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Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,578 ratings  ·  443 reviews
A brilliant, haunting, and profoundly original portrait of the defining tragedy of our time.

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 su
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Tim Duggan Books (first published September 2015)
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Gene Mierzejewski If anything, Snyder underestimates the death toll of the Holocaust. He deeply researched this book using many previously neglected sources and present…moreIf anything, Snyder underestimates the death toll of the Holocaust. He deeply researched this book using many previously neglected sources and presents the results in a dispassionate manner. He doesn't have to exaggerate the brutality and lets the facts alone spin a tale of horror.(less)

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The Continuing Struggle Against Civilisation

Black Earth is a remarkable re-interpretation of the Holocaust. Snyder goes beyond the statistical and sociological facts of mass murder in order to understand the underlying evil of the disaster. And he succeeds. His acute insights and narrative skills in the introductory chapter alone are worth the entire price of admission.

According to Snyder, Hitler's attempt to annihilate the Jews was not racially motivated nor was it concerned with religion as s
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I picked this book because in the sixth grade I had one of the most amazing teacher that I can remember. She spent 9 weeks teaching us the history of the Holocaust. My son is in the sixth grade so I thought I would brush up with the history of that tragedy with this book.
This book is almost over my head. It did not work for what I had intended it for.
But does that mean it's a bad book? Of course not.

Snyder gives a detailed. (Sometimes almost mind numbingly so) recounting of Hitler's maniacal ri
Paul Bryant
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it

Turgid, tiresome, tedious and inelegant, hammering metronomically away at three fundamental ideas, this book nevertheless gives the patient reader (you have to be very patient) some great perspectives on the Holocaust.


Prof Snyder kicks off with maybe the best part of the whole dense book which is an analysis of Mein Kampf and Hitler’s mental universe. Hitler was “a warmongering biological anarchist” and it’s a great mistake to think he was a German nationalist. He was way beyo
Elyse  Walters
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This is a challenging book to comprehend entirely.
"Black Earth" is much-in part-about the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust. The author explains how in Hitler's mind, the thought of elimination of Jews – – all of them – – would restore balance in our world. Germany would then be able to have the resources they needed.
The author also says it was the National States- soviets and Nazis-Who took the protection away from people, leaving millions to die.
Timothy Synder also talks about the fa
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, 2016
In the end, then, the working farm was a sort of institution, both economic and moral, in which Jewish children could find a place. Like the bond between mothers and children, or fathers and children, or nannies and children, a farmstead provided a relationship where some Jewish children could fit. Like marriage, the prospect of marriage, or sexual desire, labor could generate an image of the present or the future where someone was missing, where someone was needed, where someone could be added. ...more
Jay Green
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Starts very promisingly, with some fascinating insights into Hitler's worldview and philosophy, as well as a novel (to me) holistic approach to European international relations that enables Snyder to explain why the Holocaust took the precise shape that it did, a shape that we tend to think of as fully formed from the beginning but which in fact appears to have occurred the way it did because of numerous errors of judgement, policymaking on the fly, and developments on the ground. Snyder's proce ...more
Conor Ahern
I decided to read this one because Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale, has been making a lot of high-profile, baleful predictions about Trumpian autocracy. I kind of wanted to see how sensationalist he was in one of his books, and I'm always eager to try to use history as a way to understand the present.

The thesis of the book comes most succinctly in its final pages:

Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, . . . wrote that 'a man can be human only under human conditions.' The purpose of the state is
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: european-history

You can think of this as a kind of sequel to Snyder's 2010 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. He continues the story of how misemphases of parts of the Holocaust have led us to place the camps as the primary locales of death (they weren't, most of the killing was done outside of them) and German borders as the ones our imaginations take us to, when very little killing, in relative terms, was actually done inside those borders. Snyder has shifted the Holocaust east. He has also em
David M
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Greatest book I've read this year

The conclusion, which purports to give the 'warning' of the title, is probably the weakest part. I don't want to focus on that now. Frankly I don't much want to attempt an intellectual evaluation at all. Black Earth leaves me very nearly speechless. More than an impressive piece of scholarship, truly a work of art. Utterly devastating. Aside from a few old favorites I revisited, the greatest book I've read so far this year.

