The real Holocaust was in Eastern Europe
As a result, we liberated one half of Europe at the cost of enslaving the other half for fifty years. We really did win the war against one genocidal dictator with the help of another. There was a happy end for us, but not for everybody. This does not make us bad—there were limitations, reasons, legitimate explanations for what happened. But it does make us less exceptional. And it does make World War II less exceptional, more morally ambiguous, and thus more similar to the wars that followed.
If nothing else, a reassessment of what we know about Europe in the years between 1933 and 1953 could finally cure us of that “lack of imagination” that so appalled Czesław Miłosz almost sixty years ago. When considered in isolation, Auschwitz can be easily compartmentalized, characterized as belonging to a specific place and time, or explained away as the result of Germany’s unique history or particular culture. But if Auschwitz was not the only mass atrocity, if mass murder was simultaneously taking place across a multinational landscape and with the support of many different kinds of people, then it is not so easy to compartmentalize or explain away. The more we learn about the twentieth century, the harder it will be to draw easy lessons or make simple judgments about the people who lived through it—and the easier it will be to empathize with and understand them.
This review is a reminder to all who don’t really read history that the conventional wisdom is always off the mark. WW II from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima is not the whole story and not even half of it when measured in terms of the real fight for liberty.
So read on McDuff and get more of the real story and history!
- The Worst of the Madness (nybooks.com)
- The Unexceptional War (andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)
- Truth about German diplomats’ collusion in Holocaust is revealed (guardian.co.uk)
- Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder – review (guardian.co.uk)