Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 7 May 2018
Unlike most of the works on the Holocaust I had come across previously, Timothy Snyder's Black Earth focused not on the history, the perpetrators, nor the victims. Instead, the author dove deep into his theories of Adolf Hitler and his top Nazi deputies' strategy on achieving the atrocity of such gross scale. Taking one example, the author argued that sovereignty of a conquered territory significantly affected the survival of the Jews in the said land. If the Nazi leadership was able to create a zone of statelessness (Poland, for example), large numbers of Jews fell victim. Contrastingly, in zones where local governments maintained a certain degree of sovereignty (Denmark, for example), survival rates were significantly higher as the local government could assert some protection for its citizens, Jewish or otherwise. This theory, among several others, were clearly explained and concretely supported, while historical tidbits were brought in to allow further understanding. In the final pages, he extended his theories on the Holocaust to the current era and to the foreseeable future beyond, pointing out places and scenarios in which a new Holocaust could take place, thus, in his own manner, reminded the readers the "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" warning by George Santayana.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Mark Bramhall performed wonderfully and I had enjoyed it very much.
Even before I had completed Black Earth, I knew that I had come across one of the best books on the Holocaust to date. His writing provided knowledge and provoked thinking - What more could we ask for? I would most certainly recommend it to anyone interested in the Holocaust.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945