cover image Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Timothy Snyder. Crown/Duggan, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-1-101-90345-2

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.)