Genocide Over the Centuries

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Millions of innocent people have lost their lives. It has happened all over

the world to many different kinds of people; from Bangladeshis to Jews and from

Armenians to the Hutu. Many circumstances affect the final out come of the great loss of

people, from revolution to colonization to an ethnically diverse society. People are

persuaded to do such brutal actions. Several actions have been taken to prevent genocide

and the rise of another Hitler. The word is new the crime is ancient.

Polish scholar Raphael Lemik, in 1933 created the term genocide from the Greek

word genos, meaning race, and Latin term for killing cide. Lemik's proposed word and

definition are recognized in the 1948 convention. The 1948 convention defines genocide

as, any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a

certain group of people, such as: killing members, causing mental or bodily harm,

imposing measures to prevent birth, or taking children to another group forcibly.


addition to genocide itself, the convention says that planning, attempting, and inciting

genocide are also punishable acts. Some acts were left out of the convention such as

deliberate destruction of political groups and forcible assimilation into the culture of

choice. Persons that commit genocide or any of the acts are to be punished no matter their

social status. Persons that commit the genocidal acts are to be tried by an acknowledged

tribunal in the area in which the crime occurred. Genocide according to Lemick, does not

always occur by mass killings; the destruction of essential foundations of the group is like

exterminating them, they will no longer have an identity and therefore not be referred to

as previously named. (Howard Ball, page 96-98)

Many ethnic groups have suffered genocide around the world. The Armenian

genocide was done by the Turks. It broke out several times for different reasons. The first

genocide done by Sultan Abdul Hamid (1876-1909) was to preserve a state structure,

which kept the Christian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire submissive and unable to

resist tyrannical rule. The second major genocide was done by the Young Turks party

(1908-1914), it was to bring about fundamental and major changes in the status and

create a new frame which did not include the Armenians. Hitler's Final Solution was

concentrated on the Jews by Nazi Germany. Hitler said "Aryan" Germans were a superior

race whose nation was ruined by racially unwanted groups such as the Jews. The nazi

"solution" was mass murder of Jews around the world; it took place (1939-1945) in many

countries in Europe and anywhere else the Nazis gained control of. In the racial

purification they persecuted and killed handicapped people. Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of

war, Polish intellectuals, homosexual men, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Germans of African

Heritage. From 1975-1979 between one and two million people perished in Cambodia,

ruled by the Khmer Rouge, communists led by Pol Pot. Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer

Rouge in 1975, Brother Number One, or Pol Pot first executed the leaders of the old

regime, emptied cities, forced people into communes, and started social engineering; the

regime killed enemies and slowly saw enemies everywhere. The genocide stopped after

Vietnamese invasion less than four years later. Genocide also took place in the small

country Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s. After Bosnia's declaration of

independence from Yugoslavia, a three-year war took place between the country's

Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim ethnic groups. In response to the independence of Bosnia

Milosevic attacked the Capital city Sarajevo. The capital along with the country mostly

Muslims was hopelessly outgunned, they began to round up Muslims in scenes similar to

those of Nazi Germany in World War Two. The Serbs called the secret camps, mass

killings, and destruction of mosques and historic architecture in Bosnia ethnic cleansing.

After three years the United States and the United Nations stopped the conflict. The

African country Rwanda is made up of the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. Genocide

took place in Rwanda in 1994 and lasted for one hundred days; the Tutsi were targeted

for the extermination. The killers did not want to merely expel the Tutsis out of the

country, they had been allowed to leave in 1959 and did not leave, the same mistake was

not going to happen again. Many Hutu against the genocide were slaughtered as well.

United Nations helped to end the conflict about one year later.

Ordinary men in genocides, kill innocent people that lived alongside them for

many reasons. There are two major factors, indoctrination and propaganda. In all

genocidal societies, there are training programs that make the people hate the targeted

group. Ordinary people go along with the propaganda since it is the norm everyone goes

by in the state they are in. The second factor is dehumanization, the press, posters, radios,

films, and plays all make the targeted group seem like demons in the mind of the average

citizen. When an enemy like this is denied humanity and is constantly called vermin for

instance, the ordinary men eventually see them as worthless. Khmer Rouge soldiers said,

"to allow you to live is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss". Most of the soldiers in

genocidal societies have no problem murdering and taking away innocent people.

(Howard Ball, page 98-100)

Diversity of people and beliefs in a society provide the necessary conditions for

genocide; this has occurred in most of all the genocides including: India on partition,

Bangladesh, and Rwanda and Burundi. Most of the societies in the world today are plural

or diverse societies, they are only more prone to genocide if there has or are persistent

cleavages between racial, ethnic, or religious groups. There is generally inequality in

politics as in South Africa or practical inequality, as in Northern Ireland, where

Protestants succeed in political, domination (Kuper 58). Political inequality is connected

with economic discrimination; this goes with employment, wages for jobs, and access to

production for businesses. Inequality also goes into education, and human rights. These

structural conditions make genocide more probable. Similar people start to aggregate and

this makes it easier for conflict to move, a local disturbance may start a chain of events

like demonstrations, police reprisals, terrorism, and political confrontations. With a long

history of struggle, the dominant group will remember past injustice and atrocity, this

will get emotions up and would go on to destructive violence. Many plural societies do

not go into subjective reactions and a chance to keep a destructive conflict. Colonization

is a major creator of plural societies; colonization and decolonization are both associated

with genocidal massacres. The colonization and revolution of Algeria are among the

bloodiest conflicts in the history of colonization. (Leo Kuper, page 57-83)

Genocides cannot take place without the efforts of many people. There are three

conditions-psychological, cultural, and political-by which the genocide is made possible.

