Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder

I sometimes put off writing a review for a long time; sometimes due to time constraints but often because the subject matter is so intense or complicated that it’s hard to organize my thoughts and feelings. This was the latter.

This book is about the death and destruction that Hitler and Stalin both reaped across Eastern Europe to make their twisted visions become reality. Hitler was trying to get more land for his pure Aryan nation, while Stalin was trying to collectivize and control the farm land. Between them they killed 14,000,000 people. That is an astounding number.

This book does a good job of showing what an evil monster Josef Stalin was. For most people, his reputation from WW2 is either a ‘good guy’ because he helped fight the Nazis or he was the victim of Nazis, re: Stalingrad. Stalin was really adept at playing both sides and adjusting his strategy at different times. For some reason, we all forget that when the Nazis ‘started’ WW2 by taking over Poland, they actually took over only half of it. The U.S.S.R. came from the East and took half of Poland, up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line which was secretly negotiated beforehand.

This book is really well researched. The writer does a good job in putting context to all these deaths. Why did they kill certain people at what time? Why was the important?

I’ve read a lot of WW2 books. I’ve never read a WW2 book that talked about any of this. The non-combatants in the East paid a huge price before, during, and after WW2 simply for living between two aggressive, murderous superpowers.

I have a lot of feelings about this book. At times when I was reading it, the deaths washed over me and it was hard to process the scale of murder he is talking about, but I feel this book gives me some context for understanding the current Ukrainian-Russian conflict. It helps me understand the generational memory and history that people living in that region must have. It makes me think, maybe this is why Poland is so welcoming of refugees from Ukraine because they remember the terror of living through Nazi and then U.S.S.R. occupation.

I will stop this review there, but if you think you’re a WW2 buff but haven’t read this book, please do. This adds another layer of understanding to the war and the suffering of the people to the East of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line.

Rating: ★★★★★

Book #79 in my 2022 Reading Challenge

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