Europe Between Hitler and Stalin


By Timothy Snyder

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From the author of the international bestseller On Tyranny, the definitive history of Hitler’s and Stalin’s politics of mass killing, explaining why Ukraine has been at the center of Western history for the last century.

Americans call the Second World War “the Good War.” But before it even began, America’s ally Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, German and Soviet killing sites fell behind the Iron Curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness. 
Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single story. With a new afterword addressing the relevance of these events to the contemporary decline of democracy, Bloodlands is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history and its meaning today. 



"Snyder shows what really took place between 1930 and 1945 in the Baltic states, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine. From the Stalinist famines to the death marches of 1945 and the mass ethnic cleansing, these borderlands were the focus of both Stalin's and Hitler's ideological obsessions."
—Antony Beevor, Telegraph (London), Book of the Year
"Snyder's original contribution is to treat all of these episodes—the Ukrainian famine, the Holocaust, Stalin's mass executions, the planned starvation of Soviet POWs, postwar ethnic cleansing—as different facets of the same phenomenon. Instead of studying Nazi atrocities or Soviet atrocities separately, as many others have done, he looks at them together. Yet Snyder does not exactly compare the two systems either. His intention, rather, is to show that the two systems committed the same kinds of crimes at the same times and in the same places, that they aided and abetted one another, and above all that their interaction with one another led to more mass killing than either might have carried out alone. "
—Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books
"Even those who pride themselves on knowing their history will find themselves repeatedly brought up short by [Snyder's] insights, contrasts and comparisons. . . . Mr. Snyder's scrupulous and nuanced book steers clear of the sterile, sloganising exchanges about whether Stalin was as bad as Hitler, or whether Soviet mass murder in Ukraine or elsewhere is a moral equivalent of the Nazis' extermination of the Jews. What it does do, admirably, is to explain and record. Both totalitarian empires turned human beings into statistics, and their deaths into a necessary step towards a better future. Mr. Snyder's book explains, with sympathy, fairness, and insight, how that happened, and to whom."
The Economist
"Each fashioned a terrifying orgy of deliberate mass killing. . . . Snyder punctuates his comprehensive and eloquent account with brief glimpses of individual victims, perpetrators, and witnesses."
New York Times Book Review
"Between 1933 and 1945, 14 million people were murdered in Eastern Europe. Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin catalogues how, where, and why these millions died. The cumulative effect makes you reconsider every aspect of modern Europe and World War II. Along the way, Snyder achieves something more vital: he wrests back some human dignity for those who died, without treating them solely as victims."
The New Republic, Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2010
"Snyder's research is careful and thorough, his narrative powerful. . . . By including Soviet with German mass atrocities in his purview, Timothy Snyder begins the necessary but as yet still taboo examination of the full depravity of total war as it was practiced in the 20th century, before the advent of nuclear weapons foreclosed it."
Washington Post
"The story of World War II, like that of most wars, usually gets told by the victors. Diplomatic and military accounts are set largely in the West and star the morally upright Allies—the U.S., Britain, and Soviet Union—in battles against fascism. The Holocaust gets its own separate history, as a case apart in its genocidal intent and human tragedy. Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin forces a dramatic shift in these perceptions. . . . Among his other goals in Bloodlands, Mr. Snyder attempts to put the Holocaust in context—to restore it, in a sense, to the history of the wider European conflict. This is a task that no historian can attempt without risking controversy. Yet far from minimizing Jewish suffering, Bloodlands gives a fuller picture of the Nazi killing machine."
Wall Street Journal
"How Stalin and Hitler enabled each other's crimes and killed 14m people between the Baltic and the Black Sea. A lifetime's work by a Yale University historian who deserves to be read and reread."
The Economist, Books of the Year
"Certainly, we need to know everything, understand everything, feel everything. Snyder's book, by making an original account of the period in copious detail laid out in somberly blunt declarative sentences, should expand these three faculties in anyone who engages its grim but lucid exposition."
