Sunday, September 4, 2016

Book Review: Bloodlands - Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder

Having read extensively about the Second World War and its aftermath, I have become exceedingly skeptical of everything I read.  Seventy years is not long enough for the passions aroused by this war to subside enough to allow an objective report of what transpired.  The Peloponnesian War undoubtedly aroused passion.  However, no one today would suggest that that war be continued.  Perhaps in another 2500 years the events surrounding this period will be viewed more objectively.  Until then all accounts should be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism.

It is unlikely, but possible, that Snyder wrote an account void of error.  However, his account conflicts with many other sources.  Snyder gives a figure of 21,892 Poles murdered by the Soviets in what is called the Katyn Forest massacre.  General Pavel Sudoplatov in his book Special Tasks gives a figure of 27,500.  He also provides a memo to Stalin signed by Lavrentiy Beria proposing the execution of the Polish prisoners.

His account of the Lidice massacre is also in conflict with other sources.  He claims, “Its men were shot on the spot, its women sent to the German concentration camp at Ravensbruck, and the children gassed at Chelmno.”  (p.262)  Jan Kaplan and Krystyna Nosarzewska report in Prague: The Turbulent Century that, “153 women and 17 children returned after the war.”  

Snyder appears to minimize the atrocities associated with the expulsion of Germans from the East.  He states, “Much responsibility for the deaths associated with flight and expulsion thus rested with the Nazi regime.”  He spends little time on this section of the “bloodlands.”  He states that the expulsions were not designed to liquidate Germans.  This appears to conflict with Churchill’s view.  In 1943 he told Edvard Benes, “Many (Sudeten) Germans will be killed in your country as well - it cannot be helped and I agree with it.  After a few months we’ll say ‘that’s enough,’ and we shall start on the work of peace: try the guilty men who stayed alive.”  Benes stated, “Woe, woe, woe, thrice woe to the Germans, we will liquidate you!”  

He also claims that Polish communist leader Boleslaw Beirut was not Jewish.  I seem to recall reading that he was.  Again Snyder may be correct in all his assertions.  

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