture of unimaginable horror and suffering Reading this book will not make you a good person In fact I feel like I myself may be farther from that than ever right now It won t make you a good person, but it will make you stay up at night thinking about Ukrainian children eating each other I don t know if this sort of insomnia might be a way of honoring the dead It s important to be humble about these things I don t know What does a famine actually look like City dwellers were accustomed to the sight of peasants at the marketplace, spreading their bounty and selling their wares In 1933, peasants made their way to familiar city markets, but now to beg rather than to sell Market squares, now empty of both goods and customers, conveyed only the disharmonies of death Early in the day the only sound was the soft breathing of the dying, huddled under rags that had once been clothes One spring morning, amidst the piles of dead peasants a the Kharkiv market, an infant suckled the breast of its mother, whose face was a lifeless grey Passersby had seen this before, not just the disarray of corpses, not just the dead mother and the living infant, but that precise scene, the tiny mouth, the last drops of milk, the cold nipple The Ukranians had a term for this They said to themselves, quietly, as they passed These are the buds of the socialist spring Ukraine in 1933 was full of orphans, and sometimes people took them in Yet without food there was little that even the kindest of strangers could do for such children The boys and girls lay about on sheets and blankets, eating their own excrement, waiting for death description of cannibalism Holodomor. Timothy Snyder s Bloodlands is about the worst place that ever existed in the world that unfortunate slice of Europe ruled by the two evilest people who ever inhabited our earth Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin Imagine a Venn diagram of evil The left west loop is Hitler the right east loop in Stalin And in the middle, where the two circles overlap, is the bloodlands, extending from central Poland to western Russia, through Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States From 1933 to 1945, 14 million people died in this ill fated swatch of ground Bloodlands is their story Snyder begins with the famines in Soviet Ukraine, brought about by the collectivization required by Stalin s five year plan This initial chapter is a bit on the frustrating side Like many who came of age watching Saving Private Ryan, I m a World War II junkie There are books on my shelf emblazoned with swastikas than I care to admit That doesn t make me knowledgeable on the subject, however Indeed, my reading has always tended to be a bit myopic I ve read ten books on the D Day landings at Normandy to every one book on the decade leading up to war That s even true with regards to the U.S.S.R., about which I frankly know next to nothing Accordingly, I could have used a little table setting, a little explanation of why things were they way they were Snyder, though, simply jumps right in.Despite this, this first chapter is among the most memorable, and sets the tone for the rest of the book Most histories take a top down approach They start with the big picture, the big events, and the big people Occasionally they will zoom in for a detailed glimpse, showing us what it was like for the common man, but this is only done for color Snyder inverts this usual approach He takes a microscopic, bottom up approach, that begins and ends with the human dimension as its main focus I don t mean to say that Snyder ignores Hitler or Stalin or any of their henchmen He doesn t In fact, he spends as much time with them as any other World War II book But Snyder does such a good job of integrating eloquent, searing first hand accounts into his narrative that it leaves a lasting impression He never forgets that history is not a relic to be studied it is the story of human beings This is never apparent than in Snyder s dealing with the famines The death toll of the World War II era defy comprehension At the very least, though, through archival footage, photographs, and film, we can start to imagine what the Holocaust was like Starvation, though, is another matter In comparison to marching someone to the gas chamber, it seems like a crime of omission Snyder forces you to reconsider, to envision what it actually means to starve to death, on a large scale, and on a personal level The Ukrainian musician Yosyp Panasenko was dispatched by central authorities with his troupe of bandura players to provide culture to the starving peasants Even as the state took the peasants last bit of food, it had the grotesque inclination to elevate the minds and rouse the spirits of the dying The musicians found village after village completely abandoned Then they finally came across some people two girls dead in a bed, two legs of a man protruding from a stove, and an old lady raving and running her fingernails through the