The Holocaust as History and Warning
A Landmark Work of History—and a Warning for the Future
“Timothy Snyder’s bold new approach to the Holocaust links Hitler’s racial worldview to the destruction of states and the quest for land and food. This insight leads to thought-provoking and disturbing conclusions for today’s world. Black Earth uses the recent past’s terrible inhumanity to underline an urgent need to rethink our own future.”
“Part history, part political theory, Black Earth is a learned and challenging reinterpretation.”
“Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth is not only a powerful exposure of the horrors of the Holocaust but also a compelling dissection of the Holocaust’s continuing threat.”
“Timothy Snyder argues, eloquently and convincingly, that the world is still susceptible to the inhuman impulses that brought about the Final Solution. This book should be read as admonition by presidents, prime ministers, and in particular by anyone who believes that the past is somehow behind us.”
In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first. Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.
The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler’s mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed. Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler’s aim was a colonial war in Europe itself. In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died. A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions. Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals. The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic. These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so.
By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future. The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order. Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.
About the Author
Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a member of the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the author of five award-winning works of history, including Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, which received the Literature Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Snyder is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement and a former contributing editor at the New Republic. He is a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences, serves as the faculty advisor for the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, and sits on the advisory council of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.