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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
Reviewed by
David Robert
on
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin Review. Distinctive, ambitious and genuinely gripping, Bloodlands finds Snyder at the top of his game. Itís an unflinching and inventive exploration of mankindís seemingly monumental capacity for destruction, and one in which rare glimmers of humanity shine like beacons in the near-total darkness.
Rating:
4.5
BLOODLANDS: EUROPE BETWEEN HITLER AND STALIN
Timothy Snyder
 

Review Information

Reviewer: David Robert
Review Date: Nov 2012

Book Information

Publisher: Random House
RRP: $19.95

9.0

out of 10

Between them, the Nazi and Stalinist regimes murdered more than fourteen million people in what historian Timothy Snyder terms the Ďbloodlandsí of central and Eastern Europe.  

The killing began with a political famine that Stalin directed at Soviet Ukraine, which claimed almost four million lives.  It continued with Stalinís Great Terror of 1937 and 1938, in which some seven hundred thousand people were shot, most of them peasants or members of national minorities.  The Soviets and Germans then cooperated in the destruction of Poland and of its educated classes, killing some two hundred thousand people between 1939 and 1941.  After Hitler betrayed Stalin and ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans starved the Soviet prisoners of war and the inhabitants of besieged Leningrad, taking the lives of more than four million people.  In the occupied Soviet Union, occupied Poland and the occupied Baltic states, the Germans shot and gassed some 5.4 million Jews.   

The Germans and Soviets provoked one another to even greater crimes, as in the partisan wars for Belarus and Warsaw, which resulted in another 500,000 civilian deaths at the hands of the German invaders.  As Snyder reminds us, these atrocities shared a place, and they shared a time: the bloodlands between 1933 and 1945. 

Timothy Snyderís masterful new work combines vivid evocations of place and period with a typically scrupulous reliance on statistics and primary source material.  The end result is a frequently startling, thoroughly nuanced and deeply humane retelling of the bloodiest epoch in human history: in 400 pages of typically powerful, sparsely poetic prose, Snyder captures the suffering of the peasant populace under Stalinism and the barbarity of Nazi invasion more effectively than any other historian of living memory.   

Bloodlands also differs from many other histories of the period in that it doesnít take its concluding point to be the end of the war.  Rather the tale continues on into post-war Russia and its far-flung socialist satellites, exploring the manner in which the Holocaust and ĎGreat Patriotic Warí were ceaselessly propagandised in the years leading up to Stalinís death in 1953.  The bookís concluding chapters also delve into the oft-overlooked rise of state sanctioned anti-Semitism in the final years of Stalinís reign, and tell of the warís forgotten heroes such as Tuvia Bielski, a partisan leader who saved the lives of more than 1200 Jews by hiding them in the Belorussian forests throughout the German occupation.

Distinctive, ambitious and genuinely gripping, Bloodlands finds Snyder at the top of his game.  Itís an unflinching and inventive exploration of mankindís seemingly monumental capacity for destruction, and one in which rare glimmers of humanity shine like beacons in the near-total darkness.






 
 



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