dirt From the Ukrainian famines, Bloodlands moves into familiar territory Stalin s Great Terror the Nazi dispossession of the Jews the einsatzgruppen aktions in the east, following Operation Barbarossa and Hitler s invasion of the Soviet Union and, of course, the Nazi concentration camps, some of which killed directly, and others of which worked through attrition There are also sections devoted to Stalin s treatment of the Jews, as well as resistance movements, especially the two uprisings in Warsaw Snyder covers this territory with empathy that is rare in history books He has a plain, unadorned writing style that is appropriate to the subject matter His keen eye for detail and acknowledgement of the power of certain, simple facts, makes for poignant reading He should also be commended for his refusal to engage in simplistic comparisons pitting Hitler s fascism verses Stalin s communism Any discussion about who was worse is, at its core, idiotic They both sucked than anything else on this planet has ever sucked Undoubtedly, the subject matter of Bloodlands is grim And really, you should expect that, since the name of the book is Bloodlands Yet the book itself is livened by Snyder s injection of humanity A contemporary of the late writer and intellectual Tony Judt with whom Snyder collaborated , Snyder is than an able historian, devoted to uncovering all the primary sources in all their many languages He is also a thinker All good histories tell you what happened Snyder tries to work on two levels simultaneously, by also attempting an explanation at what it means today.Here, perhaps, is a purpose for history, somewhere between the record of death and its constant reinterpretation Only a history of mass killing can unite the numbers and the memories Without history, the memories become private, which today means national and the numbers become public, which is to say an instrument in the international competition for martyrdom Memory is mine and I have the right to do with it as I please numbers are objective and you must accept my counts whether you like them or not Such reasoning allows a nationalist to hug himself with one arm and strike his neighbor with the other. Read Epub ⚉ Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin ⚓ Es Sabido Que La Alemania Nazi Asesin Cerca De Seis Millones De Jud Os Lo Que No Lo Es Tanto Es Que, Junto Al Horror Del Holocausto, Los Reg Menes De Hitler Y De Stalin Asesinaron A Otros Ocho Millones De Civiles, La Mayor A Mujeres, Ni Os Y Ancianos, Solo En Lo Que Timothy Snyder Denomina Las Tierras De SangreSe Suele Identificar El Horror Del Siglo Xx Con Los Campos De Concentraci N Sin Embargo, La Mayor A De Las V Ctimas Del Nacionalsocialismo Y Del Estalinismo Nunca Vio Un Campo De Concentraci N Ni De ExterminioDel Mismo Modo, Los Asesinatos En Masa En Europa Suelen Asociarse Con La Muerte En C Maras De Gas Pero No Fue El Gas El M Todo M S Empleado M S De Siete Millones De Civiles Y Prisioneros De Guerra Murieron Porque Se Les Neg La Comida Por Primera Vez, El Historiador Timothy Snyder Describe En Este Libro La Amplitud Del Horror Que Supuso El Asesinato De Catorce Millones De Ciudadanos Europeos En Solo Doce A Os, Los Que Van Desde A El Presente Estudio Implica Aspectos Militares, Pol Ticos, Econ Micos, Sociales, Culturales E Intelectuales, Y Se Basa En La Extensa Documentaci N Aparecida Con La Apertura De Los Archivos De La Europa Oriental Y Los Testimonios De Las V Ctimas Y De Algunos VerdugosLas Tierras De Sangre No Son Un Territorio Pol Tico Real O Imaginario Son Simplemente Los Lugares Donde Los Reg Menes Pol Ticos De Europa Realizaron Su Obra M S Mort Fera History As Intention and ResponseHistory can be told in several ways as a textbook like sequence of events and dates as a moral tale as a story of the strong or of the weak from the point of view of the victors or the vanquished as an account of divine providence or satanic interference Snyder has a particularly engaging method of narrating history as intention and response to circumstances According to his title one could conceive his subject as the history of a specific geographical region, namely Eastern Poland, Ukraine and Belarus But this is merely the location of the action The real history in Bloodlands is stated in the subtitle, namely the personal intentions of Hitler and Stalin and how these intentions were formed and interacted Events in Bloodlands are relevant only as they relate to these intentions Dates are relevant primarily to distinguish action and response The story is not one of conflict and victory or loss but of joint persecution by Hitler and Stalin of a victim population of Poles, Slavs, Jews and other ethnic groups It is this genre of purposeful historiography in which the centre of attention is the intended victims that makes the book highly readable and intellectually compelling.According to Snyder, the fundamental aims of both National Socialism and Soviet Communism were the same to