20th Century GenocidesBy Efaine, Spring, Rama, and Gabrielle

20th Century Genocides, from http://history1900s.about.com/od/holocaust/tp/holocaust.htm, http://khmerization.blogspot.com/2011/04/cambodian-genocide-17th-april-1975.html, http://snippits-and-slappits.blogspot.com/2011/01/origins-of-anti-semitism.html, http://faithgentilucci.blogspot.com/, http://espressostalinist.wordpress.com/genocide/armenian-genocide/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/edicionesmindcontrol/galleries/72157624364431237/, http://voiceseducation.org/content/rwanda-poetry-genocide, http://www.nanking-massacre.com/content_images/nanking_massacre_Rape_of_nanking_killing_people_trainning.jpg.


Dictionary.com defines the term “genocide” as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” Fundamentally, Genocide is the result when hatred, ignorance, power, and ambition meet in a very destructive relationship. For centuries genocide has destroyed the lives of human beings of all races, ages, religions, and social statuses all around the world. It’s ironic how an act that involves the execution of entire groups of unique individuals has reared its ugly head in regions all over the world. Imagine all these brutal events taking place all at once. What would be left of the human race?
This selection of some of the most prominent genocides of the twentieth century is organized by impact - namely, the death count - beginning with the Holocaust of World War II, which was what some may consider the most infamous genocide in history. Below is a map of the eight main genocides covered on this page.
Map of Eight of the 20th Century Genocides, from maps.com

The Holocaust

The Holocaust is one of the many events in human history that is a great yet gloomy representation of genocide at its worse. What caused this cruel occasion to surface in the first place is a question asked by many. Some say it was because Adolf Hitler, the brain behind the Holocaust, desperately needed a scapegoat - especially since their loss in World War I. While Germany was grieving, the Nazi party saw this as an opportunity to rise to power. Knowing that desperate times called for desperate measures and that under the circumstances, people were very desperate and had nothing left to lose - they needed something to believe in - Adolf Hitler began to put his plans into play.
January 30, 1933 was the day Adolf Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany. His strong hatred towards those that tainted his sea of Aryan Germans grew when he studied politics and the manipulative techniques of Christian-Socialist Karl Lueger. Hitler obsessed over all things dealing with anti-Semitism and containing the purity of Germany. On top of Hitler’s determination to free his nation of those who were unworthy, Hitler had a knack for public speaking. He was able to rile up his audience by using his tone of passionate persuasion and gift for self-dramatization. Once he gained his role as the head of Germany, Hitler wasted no time in dealing with international problems, as well as succeeding in most of his endeavors. In 1935, he neglected the rules of the Versailles Treaty and began to build up an army as well as made other changes to German defense. Germany was finally beginning to work its way out of its economic slump and Hitler used this as his opportunity to enforce his plan to eradicate the Jewish race.
The Holocaust was a well-organized and systematic prosecution of the Jewish race. By this time, the Jewish population in Europe had surpassed nine million. Unfortunately, most of the Jews occupied countries that Nazi Germany controlled or influenced during World War II. During the early years of the Nazi regime, concentration camps were established to detain real and not-so-real political opponents. Concentration camps weren’t just for holding prisoners. There were different kinds of camps that people were sent to for a multitude of reasons, including camps for extermination, prisoners-of-war, transit, and labor. Ghettos were established to keep the Jewish population in small apartments and out of their homes. After the invasion of the Soviet Union the Nazis took a step forward and began their destructive mass murdering of the Jewish people. They referred to this as the final solution. Extermination camps were built for one simple reason: to exterminate. There were a total of six extermination camps built by the Nazis. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp and extermination camp built. Millions of Jews were sent to those camps where they were murdered quickly and efficiently. When they arrived they were told to go and take a shower. Rather than taking a shower they were forced into a gas chamber and killed.
The aftermath of the Holocaust was just as unpleasant as the Holocaust itself. Of the approximated eleven million victims of the Holocaust, six million of them were Jews (2/3 of the population of Jews in Europe) and an estimated 1.1 million of the victims were children. Those who survived the tragedy were the ones who suffered the most from its outcome. Large, flourishing Jewish communities of central Europe were destroyed. Jews were trying to regain their health as well as trying to learn to cope with the traumatic experiences of the Holocaust. Many were busy searching for surviving family members and friends. On top of that, the Jewish community of survivors was now fighting for the establishment of Israel. Very few of those who should have been held responsible for this tragedy were put on trial and prosecuted for their actions.
The Holocaust had quite an impact on the political world as well. After the Holocaust, countries around the globe found themselves apologizing for the fate of the victims. They created monuments, museums, and memorials in their names at the sites of these tragic events. In a way, the Holocaust was responsible for destroying the Western world’s morality. Democracy took over Europe, while Communism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism suffered a fate similar to that of the Jewish people: eradication. De-colonization of regions around the world, particularly in Africa, also began to take effect.
As for the global economic effects of the Holocaust, some researchers believe that countries influenced or ruled by the Nazis for at least 6 months suffered economically compared to those that were either neutral or opposed the efforts of Nazi Germany. Over 11 million people were lost in this tragedy, including those who were fit to work. Consequently, the economical productivity of these countries was negatively impacted. It did help remove competition for workers, but since a large number of the Jewish population contained the literate and educated, the skills needed to fulfill these jobs were few and far between.

