Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Timothy Snyder: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
And I'm pleased to introduce Timothy Snyder Timothy Steiner is a professor of history at Yale University focusing on modern East European political history having received his Ph.D. from Oxford he has helped fellowships here at Harvard and in various institutions abroad. He has written a number of prize winning historical studies including most recently the RED PRINCE The Secret Lives of the hops Burke Archduke and sketches from a secret war a Polish artist's mission to liberate Soviet Ukraine. Professor ciders new book Blood Lans illuminates the events a German and Soviet killing sites that fell behind the Iron Curtain after the end of World War Two and thus have been largely ignored. A recent review in The Economist says Mr. Snyder's book is revisionist history at its best close in close sorry and spare a closely argued prose with meticulous use of statistics. He makes the reader rethink some of the best known episodes of Europe's modern history and a starred review in Kircus calls it a significant Work of
Staggering figures and scholarship. And now please join me in Professor Timothy Snyder. I'm very glad to be here and particularly glad to be in this bookstore. As I was being introduced in order to avoid listening to flattering words about myself I instead calculated how much of my income I spent here when I lived in Cambridge Massachusetts and it's somewhere between seven and 10 percent. I especially like the remainders table over there which I visited weekly for years. Having finished a book is different from having considered writing a book it's different from writing a book. Now that this book is done what I would like to do is share with you in the next 25 or 30 minutes a sense of why a book like this ought to have been written
and a sense of how I wrote it. And then finally a sense at the end of what it might all mean. The reason why I thought a book such as this was indispensable was that there was no history of the event or Chronicles between nineteen thirty three in one thousand forty five. The German and the Soviet regimes together killed about 17 million people. About 14 million of these people and by people I mean civilians and prisoners of war. I'm not talking about soldiers in combat. About 14 of the 17 million people died in a relatively small area which in the book's title is called the blood lands between the Baltic and the black seas from north to south between Berlin and Moscow let's say from west to east more or less Poland Ukraine Belarus the Baltic states western Russia. So 14 million people were murdered by two regimes over the course of 12 years.
There are a few comparable catastrophes in history. There are probably only one or two comparable manmade calamities in history and yet there was no study of this event. Why not. Let me start with self criticism or what's always more enjoyable criticism of colleagues. The the the area which I'm just described is is is fairly coextensive with what historians think of as as Eastern Europe it's not all of Eastern Europe but it's a big part of Eastern Europe. And yet East European historians. Those of us here and those of us in Eastern Europe haven't seen this problem the way I've just described it. I think this has to do with the fact that used European historians are normally concerned with One Nation which means that we see only part of the problem. It also means that we tend to be cowed tend to be caught in polemic ce. I might for example be interested in telling you that the polls were not as bad as you think they were during the Second World War
or in a mid career transition. I might change my mind and decide to tell you that they were worse than you thought. During the Second World War. Either way I mean gauged in polemic ser apologetics that are nationally bound and insofar as I am nationally bound as a scholar I cannot see the totality of this calamity. In Soviet history there's been enormous progress especially as concerns to the events I describe in this book the famine in Soviet Ukraine in the early 30s and the great terror of 1037 in 1038. We now know much more than we did factually 20 years ago. The weakness of Soviet history is that it tends not to be geographical. One can very easily very easily overlook the fact that Soviet deliberate killing took place in the western part of the Soviet Union disproportionately and disproportionately on the lands which were also occupied by the Germans. And indeed that's a another definition of the blood lands these are territories which are occupied ruled by
both the Soviets and the Germans. The Holocaust is the central climactic event within this account. And yet there are weaknesses within the Holocaust historiography which I believe have prevented it from being fully understood on its own and for it being integrated into this larger history. This has to do chiefly with the fact I think that the history of the Holocaust is essentially a history of Germany. About 98 or 99 percent of the books which are published which you will see in this bookstore for example kept having to do with the Holocaust use German sources alone. This means that you can go very far. Although not all the way to the end I don't think you can go very far in understanding German institutions and German motivations. You can take part in debates about which is more important motivations or institutions and that's been the central debate in German history. And then you can make the move which the Holocaust history has made which is to consider the point of view of the victims. However in so far as you are using German language sources you're only considering 3 percent of the victims of the Holocaust.
