Review published on April 23, 2016.
Black Earth, the Holocaust as History and Warning, takes as its theme the destruction of the state (notably in Eastern Europe), especially Poland. Hitler invaded the country and then declared that it was not a country as such, thus depriving its citizens of any rights. Tragically, this coincided with Stalin’s Soviet Union doing exactly the same thing, so that the Poles were constantly persecuted by both powers.
Hitler also linked the Jews with Bolshevism, so that they were doubly stigmatised. They were at risk, not just from the German forces, but from the local, anti-communist population. Jews were often betrayed or killed by non-Jews, so that they in turn could escape persecution from whichever side became dominant with the changing fortunes of war. Snyder then concludes by linking the past with what is happening in the present day in the Middle East.
This book has been highly praised, and indeed it is a worthy contribution to the subject. It is not, however, the best, and the author distracts the reader from the text by constantly reiterating his thesis about the destruction of the state and Jews being rendered stateless, not just in every chapter, but virtually on every page.
I was pleased to read this book, but did not find it as engrossing as I had hoped. I would recommend it to a reading group interested in World War Two, but there are books on the subject which are superior to this.
Black Earth by Timothy Snyder
Vintage 978-1-784-70148-2 pbk Mar 2016
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