control their own food supply The Germans, by expanding eastward, to acquire the most productive agricultural acreage in Europe The Russians, by expanding westward into Poland and collectivising Soviet agriculture, primarily to finance industrialisation through exports It is these intentions, their mutual responses to the other, and the interpretations by their subordinates that determine the trajectory of events from the end of WWI through the conclusion of WWII The central show according to this view was never in Western Europe or Southeast Asia but in precisely that area for which both powers contended for agricultural land, Snyder s Bloodlands It is here as well, and only here, that the full horror of both fascist and communist regimes can be appreciated The details of the military campaign, as well as the formal atrocities of Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet Gulag are important but, in a sense, obscure the wider and ultimate intentions to murder or displace the entire existing population of the region The millions who died and the millions who suffered were not collateral damage incidental to war, they were the point of the war on both sides.Stalin s clear purpose in his agricultural policy of the early 1930 s, for example, was not just to crush Ukrainian nationalism and to eliminate any residual Polish influence in the Western Soviet Union, but also to replace its indigenous population by Russians German strategy was commensurate, that is, to liquidate or otherwise enslave the Slavic population of the same region, and encourage the emigration of German farmers Stalin used starvation as his weapon of choice Hitler his Einsatzgruppen Both were strategic necessities not incidental aberrations Both used substantial resources that appear wasted only if their strategic intent is ignored Moreover, both leaders seriously risked their own positions to pursue these aims, an indication of their centrality Ukrainian collectivisation was an obvious economic failure It was nevertheless pursued by Stalin until de population was largely achieved The Einsatzgruppen which carried out the bulk of the Nazi liquidations in occupied countries were opposed by the regular army as a militarily useless collection of thugs and psychopaths Yet they were given free rein in military areas by Hitler and received logistical priority, even in retreat These sorts of actions can only be perceived as errors in judgement if their real intent is ignored Neither man was as concerned so much about the outcome of any particular battle as about his ability to carry out his ultimate purpose And this purpose remained constant Every significant political and military act, even the most bizarre, can be traced to the need to eliminate opposition to the requirements of the overall purpose, no matter how politically inept or militarily inefficient.Failure to appreciate these aims was also the root of misunderstanding by contemporaries who should have known better Among journalists only the Welsh Gareth Jones could see beyond the fascist and communist propaganda to the ultimate aims Walter Duranty, the Pulitzer Prize winning bureau chief of the New York Times, simply refused to believe the overwhelming evidence of mass starvation Even intellectuals like Arthur Koestler temporised about the most horrible events including widespread cannibalism by insisting on the ultimate beneficence of socialism American foreign policy simply ignored the reality of German and Russian intentions for two decades.Continuing failure to appreciate the impact of these tragedies is the take away from Snyder s analysis For example, Stalin starved to death approximately 3 million Ukrainians in 1932 33, and killed approximately another 3 million whom he had already deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan These people were murdered not because they refused to conform to his policies but because they were who they were Can there be any doubt about the conviction of present day Ukrainians to resist further assimilation by Russia The unreliability of the press in reporting the factual detail of events was matched by the ineptitude of the intelligence and ambassadorial services in analysing their own sources of information In part, at least, this seems due to an inability to accept the degree of depravity that human beings can reach By any standards Stalin and Hitler were mad But were then also the millions of previously normal citizens who necessarily carried out and even supplemented their malicious commands also mad One small unit of NKVD officers shot than 20,000 people during the Great Terror in the Soviet Union If these men were not mad, how could they not have become so, and their families, their acquaintances, their country with them An interview with a communist activist who was charged with enforcing Stalin s orders to take the seed grain from collective farms, thus condemning the peasants to death, could be the most important