No one knows more about this subject
Matthew Barlow
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may well be one of the single most impressive books that I have ever read about the Holocaust. Snyder approaches the subject from multiple angles and completely reinvents how we think about this period of history. Unlike many Holocaust books, Black Earth does not focus directly on mass murder, but instead on the political and institutional ideologies that made it possible.

Snyder examines Hitler in his earliest political form in order to understand his thinking and rational so that it is pos
Michael Perkins
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
some timely quotes from this book....

“Most of us would like to think that we possess a “moral instinct.” Perhaps we imagine that we would be rescuers in some future catastrophe. Yet if states were destroyed, local institutions corrupted, and economic incentives directed towards murder, few of us would behave well. There is little reason to think that we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s, or for that matter less vulnerable to the kind of ideas that Hitler so successfu
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Black Earth – A Warning from History

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning is the latest book from the excellent historian Timothy Snyder, which we should sit up and take notice of. Like the famous statement that if we fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, is never more apt than now with the current situation in the middle east. The lessons from this book can be used time and time again especially when we allow civilisations to collapse.

In what has to be one of the best
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Rarely do I give any book having to do with the Holocaust more than three or four stars, as I usually feel like the information has just been recycled. This book, however, deserves all five stars.

Whether you are an historian or simply have an interest in this subject, 'Black Earth' will be very eye opening. In this detailed account, the author offers a broader look at the events leading up to the more commonly discussed and recounted Holocaust.

Instead of starting at the height of the Nazi regi
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
Not an easy book to read but an incredibly interesting one. Focusing on Hitlers attempted extermination of the Jews and the fact that it represented the political climate at the time and there are signs we are in the middle of a resurgence. A real eye opener that drags you kicking and screaming into the shit that is currently happening in this world of ours.
Jennifer Coppolo Holsing
Not an easy book, by any stretch, but a compelling and important one. I don't know if I *enjoyed* it, per se, but I'm very glad that I stuck with it.
David Boyd
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

The author has created a small masterpiece in this cogent examination of one of the world’s greatest sorrows. The book is, chapter-upon-chapter, eminently valuable in its handling of the multiple perspectives required to find the “logic” and “reason” within Adolf Hitler’s determination to create the Holocaust. The book is deftly written, boldly negating long-held beliefs by offering simple, clear solutions based on facts, many o
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 accessi
Whitney Milam
Staggering and stunning. I want to give the conclusion alone a standing ovation. Everyone should be reading this book (and all of Timothy Snyder's essays) right now.
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Does it ever feel like the right time to read a book about the history of the Holocaust? I mean, unless you are taking a class or writing a paper, this is some pretty serious leisure reading. When it came in the mail I was like, "Yay, I won a free book from Goodreads....oh." I entered to win this?

But having just finished the last page I must say it's one of the best books I've read this year, and turned out to be so much more than just gazing into an abyss of suffering and violence for the sake
Edwin Stratton-Mackay
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Snyder is at the cutting edge of Holocaust historiography today for good reason. Snyder has presented possibly the first coherent causal explanation of the Holocaust. Laurence Rees told us the Holocaust can only be a warning from history, and not a lesson about how to prevent it. But Snyder is extracting the lessons with a powerful new analysis of how the Holocaust was implemented as a process of innovation, stage by stage, contingency by contingency.

