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Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

by Timothy Snyder

Publishers Weekly Veteran voice actor Bramhall gives a sturdy and compelling reading of Snyder's riveting examination of the rise and implementation of the Holocaust. The book offers a detailed analysis of how the collapse-rather than the excess-of Central and Eastern European nation-state power (a collapse instigated by both the Nazis and Soviets) led to the Holocaust. Bramhall does a fine job as narrator. The complexity of the author's argument poses a challenge, but Bramhall's focused yet conversational delivery holds the listener's attention throughout. Most effective is his unflinching portrayal of the stories of those who suffered horrendously and died, not just at the hands of the Nazis, but from their neighbors and supposed friends. A Crown/Duggan hardcover. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Snyder (history, Yale Univ., Bloodlands) asks what lessons have been learned from the Holocaust 70 years after the end of World War II. The unfolding of the Third Reich is chronicled using survivor testimonies and archival sources that cover the effect of widespread famine and political upheaval in post-World War I Europe on Hitler's racial policies, up until his rise to dominance in the 1930s and 1940s. As in Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt's Holocaust, variations in implementation of the Final Solution by country are examined. Snyder highlights the doubly occupied areas of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia, where the majority of deaths occurred. The application of his analysis of the Holocaust's causes to 21st-century political conditions and ecological stresses is grim. Competition for increasingly scarce planetary resources dovetail with the demonization of neighbors to create conditions remarkably similar to those prior to World War II. -VERDICT Snyder's investigation will appeal to readers with an interest in the history of the Holocaust; his call to action will attract those who believe that, as philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."-Laurie Unger -Skinner, Coll. of Lake Cty., Waukegan, IL Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly This brilliant book-effectively a companion volume to Snyder's critically acclaimed 2010 work, Bloodlands-focuses on the Jewish victims of the grotesque policies of the Nazis and their shifting allies in the lands contested by Germans, Soviets, Poles, and others in the years of the Holocaust. Snyder brings two fresh elements to his dizzying, harrowing tale. The first is his extraordinarily wide and deep research into the remarkable stories, many unknown, of individual Holocaust survivors, the subject of the last half of his book. The second element, likely to be controversial, is his argument, asserted and reasserted, that, at its roots, the Holocaust was made possible by the failure of national states-by the Soviets and the Nazis stripping public, legal protections from millions of people, who were thus left exposed to removal and death. Hence the "warning" of the book's subtitle: the weakening of strong national states threatens human survival wherever it occurs, as it did in the case of the Anschluss, in which Germany absorbed Austria, and as it did in the case of the destruction of the Polish state. It's a plausible, strong argument aimed sharply at Americans who believe that "freedom is the absence of state authority." Maps. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus A prominent historian brings the Holocaust under new scrutiny and wonders if the right confluence of modern forces could bring genocide back. Snyder (History/Yale Univ.) polarized academics and other experts on the Holocaust with his study Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010), and he largely continues that line of thinking here as he attempts to contextualize the events that led up to the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews. The author argues that Hitler saw the world in terms of a twisted kind of ecology, one in which he saw Jews as a mistake to be removed. He also glances off the myth of Judeo-Bolshevism, the mistaken concept that Jews were behind the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, but he admits that there's no excuse for claims of ignorance of these graphic events. "What happened in the second half of 1941 was an accelerating campaign of murder that took a million Jewish lives and apparently convinced the German leadership that all Jews under their control could be eliminated," Snyder writes. "This calamity cannot be explained by stereotypes of passive or community Jews, of orderly or preprogrammed Germans, of beastly or antisemitic locals, or indeed by any other clich, no matter how powerful at the time, or how convenient today. It would have been impossible without a special kind of politics." In addition to probing the intellectual origins of the Final Solution, the author also offers thoughtful portrayals of Jews who survived execution and how institutions and states, as well as specific individuals, were crucial in these rescues. Snyder argues that the Holocaust should stand as a warning for our own future, but his conclusion is rather tepid in its analysis, with simplistic pronouncements that "our forgetfulness convinces us that we are different from Nazis by shrouding the ways that we are the same." A scholarly examination that poses important questions but ultimately offers less in the way of original reportage than Nikolaus Wachsmann's KL (2015). Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Choice Snyder's bold rethinking of the Holocaust is bound to be seen as provocative, going against or refashioning many elements of a (fragile) consensus arrived at over the years. For example, the author finds that Hitler's plans for Eastern Europe were influenced by the "North American model" for dealing with indigenous peoples. He dismisses what most scholars see as the critical role the state and its bureaucracy played in the Final Solution. His extensive treatment of rescue arrives at few solid conclusions. Snyder's interpretation also relies heavily on comparisons among German, Soviet, and Polish attitudes, experiences, and policies with regard to Jews and many related matters. He closes with a dire warning about the conditions that might produce a "new Holocaust"--climate change that will engender an increasingly desperate competition for land and resources while defining "unwanted populations" to be dealt with mercilessly. The book largely dispenses with narrative and is therefore most appropriate for those already deeply engaged in the discourse. It will undoubtedly arouse vigorous debate. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, faculty. --Richard S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.