—David Denby, The New Yorker
"This superb and harrowing history tells of 14m people murdered in the land between Berlin and Moscow between 1933 and 1945—not only those who died in the Holocaust, but the 3.3m victims of Stalin's starvation of the Soviet Ukraine, the many members of Poland's elite who perished, and the Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians starved by Hitler."
Financial Times
"For deliberate mass murder, Hitler and Stalin still stand unsurpassed. Although we have long possessed vast stores of knowledge about their crimes, it may be that we still misunderstand their character and extent—not least because we fail to see how the two great dictatorships interacted. We miss the significance of where, between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s, the worst horrors took place: Poland, western Russia, and what are now Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic republics. So argues Timothy Snyder in Bloodlands, which seeks persuasively and movingly to offer a new interpretive framework for the nightmare of Europe's mid-20th century."
The Independent (London), Book of the Year
"Meticulously researched. . . . As a corrective to our usual picture of the period, Bloodlands is immensely valuable. . . . [A] forceful and important lesson in historical geography."
—Adam Hochschild, Harper's Magazine
"Millions of east Europeans were trapped between Germany and the Soviet Union, the two most murderous regimes in European history. Their story is at the heart of Timothy Snyder's outstanding book. . . . Bloodlands is well written, clear, and accessible. The book is packed with up-to-date statistics—many simply astonishing—but there are also moving accounts of individuals. . . . Some of this is familiar. A great deal, however, isn't. Snyder is a key figure in the new thinking about eastern Europe which is transforming the way we think about Stalinism, Nazism, and the Holocaust.  . . . Snyder has pulled together a huge amount of new thinking and research, much of it not yet translated. It is a formidable work of scholarship, shattering many myths, and opening up a fascinating new history of Europe."
New Statesman
"Timothy Snyder's book is groundbreaking, not for providing new information about World War II and its atrocities, but for offering a reframing, both chronologically and geographically, that allows us to see those historical events in a new light."
The Jewish Forward, Five Best Non-Fiction Books of 2010
"Snyder's brilliant and bone-chilling exposition of the Stalinist and Hitlerian killing fields, which utilizes much new archival material, makes one wonder how contemporaneous deniers of Soviet crimes . . . would react to, for instance, his accounting of the 100,000 Poles murdered during the 1937–38 purges or the six million who died because of planned famines."
Reason, Best Books of 2010
"Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands [is] a revelatory account of the mass death that was wreaked in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, western Russia, and parts of the Baltics by Nazis and communists."
—John Gray, New Statesman, Books of the Year 2010
"A genuinely shattering report on the ideology, the political strategy, and the daily horror of Soviet and Nazi rule in the region that Timothy Snyder calls the bloodlands. . . . Timothy Snyder did archival research in English, German, Yiddish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Russian, and French. His learning is extraordinary. His vivid imagination leads him to see combinations, similarities, and general trends where others would see only chaos and confusion. . . . This is an important book."
—István Deák, The New Republic
"In this scrupulously researched history . . . Snyder does not argue for a supposed moral equivalence between Hitler's extermination of the Jews and the earlier Stalinist extermination of the kulaks. On the contrary, the industrial exploitation of corpses and their ashes was a uniquely Hitlerian atrocity—a unique instance of human infamy. Nevertheless, this is the first book in English to explore both German and Soviet mass killings together. As a history of political mass murder, Bloodlands serves to illuminate the political sickness that reduced 14 million people to the status of non-persons."
Telegraph (London)
"[A] groundbreaking new book about Hitler's and Stalin's near-simultaneous genocides. . . . Certainly one's understanding of both Stalinism and human nature will be woefully incomplete until one does read Snyder's pages."
"A talented historian and an accomplished storyteller, [Snyder] expertly negotiates an extremely complex story, debunking myths, correcting misconceptions, and providing context, analysis, and human interest in equal measure, always with a sympathetic ear for the victims themselves. . . . Bloodlands is an excellent, authoritative and imaginative book, which tells the grim story of the greatest human demographic tragedy in European history with exemplary clarity. Snyder set out to give a human face to the many millions of victims of totalitarianism. He has succeeded admirably."