theme of the entire book As before , he says, I believed because I wanted to believe This certainly would have been the response of every Soviet commissar, Nazi SS officer, Treblinka or Gulag camp guard and general army officer This realisation is even depressing than the seemingly endless atrocities recounted by Snyder Commitment, loyalty, passion to and for ideals, no matter what they are, or leaders who represent these ideals, no matter who they are, are not virtues but vices It was these vices the real evils of commitment, loyalty, and passion that allowed Stalin and Hitler and their henchmen to carry out their work These men were inspired by the conquest of the American West and the liquidation of its native population These men created myths of foreign plots to undermine national sovereignty and used them to justify the closing of borders, the isolation of minority groups, and the necessity for murderous action against unarmed people These men were consistent in their pronouncements about what they intended to do and why And still each was able to manipulate the unique politics of his own system to maintain popular support through an appeal to purported virtue It is this virtue, not nationalism, or ideology per se which was the driving force of the evil committed.Am I alone, therefore, in feeling apprehension watching American political rallies or evangelical religious meetings, or even corporate team building exercises Am I alone in suspecting that men like Trump and Putin are capable of the most horrific crimes regardless of the institutional constraints imposed on them Am I alone in considering that the cause for strength, whoever puts it forth, is a fundamental evil which has no inherent limits Why are commitment, loyalty and passion valued most by the people who do most harm in the world Is it I who am mad An addendum on Purpose and HistoryIn the 1980 s I attended a lecture by an economist whose name now escapes me it could have been Paul Johnson His topic was the history of agricultural policy in the United States He pointed out that the two main components of this policy from the 1930 s onwards had been 1 Rather substantial subsidies to farmers for not growing certain crops, and 2 Also rather large subsidies to industry and academia for research directed toward the increase in yields for the same crops that farmers were already paid not to grow Every year when these subsidies were brought before Congress, someone would point of the apparent contradiction A debate would ensue And a vote would endorse both sets of subsidy, usually with and increase The presumption of irrationality in the political process was put forward as the only possible explanation.Until it was pointed out, I believe to the Reagan administration, that this outcome only appeared irrational because no one was looking for the fundamental rational, the real purpose According to the lecturer, this purpose wasn t obvious because it was never made explicit, but it nevertheless was there and it was politically compelling The purpose of the apparently contradictory subsidies was quite straightforward to maximise the value of U.S farm land In this light both subsidies made sense.The importance of this insight was not merely intellectual Having articulated the implicit purpose of historical agricultural policy, it was then possible to ask the question Is the increased value of farm land a national priority The answer was no Consequently, for the first time in several generations, both subsidies were reduced.The implications for historical method are to me profound The presumption of purpose is crucial in historical analysis Without it, one is confronted with apparently random often irrational events With it, one is forced to confront intentions that are only implicit and perhaps only shared by a very few with leadership positions It is a presumption that is a self fulfilling prophecy But so is its negation The example of U.S agricultural policy is one proof of its superiority as a general method. The history told in Timothy Snyder s Bloodlands Europe Between Hitler and Stalin is not a revelation Readers familiar with the works of Robert Conquest, Daniel Goldhagen, Anne Applebaum, or Halik Kochanski have read it all before Snyder presents it with a new perspective, concentrating on the plight of the minority peoples caught between the two ideological empires of the mid twentieth century Ukrainians, Belorussians, Balts, Roma, Russians, Germans, Poles, Jews all pawns of Hitler and Stalin Both tyrants were committed to ethnic and cultural homogeneity in the lands they ruled, but as Snyder so aptly pointed out, it was Stalin who won Hitler s war, so his vision triumphed.The old adage about man s inhumanity to man was never reinforced better than in Bloodlands Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. While well written, often captivating, and thoroughly footnoted extensive references in English, Polish, German and Russian , it