Timothy Snyder’s ‘Black Earth’

06Marrus-blog427Michael R. Marrus at the New York Times:

We may think we know about the Holocaust, Snyder seems to be telling his readers. But he then goes on to contend that “we” get it wrong: We fail to understand Hitler’s ecological viewpoint, we neglect the participation of non-Germans in the killing, we distort the meaning of the concentration camps, we misread the role of states in which massacres occurred, we are wrong about the place of science, among other mistakes. To rectify this mountain of errors, Snyder prescribes some antidotes: a global perspective, an appreciation of Hitler’s colonial policy toward other countries and a “multifocal” approach, “providing perspectives beyond those of the Nazis themselves.” Tilting at some rather elderly windmills, Snyder insists we see that “Hitler’s world­view did not bring about the Holocaust by itself” and that the subject must be viewed internationally, “for Germans and others murdered Jews not in Germany but in other countries.” Even minimally informed readers are likely to find at least some of Snyder’s so-called failures inapplicable and at least some of his remedies familiar. And few are very likely to be surprised when, as if this were a new revelation, he announces that “the Holocaust is not only history, but warning.”

Snyder’s title refers to the fertile, food-producing regions in the heart of Ukraine, in the southern part of the Soviet Union, where Hitler and Stalin allowed their ecological fantasies, fears and murderous ambitions to roam freely, each considering the fate of the region and its population as crucial to the outcome of colossal geopolitical struggles. These territories were a prize for which each was prepared to sacrifice millions, and in the pursuit of which the Jews became the central obsession of the Nazi dictator. This was the cradle of the Holocaust, Snyder says, Hitler’s effort to destroy a planetary enemy.

more here.