Plenty #3 — Timothy Snyder Warns of Next Genocide

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Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History at Yale, and author of "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning;" photo by Ine Gundersveen, courtesy timothysnyder.org

Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History at Yale, and author of “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning;”
photo by Ine Gundersveen, courtesy timothysnyder.org

We spoke with Timothy Snyder about his recent work examining two necessary conditions for the Holocaust: disintegration of the state and ecological panic. The Yale history professor explains the connections between perceived resource scarcity, the dissolution of political order, and the assignment of blame to vulnerable foes. The result in World War II, of course, was a genocide that claimed over six million lives. Today, with far more pressing ecological worries and transcontinental geopolitical instability, a genocide could begin in any number of regions. Indeed, from the chaos of failed or failing states, a refugee and migrant crisis as urgent as any in history is underway right now. How long can it be before humanity responds in troubling, familiar ways?

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning
by Timothy Snyder
September, 2015
Penguin Random House

Preconditions for Genocide Growing Alarmingly Common

"Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning" urges us to pay close attention to growing ecological panic and increasingly widespread governmental destabilization; image courtesy Penguin Random House

“Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” urges us to pay close attention to growing ecological panic and increasingly widespread governmental destabilization; image courtesy Penguin Random House

"Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning;" availble now from Amazon.com

“Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning;” availble now from Amazon.com

“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.”

Further Reading about “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”

By Timothy Snyder:

The Op-Ed piece mentioned during the interview, “The Next Genocide,” was published in the New York Times on September 12, 2015

An essay, “Hitler’s world may not be so far away,” was adapted from an excerpt of “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning,” and published in the September 16, 2015 issue of the Guardian.

Features

The New York Times
review, “Timothy Snyder’s ‘Black Earth’ Puts Holocaust, and Himself, in Spotlight”
Jennifer Schuessler
September 7, 2015

Reviews:

The Wall Street Journal
“The Frying Pan and the Fire”
Why did 99% of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Denmark survive while 99% of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Estonia were murdered?
by Edward Rothstein
September 4, 2015

The Washington Post
“Role of broken politics in the fueling the horrors of the Holocaust”
by Michael S. Roth
September 4, 2015

The New York Times, Sunday Book Review
review, “Timothy Snyder’s ‘Black Earth”
Michael R. Marrus
September 3, 2015

The Guardian
“A new lesson to be learned from the Holocaust”
Richard J. Evans
September 10, 2015

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, which received the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hannah Arendt Prize, and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. 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 Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Watch the trailer for “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”

 

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