Patterns of Genocide

Patterns of Genocide How did the Jewish Holocaust of WWII compare to other ethnic cleansings in history? When the word “genocide” is mentioned, the first occurrence that is brought to mind is the Holocaust.

Genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group” (Genocide). Although the Holocaust is the most well-known genocide, it was neither the first, nor was it the last. Genocide in the Bible In the Bible, there are several instances that would be considered genocide in modern terms. In Genesis chapters six through eight, God flooded the earth, wiping out almost the entire human race. Later in the Old Testament, God punished Egypt for the oppression of Israel. Exodus says: “29At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.

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30Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.” (“Exodus”) The slaughter of Egyptian firstborns marks the parting of the Red Sea, the Jews escaping from slavery, and the Jewish holiday Passover, which is to be celebrated forever (“Exodus”). The Judo-Christian faith justifies genocide of their oppressors while celebrating the Israelite’s liberation. For people that follow the Judeo-Christian beliefs, the first acts of genocide were committed in the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible. One interpretation of genocide in the Bible is that God destroyed people because they were sinful and could not be allowed to infect his chosen people with their sinful ways. This sounds similar to the beliefs of Adolf Hitler, a Christian himself (“Hitler’s”).

The other interpretation is that the Bible is fallible. Scripture is a record of conversation between God and his followers, and since that record is kept by the fallible partner in the dialogue, it contains some errors. Depending on personal beliefs, the Holocaust and biblical genocides have the same basic principle of eliminating inferior and sinful people for the wellbeing of the whole. Cambodian Genocide In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s Communist party, was in control of the government. The Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement, led by Pol Pot, strived to centralize the peasant farming society in Cambodia.

Pol Pot was educated in France and envisaged a new Cambodia based on Chinese communist principles. He believed that all Cambodians should be made to work as laborers in a group of collective farms. Anyone opposing this system, he thought, should be eliminated. “This list of ‘potential opposition’ included, but was not limited to, the educated, monks, religious enthusiasts, ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, or Cambodians with such ancestry (“Cambodian”). Religion was abolished, as often seen in “godless” Communist societies.

People, mainly rich and intellectuals, were placed in death camps and were maimed. The Khmer Rouge policies of self-sufficiency led to widespread famine and deaths by easily treatable diseases. The genocide lasted for three years until Vietnam took over. At that point, over two million civilians had been killed (“Cambodian”). Rwanda Genocide In 1994, over the span over 100 days, the mass slaughter of the political party Tutsi and moderate Hutu took place (“Rwandan”). In the 60’s, the Hutu’s overthrew the mainly Tutsi government and took the Tutsi out of leadership positions.

Tutsi were considered second-class citizens for years by the Hutu. A group of Tutsi exiles demanded to be able to return to Rwanda as citizens and were determined to end the Tutsi discrimination in 1985. The Hutu government, driven by the fear of losing power, organized the genocide. The Hutus never made an effort to conceal what they were doing. The Tutsi were killed mostly manually by machetes. Killing each person by hand was tiring, so when the Tutsis were contained, the Hutus took shifts massacring the Tutsi.

The Hutus then left the dead bodies where they lay for the animals. The event was publicized throughout the world; however nothing was done to intervene by other countries. The Jewish Holocaust of World War II The most widely known and acknowledged genocide occurred in the 1940’s, targeting anyone who was not consistent with the Nazi ideology. The Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, envisioned an ideal race. He, similar to social Darwinists before him believed that: “Human beings could be classified collectively as “races,” with each race bearing distinctive characteristics that had been passed on genetically… The inherited characteristics related not only to outward appearance and physical structure but also shaped internal mental life, ways of thinking, creative and organizational abilities, intelligence, taste and appreciation of culture, physical strength and military prowess.” (“Holocaust”) Social Darwinism is the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ where the strong flourish and the weak are allowed to die (Kevles).

The Nazis used the ideas of social Darwinism to justify their eugenics programs. Nazis believed that there was a “master race.” They called their perfect race the “Aryan” race. Aryans were blonde-haired, blue eyed, tall, and fair skinned. Hitler was able to convince an entire population that looking this way made them superior to anyone else, while he himself had brown hair and brown eyes. Racial enemies, Hitler said, diluted German blood with their inferior genetic and racial makeup and had to be eliminated.

These targeted groups included: Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and enemies to the state. Millions of Jews were displaced, relocated to concentration camps and died from starvation, cold, forced labor, gas chambers, and ovens. Often, prisoners were forced to dig mass graves then were lined up and shot into them. Two out of every three Jews living in a European nation before the war were killed during the Holocaust (“Holocaust”). Numerous Jews tried to leave the country, but no one would take them.

The world turned a blind eye to the mass murder of an entire people and closed their doors. “The American State Department had such strict criteria for allowing Jews into the country that 75% of the spaces that were allotted to Jews technically, by American law, were never even taken” (“The Holocaust”). Only 800,000 Jews found refuge in another country, with the United States accepting 200,000 and Canada accepting only 5,000. Six million men, women, elderly, and children were killed (“The Holocaust”). The term “genocide” was not coined until after the Holocaust. Emulating the Past? The Holocaust is a genocide that is extremely well documented and is taught in schools, but it is not the only occurrence that needs to be studied to understand what drives genocide.

Genocides vary in the group victimized, how long the murder lasts, and the tactics of the persecutors. However, genocides throughout history have a common theme: greed, power lust, and an inability to tolerate differences. “In spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” ? Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl Works Cited “Cambodian Genocide.

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