is undeniably a depressing book Stalinism, with its forced collectivization of agriculture, the liquidation of the kulaks as a class, and recurring politically driven suppressions, when married in time and geography with Nazism s bloodlust and pseudo scientific racism, resulted in a clash of unrivaled barbarity The beleaguered peoples of Eastern Europe bore the brunt A volatile mix of nationalism, racism, and political ideology led to the devastation of wide swaths of the European borderlands where mixed religions, ethnicities, and cultures had survived, and even thrived, during the ages of the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Romanovs The advent of Hitler and Stalin ended that situation, perhaps forever The numbers are mind boggling Many millions were slaughtered and no group escaped untouched In Warsaw on 5 and 6 August 1944 alone, SS Special Commando Dirlewanger shot 40,000 Polish civilians While much of western historiography has been focused on the Holocaust, the Jews comprised 5.40 million of the 14 million victims of totalitarianism in the bloodlands Snyder rounds out the ugly tale of murder Timothy Snyder deserves great credit for presenting a new look at this sanguinary chapter of European history So much of today s news on the region has been shaped by the events described and explained in Bloodlands Europe Between Hitler and Stalin Snyder s book earned a rating of Four Stars in my library Another plus The text is accompanied by excellent maps A brief study of the maps reflecting the changing borders in the region from 1918 through the post war era is, in itself, enlightening. This is history that deserves to be read, if for no other reason, to acknowledge the individual lives of so many innocent people deliberately murdered We re not talking war casualties or so called collateral wartime deaths We re talking civilians sentenced to death by deliberate national policy Sometimes they were targeted because of national, political, or ethnic reasons Sometimes they were targeted for no particular discernible reason The author does a good job of balancing the numbingly huge numbers with the firsthand accounts from letters and diaries of victims, recorded memories of survivors, and written records of the perpetrators One example I found especially horrific were the words from a letter written by an Austrian soldier to his wife telling of how he is repeatedly shooting, on a daily basis, large numbers of Jews including women and children He even includes details such as throwing babies into the air and shooting them before they fall into the pit or water Can you image admitting such behavior in writing to a spouse Presumably, his wife approved One wonders if these stories were shared with this couple s children He specifically mentions in his letter that he thinks of his own children After reading about millions of Ukrainian peasants starved because of an artificial famine created by Soviet collectivization, my heart was rent by the following simple storyGarth Jones met a peasant who had acquired some bread, only to have it confiscated by the police They took my bread away from me, he repeated over and over again, knowing that he would disappoint his starving familySoviet police assumed that whenever they saw a peasant with some food it must have been stolen, so they would take it away The logic of Stalin s thinking was that the peasants deserved to die because they were being anti revolutionary by starving instead of being happy in a Communist paradise Anybody on Stalin s staff who couldn t understand this logic was eliminated i.e killed There were times I felt the stories in this book were too awful to read But I felt it my duty to keep on, if for no other reason, to honor the memories of those who perished These are stories that are not widely known in western circles A detailed tally of the numbers involved could not be studied by western historians until the Soviet Union fell and the records of the Communist era opened This book brings the Nazi and Soviet regimes together, and Jewish and European history together, and the national histories together It describes the victims, and the perpetrators It discusses the ideologies and the plans, and the systems and the societies.The bloodlands referenced in the title of the book consists of those territories subject to both German and Soviet police power and associated mass killing polices at some point between 1933 and 1945 It consists generally of the areas within the following counties Ukraine, Belarussia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania The book contains discussions of the motivations of nations that led to these deaths Germany was quite clear that they considered the bloodlands to be a frontier for German civilization to expand into The German settlers moved into the area would deal with native populations in a manner similar to the way American settlers pushed and killed the Indians out of the way Himler, head