In the cultural condition the perpetrators may have been taught that they are more

superior to the victims, which may work as a justification for the crimes. Mechanisms are

carried for the perpetrators not to feel guilt, pain, or empathy. The basic psychological

condition is having strict obedience to the authority, following orders is higher than your

own consideration. The men do not see themselves as responsible for the crimes, they

only consider themselves as instruments used by the officials in power. A war criminal

after the holocaust was ended, Adolf Eichmann said, "I had nothing to do with killing the

Jews. I never killed a Jew, but I never killed a non-Jew either; I've never killed anybody.

And I never ordered anybody to kill a Jew". Eichmann stated if he had received an order

to kill a Jew he would have done it. Eichmann recalled feeling remorse if he had not

followed his orders to set up a transportation system to move millions to their death.

Morality for many men in most genocides is how well they carry out tasks, they have no

feelings of remorse. Men such as Eichmann, do not look at women and children as

humans going towards their death, but as orders to be followed and simply a clump. "I

rarely saw them as individuals. It was always a huge mass."-Franz Stangl, commandant

of Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps. Human destructiveness is not only done

by psychopaths. Evil is mostly done by ordinary people, an example is the decision-

making bureaucracy in the contemporary U.S. Many talked about mass death as they if

they were discussing what to buy for lunch. U.S. citizens did not question the official

orders, they went along with what the authority said with full nationalistic ideas.

"Whatever the President does is to be supported simply because he is the president" said

William Dudly. People view politics and relate to authority by what they were taught

growing up. "As children, we are all exposed to the cultural and political myths and

legends common to our environment." We learn these myths by political socialization;

these myths become legitimate norms, as they are the accepted view by the majority and

many leaders. In genocide if leaders spread "dehumanizing symbolizations of another

state or group of people, they send a message that it is justified to act aggressively against

the state or group"; aggressive behavior occurs when symbolizations become a norm. The

Jews were continually described as vermin and bacilli, an example of dehumanizing

symbolization. Political and religious leaders did not go against the ideas, which quickly

became legitimate norms; people obey leaders who communicate the normal ideas. In

some cases, for example Germany, the extermination of the Jews became a legitimate

norm after so many accepted leaders agreed and supported it. (Herbert Hirsch, page 73-


The Early Warning System can prevent genocide; it is for setting up information

and announcing warnings of the emergence of a genocide in the world. The Genocide

Early Warning System has had positive reviews from many official people. Willie

Brandt, former chancellor of West Germany, wrote, "Your plan to develop concepts and

proposals for disseminating the information on the genocide and human rights data bank

sounds fascinating. I would like to assure you that I am ready to give my moral support."

The system collects information on three levels. First, to gather information on current

genocides and massacres. Second, to monitor the violations of human rights around the

world. Third, to conduct researches studying patters through which the crimes build up;

necessary to learn how to predict and tell people the coming of a mass murder ahead of

time. The system is not only about information, it speaks for the intention to care and

protect humans in every vulnerable area in the world. The main purpose of the Warning

System is to develop new ways to attack the mass murders before they move into effect.

(Israel W. Charny, page 113-118)

Genocides are the work of few people; they are made possible by the passivity of

whole populations. People need to remember history, for no small group to organize mass

murder again; like all previous genocides. We should not only remember what happened

but why and how it happened. Events in Indochina show what happens if we remember

the Holocaust and what happens when we do not. During the case of the Vietnamese boat

people, we recalled the Holocaust. After the Vietnamese war, the communist government

forcefully expelled the ethnic Chinese from Vietnam; this was compared to the Nazi

genocide. Many people remembered "the great failure of the world's nations to admit

refugees trying to flee the oncoming Holocaust and then the Holocaust itself" from 1938

to 1945. Due to the remembrance of history and in this case the Holocaust, in a United

Nations conference held in Geneva many countries pledged to take Indochinese refugees.

The Cambodian story is not heartening like the Vietnamese story is; the genocide erupts

killing one-forth of the country's population. Forgetting history and therefore genocide, is

a message saying we accept mass murder. (David Matas, page 119-123)

The need for a permanent International Criminal Court is required for all the

world's serious crimes. The world is witnessing a permanent International Criminal Court

become established. Two basic concerns have to be solved for it to be effective. First, an

ICC must be supported financially and militarily to ensure success, the United States one

of the world's major powers, opposes the idea of an ICC. The second concern, is what

can the criminal tribunal do to lessen the crimes that the world has seen inflicted on

millions of people, and will the actions taken deter future such actions of genocide?

(Howard Ball, page 96-97)

Genocide, the cruelty shown by one group against another group. The worst

crime to occur throughout human history. Fifteen million innocent lives were lost alone

after the holocaust, only fifty years. The crime has been inevitable since ancient times,

and until this day most genocides are not avoided.