Timothy Snyder, a Yale University specialist in Eastern Europe and author of the 2010 work Bloodlands, offers an unconventional, provocative explanation of the Holocaust, contending that the root causes and other aspects of the mass slaughter have been misunderstood. In Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Tim Duggan, $30), Snyder maintains that too much emphasis has been placed on conventional anti-Semitism as the motivating factor. Hitler’s obsessions, he argues, went further, reducing mankind to a state of nature facing a struggle of the races and an ecological crisis. In Hitler’s view, for the German race to emerge triumphant, the vast arable lands of Eastern Europe needed to be conquered and the Jews, along with others considered racially impure, had to be eliminated. By crushing governments and wiping out ruling groups in the east, Hitler created an anarchic society where the Holocaust became possible. Seen this way, Snyder contends the history of the Holocaust holds such critical warnings for the present day as the importance of championing science over ideology and the need to strengthen state institutions in embattled regions like the Middle East and Ukraine.
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