This controversial history of modern Europe presents 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.
Some historians use metal-detectors to snatch out something flashy. Others do patient archaeology, relating the tiniest object in each stratum to its context. Snyder is the second kind ... In this book, he seems to have set himself three labours. The first was to bring together the enormous mass of fresh research – some of it his own – into Soviet and Nazi killing, and produce something like a final and definitive account ... But Snyder's second job was to limit his own scope, by subject and by place ... Snyder's third aim is to correct, radically, the way we remember what happened ... Snyder shows convincingly how the Holocaust emerged ... This book's unforgettable account of the Ukraine famine shows conclusively that Stalin knew what was happening in the countryside and chose to let it run its course (some 3 million died) ... The figures are so huge and so awful that grief could grow numb. But Snyder, who is a noble writer as well as a great researcher, knows that. He asks us not to think in those round numbers.
Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale, compels us to look squarely at the full range of destruction committed first by Stalin’s regime and then by Hitler’s Reich ... Drawing on material in several European languages, including memoirs and scholarly literature, Snyder recounts this sequence of mass murder — by Stalin and then by Hitler — which accounted for 14 million civilian deaths in little more than a dozen years ... Snyder punctuates his comprehensive and eloquent account with brief glimpses of individual victims, perpetrators and witnesses, among them the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who wrote about Soviet Ukraine and Nazi Germany in the 1930s ... But Bloodlands falters when Snyder comes to deal with the aftermath of the war in the Soviet Union. Stalin became obsessed with the Jews.
Snyder’s claim that the people of Soviet Russia were far less likely to be touched by Stalin’s terror than national minorities in the ‘bloodlands’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny ... Snyder’s relentless focus on Poland, Belarus, the Ukraine and to a lesser extent the Baltic states, and the large claims he makes for the victimisation of their inhabitants, sidelines the fate of the millions of Russians who died at Stalin’s hands ... A historian of East-Central Europe, Snyder hasn’t really mastered the voluminous literature on Hitler’s Germany. This leads him into error in a number of places ... Snyder portrays the Nazi decision-making process as far more clear-cut than most historians now think it was ... The fundamental reason for these omissions, and for the book’s failure to give an adequate account of the genesis of the Final Solution, is that Snyder isn’t seriously interested in explaining anything. What he really wants to do is to tell us about the sufferings of the people who lived in the area he knows most about ... What we need is not to be told yet again the facts about mass murder, but to understand why it took place and how people could carry it out, and in this task Snyder’s book is of no use.