This meticulously researched, brave and intelligent book demonstrates that the mass incarceration of civilians during war has been practiced around the world for more than a century. Andrea Pitzer traces the evolution of concentration camps from 1890’s Cuba up through the Boer War, Russian Revolution and Holocaust, and she finishes with Guantanamo, where, she writes, “we have detainees in indefinite detention.” One Long Night is no easy read. But it is surely a book for the times, as we come to grips with the chilling implication that yes, it can happen here.
Timothy Snyder, a Yale University specialist in Eastern Europe and author of the 2010 work Bloodlands, offers an unconventional, provocative explanation of the Holocaust, contending that the root causes and other aspects of the mass slaughter have been misunderstood. In Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Tim Duggan, $30), Snyder maintains that too much emphasis has been placed on conventional anti-Semitism as the motivating factor. Hitler’s obsessions, he argues, went further, reducing mankind to a state of nature facing a struggle of the races and an ecological crisis. In Hitler’s view, for the German race to emerge triumphant, the vast arable lands of Eastern Europe needed to be conquered and the Jews, along with others considered racially impure, had to be eliminated. By crushing governments and wiping out ruling groups in the east, Hitler created an anarchic society where the Holocaust became possible. Seen this way, Snyder contends the history of the Holocaust holds such critical warnings for the present day as the importance of championing science over ideology and the need to strengthen state institutions in embattled regions like the Middle East and Ukraine.