The tremendous majority the victims of the Holocaust were Jews who did not speak German who were well beyond the range of German speaking civilization and so in order to get the Holocaust itself right one must move well beyond German history in the sense of using German sources even if those sources are for example German language diaries that can only take you so far. Another problem we've all had to contend with has been the taboo on comparisons. It's very often thought that if one mentions Stalin and Hitler in the same book that means that one is comparing them and the next move is to say that a comparison is illegitimate because a comparison can only be a little one or the other. Today is generally what that means by belittling the crimes of Hitler. I would say on the contrary that and I'll try to develop this argument that it's impossible to understand the depth of the crimes of either Hitler or Stalin without bringing them both into the picture. Consider this everywhere that the Germans killed in large numbers was later ruled by the Soviets and the place where the Soviets killed in the
largest numbers in the 30s was occupied by the Germans thereafter. How can we not believe that that has some significance and how can we not investigate what significance that might be. Another problem and this comes from one Arment of whom I think very highly in many respects is the problem of totalitarianism. In so far as comparisons between the Soviets and the Nazis have been permitted it's very often been within this framework not what the totalitarian framework does is it authorizes us to see Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as two instances of the same kind of totalitarian system. The problem with this is that it focuses our attention on Moscow and on Berlin it asks us to look at Soviet society and German society as examples whereas in fact I think the heart of the problem of totalitarianism or whatever one wishes to call it is not in Berlin or in Moscow but rather precisely in the lands between where all of the killing takes place. At least that's my premise. That brings me to the how how
could one write a history of this sort in a way which might be effective and convincing and true. The methods were really very simple. The first was to const. to take for granted that history is inclusive of everything which happens. That's maybe not as trivial as it sounds. What it means is to deny claims of this kind that the Holocaust was so horrible that we cannot conceive of it within history that we must treat sources having to do with the Holocaust in a different way that we must somehow only when we discuss the Holocaust discuss the Holocaust itself. It also means excluding claims of this kind that Soviet modernization had a purpose that the Soviets understood history that Stalin's terror for example was justified in a metaphysical way because he knew that the Germans were going to invade that because the Marxism had an understanding of history we must respect it. Both Hitler and Stalin had strong arguments about why their resumes were special and not subject to normal historical analysis. I find it striking
the extent to which we still accept even as we reject everything else about those regimes. Those kinds of claims second method history involves a time and a place. What I consider is the 14 million deaths which occur in this defined territory from the Baltic and the Black Sea is between early 933 and spring one thousand forty five this time and place gives me a method. It gives me a subject and I like to think it gives me a source of insights. This method allows me among other things to embrace both of their regimes but in a way which is not an abstract comparison between the two. And considering the territories were both ruled and were both killed in chronological order. Considering the people as well as the regimes means that the book has a different perspective. It's not. It is concerned at times with the perspective of the killers. But because what I'm concerned with chiefly is understanding how those people died. Its perspective is also that of the people who died up until the moment literally in some cases when they
did. A third part of the method is to distinguish between deliberate killing and camps. There has been a great confusion in the literature. I mean by that both the novels and the history of these events between concentration camps and killing facilities until we get that distinction clear. We cannot understand the Holocaust we cannot understand mass killing in general and cannot understand the 20th century concentration camps killed. They killed sometimes in large numbers. The Soviet gulag system killed about half a million people between one thousand forty one thousand forty three. The German camp system killed about a million people at the very end of the war. They killed then because they were under stress. They were not meant to kill. About 90 percent of people under the gulag left alive. Most of the people in the German camp system also left alive when people were killed. For the most part they were not entering into camps first. Most of the victims of both regimes never saw a concentration camp. People were gassed in places which were not camps. People were shot over pets and people
were starved. Those are the ways that 14 million people were killed. The camps were horrible. But insofar as we think the camps were the worst the 20th century were euphemized in the 20th century. Another part of the historical method is to accept plural causality. What I mean a number of things by that. One thing I mean is that we can't expect that you can understand any national tragedy within national history alone. As much as one knows about Jewish history one cannot explain the Holocaust only within Jewish history as much as one knows about Ukrainian history one can explain the famine of 1033 by way of Ukrainian history as much as one knows about Polish history one cannot explain cutting by way of Polish history alone. Another example of poor causality is taking for granted that one cannot understand the Germans or the Soviets without thinking about how they saw each other and understanding how they interacted both in anticipation of what the other might do sometimes in cooperation and as enemies on the battlefield. Another
part of plural causality is to accept that killing policy is a related one to the other. The Soviet era for example had something to do with the famine that preceded it and which it did. That the Holocaust had something to do with the starvation of Soviet prisoners of war which immediately preceded it which it did. Another part of the method is to avoid what I take to be a very sterile opposition between economics and ideology. At the moment in our culture we tend to distinguish between these things very sharply and we tend to believe that regimes both the Nazi and the Soviet were evil because they held wrong ideas. And of course that's true as far as it goes. The problem with this sort of thinking and with this kind of moralizing cultural history is that it ignores how ideas are lit ideas of race for example are linked to ideas of economics. And when the Soviet case how ideas of progress are linked to ideas of economics and how and how to take the point a bit further ideologies can't really function without economic purchase.
