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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin [Paperback]

Timothy Snyder
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2012
Americans call the Second World War “The Good War.” But before it even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.

Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.

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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin + Gulag: A History + Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956
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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.”

About the Author

Timothy Snyder is Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of The Reconstruction of Nations, Sketches from a Secret War, and The Red Prince. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turning the Numbers Back into People Jan. 13 2011
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
This was a difficult read. Not for the writing but for the content. As a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, the Holodomor or murder by hunger, was a topic of incredible sensitivity and division within our community. Of course, Snyder's tremendous contribution to the examination of Stalin's and Hitler's terror covers more than the Ukrainian famine. He ingeniously casts a light on a geographic area he calls the Bloodlands, where the dictators and their regimes murdered 14 million people from 1933 to 1945.

The Bloodlands extends from central Poland to western Russia, through Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States. Ukraine was the epicenter where the most lives were lost in WW2. Snyder points out that while Hitler's record was atrocious in war, Stalin's was in peacetime and collectively their actions are near unimaginable.

Snyder begins by examining the Ukrainian famine that began in 1933. It was prompted by a failed five year plan and the effects of collectivization. Stalin, loathe to take responsibility, blamed the peasants and "agitators". The author takes a logical view on the lives lost based on the available information and arrives at 3.3 million. This has always been a contentious issue with Ukrainians but Snyder states his assumptions objectively and this adds to his credibility.

Snyder then covers the deportation of Kulaks, the decimation of the Poles from two sides, Jewish persecution and The Holocaust, and economic and ethnic intentions and actions in the Bloodlands. In fact, if there is an explanation for the killing, Snyder roots it in agriculture. Stalin wanted to collectivize farmers; Hitler wanted to eliminate them so Germans could colonize the land.

The book's scope is overwhelming especially to those new to this period.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To kill on principle July 8 2011
The numbers are mind boggling and they come with despairing frequency in Mr. Snider's book, 'Bloodlands.' Some might blame desperate times, others, dangerous ideologies and still others, ruthless dictators. The strength of 'Bloodlands' is that Mr. Snider lets nobody off the hook. The starvation of Ukranian farmers caused by ridiculous farm quotas was not result of the actions of one man. Others had to enforce the quota. Produce had to be taken from the starving. Those who enacted these policies knew what they were doing. Likewise, Nazis death camps were staffed by otherwise ordinary citizens, men and women like you and me who must have been convinced of either the righteousness of their heinous acts or at least their inevitability. Mr. Snider tells us that it's easy to relate to the plight of the victims. Much harder and perhaps more enlightening, is an understanding of the actions and motivations of the criminals. We know about the Nazi work camps like Auschwitz because there were survivors. We know less about the death camps like Treblinka and Chelmno where Jews were sent for the sole purpose of extermination. And the numbers keep coming and coming, millions gone from the Ukraine, millions from Poland. The Bloodlands of Eastern Europe where more people perished in a generation than at any other time in history. An understanding of the atrocities committed in the name of ideals is essential if we are to prevent a recurrence. Mr. Snider has certainly made a start.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelming Feb. 9 2011
Some of us thought we had read all there is to read about WW2. For me,this book was the most captivating one of its kind, with detail that was overwhelming. A must read for even the most knowledgable on the subject of the Second World War, especially with reference to the ideology and methodology of these two leaders; Stalin and Hitler.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling & Intense Feb. 1 2011
I thought I had read all there was to read on this area of the world, at that point in history - what an eye-opener! There were parts during the description of the Holodomor years that I actually had to stop, put the book down and gather my thoughts for a moment. This book should be required reading for all high-school seniors, especially before embarking on the often dubious, post-secondary indoctrination that passes for a liberal arts education these days.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning, then chapters of lost focus.... Oct. 16 2013
The promise of this book was an impartial, objective review of what actually happened in those terrible years. The ethnicities affected by the war, the suffering and the people who tried to survive it all.

The author does a great job of detailing the political motives of the Soviet starvation campaigns. As the depth of the book builds and as further and further one is drawn into the depth of the despair it finally dawns on the reader that from about the mid-point of the volume the book becomes strangely Holocaust centric in it's point of view. And this really is my major objection to this otherwise terrific work.

My goal in reading this book was to understand the impact of the Nazi and Soviet policies on the nations of the Eastern Europe. Yet strangely enough the author at some point in the book actually defines the borders of 'bloodlands' as those which defined the geographical borders within which the Holocaust played out. Boy...that was NOT the point here...where are the details which pertain to non-Jewish impact of these terrible policies? Very little substance is presented to support the Polish impact, after all, let us not forget that WW2 started when the Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union attacked Poland.

If you are looking for an objective point of view unfortunately you need to keep on looking. On the other hand, if you want yet another in-depth study of Jewish suffering during WW2 this book might deliver.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Every killer claiming victimhood
In reviewing the waves of atrocities committed in the lands between Russia and Germany, Snyder is determined to get the facts confirmed and in proportion. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Brian Griffith
5.0 out of 5 stars Eastern Europe's Dance of Death made fascinating in an outstanding...
Grim horrors of socialism are made fascinating by bright writing and brilliant research. The unremitting slaughter's depiction puts paid to lies about Russia's "heroic"... Read more
Published 3 months ago by B. Buchanan
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloodlands
Although I'm only about 1/4 way into the book, it's a fascinating insight into Stalinism. Anyone who is interested in history and did not know a great deal about the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by plif55
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanizes an overwhelmingly horrible story
Snyder has done everyone a favour by tackling this subject and attempting to humanize what was by definition and intent a dehumanizing series of events. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Rodge
4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty
This book is not for the feint of heart. It is gritty and bloody and details some of the worst atrocities in European history. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Nate
5.0 out of 5 stars So you think you know the history of WW2?
If you live in the west and think you understand the history of WWII, Bloodlands will shake you to the marrow. Read more
Published 16 months ago by andersm
5.0 out of 5 stars Great look on history
There are numerous reviews printed on this book that perfectly encapsulate what is inside. I highly recommend this read for history buffs and the average person in general.
Published 17 months ago by Chrismansell
This is nightmarish reading. WW2 was bad enough in general. WW2 on the eastern front was a few magnitudes worse again. Both Hitler and Stalin committed genocide. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Lennart Mansson
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, Depressing, Powerful
With 80 pages of bibliography and notes, Timothy Snyder's monumental record of the horrendous assault on the region between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia from 1933-1945 is... Read more
Published 19 months ago by An Alberta Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars The Collision of Two Very Evil Plans
"Bloodlands" is a very engaging study of how two very diametrically-opposing political views on the re-development of Eastern Europe evolved in the 1930s, only to clash a decade... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Ian Gordon Malcomson
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