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  • Published: 17 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9781473522701
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 480

Black Earth

The Holocaust as History and Warning

A radical reframing of the Holocaust that challenges prevailing myths and draws disturbing parallels with the present


We have come to see the Holocaust as a factory of death, organised by bureaucrats. Yet by the time the gas chambers became operation more than a million European Jews were already dead: shot at close range over pits and ravines. They had been murdered in the lawless killing zones created by the German colonial war in the East, many on the fertile black earth that the Nazis believed would feed the German people.

It comforts us to believe that the Holocaust was a unique event. But as Timothy Snyder shows, we have missed basic lessons of the history of the Holocaust, and some of our beliefs are frighteningly close to the ecological panic that Hitler expressed in the 1920s. As ideological and environmental challenges to the world order mount, our societies might be more vulnerable than we would like to think.

Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands was an acclaimed exploration of what happened in eastern Europe between 1933 and 1945, when Nazi and Soviet policy brought death to some 14 million people. Black Earth is a deep exploration of the ideas and politics that enabled the worst of these policies, the Nazi extermination of the Jews. Its pioneering treatment of this unprecedented crime makes the Holocaust intelligible, and thus all the more terrifying.

  • Published: 17 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9781473522701
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 480

About the author

Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder is Levin Professor of History at Yale University and the author of a number of critically acclaimed books including The Road to Unfreedom and most recently On Tyranny which was an international bestseller.

His previous books include Black Earth, which was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the annual prize of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee; and Bloodlands, which won the Hannah Arendt Prize, the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award in the Humanities and the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Praise for Black Earth

Timothy Snyder's bold new approach to the Holocaust links Hitler's racial worldview to the destruction of states and the quest for land and food. This insight leads to thought-provoking and disturbing conclusions for today's world. Black Earth uses the recent past's terrible inhumanity to underline an urgent need to rethink our own future

Ian Kershaw

A wholly readable and utterly persuasive attempt to get us to look at the Holocaust in a different light. I read it twice, aghast but gripped by the moral abyss into which I was plunged on each page


Black Earth is provocative, challenging, and an important addition to our understanding of the Holocaust. As he did in Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder makes us rethink those things we were sure we already knew

Deborah Lipstadt

Part history, part political theory, Black Earth is a learned and challenging reinterpretation

Henry A. Kissinger

In this unusual and innovative book, Timothy Snyder takes a fresh look at the intellectual origins of the Holocaust, placing Hitler's genocide firmly in the politics and diplomacy of 1930s Europe. Black Earth is required reading for anyone who cares about this difficult period of history

Anne Applebaum

Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth is not only a powerful exposure of the horrors of the Holocaust but also a compelling dissection of the Holocaust’s continuing threat

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Timothy Snyder is now our most distinguished historian of evil. Black Earth casts new light on old darkness. It demonstrates once and for all that the destruction of the Jews was premised on the destruction of states and the institutions of politics.I know of no other historical work on the Holocaust that is so deeply alarmed by its repercussions for the human future. This is a haunted and haunting book—erudite, provocative, and unforgettable

Leon Wieseltier

Timothy Snyder argues, eloquently and convincingly, that the world is still susceptible to the inhuman impulses that brought about the Final Solution. This book should be read as admonition by presidents, prime ministers, and in particular by anyone who believes that the past is somehow behind us

Jeffrey Goldberg

Always readable, highly sophisticated, and strikingly original

Bernard Wasserstein, Jewish Chronicle

Black Earth is mesmerizing

Edward Rothstein, Wall Street Journal (Europe)

an engrossing and often thought-provoking analysis of Hitler’s antisemitic ideology and an intelligently argued country-by-country survey of its implementation between 1939 and 1945

Richard J Evans, Guardian

A masterful work


A passionate and semi-polemical account

David Aaronovitch, The Times

a wholly readable and utterly persuasive attempt to get us to look at the Holocaust in a different light

Nick Fraser, Observer

this is a deeply insightful and original treatment and, as the Holocaust drifts slowly but surely from living memory and into history, a warning against future complacency

John Owen, History Today

Snyder excels in repositioning the Holocaust in a global context

Joanna Bourke, New Statesman

Timothy Synder reorientates our understanding of the ideological structures and political circumstances that made the Nazis’ genocidal programme possible ·

John Owen, History Today

To his recalibration of the conventional topography and chronology of the Holocaust, Snyder adds a novel interpretation of Hitler’s worldview and of the place of Jews in it

Jonathan Derbyshire, Prospect

Snyder delivers what is surely the best and most unsparing analysis of eastern European collaborationism now available.

Richard J Evans, Guardian

As our world fragments and dissolves into chaos, Snyder offers a chilling lesson about how easy it is for people to slip into evil and bloodlust.

Catholic Herald

a book of the greatest importance… written with searing intellectual honesty.

Anthony Beevor, Sunday Times

Snyder's extraordinary book may be about events more than seventy years ago, but its lessons about human nature are as relevant now as then

Rebecca Tinsley, Independent Catholic News

Disturbing but utterly compelling... The how’s and whys of what happened have never been better explained.

Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

Highly praised, and indeed it is a worthy contribution to the subject.

Ruth Ginarlis, Nudge

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