—Roger Moorhouse, BBC History Magazine
"[Bloodlands] modifies our view of this appalling period. . . . Snyder insists that the colossal atrocities in his 'bloodlands' have to be set inside a single historical frame. To look at them separately—for instance, to see Hitler's crimes as 'so great as to stand outside history,' or Stalin's as a monstrous device to achieve modernisation—is to let the two dictators 'define their own works for us'. . . . This book's unforgettable account of the Ukraine famine shows conclusively that Stalin knew what was happening in the countryside and chose to let it run its course. . . . The figures are so huge and so awful that grief could grow numb. But Snyder, who is a noble writer as well as a great researcher, knows that. He asks us not to think in those round numbers."
Guardian (London)
"Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands is part of the fascinating rethinking of eastern Europe under Hitler and Stalin, and opens up a catastrophic landscape."
—David Herman, New Statesman, Books of the Year 2010
"[An] important new work of history . . . Snyder offers a powerful reminder that the true killing fields of the Holocaust were in German-occupied territories in the east. . . . Snyder [is] a walking encyclopedia of arresting facts and conclusive figures. . . . In Bloodlands Snyder locates the Holocaust alongside other atrocities in an all-embracing single scheme. . . . Snyder is perhaps the most talented younger historian of modern Europe working today. Astonishingly prolific, [Snyder] grounds his work in authoritative mastery of the facts, mining tomes of information in multiple languages and brilliantly synthesizing his findings. At the very least, Bloodlands is valuable for its astounding narrative integration of a gruesome era of European history. . . . A preternaturally gifted prose stylist, [Snyder] strives for a moral urgency appropriate to his depressing topics, and he rarely succumbs to bathos. . . . By any measure Bloodlands is a remarkable, even triumphant accomplishment. . . . Ultimately, Snyder's main achievement is his juxtaposition of two homicidal regimes to make a point so well as to make it unanswerable, when not long ago it still elicited howls of outrage for trivializing the unique fate or special honor of particular victims."
—Samuel Moyn, The Nation
"Part of the freshness of Bloodlands is that it flips around our traditional viewpoint on the Second World War and the years that led up to it: Instead of seeing the conflict from the top down, as a struggle between powers, it begins with the perspective of the victims and those who were closest to the murder. . . . There will continue to be intense arguments about the extent to which the crimes of Hitler and Stalin can, or should, be seen in the same light. But there is one thing we can know unequivocally: For the victims, there was no difference."
—Gal Beckerman, Boston Globe
"A bold book, from a brilliant scholar who has emerged as an important voice in the fields of eastern European history, Soviet history, and Holocaust studies. This grand narrative is beautifully constructed, and written with empathy and rigor. Snyder's work stands as a counterweight to the popular tendency to lump together the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as a tragic era, an age of catastrophes—without delineating distinctions between the two; without showing how different people actually suffered under the two regimes. . . . For those who wish, for whichever reason, to exaggerate the crimes of Stalinism while minimizing those of Hitler and his collaborators, Snyder sets the record straight. He makes his case based on the latest research in Soviet, Nazi, eastern European history, and Holocaust studies, impressively drawing from sources in several European languages. This is a laudable achievement, and a service to all of these fields, which still lack much in the way of cross-fertilization."
—Wendy Lower, Journal of Genocide Research
"[An] important new history. . . . One of Snyder's major achievements in Bloodlands is to preserve this sense of the singularity of Jewish experience, even while showing its complex relationship to the terrible experiences of the peoples among whom Jews lived. . . . The relationship between Jews and Communism is probably the most explosive of all the subjects Snyder addresses, and here he benefits most from the strengths he shows throughout the book—deep learning, wide compassion, and clear, careful moral judgment. . . . Anyone who wants to fully comprehend the Holocaust—at least, as far as it can be comprehended—should read Bloodlands, which shows how much evil had to be done in order to make the ultimate evil possible."
—Adam Kirsch, Tablet