And of course the point works a way around economies can't really work without covering ideology. That's true of all economies and all systems but it's also true the Nazis and the Soviets. And insofar as we leave out the economics which we now tend to do we're making the regimes less horrible than in fact they were because one of the things which makes them so dreadful is that in the their economic calculus as they would they would not treat human life as as of any significance and that's of one of them. That's one of the most terrible things about these regimes. The final part of the method is to use it again like all of these things this may seem obvious once I say it but it's to use all the sources in all the languages of the people who are involved from from Germany to Russia with pretty much everything in between. This is important for the primary sources but it's also very important for the secondary sources. I criticised colleagues earlier but having said that I should also say that much of what is in this book would be impossible without the work of Russian historians Ukrainian historians Polish historians and above all German historians. So what does this give us what happens if we follow these methods. The book is divided into
chapters each of which concerns a major killing policy with the exception of the introduction the introduction reminds us of the First World War. In particular it recalls the forgotten Eastern Front. It recalls the way in which both the Germans and the Bolsheviks regarded the east. What we see is the east for the Bolsheviks Of course it was the West as a kind of land of opportunity. In particular it reminds us of the importance of the Ukrainian breadbasket. This more or less quasar I miss a mythical place where a land of milk and honey where food could be infinite. This is incredibly important in the political economy of the time where food was basically what to them what oil is to us a resource which it was which seemed to be scarce by its nature. The first chapter concerns the Ukrainian famine of 1033 discusses collectivization and discusses the famine in Kazakhstan. It makes the point that one of the reasons we know that Stalin starvation in Ukraine was deliberate was because he had seen and knew about the famine in Kazakhstan and it follows the chronology especially the chronology of
1930 to the autumn where we know now step by step what Stalin was ordering. The evidence is now very good that that he was taking steps deliberately which which he knew would lead to mass starvation probably about three million more people died than haft then had to end that famine. The next chapter in this is the link between famine and terror is about class terror. Although we imagine that the major victims of the Soviet terror were bespectacled intellectuals such as ourselves. I'm wearing contacts. In fact the major victims were peasants Stalin was concerned about some kind of war scenario in which peasants alienated by famine collectivization and the Gulag. Would ally with foreign powers Japan and Poland were the ones he had in mind. Germany was in third place therefore the first major killing action within what we call the Great Terror was the so-called action in which around 400000 people were shot. Most of them were peasants that was the largest you know action
by a modern state against civilians ever carried out to that point. About 400000 of the 700000 victims of the great terror were killed in a school auction. The vast majority of the rest were killed in ethnic shooting actions which began at around the same time July 1037 the largest of these was the Polish auction in which more than 100000 men women. Not very many children mostly men were shot on completely spurious charges of being spies for Poland. There was also a stone you know action a lot in action a Finnish action and so on and so on. Most of the minorities which could be associated with powers beyond the Soviet Union were targeted. These were very large ethnic killing actions nothing on the scale was taking place anywhere else in the world at the time with the exception of of. Outer Mongolia what I'm trying to say is that Germany had not undertaken ethnic killing on anything like the scale in the 1030 as it was Stalin who pioneered it. The fourth chapter concerns what I think of as the joint decapitation of Poland the Soviet Union and Nazi
Germany jointly invade Poland is a term in 1039 they pursue a strategy of rule which although based on different ideologies is very similar in the execution which is to say both are concerned with what they both call the Polish intelligentsia. What they mean to do is destroy the Polish nation's ability to govern itself by killing the people who are associated with culture and with politics and their demographic profiling is so similar that in number of cases known to us the Soviets kill one sibling and the Germans kill another sibling. About two hundred thousand people are killed in Poland several several thousand in the Baltic states as well at this time. The next chapter concerns what the Germans meant to do when they invaded the Soviet Union. And then a bit of what they did what the Germans meant to do when they invaded the Soviet Union was much worse than anything they in fact carried out German planning which we have in black and white envisioned that 30 million people would be starved to death in the first winter after the war it envisioned that tens of millions more people would be killed deported beyond the Urals starved
