Professor Timothy Snyder in his recent article in "The New York Review of Books" (July 16) expands the conventional understanding of the mass killings of European civilians in the 1930s and 1940s beyond the symbolic limits of Auschwitz and the Gulag and suggests to modify our common memory.
"Though Europe thrives, - writes Timothy Snyder in ”The New York Review of Books” (no. 12, July 16 2009) - its writers and politicians are preoccupied with death. The mass killings of European civilians during the 1930s and 1940s are the reference of today's confused discussions of memory, and the touchstone of whatever common ethics Europeans may share. The bureaucracies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union turned individual lives into mass death, particular humans into quotas of those to be killed.
The Soviets hid their mass shootings in dark woods and falsified the records of regions in which they had starved people to death; the Germans had slave laborers dig up the bodies of their Jewish victims and burn them on giant grates. Historians must, as best we can, cast light into these shadows and account for these people. This we have not done. Auschwitz, generally taken to be an adequate or even a final symbol of the evil of mass killing, is in fact only the beginning of knowledge, a hint of the true reckoning with the past still to come."
Read the full article in "The New York Review of Books" Volume 56, Nr 12, July 16, 2009
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