Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

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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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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A chillingly systematic study of the mass murder mutually perpetrated by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

From 1933 to 1945, 14 million people were murdered between the two regimes, as Stalin and Hitler consolidated power, jointly occupied Poland and waged war against each other. The region of mass slaughter was largely contained between the two, from central Poland to western Russia and including Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states—a region Snyder (History/Yale Univ.;The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Duke, 2008, etc.) terms the "bloodlands." The author asserts that the fuzzy understanding of the death camps has skewed the truth about the mass killing, only hinting at their terrifying extent. "The horror of the twentieth century is thought to be located in the camps," he writes. "But the concentration camps are not where most of the victims of National Socialism and Stalinism died." Half of the killings within this period were caused by starvation, as a result of Stalin's starvation policy of the early '30s (a five-year plan of "industrial development at the price of popular misery") and Hitler's deliberate starvation of Soviet prisoners of war. Snyder traces how Stalin's focus on collectivization and famine "had unwittingly performed much of the ideological work that helped Hitler come to power." Stalin had already been secretly practicing mass murder on the Polish population during the Great Terror, well before the "large open pogrom" of Kristallnacht. Hitler recognized their joint "common desire to get rid of the old equilibrium" and neatly divide and destroy Poland at the Molotov-Ribbentrop line. His Hunger Plan was followed by massive depopulation in the forms of deportation, shooting, forced labor and, eventually, the death factories. Snyder devotes ample space to the partisan efforts, the incineration of Warsaw and Stalin's eager postwar ethnic-cleansing sweep. In the concluding chapter, "Humanity," the author urges readers to join him in a clear-eyed reexamination of this comparative history of mass murder and widespread suffering.

A significant work of staggering figures and scholarship.

Richard Rhodes
Snyder's research is careful and thorough, his narrative powerful, if inevitably restrained. His interpretation of the events he describes is less confident, however. He is clear that the influence of "modernity," as some have theorized, is hardly an adequate explanation for the Holocaust. But in attributing the Nazi shift from shooting to gassing to the gas chamber's supposedly greater "efficiency," he overlooks the very evidence he cites.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

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.”
“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.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465002399
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 181,879
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

Preface: Europe vii

Introduction: Hitler and Stalin 1

1 The Soviet Famines 21

2 Class Terror 59

3 National Terror 89

4 Molotov-Ribbentrop Europe 119

5 The Economics of Apocalypse 155

6 Final Solution 187

7 Holocaust and Revenge 225

8 The Nazi Death Factories 253

9 Resistance and Incineration 277

10 Ethnic Cleansings 313

11 Stalinist Anti-Semitism 339

Conclusion: Humanity 379

Numbers and Terms 409

Abstract 415

Acknowledgments 419

Bibliography 423

Notes 463

Index 507

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 65 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 8, 2010

    Excellent introduction to one of the darkest chapters in European History

    For those that are not familiar with the Second World War, or the history of modern Europe, Bloodlands will be a shocking introduction to the destruction wrought by the forces of Stalinism and National Socialism on the people of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic Republics. Contrary to popular history and the prejudiced American accounts of the Second World War, the "Bloodlands," the ideological battlefield of the war, was where Nazism was ultimately defeated, but not before the complete annihilation of their Jewish communities and the ascension of Stalin's Iron Curtain throughout Eastern Europe. It is a poignant and often-times chilling account of the experiences of diverse peoples, beginning with Stalin's famine policy on the Ukraine to the Einsatzgruppen's monstrous campaign of mass murder to, ultimately, the forced ethnic cleansing of post-war Europe. As Americans, we truly do not understand, to this day, the magnitude and horror unleashed by the terrible forces of National Socialism and Stalinism-our images of those atrocities are limited to the liberation of the concentration camps. The reality: most Jews were executed, a bullet to the back of the head and buried within mass graves.

