Military history


Writing is punctuated solitude; the pleasure of finishing a book is acknowledging those who helped it take form.

Krzysztof Michalski and Klaus Nellen of the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna forced me to specify the original thought. Thanks to the work-shops organized by the Institute within the project “United Europe/Divided Memory,” I enjoyed the company of several dozen outstanding historians in meetings in Vienna and at Yale University. I drafted the manuscript at Yale, my scholarly home, in the company of colleagues who set very high standards; and then rewrote the book during a stay at the IWM, made productive by the efforts of its staff, especially Susanne Froeschl, Mary Nicklas, and Marie-Therese Porzer. I am appreciative of my sabbatical year from Yale, and especially of the consideration shown by Laura Engelstein as chair of the Department of History. Ian Shapiro and the Macmillan Center at Yale supported my research. The competence and cheer of Marcy Kaufman and Marianne Lyden allowed me to balance administrative duties at Yale with research and teaching.

During the conception and drafting of this book, I had the good fortune to be surrounded by generous and talented graduate students at Yale. Some of them took part in demanding seminars on the subjects of the book, and all of them read draft chapters or discussed the book with me. I appreciate their work, their frankness, their good humor, and their intellectual company. Particular thanks go to Jadwiga Biskupska, Sarah Cameron, Yedida Kanfer, Kathleen Minahan, Claire Morelon, and David Petrucelli. The students and I could not have held our seminars, and I could not have researched this book, without the marvelous collections of the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale and the assistance of Tatjana Lorkovic and William Larsh of its Slavic Reading Room. Two outstanding Yale then-undergraduates, Beth Reisfeld and Andrew Koss, also helped me with aspects of the research. I cannot imagine Yale, let alone taking up a project of this sort in New Haven, without Daniel Markovits, Sarah Bilston, Stefanie Markovits, and Ben Polak.

A number of friends and colleagues put down their own work in order to read chapters of mine, to my great benefit. They include Bradley Abrams, Pertti Ahonen, Pavel Barša, Tina Bennett, David Brandenberger, Archie Brown, Christopher Browning, Jeff Dolven, Ben Frommer, Olivia Judson, Alex Kay, Ben Kiernan, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Mark Mazower, Wolfgang Mueller, Stuart Rachels, Thomas W. Simons, Jr., Will Sulkin, Adam Tooze, Jeffrey Veidlinger, Lynne Viola, and Iryna Vushko. Dieter Pohl and Wendy Lower read considerable portions of the manuscript. Nancy Wingfield kindly read and commented upon an entire draft. So did Marci Shore, who sets an example of humane scholarship that I wish I could match. It goes without saying that readers did not always agree with my interpretations. Critique helped the manuscript enormously; the responsibility for its flaws is mine.

From the beginning of the project to the end, Ray Brandon regularly contributed his superior bibliographic knowledge and vigorous critical spirit. Timothy Garton Ash helped me, at important points, to clarify my purposes. As I was drafting this book, I was speaking weekly with Tony Judt, in connection with another one. This altered my thinking on subjects such as the Popular Front and the Spanish Civil War. A decade of agreeing and disagreeing with Omer Bartov, Jan Gross, and Norman Naimark in various settings has sharpened my thinking on a host of questions. I have learned much over the years from conversations with Piotr Wandycz, my predecessor at Yale. Teaching a course in east European history at Yale with Ivo Banac broadened my knowledge. I found myself returning to basic problems of Marxism that I first perceived while studying under Mary Gluck (and Chris Mauriello) at Brown and then pursued at Oxford with the late Leszek Kołakowski. I did not continue the study of economics as John Williamson long ago counseled me to do, but I do owe a good deal of whatever economic intuition and knowledge remain to his support. My grand-mother Marianna Snyder talked to me about the Great Depression, and my parents Estel Eugene Snyder and Christine Hadley Snyder helped me to think about agricultural economics. My brothers Philip Snyder and Michael Snyder helped me to frame the introduction.

This book draws from research carried out in a number of archives over the course of many years. A good deal of the thinking also took place in archives. The archivists of the institutions mentioned in the bibliography are owed my thanks. The talk of archives in eastern Europe is often of what is closed; historians know that very much is open, and that we owe our productive work to those who keep it so. This study involved reading in German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Yiddish, Czech, Slovak, and French as well as English. It required cognizance of debates within the major historiographies, above all the German. I am sure that it would have benefited from literatures that I could not read. The friends who helped me with the languages I do read know who they are, and what I owe them. Special thanks are due to two excellent language teachers, Volodymyr Dibrova and Kurt Krottendorfer. Early on, Mark Garrison and the late Charles William Maynes impressed upon me the importance of learning languages and taking risks. In eastern Europe, Milada Anna Vachudová taught me about some of the overlaps. Stephen Peter Rosen and the late Samuel Huntington encouraged me to keep learning languages and deepening connections with eastern Europe, and provided the necessary support. It was at Harvard that I became a historian of this region, as opposed to a historian of some of its countries; this book is a pendant to the one that I wrote there.

Sources and inspiration for this book came from many other directions. Karel Berkhoff, Robert Chandler, Martin Dean, and Grzegorz Motyka graciously allowed me to read unpublished work, Dariusz Gawin directed me to forgotten works on the Warsaw Uprising, and Gerald Krieghofer found important press articles. Rafał Wnuk very kindly discussed with me the history of his family. The late Jerzy Giedroyc, Ola Hnatiuk, Jerzy Jedlicki, Kasia Jesień, Ivan Krastev, the late Tomasz Merta, Andrzej Paczkowski, Oxana Shevel, Roman Szporluk, and Andrzej Waśkiewicz helped me to ask some of the right questions. It was very instructive, as always, to think through the maps with Jonathan Wyss and Kelly Sandefer of Beehive Mapping. Steve Wasser-man of Kneerim and Williams helped me with the title and the book project, and offered me an opportunity in a book review to consider some of the issues. I appreciated the work of Chris Arden, Ross Curley, Adam Eaglin, Alex Littlefield, Kay Mariea, Cassie Nelson, and Brandon Proia of Perseus Books. I learned much that was necessary to conceive and write this book from Lara Heimert of Basic Books.

Carl Henrik Fredriksson invited me to give a lecture at the Eurozine conference in Vilnius on the imbalance between the memory and the history of mass killing. Robert Silvers helped me to temper the argument of that lecture in an essay that arose from that lecture, which states the problem that this book attempts to resolve. He and his colleagues at the New York Review of Books also published, in 1995, an essay by Norman Davies that drew my attention to some of the shortcomings of previous approaches to the problems treated in this book.

Lectures and seminars at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, the Stiftung Genshagen, the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, the Central European Forum in Bratislava, the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Warsaw, the Instytut Batorego in Warsaw, the Einstein Forum in Berlin, the Forum för Levande Historia in Stockholm, the Kreisky Forum in Vienna, Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Birkbeck College London, and the University of Cambridge were welcome opportunities to test conclusions. Presentations generate exchanges: I think in particular of Eric Weitz’s remark about implicit and explicit comparisons, or Nicholas Stargardt’s notion of the economics of catastrophe, or Eric Hobsbawm’s willingness to counsel comparison in London and Berlin.

I recall all of these and many other moments of contact with gratitude.

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