I just finished Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands, a book describing, in painstaking detail, the murder of over 14,000,000 people in the region between what is now central Poland to western Russia and north to the Baltic Sea and south to the Black Sea.
That region is what Snyder calls 'bloodlands'. On the accompanying map the bloodlands are the areas with the diagonal lines (from Anne Applebaum's review).
The slaughter occurred during the period 1933-1945 when Hitler and Stalin were murdering Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, et al. These people did not die because of war, but because deliberate decisions were made to murder them.
The book is one of the mist difficult I've ever read. But I am glad I did. Here is the Preface.
From the homepage:
Americans call the Second World War "The Good War". But before it even began, America's wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens — and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war's end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.
Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlandswill be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.
Unforgettable and compelling. And did I say 'disturbing'?
But so necessary.
"No major war or act of mass killing in the twentieth century began without the aggressors or perpetrators first claiming innocence and victimhood. In the twenty-first century, we see a second wave of aggressive wars with victim claims, in which leaders not only present their peoples as victims but make explicit reference to the mass murders of the twentieth century. The human capacity for subjective victimhood is apparently limitless, and people who believe that they are victims can be motivated to perform acts of great violence." - Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands, p. 399-400.