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About the book
  • 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.

  • Pub date: 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 has written and edited a number of critically acclaimed and prize-winning books about twentieth-century European history: his most recent book, On Tyranny, was an international bestseller. 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.

Snyder is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences, and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research.

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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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