force to be assimilated or enslaved in order to create for the Germans a frontier Empire reaching to the Urals it envisioned of course also the removal of the Jews. These things cannot be carried out as they were originally planned because the Germans not only don't win the war they don't move nearly as fast as they expect to in the summer and fall of 1041 where they're a factor where their moral premises are most clearly fulfilled I think is in the starvation of Soviet prisoners of war. The Germans purposely starve all the Soviets the Soviet prisoners of war that they take as a result something like 2.6 million people die of hunger of hunger related diseases. Another half a million are shot. Of these people who are shot they are disproportionately. These people are Jews. Which brings me to the event which we call the Holocaust which I break into three chapters. One concerns mass shooting as it begins mashing of whole communities in the summer of 1941. This chapter concentrates on Ukraine a second chapter explores the relationship between any parties in operations in Belarus and the mass shooting of Jews to different crimes
which for reasons of Nazi ideology and also for reasons of Soviet provocations blur into each other. By the end of the war the third chapter about the Holocaust as concerns the death factories in Poland as as you probably know the first technology of killing in the Holocaust was not gas in the first technology was shooting it was shooting which brought death to about the first million Jews it was shooting which convinced him and therefore Hitler that a final solution could mean mass murder rather than some kind of deportation. That technique of gassing was was developed for the euthanasia program it was used then in the gas fans and late 1041 in Belarus and Ukraine it was then used in fixed facilities in hell Nobels at Sobibor Treblinka in 1902 in Poland. All in all the Germans killed about five point four million Jews roughly 2.6 million of them were shot roughly 2.8 million were gassed and tens of thousands more died while be deported to the ghettos or of hunger and disease in the ghettos. The final chapter concerns Warsaw in 1904 and the German attempt to destroy the
city during and after the Warsaw uprising. It concentrates in particular on the roughly one hundred twenty thousand Polish civilians who were murdered during the uprising and incidents separate from combat. I closed the book with two subjects which do not have which are not mass killing partly to bring the war to an end partly to help us understand why our memory of these things has gone a raw a bit. One of these chapters concerns ethnic cleansing although ethnic cleansing can lead to a great number of deaths I distinguish it just as I distinguish concentration camps from deliberate policies of killing. I do however think it's worth worth discussing because it's the way the war ends. But as the war ends. Nazi power gives way to Soviet policies of mass killing give way to policies of ethnic cleansing in the Soviet Union itself interesting Lee. The last major Soviet Union action is cutting in in 1040 after that the Soviets deport in huge numbers they ethnically cleanse in huge numbers. But you know actions are more or less a thing of the past. The ethnic cleansing concerns the Caucasian peoples who are deported to Central Asia concerns the
Crimean Tatarstan of the Crimean peoples It concerns the Baltic concerns the Ukrainians it concerns the poles and in the largest numbers it concerns the Germans. The final chapter is about Stalinist anti-Semitism which is a development which doesn't lead to very many deaths but it does contribute in my view a great deal to the clouding of all these events it reminds us that in all of the lands where Hitler killed Stalin after the war exercised control and this meant that events such as for example the Holocaust didn't take on the kind of peculiar clarity that they might have. They were blurred into other narratives. And what's worse in 1953 in the Soviet Union and then again in 1068 in Poland and also during a show trial in Czechoslovakia some of the Hitlerian tropes about Jews were imported into Stalin ism making ideas for example of a Jewish conspiracy last for generations longer than they might have otherwise. A couple of words in conclusion one about modernity and one about comparison. One of the great theses about why these events come about is that they have something to do with modernity. I'm
not persuaded that this is true in any simple way. However there is a way in which you can discuss what I've just talked about in terms of modern modernity and you can see for example that Stalin was trying to modernize the Soviet Union. And you can see collectivization as modernization and you can see the terror as a retreat when modernization doesn't work out as well either economically or politically as it's expected to do. You can see what the Germans and the Soviets are up to between one thousand thirty nine and one thousand forty one in Poland as a kind of dnd light in that they understand the nature of the Polish in light meant that it's that it's concentrated in elites known as the intelligentsia and each for their own reasons is concerned with eliminating that intelligentsia in other words you can see the Germans in the So it's having their own modern and he's both concerned to destroy a third that is the polish. You can understand the German campaign against the Soviet Union as de modernization general plan and the Hunger Plan these plans I mentioned earlier specifically provided for the reversal of Soviet modernization. So for example the Germans observed that about 30 million