Stalin's Famine in the Ukraine

In the 1930s, Russian Communist leader Joseph Stalin enforced a horrible, deadly famine-genocide against the rural citizens of the Ukraine, particularly the wealthy farmers called the kulaks. This was a political maneuver to crush the rising spirit of nationalism among the Ukrainians, for he knew that the kulaks posed a serious threat to his power. They were increasingly self-ruled, they were able to own land and hire workers, and their power could possibly overthrow the Soviet Communists' hold on the Ukraine. Therefore, the first stage was a process called “dekulakization”, where the kulaks were ultimately deported from their home country to Siberia, where they were killed, or worse. Next was “collectivization”, which forced the rural Ukrainians to join together in collective farms in order to successfully meet obscenely high grain quotas. Up until this point, Ukraine had been known as the “breadbasket of Europe”, and its grain was in very high demand in the Soviet Union. Around 25,000 Communists were placed in supervisory positions over the farmers. Stalin thought that his new system of production was efficient, increased economic output, “accelerate[d] industrial growth”, according to WorldHistory.ABC-CLIO.com. However, when he raised the grain quotas even further, the collective farmers found it impossible to keep up. Thus began Stalin’s Famine.
Collective Farm in the Ukraine, from http://worldhistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/714786?terms=ukrainian
The results were horrible and took a terrible toll on the Ukrainian people. Unable to meet Stalin’s demands, the farmers and their families were withheld from food, resulting in widespread starvation, illness, and death. The Communists also employed fear tactics of outright rape and robbery of the peasants. The Ukrainian Orthodox Christian church ceased to exist. Psychological torture was used as well, as the Communists withheld so much food from the Ukrainians that leftover food rotted before the peasants’ very eyes. To survive, some of the starving victims resorted to cannibalism, consuming the dead or murdering their fellow citizens. Mothers would even feed their younger, weaker children to the older offspring. Yet even the cannibals were severely punished by both the Communists and the Ukrainians.
The world did not respond to these deaths as they did to the those of the Holocaust because it was a careful secret among the Soviets, and the Nazis were considered a greater international threat at the time. Even today, the world does not know the full truth regarding the genocide that, rather than quickly massacring thousands, slowly starved 7 million Ukrainians.

The Genocide of Cambodia

In the 1960s, Cambodia was still being governed by a monarchy led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Prince Sihanouk was ignoring the chaos that was happening across the Cambodian border between the Vietnamese and the United States in Vietnam. Because the Prince favored the Vietnamese and gave them land for the camp bases, the Cambodian military became angry because they felt the Prince was betraying them and their cause. As a result a General by the name of Lon Nol led a coup to dethrone Prince Sihanouk. The Prince obviously did not agree with this agenda and founded the Royal Government of Nation Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK). Neutralist like the Prince and many non- Communist eventually deflected to for the Khmer Rouge.

Since General Lon Nol could not take on the Khmer Rouge on his own, he received assistance from the Americans. In the Americans efforts to get rid of Communist based camps with the usage of bombs, they claimed many lives including innocent Cambodians living in rural areas. Because of this many were being drawn to follow the Khmer Rouge instead of General Lon Nol. It wasn’t long before the Khmer Rouge started to take over many parts of Cambodia and by 1973 they had a large amount of power and on April 17th1975, the Khmer Rouge seized control of the government. Within days of taking control of the government, the Khmer Rouge were forcing all of the town and city people to leave their homes and follow the Khmer Rouge troops to new settlements that were built just for them.

