“He (Tim Snyder) juxtaposes to that a less generally familiar but to historians of Eastern Europe well known fact, namely that these same places were the settings in the 1930s and again in the interval between 1939 and 1941 of enormous carnage carried out at Stalin’s behest, most of it rooted in ethnic mistrust. And then he shows in heart-breaking detail what these two facts had to do with one another.
The German assault on the Jews becomes part and parcel of a multi-dimensional, multi-sided vortex of ethnic animosities in a particular place. This not only decenters antisemitism as the driver of what happened and relegates it to being one among multiple causes, but also encourages a somewhat uncomfortable empathy with some of the non-Jews caught in the tragedy that the vortex created.
Henceforth the study of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, where it was for the most part played out, will no longer be two- or even threedimensional—no longer seen as a story of relations between Germans and Jews or Germans, Jews, and the predominant local population—but rather as deeply embedded in the complicated and multivalent particulars of that time and place.”