more people lived in the Soviet West in cities than had been before which coincided with the 30 million people who were supposed to starve. Those cities were then going to be razed. That is destroyed or much reduced in size before they became German colonies. And these things were not fully carried out. But that was the plan. And one can also understand the Holocaust as a retreat from that plan of all the things the Germans imagined that they were going to do in the Soviet Union. The one which they actually fulfilled was the elimination of the Jews which they moved up in the original calendar was to take place after the war. They move that up to the course of the war and they found the way that they were going to carry it out which was by mass killing they which they began to do during the war itself. A final word about comparison. This is not a book about comparison. This is a book about mass killing and my purpose was to describe and explain all the major episodes of mass killing so that this historical event can be can come clear. I only compare the variant and the reason why I do this is that I think in large measure of previous comparisons have been and have been authorized I think until we understand the
scope and the nature of the mass killing. We're not really in a position to compare the two regimes. And I think that in this way the theoretical persons have raced ahead partly thanks to our very impressive book of our actual knowledge about the events. That said let me now take a let me give let me just tell you my position about comparison which is this the idea that the two regimes are incomparable is in itself illogical. If I tell you that you may not compare the Soviet Union Nazi Germany all I am saying is that I have already compared them and I would prefer that you not do so. Logically speaking that statement has no other possible content because there is to say that things are incomparable is to say is to make a comparative claim. You can't possibly say things are incomparable without having compared them first. So the whole business in my view is just law it logically and unauthorized. In addition what I would say is that if you look at these things case by case as I have you find things
which undo what we take for granted about the comparison. So for example in America I think in the English speaking world in general there's a kind of compromise which says on the one hand the Germans were worse. I will admit that because they killed racially but on the other hand the Soviets killed far more people in less millions in the gulag. That is simply not true. The Germans killed more people than the Soviets so that compromise position is simply not true. Even if you count people who died in the Gulag the Germans killed more people than the Soviets. But it's also not true that only the Germans killed for reasons of race. Race was much more important to national socialism obvious in the dishonest. However it's not only the case that Nazi troops find their way into Stalinism it's also the case that the Soviets pioneer ethnic not shooting in the 1030 is an incredible logy of ethnic killing has to include that. Another thing that I would say about comparison is this that we compare. That's a kind of intellectual luxury. We can do that from a distance. When we observe the history
more closely what we see is interaction between the two regimes. We see for example Hitler using the famine in Ukraine as he runs for election in 1033. As an example of what will happen if you vote for what he calls the Marxists you see Stalin using Hitler's crimes to justify his cold war empire. Twenty years later and in between you see the Germans involved in Stalin's phantom scenarios which bring about phantom famine and terror. You see a very real alliance against Poland which is how the war begins. You see the Germans taking advantage of and have had killings in one thousand thirty one thousand forty one when they invade the Soviet Union. They bring bodies from prisons where people have been shot by the end of the day and display them. This is a tremendously important symbolically because up until that point and give it a head shot in secret the six hundred eighty two thousand six hundred ninety one deaths associate with the great terror were not known to the larger world. The Poles who had a lot of spies in the Soviet Union did not know there was a Polish action even though more than a hundred thousand people were shot in it.
So this is a moment when the crimes of Soviet Union were were revealed. You see for example that the Germans took so many prisoners of war in order to starve them because Stalin wouldn't let them retreat. And you see that so many people died in reprisals for partisan actions and values because the Soviet partisans very consciously provoked the Germans into reprisals knowing that when they took food from one village making that food unable to deliver food to the Germans that village was going to be destroyed but they might get a few recruits that was conscious policy. And we're talking about a very serious crime there. More than 300000 non-Jewish people are killed in reprisals and Diodorus which is a huge number and an equal number of Jews are killed in the Holocaust about 700000 are killed in a prisoner of war camps and about a million people are moved by the Germans during the war. It's the place is the place which is most touched by the war in the entire world. Or for example consider this I don't really write about the gulag but as I mentioned about half a million people die in the gulag in one thousand forty one thousand forty one thousand forty three there in the.