"To us in the West, the horrors of World War II are associated with the names of Auschwitz, Iwo Jima, and Hiroshima. Without denying the significance of these places, Snyder, an immensely talented historian at Yale University, radically alters our understanding of the mass murder that went on during these years by showing in convincing fashion where and how most victims met their end. Bloodlands overflows with startling facts and revelations. . . . In a conclusion that should be required reading for all, Snyder addresses the moral questions raised by this murderous history with insight and recognition of the shades of culpability that make it difficult at times to neatly separate victims from perpetrators. He also shines much-needed light on the dangers of 'competitive martyrology' of the recent past, as the nations of the bloodlands have tried to claim greatest victim status."
Seattle Times
"Snyder's revisionist history describes how about 14 million people died in the lands between Germany and the Soviet Union, giving a fresh take on the tragedies that occurred during World War II."
Roll Call
"Statistics are an important part of Mr. Snyder's narrative, but he does not forget that every number was once a human being. . . . This book is a grim but important read."
Washington Times
"Snyder presents material that is undeniably fresh—what's more, it comes from sources in languages with which very few western academics are familiar. The success of Bloodlands really lies in its effective presentation of cold, hard scholarship, which is in abundance."
Financial Times
"Solid and judicious scholarship."
"A chillingly systematic study of the mass murder mutually perpetrated by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. . . . A significant work of staggering figures and scholarship."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"An impeccably researched history. . . . One of the great strengths of Snyder's book is that it brings back to life some of the forgotten voices of those who died in the 'bloodlands.' The Nazi and Soviet regimes turned people into numbers, but Snyder reconnects the broad narrative of eastern Europe's unparalleled tragedy with its intimate impact on the lives of individuals."
Irish Times
"This book will revolutionize how any reader thinks about the mid-20th century. . . . Snyder manages two difficult tasks at the same time. He examines a frequently investigated period and casts it in an entirely new light. He also sheds light on underexamined historical events while putting them through the prism of a region—Eastern Europe—where history frequently produces few witnesses while it unfolds. . . . Bloodlands is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in 20th-century history, and even more so for those interested in how historical narratives are established and maintained. Snyder's examinations of the past will be worth following in the years to come."
The Prague Post
"Deeply arresting and provocative."
Washington Monthly
"A must-read for anyone interested in the history of Eastern Europe."
—Anna Porter, Globe and Mail
"[A] striking and important new book . . . Snyder writes with a boldness that will make some people uncomfortable. He questions the usefulness of the word genocide, and prefers the term 'mass killing.' By putting what Stalin did in the context of Hitler's Final Solution . . . Snyder does not engage in a facile search for equivalents; his arguments are carefully restricted in scope. What he shows is how Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union created a mutually reinforcing dynamic that resulted in the deaths of 14 million people in Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Belarus."
The National (Abu Dhabi)
"A bold, brilliant, discomfiting book which seeks to juxtapose the Nazi and Soviet horrors of the mid-20th century and place them within the same narrative. Concentrating on the areas where those two regimes overlapped and competed, namely Poland, the Baltic States, Ukraine, and Byelorussia—the 'Bloodlands' of the title—Snyder gives a human face to the countless victims of totalitarianism. It is a timely, authoritative and well-written book, which—for me—is easily the history highlight of the year."
History Today
"Bloodlands is in a class of its own, a real blockbuster that profoundly reconfigures our understanding of World War II and the 1930s. . . . A triumph of measured writing and sound judgment. . . . The story is brilliantly accessible—clear, compelling, lively, and sparkling with insights. . . . Bloodlands is the perfect companion for the scholar and student of mid-twentieth-century Europe. Accessible and extraordinarily comprehensive, it will be widely read and cited as the standard work."
Michigan War Studies Review
"A major milestone in a much needed process for preserving the memory and writing the history of the mass crimes committed against 14,000,000 victims in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century. Snyder examines the various victim groups with equal empathy and is constantly aware of plural causalities."
Yad Vashem Studies
"[An] instant classic. . . . [Snyder] dispenses much little-known history."
Foreign Policy in Focus
"Meticulously researched and ambitious in scope, Bloodlands provides an engrossing, if highly disturbing, account of some of the greatest evils of the twentieth century."
Ethics & International Affairs
