Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Timothy Snyder: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Yale University historian Timothy Snyder has a special name for the region that lies between Berlin and Moscow: “Bloodlands.” It’s also the title of his new book, which looks at what happened in Poland, Ukraine, western Russia, the Baltics and Belarus between l933 and l945, the years when both Hitler and Stalin were in power. “In that relatively short span of time the Soviets and the Nazis deliberately murdered a combined 17 million unarmed men, women and children,” Timothy Snyder said. “This is the central event of modern European history, or maybe even of the history of the modern west.” It’s also the region where Soviet mass killing and German mass killing overlap. Timothy Snyder examines these atrocities through a new lens. He doesn’t just look at Soviet terror, or Nazi terror in isolation. Nor does he focus on any single nation or ethnic group. “Bloodlands” is history from the point of view of the victims. “So Jews, and Belarussians and Poles and Ukrainians and Russians and everyone else who lived in this territory are all represented,” Timothy Snyder said. He added that the only way to understand what happened in the l930′s and 40′s is by studying Hitler and Stalin together. They both targeted entire populations, and used surprisingly similar methods — nowhere more so than in Ukraine.

“It’s the place where more people than any other, at least among the countries that currently exist, die.”

- Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.

"In 1933, Ukrainians would die in the millions, in the greatest artificial famine in the history of the world."

- Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

November 18, 1932 peasants from Ukraine were required to return extra grain they had previously earned for meeting their targets. State police and party brigades were sent into these regions to root out any food they could find. Two days later, a law was passed forcing peasants who couldn't meet their grain quotas to surrender any livestock they had. Eight days later, collective farms that failed to meet their quotas were placed on "blacklists" in which they were forced to surrender 15 times their quota. Party activists picked these farms apart for any possible food. Blacklisted communes had no right to trade or to receive deliveries of any kind, and became death zones.
A child victim of Holodomor
On December 5, 1932, Stalin's security chief presented the justification for terrorizing Ukrainian party officials to collect the grain. It was considered treason if anyone refused to do their part in grain requisitions for the state. In November 1932 Ukraine was required to provide 1/3 of the grain collection of the entire Soviet Union. As Lazar Kaganovich put it, the Soviet state would fight "ferociously" to fulfill the plan. In January 1933 Ukraine's borders were sealed in order to prevent Ukrainian peasant from fleeing to other republics. By the end of February 1933 approximately 190,000 Ukrainian peasants had been caught trying to flee Ukraine and were forced to return to their villages to starve. The collection of grain continued even after the annual requisition target for 1932 was met in late January 1933.

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