Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

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A brilliant, haunting, and profoundly original portrait of the defining tragedy of our time.

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first.  Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying. 

The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler's mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed.  Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler's aim was a colonial war in Europe itself.  In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died.  A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions.  Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals.  The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic.  These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so. 

By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future.  The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order.  Our world is closer to Hitler's than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was -- and ourselves as we are. 

Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.
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About the author

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, which received the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hannah Arendt Prize, and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. Snyder is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement and a former contributing editor at The New Republic. He is a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences, serves as the faculty advisor for the Fortunoff Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
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Additional Information

Tim Duggan Books
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Published on
Sep 8, 2015
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History / Holocaust
History / Military / World War II
History / Modern / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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How American race law provided a blueprint for Nazi Germany

Nazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Did the American regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The unsettling answer is yes. In Hitler's American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. Contrary to those who have insisted that there was no meaningful connection between American and German racial repression, Whitman demonstrates that the Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in American race policies.

As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler's Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.

Indelibly linking American race laws to the shaping of Nazi policies in Germany, Hitler's American Model upends understandings of America's influence on racist practices in the wider world.

From one of the country’s most admired political thinkers, an urgent wake-up call to American liberals to turn from the divisive politics of identity and develop a vision of our future that can persuade all citizens that they share a common destiny.

In The Once and Future Liberal, Mark Lilla offers an impassioned, tough-minded, and stinging look at the failure of American liberalism over the past two generations. Although there have been Democrats in the White House, and some notable policy achievements, for nearly 40 years the vision that Ronald Reagan offered—small government, lower taxes, and self-reliant individualism—has remained the country’s dominant political ideology. And the Democratic Party has offered no convincing competing vision in response.

Instead, as Lilla argues, American liberalism fell under the spell of identity politics, with disastrous consequences. Driven originally by a sincere desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans, the left has now unwittingly balkanized the electorate, encouraged self-absorption rather than solidarity, and invested its energies in social movements rather than in party politics. 

With dire consequences. Lilla goes on to show how the left’s identity-focused individualism insidiously conspired with the amoral economic individualism of the Reaganite right to shape an electorate with little sense of a shared future and near-contempt for the idea of the common good. In the contest for the American imagination, liberals have abdicated.

Now they have an opportunity to reset. The left is motivated, and the Republican Party, led by an unpredictable demagogue, is in ideological disarray. To seize this opportunity, Lilla insists, liberals must concentrate their efforts on recapturing our institutions by winning elections. The time for hectoring is over. It is time to reach out and start persuading people from every walk of life and in every region of the country that liberals will stand up for them. We must appeal to – but also help to rebuild –  a sense of common feeling among Americans, and a sense of duty to each other.

A fiercely-argued, no-nonsense book, enlivened by Lilla’s acerbic wit and erudition, The Once and Future Liberal is essential reading for our momentous times.

Det politiske klimaet i USA og Europa er i endring og i 2017 står vi overfor trusler som minner om totalitære tendenser som i ulike tapninger preget Europa i forrige århundre. Det er grunn til uro, bekrefter historikeren Timothy Snyder. Få kjenner det 20. århundres overskridelser bedre enn ham. Historien gjentar seg ikke, men den kan vise vei. Derfor har han skrevet en guide i 20 kapitler om hva vi skal passe på, og hva vi kan gjøre. I det tjuende århundre kollapset europeiske demokratier i fascisme, nazisme og kommunisme. Dette var bevegelser der lederne av de politiske partiene hevdet at de var gitt makten av folket og skulle være folkets stemme. De skulle beskytte folket mot trusler, gjerne av global art, de så bort fra fakta og lot halvsanne myter påvirke beslutninger. Europeisk historie viser oss at samfunn kan bryte sammen, demokratier kan falle, etikken kollapse og helt vanlige folk kan bli satt i uvirkelige situasjoner. Timothy Snyder presenterer 20 ting vi kan lære av det 20. århundre. Boken er basert på en liste han skrev etter presidentvalget i USA, som raskt ble spredt på sosiale medier. Dette er en viktig bok ikke bare for amerikanere, men for oss alle, nå som populistiske og autoritære tendenser er blitt tydeligere både i USA og i Europa. Snyder er professor i historie, og har spesialisert seg på Det tredje riket og Holocaust: «Dagens amerikanere er ikke smartere enn europeerne, deres demokratier ble overgitt til fascisme, nazisme og kommunisme i det 20. århundre. En av USAs fordeler er at de kanskje kan lære av andres erfaringer. Akkurat nå ville være et godt tidspunkt å gjøre det.»
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