of the German SS, actually referenced the American example The Soviet actions were somewhat disguised by Marxist rhetoric, but the author shows a clearly nationalistic and racist aspect to the mass killings by the Soviet Union He shows that the Poles, Ukrainians, and Belarussians were statistically much likely to be killed than the ethnic Russians and Georgians Stalin was GeorgianWhereas Hitler turned the Republic into revolutionary colonial empire, Stalin translated the poetics of revolutionary Marxism into durable work a day politicsWhen the narrative finally reached the end of WWII, I thought the killing had finally stopped But no, Stalin was still alive and many thousands of people were dislocated Germans were moved out of Poland and Czechoslovakia, and Polish boundaries were moved toward the east with subsequent moving of the population.The book also discusses the deliberate changing of the numbers of people killed by post war nations to fit their political agendas It seems that after the war every nation had a motive to adjust, inflate or ignore the numbers in different ways The recent Yugoslavian experience is a reminder that mass killings can still happen Need I mention Cambodia or Uganda The wars for Yugoslavia in the 1990 s began, in part, because Serbs believed that far larger numbers of their fellows had been killed in the Second World War than was the case pg 406The author suggests that people today who identify with the victims and find the behaviors of the killers incomprehensible, could probably learn by trying to understand the motivations of the killers The book hints that most readers would behave in the same manner if placed in the same circumstances.I found it particularly interesting to learn why the author used the term mass killings instead of genocide in this book When the word genocide was written into international law the Soviet Union made sure that it excluded mass killings of political groups, and it also does not include destruction of a social group through the forcible removal of a population In doing so the Soviets made sure that the mass killings under Stalin could not be defined as genocide I suppose these are some of the technicalities that Turkey uses to insist that the killing of the Armenians after WWI was not genocide Thus far in this review I have refrained from mentioning the numbers of people killed Once you start mentioning numbers they take over This book contains lots of numbers, big numbers that are hard to fathom If you want numbers you can read the following excerpts that I have taken from the book I have made the text bold that compares those killed to the total of American battlefield losses in all foreign wars because I m assuming most people reading this are from the United StatesFourteen million is the approximate number of people killed by purposeful policies of mass murder implemented by Nazi Germany and the soviet Union in the bloodlands pg.409 The count of fourteen million is not a complete reckoning of all the death that German and Soviet power brought to the region It is an estimate of the number of people killed in deliberate policies of mass murder pg.410 Fourteen million, after all, is a very large number It exceeds by than ten million the number of people who died in all of the Soviet and German concentration camps as opposed to the death facilities taken together over the entire history of both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany If current standard estimates of military losses are correct, it exceeds by than two million the number of German and Soviet soldiers, taken together, killed on the battlefield in the Second World War counting starved and executed prisoners of war as victims of a policy of mass murder rather than as military casualties It exceeds by than thirteen million the number of American and British casualties, taken together, of the Second World War It also exceeds by than thirteen million all of the American battlefield losses in all of the foreign wars that the Unites States has ever fought pg.411The following tabulation of numbers has been abbreviated and edited from how it s shown in book, so it s not an exact quotation 3,300,000 Soviet citizens mostly Ukrainians deliberately starved, 1932 1933 by USSR 300,000 Soviet citizens mostly Poles and Ukrainians shot 1937 1938 by USSR 200,000 Polish citizens mostly Poles shot by German and Soviet forces in occupied Poland 1939 1941 by USSR and Ger 4,200,000 Soviet citizens largely Russians, Belarussians, and Ukrainians starved by German occupiers 1941 1944 by Ger 5,500,000 Jews most of Polish or Soviet citizens gassed or shot by the Germans in 1941 1944 by Ger 700,000 civilians mostly Belarussians and Poles shot by the Germans in reprisals chiefly in Belarus and Warsaw in 1941 1944 by Ger pg.411 TOTALS 3,700,000 by USSR, 10,500,000 by Ger Total of 700,000 victims of the great terror in all of Soviet UnionIn general, these numbers are sums of counts made by