The year 1975 in Cambodia was given the name “Year Zero”. The Khmer Rouge tried to turn Cambodia into a classless society by depopulating cities making the urban populations become agricultural communities. Many things were outlawed including money, religion, private property, and education. All the Cambodians were sent to concentration camps, which historians gave the name “killing fields”, and were forced to become farmers. It was at these concentration camps that millions of people died. Many of the Cambodians were overworked and underfed. Work went from 6am-9pm, and afterwards they were forced to listen to classes on the greatness of the Khmer Rouge. Men, women, and families were separated from each other and were not allowed to make contact with one another. Anyone who was even believed to still support and be a part of General Lon Nol’s regime was immediately arrested, tortured, and killed. More than 200,000 people in the years 1974-1975 were forced to dig large pits and stand inside as they were shot or buried alive. In all, the death toll from the year 1975-1978 was between 1.5-1.7 million people which was about 20% of the population.

On January 7th, 1979, the reign of the Khmer Rouge came to an end when the Vietnamese successfully invaded the Khmer Rouge regime. It was ironic because the Cambodians had spent all of their lives fighting the Vietnamese, but now their invasion was more of a blessing that it was a curse. Pol Pot, who was the leader of the Khmer Rouge, and his followers retreated westward and were granted asylum in Thailand, and it wasn’t until 1997 that Pol Pot was brought to trial and imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge itself but he ended up dying in April 1998. By 1999 almost all of the remaining members of the Khmer regime had either surrendered of had been captured and the Khmer Rouge ceased to exist.

The Genocide of the Armenians in Turkey

In the early years of the 1900’s, the world experienced its first tragedy of the century. Armenians of Turkey and surrounding areas, victims of an ethnic cleansing, were brutally massacred under the rule of the Turks who saw the religion of Christianity as inferior to their own Islamic views.
Brief hope was restored when a reform group, known as the Young Turks, was able to overthrow the sultan and grant basic rights to citizens of Turkey. This joy was short-lived, however, when almost immediately after, Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal of the Young Turks broke off and turned the government into a dictatorship and looked to expanding their land into those of the Armenians. Christianity was once again marked as an outrage in the eyes of the Islamic rulers and local attacks on infidels became more frequent and far more violent.
The beginning of World War I in 1914 marked a turn for the worse. Siding with the Central Powers, the Young Turks immediately confiscated all weapons of the Armenians. Unarmed and vulnerable, the Armenians presented no resistance when those with substantial power, such as political and religious leaders, were seized from their homes and tortured and massacred. Hope was again restored by Russia, although troops were forced to back out shortly after due to their own internal conflicts. However, the loss of the Central Powers in the following year forced Talaat, Enver and Djemal to flee to Germany where they were eventually tracked down and assassinated. Even with the deaths of those who caused them grief, the Republic of Armenia was set to be demolished by a new leader, Mustafa Kemal, who sought to destroy all remnants of Armenian culture and the people themselves.

The Genocide of Rwanda

Tensions between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis had developed since the colonial period when the Belgians came in and began labeling Rwandan natives as Hutus or Tutsis. Though both groups shared many similarities, Tutsis were generally taller and slimmer than their Hutu counterparts and the Belgians considered them to be superior to the Hutus. Allowing their egos to get in the way of peace, the Tutsis accepted this idea and begin enjoying the perks of being labeled as a Tutsi, which included better jobs and educational opportunities. This contributed to the growing animosity of the Hutus toward the Tutsis. When democracy was established in Rwanda, Tutsi power began to diminish and Habyarimana, a Hutu, was named president. This was no surprise, since the majority of Rwanda was composed of the Hutu people. The Tutsi people challenged the Hutus without hesitation and failed. 20,000 Rwandan Tutsis were massacred and 300,000 were forced to flee. Genocide against the Tutsis was already a growing idea in the Hutu community, especially among government officials, who planned on using it as a means of gearing the people’s minds back to Hutu rule. Unfortunately, the idea quickly became reality after the assassination of President Habyarimana. The shots that crashed Habyarimana’s plane were heard all over Rwanda and initiated the gruesome and dreadful massacre of the Tutsi people. Military officials, politicians, and business men wasted no time in gathering followers and joining in the chaos.
The Interahamwe, which was composed of 30,000 people, was organized by the presidential guard and radio propaganda. Many of the members were lured in with incentives such as food, money, and even the property of Tutsis that they murdered. Those involved in the massacre of the Tutsis were not at all empathetic when killing their helpless victims. Machetes and clubs were used to brutally beat and kill the Tutsis. The Interahamwe quickly supplied these weapons to their members. Hutus were led by blind rage and the belief that they were on the right side into killing a massive number of defenseless women, men, and children. 800,000 people, simply murdered.
After 100 days of mindless killing and 800,000 dead, Hutu perpetrators who feared punishments fled Rwanda and to refugee camps in Congo (previously known as Zaire). Hutus quickly realized that confessing their involvement in the killings had serious consequences and proceeded to deny that there was ever genocide to begin with.
A Survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, from http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00786/Rwanda-genocide-sku_786307c.jpg

