It seems as each day passes the news is bleaker and bleaker. Many avoid the subject entirely through the escapism of unreality TV and many other media. History is full of the stories of the great accomplishments of mankind and also its utter depravities. With millions of people around the world now fleeing for their lives and the survival of their families in the midst of wars and terrorism, a look to the past might teach us something…
Timothy Snyder’s new book Black Earth the Holocaust as History and Warning might be a good start. The facts, analysis and conclusions about the Holocaust are generally well known through the myriad of history books and memoirs on the subject. Snyder brings an interesting, provocative and I must say unorthodox account to this subject. He identifies the conditions that made the mass murder of millions of people possible and then points out how many of those conditions exist today. That got my attention.
Connecting the absolute horrors of the past to today is an important lesson and challenge to all of us individually and collectively as Americans. We hear much fear mongering among current Presidential candidates almost daily. This means we must apply ourselves to our own best mental and moral resources to judge our potential leaders. It comes down to one crucial question which is how can Americans help build a future based on law, human rights and citizenship.
Evil is now rampant in the parts of the world as it was when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union ran murderously amok over Eastern Europe in 1940. Black Earth provides a thoughtfully new perspective on this now seemingly ancient evil. It demonstrates the destruction of the Jews was premised on the destruction of states and the institutions of politics. Politics, by the way, in its best form is not a dirty word.
Snyder's new approach to the Holocaust is that the destruction of state machinery, he says, first by the Soviets and then by the Germans, stimulated a frenzy of lawlessness and murder, facilitating, in case of the Nazis, genocidal campaigns against imagined enemies. As nation states like Iraq and Syria disintegrate into component religious and ethnic parts with ensuing chaos and mayhem and the United States looks on befuddled on what it can or can’t do about it. The “Caliphate” could spread throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa” some shout. While many want us to bomb more and more. The borders must be closed against Muslin refugees to keep the terrorists out, they say. Of course, they said the same thing about the Jews who tried to flee Europe from the Nazi terror… And on and on.I can only think to recommend the book Black Earth. I can’t say I agreed with all of the author's interpretations and conclusions and yes its not an easy read but it can’t help but make you think. Certainly the way things are going these days….. that’s got to be a good thing.
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