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Other genocides

Despite all the lessons of the Holocaust and declarations by most of the nations of the

world, genocides have occurred at distressingly regular intervals.


Teachers and students may therefore feel that it is just as relevant to consider

alternative genocides rather than the Holocaust or to compare the differences between

a particular genocide and the Holocaust.


The comparative approach


TheTask Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and

Research (now IHRA) produced guidance for teachers at the end of 2010 trying to address

this topic. We reproduce below part of their analysis starting with the question:


"Why relate or compare the Holocaust to other genocides, crimes against

humanity and mass atrocities?".



1. The Holocaust is often considered to have given rise to our conceptualisation of

the term "genocide", which was coined during the Second World War, in large

measure as a response to the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators. So the

Holocaust may constitute a starting point and the foundation for studying

genocide.

2. In comparing the Holocaust to other genocides and crimes against humanity it

should be possible to sharpen understandings not only of similarities between

events but also of key differences. In so doing, it may be an opportunity to better

understand the particular historical significance of the Holocaust, and how study of

the Holocaust might contribute to our understanding of other genocidal events. By

the same token, learning about other genocides may contribute to deeper

understandings about the Holocaust.

3. In comparing the Holocaust to other genocides and crimes against humanity it

may be possible to identify common patterns and processes in the development of

genocidal situations. Through the understanding of a genocidal process and in

identifying stages and warning signs in this process, a contribution can hopefully

be made to prevent future genocides.

4. Students should appreciate the significance of the Holocaust in the

development of international law, tribunals and attempts by the international

community to respond to genocide in the modern world.

5. To compare the Holocaust to other genocides may be a means to alert young

people to the potential danger for other genocides and crimes against humanity to

evolve today. This may strengthen an awareness of their own roles and

responsibilities in the global community.

6. To compare the Holocaust to other genocides may help to overcome the lack of

recognition of other genocides.

7. Knowledge of the Holocaust may also be helpful in considering how to come to

terms with the past in other societies after genocide, how communities can

respond to genocide, and how survivors can attempt to live with their experiences.

8. The national history of a given country can be the reason for relating the

Holocaust to another genocide: for example, because a genocide plays an

important role in the national memory.


Pitfalls of the comparative approach


It is also important to note that there are many challenges in such a comparative

approach. Care should be taken to avoid a number of pitfalls:


1. The comparing of two distinct historical events will be difficult without careful

historical contextualisation, and so requires good understanding of both historical

events. This is a particular challenge given the lack of educational material that

actually does compare/relate the Holocaust to other genocides.

2. The differences between historical events are as important and significant as

their similarities and care must be taken not to equate, diminish, or trivialise either

the Holocaust or the genocides to which the Holocaust is compared.

3. It is important to be alert to the difference between comparing genocides,

which is possible and legitimate, and comparing the suffering of individual victims or

victim groups, which is not. Care must be taken not to create hierarchies of

suffering or allow the value of a comparative study to be diminished by political or

social agendas or competing memories.


It is important to be aware of the rationale behind comparing the Holocaust to

other genocides. This being said, there are certain reasons or strategies for

comparing the Holocaust to other genocides that are not fruitful and that definitely

should be avoided. Some of these are:


1. The link to other genocides is made to hide certain aspects of one‟s national

history, such as collaboration with Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

2. The Holocaust is seen as a means of political power in contemporary politics and

the link to the Holocaust is made out of political considerations.

3. The link to other genocides is made to diminish or trivialise the Holocaust.


The path to genocide


Genocide does not take place by accident. Gregory H Stanton, President of Genocide

Watch argues that there are always eight stages in any genocide. Being aware of

these stages enables citizens to react early in the cycle and prevent the later stages

from becoming the reality.


These stages are:

Classification

The differences between people are not respected. There’s a division of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

This can be carried out through the use of stereotypes, or excluding people who are

perceived to be different.

Symbolisation

This is a visual manifestation of hatred. Jews in Nazi Europe were forced to wear yellow

stars to show that they were ‘different’.

Dehumanisation

Those who are perceived as ‘different’ are treated with no form of human right or

personal dignity. During the Rwandan genocide Tutsis were referred to as

‘cockroaches’; the Nazis referred to Jews as ‘vermin’.

Organisation

Genocides are always planned. Regimes of hatred often train those who are to carry

out the destruction of a people such as the training of the Janjaweed militia in Darfur.

Polarisation

Propaganda begins to be spread by hate groups. The Nazis used the newspaper Der

Stürmer to spread and incite messages of hate about Jewish people.

Preparation

Victims are identified based on their differences. At the beginning of the Cambodian

genocide, the Khmer Rouge separated out those who lived in the cities and did not

work in the fields. Jews in Nazi Europe were forced to live in Ghettos.

Extermination

The hate group murders their identified victims in a deliberate and systematic campaign

of violence. Millions of lives have been destroyed or changed beyond recognition

through genocide.

Denial

The perpetrators or later generations deny the existence of any crime.


Genocides since World War II



On our website we are doing no more than giving the bare outline of the major

genocides since World War II and providing links to more detail.


Cambodia


In the late 1970's Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge which embarked on an

extremist programme to reconstruct Cambodia (under its Khmer name Kampuchea). The

population were made to work as labourers in one huge federation of collective farms.

Any resistance was ruthlessly dealt with. Civilian deaths are estimated at 2 million.


Link

Cambodia 1975



Rwanda


The frenzied slaughter of the minority Tutsi peoples by the majority ruling Hutu

population in 1994. Over the course of a few months it has been estimated that some

800,000 people were killed.



Links

Genocide Archive Rwanda

Comparative study of Holocaust and Rwanda by the Wiener Library in London

Interactive map of Rwanda

Lesson plans


Sudan


African farmers and others in Darfur are being systematically displaced and murdered at

the hands of the Sudananese Government-sponsored Janjaweed. The genocide in

Darfur is estimated to have claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people

since 2003.


Link

History of Darfur


The former Yugoslavia


In July 1995 Serb troops and paramilitaries led by Ratko Mladic descended on

Srebrenica and began shelling it. They had already dealt with Muslim soldiers in the

countryside villages. Now they were besieging Srebrenica's thousands of Muslim

civilians. Mass executions reminiscent of the Holocaust took place.


Link

Bosnia 1995