Most importantly Snyder teaches us an entire
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
History besides being a search for an interesting narrative should be instructive. This book on the Holocaust is a lesson on the perils of a political pathology namely genocide. It explores the heart of Nazi ideology and its nihilistic vision at its core that lead to the extermination of the Jewish people in their reach. Nazi ideology at its heart had no political ideals to speak of. It was a nihilistic animal struggle of races that was the center of its content. It was a mix of misinterpretati ...more
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Noteworthy View of the Political and Social Background of the Holocaust

Many books have been written about the political factors leading up to WWII and the Holocaust, but The Black Earth is remarkable in the way it pulls history, social conditions, and political theory together to create a picture of the factors allowing the Holocaust to happen.

One factor was Hitler's severe racial hatred. His plan was always to exterminate the Jews. Another was the destruction of the identity of the state in
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Seems like a good time to learn more about the European far right and its roots. I learned from this book that Hitler saw the world in zero-sum terms. In the world before agricultural productivity exploded, Aryan Germans needed and deserved enough land, lebensraum, to grow enough food for the good life. They needed to take it from their neighbors. For them to win, others had to lose. Any win-win thinking, including Communism, was overly-intellectual Jewish nonsense that had to be defeated.

Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, ww2
A history, and the psychology, and what we should learn from the Holocaust. The central thesis is that statelessness is a prerequisite for murder on such a scale, evidenced by the fact that Jews as citizens of functioning states (even of Germany) survived in greater numbers than Jews of destroyed states, such as Poland.

If Jews were to be removed from the planet, they first had to be separated from the state. As she [Hannah Arendt] wrote later, “one could do as one pleased only with stateless peo
Neil Fox
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
The holocaust, as well as being one of the most evil crimes in history committed by Mankind against its fellow human beings, is also the most unfathomable. The sheer scale of the slaughter and frenzied killing is hard to conceptualize today. In a World of the 24 hour news cycle where a train crash or motorway pile-up involving the loss of a few lives can make news on the far side of the Globe, it is impossible for the contemporary mind to process how tens of thousands of men, women and children ...more
Lauren Hopkins
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really hate to say that this dragged but it took me a hundred years to get through the first half. Just facts on facts on facts, names and numbers, nothing that made this anything more than a textbook. But then when it became more anecdotal and the author's theories were made clear, it was incredibly interesting and actually a pretty vital read. If you know everything about WWII and the Holocaust, you're probably not going to learn anything new factually, but what Snyder does differently is th ...more
Darcia Helle
History, particularly as it is taught in our public schools, comes to us filtered down through the perspectives of those involved. Nations want to see themselves in the best light, and we, as citizens, want to accept that what we're taught is the unbiased truth. The whole truth; not just the bits and pieces considered relevant by those in charge of textbooks and curriculum. Often only time and distance allows us to see clearly the entire picture, exactly as it played out, without distorting the ...more
Christopher Saunders
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
Timothy Snyder's Black Earth is a follow-up to his earlier, similarly contentious Bloodlands, examining the Holocaust through a decidedly eccentric lens. Snyder makes the claim that Hitler was a "zoological anarchist," primarily motivated by a warped sense of ecology where the mere existence of Jews poisoned the world. To exterminate Jews and other undesirables, so the argument goes, would be to bring the world back into balance. It's certainly an interesting take on Nazi ideology but hard to pr ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
This is not an easy book to read on many levels. The bulk of the book is an extremely detailed exploration of Hitler's rationales and the details of World War II with a focus on eastern Europe. The Holocaust is explored through the lens of the preservation of the state or statelessness and the double occupation--Germany and USSR.

Although I thought I had a decent understanding of World War II and the Holocaust, this book enhanced my understanding immeasurably. Snyder details the killing that pre
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Snyder is an excellent prose stylist, especially for an historian. However, I'm not sure how good of an historian he is. Much of his previous work, in "Bloodlands," has been taken to task for argumentative and evidential failures, and he wears a certain kind of NYRB-style Cold War liberalism on his sleeve. There is, of course, nothing wrong with having identifiable politics (to the contrary) but Snyder reduces his opponents to mustache-twirling caricatures, to the point where I actually feel lik ...more
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Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.

His most recent book is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, p

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