There. Sorry if it's honest Hell if it's honest tale OK. Consider this. Those people are in the gulag because they've been sentenced by the Soviet regime but they die because the Germans invade the Soviet Union thereby disrupting food supplies and logistics. Are these people five hundred thirty one thousand people not a small number. Are they victims of Hitler or are they victims of Stalin. Or is it impossible to understand their history without looking at both. Which is the final thing that I would want to say about the comparison. We can decide that we're not going to compare. However the hundreds of millions of people who lived and died under Soviet in German rule both had to compare the stakes for them were vital in the literal and rarely used sense of that word. They were trying to survive. This meant that people who we might find sympathetic in people who we might find
unsympathetic were always comparing Ukrainians who during the famine of 1033 wished for a German invasion because they couldn't imagine anything more often awful than what they were experiencing. We're comparing then they got to see what a German invasion would be like. People who collaborate with both regimes and there are a lot of them were comparing how could they not. People who denounce Jews in 1041 like they had denounced poles in 1038 were comparing. They were seen similarities. They were they were deciding upon their own behavior. Poles who flee in both directions when their countries invaded by both the Soviets and the Germans are comparing Jews who don't know enough to compare in 1041 because the Soviets haven't been writing about German anti-Semitism in the press are comparing to flawed comparison because Germany and so in your alliance and they die as a result. The other Russian families whose sons have to fight either for the Germans or the Soviet partisans upon pain of death for both sides are comparing prisoners of war in the German camps who are who are
hungry who have survived the Ukrainian famine are comparing and some of them write about the comparison. It seems to me that if we're going to understand these policies and their fates it would be a disservice not only to them but to history to somehow try to make that comparison impossible. Thanks. Let me take a few questions in order. Yes these are very much Borderlands in many different senses. So for example they are political borderlands between two great powers Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. They are what we now think of when we think of Borderlands which is ethnically mixed territories. So Poland for example where much of this action takes place is a country which is about 65 percent Polish but has a very large Ukrainian minority about 5 million Jewish minority about 3 million Russian minority about a million Germans about half a million. And then Ukraine is of course not just full of Ukrainians it also has Poles and Jews and Russians and many other people Armenians Muslims Czechs
Germans. So they're Borderlands in our post-modern sense of the word as well and in particular that sense of the word is important because these are sad to say but these are also the historical homelands of the European Jews this is where most of world Jewry lived before the Holocaust. And what I'm pointing out in this book among other things is that the very terrain where the holocaust took place is also where other horrible episodes of mass killing took place and that there is in some cases relations between relationship between one and the other. And then the third way in which these are border lands is in the old colonial sense that is both the Germans and the Soviets just to take the most obvious most important example saw Ukraine as colonial booty. They saw it as something which had to be controlled because it's black earth was so fertile. Which leads me to your second question and I want to preface my answer to it by saying this. When I say that for various reasons I believe the comparisons are authorized but the comparisons
ought to be informed by a history of the killing. I'm not I'm certainly not saying that the two regimes were the same. I want to be absolutely clear about that. There are very important differences and one of them is suggested by your question which I think frames the issue very well. The German plan for the Soviet Union was to make of the Western Soviet Union a frontier empire for racial masters of population and clear of most of its cities and. And this plan required aggressive war. It took for granted aggressive quick victorious war that was the premise of the whole thing. So you can think of the Germans as having had four utopias in the 1980s and 40s well in 1941 in particular the utopia of lightning victory that the Soviet Union would fall down as Hitler put it like a like a house of cards. The utopia of The Hunger Plan that you could get people to starve themselves. The utopia of going to ost which was that you could depopulate regions and move
demography very quickly and then the Utopia of the final solution which was that somehow on the territory the Soviet Union or somewhere else you could get rid of Europe's Jews. These utopias all involve the final three of them require the first you have to have that magical horrible rapid victory over the Soviet Union. Whereas as you quite rightly suggest by this moment the Soviet Union is no longer a revolutionary state in the sense of believing it can bring its revolution the whole world. There was a moment when it was and that was earlier. And that's a difference which I try to explain in the introduction. But in the 1930s as I understand it what Stone is doing is building what he called earlier socialism in one country which rather than external colonization requires internal colonization no internal colonization is quite horrible the way that Stalin carries it out. But I agree with you that there's a difference between exploiting peoples who within one state and first carrying out a war to exploit them. And indeed the subject of the whole book really is what
