Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
by Timothy Snyder
This book is a history of Eastern Europe, the territory that was fought over between Hitler and Stalin. The book starts with Stalin’s purges of the 1930s and ends with the doctor’s plots and Stalin’s death.
Usually a book would deal with either the crimes of Stalin’s or Hitler’s regimes’ separately. This book takes a different tact by showing that the two totalitarian states were not only in competition with each other, but fed off of each other learning ways to control their populations. There is a large amount of material here crammed into 400 pages, so much so that it occasionally seems like a summary. There is a lot of statistics.
Curiously, one of the author’s goals is to remind us that these were individuals being murdered. The book is peppered with accounts of the sufferings of individuals. This would be quite effective if it wasn’t for the mind numbing statistics.
One of the interesting parts in the conclusion is when he states that when we are told a number that rounds to zero we lose a sense of humanity about the individuals as opposed to a number that gives a definite total. For instance, 3,100,000 or 3,100,015. He is actually right. I have never thought about it like that.
Highly recommended if you can stomach 400 pages of humans’ inhumanity to each other.