Timothy Snyder: “Bloodlands” Named Best History Book of 2010 & Jewish Journal Review

Source: Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal, 12-31-10


Timothy Snyder‘s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin has been named best history book of 2010 by The Atlantic, The Economist, The Financial Times, History Today, The Independent, The New Republic, The New Statesman, The Seattle Times, The Telegraph, The Forward, and Reason Magazine.

I’ve been running a Polish film festival in miniature at my house with a series of war movies by Andrzej Wajda, including “A Generation,” “Kanal,” “Ashes and Diamonds” and “Katyn.”  As a Polish film historian observes on the commentary track, these are movies that only a Polish director could make — and only a Polish audience can fully appreciate — if only because the blood-soaked soil of Poland was, in a real sense, the ground zero of World War II.

That observation came to mind as I read Yale history professor Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” (Basic Books: $29.95), a brilliant, important and highly original look at a swath of territory that includes not only Poland but also Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states. As Americans, we may be stirred by heroic memories of Guadalcanal and Normandy, but in terms of sheer brutality and carnage, they cannot be compared to what happened in central and eastern Europe. And, as Snyder insists on pointing out, the tragedy was not limited to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

To be sure, the concentration camps and killing fields of the Holocaust were located in what Snyder calls the bloodlands, but he seeks to make a different and larger point.  Between 1933 and 1945, the death toll in the bloodlands reached a total of some 14 million souls.  “Yet not a single one of the fourteen million murdered was a soldier on active duty,” he writes. “Most were women, children and the aged; none were bearing weapons; many had been stripped of their possessions, including their clothes.”…READ MORE

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