While Rwanda suffered, the rest of the world was busy denying the reality of the situation, which was that there was genocide in Rwanda. The world attributed the violence to a rooted hatred between the two ethnic groups; all refused to believe that the genocide enacted by the Hutu Rwandans was a political advancement. There were also many Hutus who still believed in the cause and were determined to continue the genocide. These Hutu extremists set up a new power base, recruited new militia, and made new plans in refugee camps. Unfortunately, aid workers were not permitted to separate the conspirators from the innocent refugees. The refugees were forced out in 1996 due to pressures from the new Tutsi leadership and the refugee country of Congo. Past killers and survivors were now forced to learn to live amongst each other.
The Rwandan government took action and aimed to put most of those who were responsible for the thousands of deaths on trial, and hopefully in prison. Thousands sit in jail still waiting for their turn to be tried. Yet, it is too late for the hundreds of thousands of victims. In the words of Kofi Annan, "The world failed Rwanda."

The Genocide of Darfur

There were three main causes for the genocide in Darfur;

  • Discrimination against the Black Arabs and the government’s denial of it.
  • The process of the desertification of land over several decades.
  • The Janjaweed and the government’s refusal to acknowledge the truth.
  • Displacement of the Sudanese by the Janjaweed troops.

The problems in Darfur really began with the desertification of farming land over the span of several decades. This caused a huge migration of people and a shift in population to the southern part of Darfur where they were all looking for better pasture and farming land. With this big shift in population and the fact that many people had to become accustomed to new ways of life caused tension and threatened the peace in that area. This new situation was destined to cause violent resource based conflicts. The fact that there was also a scarcity of water, large amounts of deforestation, improper use of natural resources, and the lack of cooperation did not help the situation at all. On top of this, the people started to call into question the actions of the government in 2003. The Black Arabs of Darfur felt they were being discriminated against simply because they were black; Arab was not the right religion for them. Because the government felt this way, they began sending out troops called the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed are an armed tribal militia group in Darfur. The Janjaweed targeted the rebel held areas of Darfur killing anyone who got in their way and soon after that things began to get out of hand.

There were many devastating effects of the genocide in Darfur. The Janjaweed not only destroyed the human life of the African villages in Darfur, but they annihilated their livelihood as well. The men and the boys were killed in large numbers, women and girls were raped and abducted from their homes, and all means of agricultural production were eradicated. Advanced villages were having their buildings burned to the ground, their sources of water for drinking were being poisoned, all of their irrigation systems were destroyed, along with their food and seed stock. Among other things, the plunder and looting of cattle was very common on a large scale, and whatever cattle that was left tended to die from either starvation or disease, as the people began to flee the region.

As a result of these horrid actions by the Janjaweed and the governments lack of action against them, the agricultural production came to a major halt in Darfur causing over half of the population were in need of food assistance. Most of the people in need of assistance never received it and died as a result. In all, the death count of the genocide victims is roughly around 350,000-450,000 and up to 2.5 million Darfuri’s have been displaced from their home.

The genocide in Darfur attracted a lot of attention from humanitarian organizations. But even with the help of the organizations, there was still a lot more that needed to be done to fulfill the human needs. Darfur is one of the most remote areas in Africa so it was becoming harder and harder to access the villages in need. The genocide finally ended in 2010.

Omar al-Bashir, who was the president of Sudan during the Darfur genocide had 10 charges of war filed against him by the international criminal court (ICC), fro allegedly leading the campaign of murder, rape, and mass deportation in Darfur, but the charges were ignored and condemned, and al-Bashir has seemed to avoid having any accountability for the genocide.

