Is the Holocaust Unique?

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Is the Holocaust unique? Answer by focusing on events in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia?

The uniqueness of the Holocaust has always been controversial. Was it a singular event where latter atrocities could not match in ideology, degree, or characteristics or was it a predecessor for where similar events could be used as a depiction of the Holocaust simply in another place and time? Firstly, the Holocaust, commonly referred to as the Nazi slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and other ‘racial undesirables during World War II , is based on a general ideology of racialism that myths of justification in the national mass murders of Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia adopt in their search for mass support. The victims and the types of atrocities in each case would also be considered to determine that despite different targets, the intent and consequences of genocide in all these cases would be traced. Though the Holocaust is unique within its own context, these parallels with the German Holocaust will show that that other events in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia also hold equal significance in their own demonstration of ideology and genocide.

The underpinning denominator at the root of these killings was that they were all rationalised in the guise of ideologies , endorsed by the government and the state. The German ideological commitments towards racial superiority in the Holocaust was a forerunner for a repeating cycle of one political justification after another regarding the atrocities committed by the governments later in the 20th century. In the words of Deputy Fuhrer Hess, German national socialism was really only ‘applied biology’ . Hitler underpinned the national political policy of what was acceptable in the German Aryans as a superior race, by an ominous development of the modern biological racial science in the 19th century . This led to the legitimacy for actions against Jews, Gypsies, and the handicapped because they were perceived agents of racial pollution that threatened the purity of German blood. Political ideology was legitimized into a state institution when in 1935, the infamous Nuremberg laws that made the Jews second class citizens and also outlawed marriage and sexual relations between Jews and ‘Aryans’. Gypsies were liable to the same laws and also confined to special camps, and handicapped Germans were subjected to compulsory sterilization to prevent them from passing on their ‘tainted’ genes.

The similar concern for Nazi racial superiority was replicated in Cambodia’s context, as a concern for national and racial grandiosity . In the case of Cambodia, with a Marxist view of history, the political worldview of the Pol Pot group was that Cambodia did not need to learn or import any thing from its neighbours , and it was important to resurrect a precolonial past that was devoid of influences by foreign cultures. Mirroring Hitler’s political reasons of eliminating of the Jews and other minorities from German society, the Cambodian mass murder was designed to save the ‘authentic’ peasant culture masses from the contamination of the foreign, Hinduized, Buddhist, and urbanised bourgeoisie. This included any of the religious groups, the Vietnamese, the Chinese and the Khmers, which prevented the government from creating ‘a nation of indentured labourers’. The Khmers Rouges regarded the Vietnamese and the Chinese as animals, much like the Nazi endorsed labels of Jews as ‘parasites’ and microbes and this mythology of the need for absolute Cambodian and peasant supremacy was frequently circulated widely among Pol Pot himself, and many of the party leadership. The infusion of ideology based on racial and national superiority could be identified in both Nazi and Cambodian commitments towards their political policies.

In the words of historian Donald Niewyk, the Nazis were Jewish racists from the beginning that initiated their ideology. For Cambodia, it was the desire for a Marxism-Leninist motivation...
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