Tough chewing

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I’m not really surprised by the evil that men do, but occasionally I get confronted by it all the same. It’s important that we realize what horrors have plagued our past so that we can try not to duplicate them going forward. Well, I’ve encountered a work that is excellent and sickening at the same time. If you really want to know the depths of depravity that people are capable of, read “Bloodlands,” by Timothy Snyder.

This book, while not new, popped up as a related subject while I was busy purchasing books for a different research project. The Eastern Front in World War Two is an area of interest for me, so when I read over the premise for the book, I decided I had to read it.

Well, I was in for it. I’ve only read one other book that was as bad as this one, “Gevangenen en Gedeporteerden” (Translation: The Imprisoned and Deported). It is Chapter 8 of Dr. L. De Jong’s excellent Dutch language series about the history of the Netherlands in the Second World War.

And I don’t mean bad as in poorly written or researched. No, both books are a wealth of knowledge, painstakingly documented.

No, these books are both gut-wrenching, harrowing and full of first-hand horror. They derive from letters, archive material, and survivor testimony.

“Bloodlands” starts out with some light reading over the artificial famine in the Ukraine, which killed an unknown amount of people in 1932-34. The most reliable estimates say that about three to four million people died as a direct result of Stalin’s policies. It really says something when historians can’t nail down a death figure to the nearest million.

And that’s just the opening of the book.

By the end you should have no doubt that Iosef Stalin and Adolph Hitler were some of history’s greatest monsters.

From the expedited, professional slaughter of Stalin’s purges to Hitler’s industrial liquidation of Europe’s Jews, it seems that nearly every square meter of Eastern Europe was covered in blood during the twelve-year period of 1933-1945. Most shockingly, this book focusses on civilian deaths- not military losses during the same period.

This is an important book. It illustrates that the greatest mass murders in human history were perpetrated by seemingly normal people who wanted to pursue either social or racial utopias; they wanted to achieve societal perfection at the cost of undesirable, “impure” or counter-revolutionary elements.

The executioners were literally willing to stack the bodies sky-high to attain their master’s bidding, and they did it all under the mask of the “greater good.”

By all means, read this book.

And then thank God that you didn’t have to suffer under Hitler or Stalin’s lash.

 

 

 

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