The Rape of Nanking

Known as the single most horrid display of brutality of the World War II period, the Rape of Nanking would end the lives of hundreds of thousands and ruin the lives of many more. During the years 1937 and 1938, the Chinese experienced the full wrath of Japan and their military honor. Although the initial intent was not, in particular, to completely obliterate the Chinese, small skirmishes between the Japanese and Chinese quickly escalated into a full scale war. In November, after establishing control at Shanghai, the Japanese stormed Nanking, easily breaking the less organized and able military of Nanking.
Orders were given to Japanese soldiers to kill all captives. Chinese soldiers who surrendered were considered a disgrace to the Japanese and accordingly slaughtered. Japanese superiors gave orders to inflict as much pain as possible and soldiers enjoyed competitions to see who could devise the most painful deaths. Women and young girls were also victims of sexual abuse and stabbed to death, after. The Japanese killed indiscriminately and for pleasure. During these six weeks, mass killings, burning of buildings, rape and other acts of violence caused a period of chaos ensued terror.
While news of such horrors in Japan spread West, America and Britain gave little notice, focusing on the growing danger from Adolf Hitler. However, a select few from both nations took matters into their own hand, traveling to Nanking and declaring a safety zone off limits to the Japanese. Chinese who were able to hide away in the new area were able to gather under shelter with basic provisions. Japanese eventually tapered off with the acts of violence as the Chinese became heavily addicted to Opium and World War ll raged on.

The Genocide of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Between 1992 and 1995, the nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina underwent a massive genocide. Referred to as “ethnic cleansing”, the massacre was an act of religious warfare by the Orthodox Christians of Serbia, led by Slobodan Milosevic, against the Muslims of Bosnia. Shortly prior to the genocide, the collapse of the nation of Yugoslavia had resulted in a large variety of smaller regions with independent cultural and religious identities. The Serbians claimed they were simply protecting their own people from being suppressed by the Muslim enemy. In their zealous pursuits, the Serbs eliminated all Muslim mosques and villages with the advantage of numbers and ammunition from the recently fallen Yugoslavia. In no time, the Serbs had overtaken the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. They sent snipers in to systematically murder the civilians below. The Serbians forced the Muslim Bosnians into camps very similar to those of the Holocaust, where the victims were executed, starved, and tortured, and the woman were abused and raped.

Shortly after a 1994 news report revealed the events in Bosnia, the United Nations stepped in to attempt to assist the Bosnians via the creation of the very first “safe area” that held roughly 60,000 refugees in the village of Srebrenica, Bosnia, but after a long struggle for power in July 6-10, 1995, the Serbians overtook Srebrenica. In front of the news cameras, the Serbians feigned kindness to the Muslim captives, but once alone, all males aged twelve to seventy-seven were interrogated, those that tried to escape were shot down and civilians were killed at random. Young women were raped on a massive scale. The captive UN officials watched the Serbians slaughter 8000 males, a rapid, single act that was “the worst mass murder in Europe since World War II” according to HistoryPlace.com.

Finally, in November of 1995, the leaders of the Bosnian genocide met with Western leaders to negotiate a peace treaty. Unfortunately, it was too late for the 200,000 Muslim victims who died in the genocide. The trial proceedings in The Hauge, Nethernlands, faced a delicate issue: the Serbians’ claim that the trial was a plot by the other nations to weaken them. The trial made a strong effort to share the truth, yet many Serbs were not found or punished. Because of the world’s delay in assisting the victims of the Bosnia-Herzegovina genocide, countless innocent civilians were brutally injured or killed. In his book Genocide: Modern Crimes Against Humanity, Brendan January asserts that Srebrenica is a “legacy of failure”. Likewise, Spiegel.de states that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke referred to the Bosnian genocide as “the greatest failure of the West since the 1930s."

Global Impact

One common element of the genocides of this time period was the use of denial by the murderers responsible. Genocide: Modern Crimes Against Humanity asserts, “Truth may be the most important weapon in the battle against genocide. Almost all perpetrators of genocide deny that a crime has occurred… Leaders often claim that the charges of genocide are lies told by political enemies or other countries seeking to gain an advantage over them. ‘Where are the bodies?’ they ask. ‘Where is the proof of the genocide?’”

This made it very difficult for the international community to properly punish the initiators of the genocides. The wrong move might have started a war between nations. Therefore, these matters had to be handled delicately. Even then, much of the world refused to believe that such massive destruction and death could occur unnoticed. The perpetrators weren’t the only ones involved in denial. The fact was that it was almost embarrassing for the other countries of the globe to admit their failure to protect the innocents. Unfortunately, trials of these kinds were very challenging to work through, and as a result, many of the criminals were set free, dismissed or condemned of charges.

In the eight genocides listed here, a total of as many as 23 million people died in the 20th century in this cruel fashion. Locally, each affected region’s economy generally suffered greatly, losing resources and labor. These regions were politically rocked to their core, and were damaged socially. To this day, the victims of these genocides are still picking up the pieces, while most of the world continues to live in ignorance.

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