Where 14 Million People Died

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Say “Hitler”, and people think of Germany and the murder of 6 million Jews. Say “Stalin”, and people think of Russia and the Gulag. However, most of Hitler’s victims, Jewish and otherwise, were not German. Similarly most of the millions killed by Stalin were not Russian. Instead, the regions between the two suffered the most from both dictators. These were the Bloodlands.

From the Preface

The bloodlands were where most of Europe’s Jews lived, where Hitler and Stalin’s imperial plans overlapped, where the Wehrmachtand the Red Army fought, and where the Soviet NKVD and the German SS concentrated their forces. Most killing sites were in the bloodlands: in the political geography of the 1930s and early 1940s, this meant Poland,the Baltic States, Soviet Belarus, Soviet Ukraine, and the western fringe of Soviet Russia. Stalin’s crimes are often associated with Russia, and Hitler’s with Germany. But the deadliest part of the Soviet Union was its non-Russian periphery, and Nazis generally killed beyond Germany.

Most of the region was under Soviet rule until June of 1941. With Operation Barbarossa the Nazis came, and the NKVD was replaced by the SS. When the Red Army pushed the Wehrmacht back (1943-1945) the NKVD returned in its wake.

Americans call the Second World War “The Good War”. But before it even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens — and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.

I read the book after seeing good reviews in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. I was not disappointed. It is an excellent book and has changed my thinking about the World War II period.

I recommend Bloodlands to anybody interested in the history of the era. Just don’t read it before bedtime.

1 thought on “Where 14 Million People Died

  1. Pingback: More reading notes | From Hilbert Space to Dilbert Space, and beyond

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