the Germans or the Soviets themselves, complemented by other sources, rather than statistical estimates of losses based upon censuses Accordingly, my counts are often lower even if stupefyingly high than others in the literature The major case where I do rely upon estimates is the famine in Soviet Ukraine, where data are simply insufficient for a count, and where I present a total figure on the basis of a number of demographic calculations and contemporary estimates Again, my reckoning is on the conservative side pg.412 The following link is to another excerpt from the book, Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder pages 32 35 following is a link to the Wikipedia article about the Holodomor, the name given for the man made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed an estimated 2.5 7.5 million Ukrainians following is a link to the movie, Bitter Harvest, a movie about the Holodomor Having read hundreds of books on World War II, it s pretty rare to come across a book which covers a topic I m not very familiar with However, the subject of the Holocaust is one which I ve avoided mostly because it s just too damn depressing, and while this book covers a broader topic it s probably one I would have skipped in the past I m glad I didn t skip this one.The author defines the Bloodlands as the lands between pre war Nazi Germany and the western edge of the Russian Republic, predominantly Poland, Belarus, the Baltic States and Ukraine I was unaware this book would not focus on the military action s and instead focus on the ordinary citizens in these areas as I had not read any reviews prior to starting this book I have to say, this is one of the best books I ve read in quite some time, and the fact it covers a subject I ve avoided has opened my mind to wanting to learn.The author recounts how first Stalin and then Hitler undertook various programs campaigns against the Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian and Baltic populaces, as well as against those of the Jewish faith In a combined campaign of extermination, over 14 million people were killed essentially because of where they lived, what religion they practiced, or if for some reason they were viewed as a threat Along the way, author Snyder does a really good job of explaining the rationale behind the murderous schemes of Stalin and Hitler and how they fit into the grand plans ideals of the Nazis and the Soviet Union Along the way, the reader will encounter multiple personal vignettes about those who there, many of whom did not survive The story is truly horrifying and the sheer numbers staggering, yet Snyder has woven together an excellent narrative which doesn t get bogged down in either horror or numbers I d recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the events in the Bloodlands from the late 1920 s through the early 1950 s it truly is an excellent read. Bloodlands The poor beknighted ribbon of land caught between Hitler and Stalin, monstrous merciless dictators, with their absolutist ideologies and willing apparatchiks Comprising the Baltic states, Poland, Belorussia and Ukraine, fourteen million of whose civilian inhabitants died as a result of deliberate policies of extermination or neglect It started even before the Second World War, with three million Ukrainians starved so that Stalin could claim victory in his collectivisaton drive Many hundreds of thousands died in the Great Terror, shot in the back of the neck or transported thousands of miles to die in some empty wilderness Then the war starts and the killing increases in pace Poland is dismembered again and it s elites are simply murdered 20,000 officers killed by the NKVD at Katyn for example Then in 1941 the Germans invade Soviet Russia Three million Soviet prisoners of war are left to die through starvation and neglect, whilst behind the front line the Nazi death squads start to murder Jews Later on the obscene murder camps are constructed to industrialise the process of extermination.After the war population transfers lead to further deaths The borders of Poland and Germany are moved westwards as Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill re draw the maps, further dislocating historic communities and reanimating ethnic tension as if this were needed Facts on the ground the mighty Red Army mean that historic promises to Poland from Britain and France are forgotten, and the Baltic countries are reabsorbed into Mother Russia.The numbers murdered are incredible Fourteen million mainly Jews, Poles, Belorussians and Ukrainians, with a smattering of Balts, Germans and others The author leads us through this unimaginable path with a scalpel sharp exposition of the reasons for the killing Twisted ideology certainly but also a sense that eliminating the other allows for the formation through shared hatred of a master race It is also a convenient excuse for political failure, why admit mistakes when you can blame the scapegoat He also