Timothy Snyder’s Holocaust Warning for Today

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian who makes waves. Black Earth is his big new interpretation of “the Holocaust: as History and Warning.” He’s arguing, for starters, that the record of killing Jews – when, where, why, how – is in many ways unlike the story we’ve absorbed about the 20th Century’s most awful catastrophe. If we Americans knew the basics about Hitler, he says here, we wouldn’t be repeating many of his blunders in the 21st Century. Specifically, we would not have initiated the decapitation and destruction of states as in Iraq and Libya; we would not have provoked the ‘zombification’ of helpless populations now at the mercy of ISIS. If we wanted to drive a stake in the heart of the Hitler vision, Tim Snyder is telling me, we might better be unleashing science on the climate crisis and the deep panic about food supplies in the long run, which he says Hitler anticipated in his own mad way in Mein Kampf.

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  • NotEasyBeingGreen

    Let me just say at the outset that I’m a big admirer of both guest Snyder and host Lydon. Bloodlands sounds like a fascinating, important book, and I hope to read it. That said, I was disappointed by the scant attention paid to the elephant in the Middle East’s war room if you will: radical Islam. Will climate change make societies in that region less stable? I’m sure it will, and Snyder’s solutions for governments sound like wise ones. But for you both to gloss over such a significant driver of instability–I believe Chris made a passing reference to “Islamophobia” and Snyder said things would be “very bad”–feels certainly insufficient and frankly, insulting to the people who live in the countries we are talking about. Can we give Arabs, Persians, Turks, etc. credit for having the ability to choose how to respond to challenges like climate change, not to mention U.S. invasion? Can we admit that some of them are attracted to the very real and pernicious ideology of jihadism? This future of scarcity isn’t going to be something that just happens to the area’s inhabitants, but it will be part of a much larger dynamic with many inputs. Is there a way for liberals and progressives to counter Islamism without hating moderate Muslims? Or are we too afraid of being perceived as racist despite the fact that Islam isn’t a race? I consider myself part of the Left and am in no way tempted by the hatred of Trump, Cruz, et al. But I’m concerned that by denying the reality of violent, radical Islam, we are ceding the ground of reality to the Right and paving the way for their electoral triumph. Can we talk about the real threats we face, be they climate-related or ideological?