Genocide in the 20th Century

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Genocide in the 20th Century;
The Factors that Ignite and Sustain such Atrocities
Contemporary History 410
Professor K, Muir
October 20, 2007

When will these atrocities ever stop? Throughout history there have been occurrences and reoccurrences of acts of genocide. During the twentieth century, these incidents of genocide have become more apparent; due to the fact that communication and media have advanced so far there have been more specific details that have come to light. Our generation is very well aware of the tragedies of the Holocaust, of the atrocities of what occurred in Rwanda and what is currently ongoing and occurring in Darfur. To be aware is only one small piece of this complex issue. We as a society and in the name of humanity need to understand why such atrocities have occurred. But do we truly understand why genocide does transpire? By researching our past and by providing further discussion on some of the genocides that have occurred we can discover that there are certain repeatable factors that are involved in each case of these atrocities. The main contributing factors that initiate and sustain the act of genocide include a segmented society, profound and rapid social change, unique political ideology, state capacity to organize and carryout mass murder, and also the international component (Verdeja, 2002, p. 38). By learning and understanding these five factors then we as a society can hopefully intervene in a timelier manner and stop such atrocities from reoccurring in the future.

By briefly looking at some of the well-known genocides of last century then we can become familiar with the severity of these atrocious acts. ARMENIA (1915-23): According to an article by Cooper & Akcam (2005) almost two million Armenian Christians lived in the northern part of the mainly Muslim Ottoman Empire. In 1915, entire villages were cleared and these people were forced overland into the desert of Syria, and according to the New Internationalist (2005), this was known as forced “Turkification” (p. 14). Government organized killers attacked the convoys and thousands died of exhaustion and starvation. By 1923 almost this entire community had been permanently forced from its historic homeland. To this day, the Turkish government is still in denial and refuses to accept or recognize the genocidal acts that occurred to the Armenians by the Turks during the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire. THE HOLOCAUST (1939-45): Known as one of the most horrific events in the 20th century. The Holocaust is the name used to refer to this systematic, bureaucratic, and state-sponsored campaign of persecution and brutal murder. Beginning with racially discriminatory laws in Germany, the Nazi campaign expanded to the mass murder of all European Jews. During World War II, Hitler and Nazi Germany murdered approximately six million Jews. According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia (2007), “By war’s end, close to two out of every three Jews in Europe had been murdered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators in the massive crime we now call the Holocaust.” (The Holocaust, para. 8). CAMBODIA (1975-79): According to an excellent review by Schanberg (1996), he argues about Pol Pot preaching an extremist brand of severe, agrarian communism. The Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot emptied Cambodia’s cities, forced over three million people into the countryside, where many horrific atrocities occurred. These brutal acts of genocide became infamously known as ‘the killing fields’. With racial minorities and all religions being targeted. It was later discovered that an estimated 1.7 to 3 million people were executed or died from starvation, disease and overwork. RWANDA (1994): The tribal conflicts between the Rwandan Hutu and Tutsis tribes erupted into a mass of violence that unfolded into a massacre, with the weapon of choice being the brutal machete. From afar, our global society looked on as United...
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