Share good ideas and conversation.   Login, Join Us, or Take a Tour!
comment by b_b
b_b  ·  1125 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: April 23rd: What are you reading this week?

I agree that the last chapter (or the epilogue or whatever it is) feels forced, as if it were put in to make the book feel relevant in the current political climate. That said, Snyder and Judt were collaborators, so I doubt their views are that divergent. What I took away from Black Earth wasn't that we're all Jew killers waiting to be unleashed but rather the opposite.

The basic thesis of the book is that statehood matters, citizenship matters, and that not even the Nazis could transcend that fact. I think that that thesis is generally true, but that also the Holocaust isn't so much of a generalizable (sp?) event, and that is perhaps where Snyder may come up short.

kleinbl00  ·  1125 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I dunno, man. The actual analysis into the cause of the Holocaust was always an iteration of "why are people shooting other people? Well, because we're all money-grubbing shitheads that will do anything to get ahead, now listen as I rattle off eighteen unconnected anecdotes about people who weren't."

The book is subtitled "The Holocaust as History and Warning." The book even falls down on the 'history' portion of the program, effectively stopping as soon as the death camps get cranking because, apparently, Snyder finds that shit boring. Which, if the thesis is as you say, is fucking stupid. Snyder pays lip service to the things the Nazis had to do to their collaborators in order to get them to participate in mass murder, and makes great pains to point out that it wasn't institutionalized violence that caused the holocaust, it was random street violence shaped roughly by intentions from Berlin. But then when we've got tanks of Zyklon B and custom-built ovens, he peaces the fuck out and decides to make the exact argument the death camps would refute.

It's funny. The more history I read, the more Zionist I become. And the more analyses of WWII I read that say "well, it wasn't about the jews, per se," the more clear it becomes that it was about the fuckin' jews.

veen  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I essentially felt the same while reading as b_b, and didn't notice those flaws in his central thesis - partly because I don't have a few Judts in my library, partly because I didn't notice them.

    But then when we've got tanks of Zyklon B and custom-built ovens, he peaces the fuck out and decides to make the exact argument the death camps would refute.

What argument do you refer to, and how would the death camps refute that? I think I have an idea but I want to be sure I understand this.

kleinbl00  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Right - so let's go ahead and take this b_b-supplied argument as the central thesis:

    statehood matters, citizenship matters, and that not even the Nazis could transcend that fact.

The "history" portion of the book stops once the Soviet Union repelled the Nazis. This is the point where Snyder argues the Nazis doubled down on the death camps, switching from shooting people in ditches to gassing and burning them in ovens. He makes much of the fact that all of the death camps were in Poland, not Germany. But he skates over Action T-4, other than to point out that the methods of the death camps were taken from them, without noting that the Nazis started forced euthanasia of tens of thousands of German citizens in

- Saxony

- Brandenburg

- Bavaria

- Hesse

- Austria

He also skates right the fuck over the fact that half again as many Soviet POWs died in the death camps, and these were guys who were fully under the protection of the Geneva Convention and under the flag of the very people that, according to Snyder, Hitler felt were the genetic superiors of the Germans.

He plays a few games by pointing out that Danish jews that stayed in Denmark were less likely to die in the Holocaust than Danish jews that were exported to the death camps, but he says this has nothing to do with the Danish people and everything to do with "state protection". He argues that the Germans "let" the Danes export their Jews to Sweden, rather than observing that the Russians had been annihilated on the Eastern Front, were forced out of Africa, were experiencing heavy bombing by the US, were knee-deep in the Warsaw uprising and were losing Italy to Patton. The Nazis weren't in a position to "let" anything happen at that point.

What's really galling is that Snyder points out that the doubling-down in the extermination camps didn't happen until the Eastern Front had been lost, making defeat an inevitability. Yet he uses the argument that since Denmark retained sovereignty, Danish jews were safe without acknowledging how truly fucked anybody Soviet was.

Because the death camps, to Snyder, are uninteresting. And don't prove his point.

So he ignores them.

b_b  ·  1125 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I suppose when I read it, it didn't occur to me to think that Snyder was arguing that it wasn't about the Jews. I thought he was arguing that is wasn't entirely about the Jews for some self-preservationists, inherently apolitical types that dominate the masses of most societies. It was these people that the Nazis needed to co-opt in order to precipitate the holocaust, and where that was impossible (i.e. according to Snyder's hypothesis, those places where bureaucracy was basically intact), the holocaust proceeded much slower. Anyway, that's what I took away, but I can see your point now in a way that wasn't obvious to me from the first two postings you made about not really liking the book.

kleinbl00  ·  1125 days ago  ·  link  ·  

he goes as far as blaming the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for antisemitic violence in the Soviet Union while dismissing the steady and unopposed pogroms that drove many jews out of tsarist Russia. That's one of the things I really liked about Judt - when presented with the breakup of Yugoslavia, he didn't wave his hands and say "no one could have predicted" and "both sides were at fault." He lays out chapter and verse how the Serbians had a blood feud against the Bosnians and have done since the Hapsburgs but violence was held in check by larger political powers.

What was the Woodrow Wilson quote? "You can have peace or justice, but not both?" It seems like "peace" requires blame to be assigned to victims even when they're blameless. Snyder's book stinks of that.