Between about 1930 and 1945, in an area of Europe that included eastern Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic republics, approximately 14 million innocent people were shot, gassed, or intentionally starved to death. As if in the most grotesque competition imaginable, Stalin and Hitler shared responsibility for the mass slaughter, and more than half of it occurred outside the Nazi gas chambers and death camps, often in more obscure circumstances, in villages and the countryside. Both Jews and non-Jews were shot to death by the millions, simply penned like animals and deprived of food, or otherwise forced into famine. The scale is unimaginable; in Belarus alone, one quarter of its population were killed as a result of the convergence of these two brutal, totalitarian regimes.
The details of these mass exterminations were gathered together by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in a well-reviewed and award-winning 2010 book named Bloodlands – Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. To write it, he assembled an enormous mass of fresh research on Soviet and Nazi murder, much of it emerging from archives once sealed behind the Iron Curtain, and some of it his own, in order to produce, as one reviewer put it, “something like a final and definitive account” of these terrors.