shows us the impossible choices faced by people whose lands are invaded three times in five years by diametrically opposed ideologues do you collaborate and live, for now, or resist and face a bullet Of course for many this is not a choice they face, as they are condemned and murdered for what they are rather than what they have done they are a kulak , a Jew or an educated Pole, Latvian, Lithuanian or Estonian An important if disturbing book. Man Oh, man.This book is without a doubt the most depressing thing I ve ever read If there was ever a time and place that demonstrated man s inhumanity to man, it would be the Bloodlands, the areas of Eastern Europe squashed flat two or three times by Hitler and Stalin The author s accounts of casual starvation, brutal repression, and mass murder were horrifying not just because they happened, but because both victims and perpetrators were everyday, normal people.This is why you read the epilogue in any history text it s where the author makes their point In this case, the author wanted to make clear exactly what happened to the 14 million people who died as a direct result of Soviet and Nazi policies before and during the Second World War Specifically, he wanted to make it clear that it was actual people who died, and actual people who did the killing He dips down into the masses and chooses one or two telling examples from each murder, each siege, each starvation It s people who died, the author says, and it s people who killed them It s easy to dismiss the Nazis and the Stalinist as monsters, and in a sense they were But that s a cop out The fact is, given the right time and circumstances, any of us might decide that it was in our best interest to cooperate in a program of mass killing That s what the thousands of SS and NKVD men did They re not so different from us In acknowledging this, and in making plain what happened, Snyder make it ever so slightly less likely that it will ever happen again.There are few history texts few books of any kind that have affected me as strongly as this book did There were times I could barely keep listening, but I m glad I did Everyone should read this book Not just historians or World War II enthusiasts although the latter definitely should, if they only follow American history Everyone should read this book, because everyone needs to hear its lesson I don t mean to sound melodramatic, because I m being entirely sincere Read it.Edit corrected some embarrassingly bad grammar First, there are numbers 13,788 at Polesie23,600 at Kamiamets Podilskyi3,739 prisoners at Starobilsk358, one night at Palmiry Forest2,500 at Leningrad by October, 19415,500 by November50,500 by December1,000,000 by the end of the Leningrad siege80,000 at Stalag 30760,000 at Stalag 31955,000 at Stalag 32523,000 at Stalag 316500,000 Soviet prisoners in the General Government450, one night at Krzesawice12,000 at Dnipropetrovsk386,798 kulaks33,761 at Babi Yar14 million in all.Not soldiers in battle Just people in the wrong place Jews, Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians.Think of the 1 at the end of 33,761, Timothy Snyder tells us, insists Each of the living bore a name.Emmanuel Ringelblum, who created archives in the Warsaw ghetto making its history possible, and died betrayed Adam Czerniakow, told to present 5,000 Jews at a transfer point and certain mass death, and killed himself instead.Sofia Karpai, a doctor who refused to yield under Stalin s torture.And Dina Pronicheva, always Dina Pronicheva, one person, yet than a number, who lived to tell of Babi Yar.Along the way Violence is not confidence, and terror is not mastery.And Those German soldiers who saw the Treblinka transports knew, if they wanted to know, just what they were fighting for.There are people, some even in the reviews on this site, who argue which people suffered In a powerful closing chapter, Snyder asks, Can the dead really belong to anyone And he warns us, What begins as competitive martyrology can end with martyrological imperialism We reflexively seem to need to see Hitler and Stalin as different from us, that we could never do what they did, that they are inhuman Careful, Snyder says That Jews and non Aryans were sub human was Hitler s justification for murder To find other people to be inhuman, Snyder writes, is to take a step toward, not away from, the Nazi position The scholarship in this book is superb, much taken from untranslated Polish sources And while the numbers sometimes read as lists, and points are often repetitively and numbingly made, Bloodlands is thought provoking and personal The Nazi and Soviet regimes turned people into numbers, some of which we can only estimate, some of which we can reconstruct with fair precision It is for us as scholars to seek these numbers and to put them into perspective It is for us as humanists to turn the numbers back into people If we cannot do that, then Hitler and Stalin have shaped not only our world, but our humanity.