"In page after grueling page, Snyder depicts the pogrom that erupted across the Bloodlands. After all these years, after all the histories, there are still details that appall. . . . In an interesting twist, Snyder reveals how the usual Western understanding of the Holocaust, centered on the almost clinical danse macabre of deportation and eventual extermination in a camp far from Paris, Amsterdam, or Rome, fails to reflect the more typical experience to the east."
National Review Online
"[A] masterful history. . . . Snyder forces many of us to change the way we understand the Second World War."
"[Bloodlands] examines some of the most devastating collective memories of the modern world. With scholarly rigour and engaging prose, [Snyder] seeks to explain both the causes and effects of the two most daunting mass murderers of the 20th century."
The Economist, Prospero blog
"Bloodlands is based on quite extraordinary scholarly labor, carried out in sixteen archives and a half-dozen languages. The result is a meticulous description of mass murder presented in restrained, almost clinical prose whose power comes from the gradual, relentless accumulation of horrific detail. . . . [A] monumental work, the product of a scholar's humane and tireless efforts to recapture what remains of those millions of men, women, and children who were murdered during Europe's darkest hours."
"[A] popular history of the highest order. Not only does Snyder effectively relate the motivations behind Stalin's and Hitler's crimes, but he also exhibits a capable eye for the telling detail. The numerous stories of individuals who suffered in the 'bloodlands' humanize the carnage perpetrated in the name of the Stalinist and National Socialist ideologies. This is, perhaps, Snyder's most noteworthy accomplishment."
"Surveying a time and subject that has been studied, dramatized, and argued about perhaps more thoroughly than any other in history, Bloodlands is an incredibly original work. It seeks to redirect our understanding of the Holocaust as primarily an eastern phenomenon, and one which took place among a spate of mass killing policies. . . . With this magisterial book, [Snyder] has rendered the Holocaust, and the horrors that preceded and accompanied it, their rightful place."
Policy Review
"Many books are useful; a handful can be called important; Bloodlands does no less than change the way we think of 20th-century history, and of the deadly human cost of the totalitarian utopianism that was among its most distinctive characteristics. . . . Bloodlands is a wrenching, enlightening, moving, and intellectually challenging examination of the most compelling and painful topic of 20th-century history. Few who study it carefully will be able to forget Timothy Snyder's masterly autopsy of the fourteen million times one human being's destroyed in the name of the totalitarian dystopia."
The Polish Review
"[Bloodlands] throws a great deal of light on the policies shared by Hitler and Stalin, especially starvation as a form of ethnic cleansing. It is a horrifying story but the wider emphasis should do much to give readers a more accurate understanding than is often presented."
Contemporary Review (Oxford)
"Historians of Nazi Germany have analyzed Hitler's war of destruction in the East, Final Solution, and vast racial revolution and colonization project outlined in the Generalplan Ost
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  • "A startling new interpretation of the period ... a stunning book."—David Denby, New Yorker
  • "A superb and harrowing history."—Financial Times
  • "Genuinely shattering.... I have never seen a book like it."—Istvan Deak, New Republic
  • "A brave and original history of mass killing in the twentieth century."—Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books
  • "A magisterial work.... Snyder's account in engaging, encyclopedic."—Foreign Affairs
  • "Gripping and comprehensive.... Mr. Snyder's book is revisionist history of the best kind: in spare, closely argued prose, with meticulous use of statistics, he makes the reader rethink some of the best-known episodes in Europe's modern history."—Economist
  • "Snyder...compels us to look squarely at the full range of destruction committed first by Stalin's regime and then by Hitler's Reich.... A comprehensive and eloquent account."—New York Times Book Revew
  • "A superb work of scholarship, full of revealing detail, cleverly compiled...and in places beautifully written.... Snyder does justice to the horror of his subject through the power of storytelling."—The Sunday Times (London)
  • “A gigantic achievement in modern history.”—Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show

On Sale
Apr 26, 2022
Page Count
592 pages
Basic Books

Timothy Snyder

About the Author

Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. The author of thirteen books, including the bestsellers On Tyranny and Black Earth, his work has been translated into forty languages. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut. 

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