    Snyder fails to provide a more concise account of Stalin's anti-Semitism (and his near purge of Jewish doctors) along with a flippant account of the Soviet re-conquest of the bloodlands following the defeat of Nazi Germany. The author does mention Russian atrocities in relation to the invasion of Germany (characterized by mass rape and pillage) but does so in passing. Despite these weaknesses, Bloodlands still is a great historical read and a must for any serious student of European history.`

    21 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2011

    A World War II History Buff? This Story is For You.

    A sobering & insightful accounting of the civilian/military horror of events culminating in 14 million casualties in Eastern Europe & Western Russia. Hitler and Stalin were true madmen...wish I had this history book available during my high school/college years. However, after 1989 and the opening of Russian archives following the collapse of the Soviet Union, I can learn what I never before knew about these tortured "Bloodlands".

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2013

    Bloodlands, Euorpe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.

    Bloodlands, Euorpe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. This book covers the chronological period of approximately 1930 (when Stalin gained preeminent power in the Soviet Union and initiated the collective agriculture program) and 1945 (end of WWII). In between, Hitler rose to power and planned German expansion in the east - 1933, Stalin in the Great Terror sought to eliminate the anti-collectivist kulaks - 1937 - 38, the Germans and Soviets split divided Poland and both murdered the inteligentsia - 1939, Germany broke the alliance and invaded Soviet Poland, the Baltics, Ukraine, Belarus and eastern Russia - 1939, and Russians repelled the Germans and ultimately occupied east Germany and much of central and eastern Europe. These events precipitated the deliberate murder in this geographical area of about 14 million people, the topics of this book. Fourteen million is only a fraction of number of deaths during WWII as the book only deals with deliberate murders in this area, largely of non-combatant civilians and not combantant deaths or millions of incidental civilian casualties of the war. Bloodlands does deal with the deaths of 5.4 million Jews in the Holocaust, but they are only part of the victims of the Holocaust and a substantial but not majority of all deaths considered. It is an excellent book, particularly for those of us who were raised to see WWII as a battle primarily on the western front which had relatively few casualties. Snyder's concluding chapter on "Humanity" is worth reading even by those who do not have time for the rest of the book. What it says about human nature and evil is deeply, deeply disturbing and fearful. It makes it very difficult for me to be optimistic.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012

    great synthesis

    great look at where the suffering and dying was in WW2. Little too academic but still fascinating.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    Snyder's work is great but the ebook delivery is subpar.

    I couldn't put the book down. It was as fascinating as it was infuriating and depressing. I recommend it to everyone.

    My gripe is about the ebook. It replaced many of the Polish characters with a little box. Every five pages or so, the page swipe would cease to work and I would have to manually type in the next page number.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    finally the full history of this region and time period is told.

    finally the full history of this region and time period is told.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Anti-Semitic propaganda

