By Shelly Barclay

The definition of genocide, as described by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy in whole, or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcible transferring children of the group to another group.

Genocide is a horrible crime, typically committed during times of war and therefore, largely ignored while it is occurring. Modern-day conflicts, such as the various wars in Africa and both World Wars have sufficed to make genocide seem almost commonplace. It is not the apparently common nature of genocide that allows it to go ignored, however. It is largely politics and rules of war that keep many nations from interfering when such things occur. It is also relatively easy to hide acts of genocide in a war-torn country, at least it was for the Soviet Union, for some time. Sadly, genocide is a very effective tool of war. Inflicting widespread terror, hopelessness, hunger and shame on your enemy leaves them with very little fighting spirit. Oppressive government and rebel leaders know this, and so, even in the 20th and into the 21st century, when the world should be moving forward, this barbaric form of warfare continues.

Twentieth Century Genocide: Rwanda Genocide

During the months of April, May and June of 1994, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and peaceful Hutus were murdered in Rwanda (mostly Tutsi were killed). For roughly 100 days, the government, along with militant Hutus, terrorized the country. The violence started only hours after Hutu Rwandan President Juvenal Habyrimana was killed in an attack on his plane. The Tutsis were immediately blamed for the act by aggressive Hutus. Hatred-spreading propaganda began appearing in the media right away, which only added fuel to the fire. The Hutus and the Tutsis had long been in the midst of several conflicts with each other. However, what happened in 1994 went far beyond anything that had happened, thus far.

The perpetrators and instigators of the genocide were businessmen, politicians and the Rwandan military. Also involved was a militia group, known as the Interahamwe. It would appear that the worst of the violence that occurred was largely carried out by the Interahamwe. People were hacked to death with machetes or shot down. Some men had their genitals cut off. Women and girls were brutally raped, sometimes with foreign objects and so violently that they died. These acts were so common during the Rwanda Genocide that some reports state every female survivor of the Rwanda Genocide had either been raped, sexually assaulted or had borne witness to sexual crimes.

The Rwanda Genocide ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Front captured Kigali. This effectively stopped the government and the Interahamwe. In the aftermath, up to two million Hutus fled to Congo. In reality, the Rwandan Genocide did not stop in June of 1994, it merely transformed into something else. A deadly war/genocide has begun in the Congo. The continuing conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis is largely responsible for it. This new conflict in Congo is said to be the deadliest war since World War II. The people there are still suffering to this day.


Twentieth Century Genocide: The Holocaust

The Holocaust was the forced labor, removal or extermination of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, invalids, political enemies and more by the Nazis during World War II. “Enemies” of the Nazis were tricked into leaving, or were forcibly removed from, their homes and placed into ghettos, death camps, forced labor camps or were simply put to death immediately. They were often stripped of their possessions, separated from their families and relieved of their basic human rights. The Holocaust is well known for being one of the darkest times in all of history.

During the Holocaust, an estimated six million Jews were killed as a direct result of actions taken by Nazi Germany. (This number does not include other groups that were targeted by the Nazis.) Groups of people who were sent to the ghettos often starved to death or died of the rampant diseases that spread quickly through the malnourished occupants. People who were sent to forced labor camps often died in much the same way, coupled with exhaustion. People who were sent to death camps were killed using various methods. Their bodies of the dead were burned in large crematoriums.

Holocaust Revisionism is a movement amongst people who believe that the facts of the Holocaust are incorrect and therefore should be fixed and taught correctly. Some revisionists are legitimate scholars. Some neo-Nazis with an obvious agenda. This movement bears mentioning here because many revisionists say things like “The Holocaust wasn’t genocide. ,” “There were no gas chambers. ,” and “Six million Jews did not die.”

While there is some proof of gas chambers used to kill Nazi “enemies” and witnesses to them, their absence would not rule out genocide, nor does the method of killing change the fact that these people died. As for the number of Jews killed, (among other people) it may have been less, it may have been more, we know that the numbers cannot be 100% accurate. However, the inability to conclusively count the number of people who were killed, does not change the fact that millions of people were killed. As for the Holocaust not being genocide, it certainly was by a, b and c of the above definition. It fits most other definitions, as well.

Twentieth Century Genocide: The Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide occurred during World War I. It was perpetrated by the government of Turkey against the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. It first occurred from 1915-1918 under the direction of the Committee of Union and Progress, or the “Young Turks.” It occurred again from 1920-1923 when the Turkish Nationalists came into power. Both parties wanted to expand the Turkish Empire. The problem was that the only wanted native Turks in their empire, not Armenians.

Armenians from Armenia and Anatolia were forcible deported, expropriated or abducted by the Turkish government. Some were subjected to torture, massacred or starved. Most of those that were removed from their homeland were taken to Syria where they were placed in camps and left to die in the desert. As is the case with many genocides, not all of those killed were killed outright. Many were forced into situations in which they starved or died of communicable diseases. It is estimated that more than half of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenians were either killed or removed. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians died.

The current Turkish government denies that the Armenian Genocide ever occurred. They state that the Armenians were safely removed from “war zones.” Not only were most of the areas that they were removed from not recognized as war zones, but there would have had to have been an awfully large war zone for this to be true. Also, there were many witnesses to the Armenian Genocide. Both allies and enemies of the Turks later testified to what happened. Some Turkish officials even testified that it was genocide. The “Young Turks” who were known perpetrators were tried for their crimes, in absentia, at the close of World War I. They were found guilty.

Twentieth Century Genocide: Holodomor or the Ukrainian Genocide

Holodomor was only one of the crimes against humanity committed by the Soviet government under Josef Stalin. It occurred in 1932 and 1933. It resulted in the deaths of between seven and 14.5 million people. Most of these people died as a result of starvation.

The Soviet government had decided to collectivize agriculture. Ukraine was the top producer of grain and so the poor farmers were forced to hand over their land and crops to the Soviets. Those who refused were taken to labor camps in the north where they often starved or were killed by the cold weather. Once the farmers relinquished their land, they were sent to work on collective farms.

Grain quotas that were impossible to meet were imposed by upon the poor farmers and their families. Because they were not producing enough grain to meet Stalin’s impossible standard, there was little or none left for them. It was not long before farmers were dying of starvation in fields filled with grain. Their children became horribly emaciated and began dying rather quickly.

The Soviets were fully aware of the situation and did nothing. In fact, they even searched people’s homes for hidden grain. It was confiscated, if it was found and the owner of the home was punished for stealing government property, no matter how small the amount. There were rumors that tons of the grain that wasn’t exported sat in buildings that were guarded by armed Soviets. This food rotted away while millions of Ukrainians starved for two years.

*Other genocides committed during the 20th century include the Darfur Genocide (there are some arguments that the situation in Darfur is not genocide), the Cambodian Genocide, the Congo Genocide (as mentioned above) and the Rape of Nanking.

Genocide may be committed out of hatred or a thirst for power. Either way, it is a means to an end. It is, in essence, a government or militia policy, carried out by many people. Genocide is so appalling, apart from the obvious, because it is carried out by so many individuals, so thoughtlessly and so mindless of the fact that each individual is just that, an individual. A person is not defined by their ethnicity, their religion or their race. This is fact. Yet, millions upon millions of people have been killed because of where they live, what race they are or what they believe.


  1. Yahalom Kashny says:

    You forgot to mention the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.