Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.

Position:Briefly Noted - Book review

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Timothy Snyder (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 544 PP., $29.95 cloth.

"When meaning is drawn from killing," observes Timothy Snyder, "the risk is that more killing would bring more meaning." Although Nazism and Stalinism are ostensibly separated by an ideological gulf, this brute fact binds the human nightmares unleashed by both. As Snyder notes, both Stalin and Hitler saw themselves as victims of an international conspiracy--for Stalin, the threat was capitalist encirclement and infiltration; for Hitler, it was the cosmic menace of the Jewish people--which thus justified the wanton slaughter of millions of innocent people according to a logic of self-defense. For both men, killing became self-justifying, leading to more murder, and more death.

For instance, Stalin's decision to starve millions of peasants in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-1933 in order to export grain and thereby increase the Soviet Union's foreign currency reserves was subsequently portrayed as evidence of the treason of the Ukrainian peasantry (to starve was to resist). When many of those Ukrainians who were "merely" sent to the Gulag for failing to meet their grain quotas were released in 1937-1938, Stalin saw their release as threatening--their time in the...

To continue reading