happens when first you have internal internal cold colonisation in these territories and then you have exile colonization. So thanks it touches on all kinds of different ways. Let me mention three. One of them is that I am trying a bit too. To refer to two let's say supplement that optic because of course it's quite true that the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fighting on the eastern front when the Americans ended Normandy which for us is somewhere towards the beginning of the war the war on the Eastern Front had already turned and the Soviets were planning bugout cion which was the in my view the key battle of the second world war which they were just about to win in Belarus supplied by American Studebakers and jeeps which are just as important as Normandy if if not more so. I agree completely with that. However we tend in our commemorations and therefore also in our history to think about May 1945. Rather than about August and September 1939 and one
can also say yes the Soviets helped the British and the Americans and the other Allies win the war. But the Soviets helped the Germans to begin the second world war. And one can imagine a second world war which didn't begin with the German Soviet Alliance but the second world war in Europe as we have it began with the German Soviet alliance. Hitler wanted a war and that makes him different from Stalin but Stalin gave Hitler that war which makes him different from Poland or from other European powers who declined in various ways to take part at least in that time. So I think the way when we think of how we think of the course of the war and all of its atrocities we have to remember not only the Soviets liberating Auschwitz but we have to remember that Auschwitz was once a Polish town called the action which went into the German sphere of influence because of a treaty on borders and friendship between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Now another way I'd like to answer the question is this we do not fully acknowledge the horrors that were visited upon the Soviet Union during the Second World War. We understand that the death tolls among prisoners were among among Soviet
citizens were high in an abstract way. But we don't see some of the particular horrors So for example as many Soviet prisoners of war died on a single day in October one thousand forty one as American and British prisoners of war in German custody died over the course of the entire war in a single day and one day the. The horror of what it means to starve surrounded by barbed wire I think has largely escaped us and the Germans at that to the Soviets on purpose. I think we've also failed to understand the very intimate relationship between the invasion and the Holocaust and that and the way in which the Holocaust is not only known and visible but which it was we was a common project. We emphasize the Einsatzgruppen of the Einsatzgruppen could not in fact did not care at all the shootings by themselves they were helped by the German Order Police. They were helped by and they were helped by the very mouth from the very beginning that the Holocaust was almost from the very beginning than Tegel part of that war and the I think it failed to fully grasp that. So on the one hand in the sequence of events I think we have to put the German Soviet alliance and just because that gave us the
Second World War which we all agree is so central. And also because it led immediately to the decapitation of Polish society but also and going in the other direction I think we have to fully appreciate the range and the scale of the horror that was visit on the territory of the Soviet Union which I don't think we've done. Some people have won posthumous book Tony has two posthumous books. One of them is called The Memory chalet which is published next month and that collects those essays that Tony wrote in the last months of his life starting with night almost to the end of his life last summer. And then there was a second book which is called thinking the 20th century which will be published in August of next year which is a book of conversation between Tony and Me about themes of 20th century intellectual history. I think a lot of the Holocaust as we understand it has a lot to do with how we think about ourselves and the victims of the Holocaust who we pay the most attention to or tend to be the people who are mindless by us I mean people in the West and Western Europe the United States of ourselves but this is a
long that's a long conversation. I think though that I mean more optimistically I think the fact that we have this concept the Holocaust which we didn't always have permits these kind of modifications. And I think the modifications for all kinds of reasons moral historical but also political will make the Holocaust more robust and more memorable in the end I think in so far as the historical the pedagogical Holocaust fell short of the historical Holocaust. It's then open to challenges by people about faith in a way which the historical Holocaust If we probably understand that it's not. Well I'm going to try to answer that briefly. Although the demography comes into it a lot of different ways. I think the crucial way that it comes into it is in terms of the perceived futures of Germany. The German the Germans are making calculations about food. Those calculations involve demography. The idea of carrying capacity which
for us is a global concept was for them a local concept and their calculations about things like The Hunger Plan are going to plan almost had to do with how many people could be supported by how much land. And then once you make those calculations you then are of course deciding after that who deserves a living who deserves to die. And this is and that is one of the ways in which economics as a science of perceived futures feeds into ideology which is among other things a description of relative value of people in the present. And then demography comes into this in a different way which is after technological change. None of this is nearly as as as plausible. All of this takes place in a certain technological moment and we forget about that our ability to master the problems of demography comes after the Second World War after all of this has has happened. We now are going to have different problems of demography which is why I worry about the 21st century. But the particular problems of demography that Stalin and Hitler took to be as it were iron laws of history got resolved later on by purely technical rather than rather