    Grover Furr writes about Snyder, “in Bloodlands and recent articles Prof. Snyder propounds the anti-Semitic historical misrepresentation of today’s Polish, Baltic and Ukrainian nationalist regimes. … virtually everything Snyder has to say about Soviet history of this period is false. Dovid Katz, expert on the Holocaust in the Balkans, has written that Snyder’s work echoes Baltic historical revisionism by ‘almost’ equating liberators – the Soviet Union – with the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust while persecuting former Jewish partisans who fought Baltic fascists in Soviet partisan formations and praising the local fascists who murdered Jews and fought the Soviets. Concerning Poland, Snyder also repeats the historical lies of the anti-Semitic Home Army (Armia Krajowa) of the wartime ‘London’ Polish regime – lies that are taught as ‘truth’ in Poland today. Today’s Baltic, Ukrainian, and Polish elites apologize for their crimes by comparing the Nazis with Stalin’s Soviet Union as ‘parallel’ mass murderers. To do this they have to fabricate fraudulent tales of Soviet ‘atrocities’ or recycle Nazi propaganda. Snyder repeats these falsehoods as fact. My own concern is with Snyder’s falsification of Soviet history. Virtually every ‘fact’ Snyder cites is false and long since disproven. Here are just a few of them: * Snyder repeats the ‘Holodomor’ myth: that the Soviets ‘deliberately starved’ to death more than 3 million Ukrainians. NO reputable scholar of the famine accepts this fable today. The ‘Holodomor’ myth was invented by the Nazis and their Ukrainian Nationalist allies during the 1930s. Today it is the Ukrainian nationalists’ ‘cover story’ to justify their siding with the Nazis against the Soviets – and their participation in murdering millions of Ukrainian Jews. * Snyder repeats Polish nationalist lies about the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939. He falsely claims the Nazis and Soviets were ‘military allies’; that German and Soviet troops ‘jointly’ invaded Poland and held a ‘joint victory parade.’ All false! Winston Churchill praised the Soviets for entering Eastern Poland thereby preventing the Nazi army from reaching the Soviet border. There was no ‘joint victory parade’, as the memoirs of both the German and Soviet generals, Guderian and Krivoshein, attest. There was no ‘Soviet-German alliance.’ Soviet neutrality was recognized by every Allied government. In addition, the only part of ‘Poland’ occupied by the Red Army was Western Ukraine-Belorussia, had been taken by conquest from Russia in 1920. * Official Polish anti-Semitism before, during, and after WW2 is actively denied by Polish nationalists today. Snyder aids them by scarcely mentioning it. Instead he attacks the Soviets. This is all wrong. In his memoir Menachem Begin wrote: ‘the Soviet Government fought anti-Semitism with characteristic pertinacity... The truth is that the Soviet Government is anti-anti-Semitic.’ (White Nights 1951) Dovid Katz writes: … in 1944, the USSR did liberate these lands from Nazi dominion, and they did bring freedom to the tiny remaining remnant of the targeted-for-extinction races. From the day the Holocaust started here, in June 1941, the Soviets were often the only hope of escape for members of a doomed race, whether by fleeing eastward before Nazi control was firmly established in the first week after 22 June that year, or, by evading the ghettos to link up with the Soviet supported anti-Nazi partisans in the forests.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2015

    Finally a comprehensive history of the people who were occupied,

    Finally a comprehensive history of the people who were occupied, oppressed and persecuted by the Hilter and Stalin regimes has been written. This story has been dominated by an incomplete narrative. A more complete history was not written because the people of Eastern Europe were under the occupation of USSR until the eighties; and so, the rest of the world wrote their history for them. Snyder has done the scholarly work, learned the languages, uncovered the locked-up archives of this region and has written the complete story that expands upon the conventional popular narrative. Unfortunately some (including commenters here) consider any thing that shines light upon a more complete truth of this period to be anti-Semitic. Find out for yourself. Don't let that accusation leave you uninformed.

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  • Posted August 31, 2014

    This is basically another holocaust book. I do not mean to be

    This is basically another holocaust book. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I am holocausted out.. I was under the impression that this book would be about the balkland countries during WWI (i.e battles, etc) The book starts out good with the rise of the NAZI party , Stalinism, the atrocities committed by both Hitler and Stalin, not just on the Jews, but the entire population of those living in the Balkland countries. I also think the author did a wonderful job on showing what Hitlers plans were and what Stalins plans were with the Balkland countries (both assuming they were going to win the war) Halfway through, this book basically becomes what happened to the Jews during this time. It is terrible what happeneded to the Jews during the holocaust, however, millions of other people also suffered. When writing about WWI and the atrocities, if an author can only write about what happened to the Jews ,then in my opinion the author is very biased. If an author wants to write about only what happened to the Jews, fine- but advertise it that way. I do believe we have to learn about history, so we do not repeat it. I would like to say I can only hope that another genocide would not occur, but unfortunately genocide has occurred in recent history (Rwanda as an example) and I’m afraid it will continue to happen. . I also gave this book 2 stars because at times I became lost with all the numbers. It seems like the author used too many statistics and numbers to make his point. Yes, it was well researched, but the use of too many numbers and statistics gets confusing

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