What if you lived between two neighbors that hated each other to the greatest degree possible? And the only thing they hated more than each other was – you, your family members, friends, and relatives.
The Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder covers the topic (in excruciating and exacting detail) by discussing the Borderlands (otherwise known the lands and people between Germany and Western Russia) during the Stalin and Hitler Regimes.
Snyder the Dayton Ohio born, Oxford educated, Yale Professor of History takes great care and time (i.e., number pages) to dispel common misconceptions, clarify and elaborate on these Regimes, their efforts, and implications thereof.
With great effect Snyder dispels the belief that the crimes of Hitler and Stalin can (or should) be viewed separately, and these crimes really only occurred in large numbers to the combatants of WWII and Jews in concentration camps.
Let’s be clear, Snyder does not attempt to belittle the horror that was WWII or what we know of the Holocaust. However what Snyder does point out is the fact that a far, far, greater number of people died [14.5+ Million inhabitants of the Bloodlands to be exact] through treatment as bad or worse, and over a significantly longer period of time (1920s, 1930s, 1940s). This included, Jews, Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Germans and Russians. In short, the list of victims is long and varied.
The Bloodlands and its peoples were over-taken by Russia or Germany one, two, three, and even four times during this period. The vast majority of the people living in the Bloodlands fell into two-categories 1.) Need to Be Exterminated A.S.A.P or 2.) Need to be Slave Labor to grow food or make goods for the conquerors until no longer useful and re-classified to Category #1.
Why? A.) Because of who you were, not what you had done and/or B.) You and your kind were on a Defined List that established you as not meeting the prescribed Nationalist ideal and/or C.) plans such as the Final Solution (w/options 1,2&3), Great Terror of 1937 (1938,1939), or GeneralPlan Oust called for your demise.
Snyder takes advantage of the fact the these two Regimes were terrific at documentation and record keeping. The Bloodlands shows that Russia and Germany, Stalin and Hitler operated with cold efficiency and used this buffer zone and its peoples in an attempt to destroy each other and clear it for themselves. Each calculated the other would ultimately fail and would do anything to accomplish their goal – even if it seemed counter intuitive. For example while your enemy just invaded your country and is starving 3.1 million of your own citizens – pretend to do much, but actually do little because in the long run – you wanted these citizens dead anyways and as a bonus – your enemy can be blamed at the same time – with little to no monetary output on your part. Or as another example, sign a non-agression pact with your enemy, give 1/2 of the country you just conquered (i.e., Poland) to them on the premise that your enemy will efficiently eliminate the Poles and after the work is completed you will subsequently break the pact, invade and conquer your enemy.
The Bloodlands is sobering. The Bloodlands is tough to stomach. It is important to read and understand the Bloodlands – as history has a tendency of repeating itself. All it takes to start is creating a National Registration List of people for who they are, not what they have done.