than political means which I take to be part of the tragedy of all of this. That's as far into this as I think. I can go. Thanks. Well the answer the first question is that Happily there are translations under way into I think 13 languages including including Hebrew and Russian and Polish. I think we're close to closing in on Ukrainian. I'm not entirely without hope for Bill or Russian although after the last essay that are of the New York Review I have less hope than I did before in German of course. So in most of this will happen next year. So it's more there will be a more or less contemporaneous discussion with Russia. I think the problem with Stalin is there but I think the deeper problem is a different comparison which is the suffering of Russians as opposed the suffering of Soviets. Because when one actually looks at the zone where people die that zone includes the Western Soviet Union and some of western Russia which is of course
not the same thing at all but one sees very clearly without being political about it that what is now below Rusin what is now Ukraine suffered tremendously more than what is now independent Russia. The German army simply don't reach very far into what is now Russia. Of course there were horrible episodes which we forget or don't fully understand. Like the siege of Leningrad which I discussed at length but nevertheless compared to Ukraine in Belarus in all of these tragedies including the Holocaust the suffering is much worse under the Germans. So how many people how many Jews die in Russia in the Holocaust. About 60000. So a very very small number in in Belarus and Ukraine we're talking about several hundred thousand. And you know closed and more than a million. So the scale is totally different. And then if you add to that the disproportionate suffering of people in the Soviet border lands in famine and terror you also have to sort of overlay a greater suffering in the in the non-Russian parts than in Russia. And I
think that's the fundamental problem with the sort of mad idea of Arab political narrative which is that we get to inherit the suffering and the triumph of the Soviet Union. In fact the suffering of the triumph of Russia although I think very hard for people in America to understand is significantly less than the suffering of Ukraine and Belarus and Poland for that matter and I think I think that's going to be the real problem of reception. But I lay out the numbers really clearly and I discussed the Russian literature in the conclusion in the hope that there can be a discussion about it. The Germans go abroad. They do not bring their domestic policies with them. Their domestic policies are much tamer than the policies abroad. When the Soviets go abroad they bring their domestic policies with them. Their domestic policies seem extraordinary to the people who are touched by them. But as you quite rightly say what is simply happening is that is that the Soviets are extending their normal way of doing business to new territories. So for example if you look at cutting which in my mind is the supreme example of decapitation on the
Soviet side you see the same mechanisms of function during the Great Terror the very quick review of documents the operational troikas the very very high rates of execution and so on. And this is of course not just a bureaucratic continuity it's a continuity of deeper practice although in some cases as you know better than me it's sad or still the not because there's a phase of cultivation which precedes the phase of decapitation so elites are cultivated they're drawn out in some way they're brought to university and then they're killed. That's a story of the Soviet Union as well. But yes that's quite right what happens to Poland is that Polish elites are identified as a class enemy and they're removed as such and it's perfectly consistent with what the Soviets do on their own territory that is in a sense the essence of the whole thing. I want to pause on something very important what you said about about the teen which is the part of the deep sadness of cutting sorry the deep sadness of cutting which is it that. These were not. These are not only military men who were attacked from the rear while they were fighting against the very mocked and then imprisoned
and taken away. These are not only men with with women and with with wives and with children with families and so on but these people represented the fruit of the attempt to create a Polish educated class. And they were not not not only engineers but these were doctors but veterinarians and botanists and agronomists and essentially everyone who had a university degree because if you had a university degree you were in the you were in the reserves whether you were a poet Incidentally whether you were Polish or Jewish or Ukrainian or be a Russian by ethnicity you were in the Polish reserves which is why below Russians and Ukrainians and Jews also died in cutting along with people who are ethnically. Polish but yes in the introduction in addition to the Ukrainian bread basket which is something that I stressed I talk about the Polish political question as something which in a broad way unites Soviet and German leaderships. There is a deep historical past as you say. There is also the common view that the Polish state in its post-war borders is illegitimate. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are both revisionist
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- Timothy Snyder, historian of Eastern European history talks about his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.Americans call the Second World War "The Good War." But before it even began, America's wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens--and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war's end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power.
- People & Places; History
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Speaker2: Snyder, Timothy
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- MLA: “Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Timothy Snyder: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.” 2010-10-15. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 3, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-222r49g77g>.
- APA: Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Timothy Snyder: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-222r49g77g
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