Hitler

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Matthew Price reviews Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder, whose “subject is ‘political mass murder’ and the 14 million mostly civilian victims — women, children, the elderly — who were variously shot, starved, and gassed by the Germans and the Soviets between 1932 and 1945.”

At the height of Stalin’s Great Terror, a team of only 12 Soviet secret police kills 20,761 people outside of Moscow in 1937 and 1938, burying them in pits. “On any given day in the second half of 1941, the Germans shot more Jews than had been killed by pogroms in the entire history of the Russian Empire,” Snyder tells us. And few readers are likely to be acquainted with the plight of Belarusians between 1941 and 1944. As the Germans rampaged through Belarus, they waged a war, in effect, against civilians. The death toll was staggering. Of 350,000 people killed in the anti-partisan campaign, some 90 per cent were unarmed. The Germans also killed half a million Belarusian Jews. “By the end of the of the war,” Snyder notes, “half the population of Belarus had either been killed or moved. This cannot be said of any other European country.”

Now and again, a voice of one of the perpetrators breaks through, to horrific effect. “During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it,” a German policeman writes to his wife about his first experience shooting Jews. “Infants flew in great arcs through the air, and we shot them to pieces in flight, before their bodies fell into the pit and into the water.”

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