Any Given Day

Posted: April 2, 2014 in Book Awards, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Historical, Lithuania, Off Topic, Poland, Russia

51eCX1AIs2L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_I have now finished reading Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale, and the book is in the words of Anne Applebaum “the definitive history of the mass killing of this period”.  I have read many books on twentieth century Polish, Russian and German history but this superbly researched book brought home better than most the utter horror of the period. In a mere twelve year period from 1933-1945 the Soviet and Nazi regimes murdered fourteen million people. Fourteen million individual lives. 

I think Bloodlands should be compulsory reading for anyone in the west who was ever a Communist fellow traveller or a party member in the 1940s and 1950s; for those people who exhibit concern about the Bombing of Dresden: for anyone who thinks about supporting an academic boycott of a tiny country in the Eastern Mediterranean; and above all for those teenagers taken on school trips to Auschwitz. Auschwitz was not the whole story and they need to learn about the Einsatzgruppen, the mass shootings and burnings, Babi Yar, Bikernieki Forest, Katyn Wood, Gulags, deportations, deliberate starvations, the Great Terror……..

I learned a lot.

Concerning Shmuel Zygielbojm, who was the representative of the Jewish Bund to the Polish government in exile in London.

In a careful suicide note of 12 May 1943, addressed to the Polish president and prime-minister but intended to be shared with other Allied leaders, he wrote ‘”Though the responsibility for the crime of the murder of the entire Jewish nation rests above all upon the perpetrators, indirect blame must be borne by humanity itself.” The next day he burned himself alive in front of the British parliament, joining in he wrote , the fate of his fellow Jews in Warsaw.

And that as many Poles were killed in the bombing of Warsaw in 1939 as Germans were killed in the bombing of Dresden in 1945.

And perhaps even more stunning…

On any given day in the second half of 1941, the Germans shot more Jews than had been killed by pogroms in the entire history of the Russian Empire.  

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Thank you Norman. Books like this help us get a perspective on so many things, and it’s good to know this is so well worth the reading.

  2. TracyK says:

    That sounds like a very worthwhile, but difficult, read.

  3. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Margot and TracyK. It was a very worthwhile read but quite draining.
    I have moved on to Iron Curtain, The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum which is also a brutal but compelling read.

  4. kathy d. says:

    I can’t stand to read about WWII’s horrors, although I did read Gordon Ferris’ excellent Pilgrim Soul,which has a section on Nazi war criminals being held in Hamburg, and a handful who have gone through the ratline into Glasgow. And WWII is touched on — enough for me — in Sara Paretsky’s Critical Mass.

    It’s very good that you’re reading these books about this period in history and its horrors. My knowledge of WWII tells me that millions more people died at the hands of the Nazis in Western and Eastern Europe, in the Soviet Union, etc.

    In the Ukraine alone, according to Wikipedia, the Nazis killed 4 million, 1 million Jewish people and the rest political opponents and resistance fighters and other non-Jewish Ukrainians.

    The figure has been given that 6 million Jewish people were killed, but the Nazis also carried out murders of Roma people, Poles, Czechs, Russians. And then there were members of the Resistance in France, Greece, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Poland, and other countries, including inside Germany. I know some people who had relatives in the Resistance and didn’t survive.

    I had grown up in a family, which read a lot about the war, and I was always told that about 40 million people died in it, millions from outright murder, starvation, and then typhus, which killed many in camps. And then those engaged in battle, of course.

  5. kathy d. says:

    I left out Asia here, didn’t mean to do that, but millions were killed, too, by Japan’s troops, civilians and soldiers, too.

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