Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and WarningBlack Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

True, we must never forget, but we must also understand. Whether the reader agrees with Black Earth’s primary thesis doesn’t matter. Snyder’s work brings home the point that even after 70 years of study, the Holocaust remains an enigma, and the discussions must continue.

Simply put, Snyder argues statelessness led to genocide. Where the state was destroyed, particularly in areas that suffered a Soviet invasion prior to the German one, more Jews were murdered. Statelessness resulted in instability and the obliteration of the institutions established to safeguard the populace. The citizenry in these regions, particularly minorities, were no longer protected, creating a perfect stage to carry out wholesale murder and the Final Solution.

Written in the convoluted style embraced by academics everywhere (why say it in five words when fifty will do?), Black Earth is a challenging read. I also found that while the final chapter discussing climate change nicely bookended the early discussion of Hitler and Lebensraum, the chapter’s alarmist tone weakened the book overall.

Still, highly recommended for readers interested in a fresh look at the Holocaust from inception to aftermath.

Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing/Tim Duggan Books
for the opportunity to read and review this title.

witchesThe Witches by Stacy Schiff

I’m writing this mini-review primarily because I don’t feel the book is getting a fair shake. For readers not familiar with the period or its players, The Witches may well seem onerous, full of names, personal histories, and complex interrelationships nearly impossible to keep straight. For readers expecting a facile explanation of Salem’s 1692 witch hysteria, or a light read to wile away a couple hours, you won’t find it here.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a beautifully written, textured account of Salem 1692, well researched and magnificently detailed, this is one of the best—if not the best—out there.

Recommended for readers with a passion for the period who have at least a basic familiarity with 1692 and its players.