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Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish legal scholar who escaped Nazi Germany to safe haven in the United States, coined the word genocide in 1944. The word originally referred to the killing of people on a racial basis. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944) Lemkin wrote, "New conceptions require new terms. By 'genocide' we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group. This new word, devised by the author to denote an old practice in its modern development, is made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, tribe) and the Latin cide (killing), thus corresponding in its formation to such words as tyrannicide, homicide, infanticide" (Lemkin 1944, p. 80). He also wrote about other elements that constitute the identity of a people that could be destroyed and hence the destruction of these, in addition to human lives, were aspects of genocide: political and social institutions, culture, language, "national feelings," religion, and the economic structure of groups or countries themselves.

Genocide is a criminological concept. Studying genocide involves an understanding of perpetrators/oppressors, their motives and methods, the fate of the victims and the role of bystanders. Lemkin went on to explain, "Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group: the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor" (1944, p. 80). So, while the general framework of genocide is to describe killing, the nuances of the definition, time considerations, and other aspects relating to politics and culture have made the term genocide highly charged with many possible applications based on interpretation. Lemkin's categories of genocide were political, social, cultural, religious, moral, economic, biological, and physical. Lemkin was interested in describing contemporary crimes that might be prevented, rather than working as a historian and making judgments about whether past events qualified as genocide.

Genocide was both narrowed and expanded beyond its original racially based definition in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This international agreement was approved and proposed for signature and accession by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948, and entered into force on January 12, 1951. Article 2, the heart of the Convention, outlines the qualifications for deeming an act a "genocide":

  • killing members of the group;
  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and
  • forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The most difficult and controversial part of the UN Convention is that the above acts are defined as genocide "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" (Kuper 1981, p. 210). The controversies about the word genocide have come from the absence of the category "political," which was eliminated because of the power politics of the General Assembly, especially the objections from the Soviet Union. The phrase "in whole or in part" is also problematic. Certainly, one can understand the meaning of "whole," but an ongoing question being interpreted through international agreements and tribunals is the meaning of "in part." There is the question of proving "intent," which in the minds of some legal scholars demands a precise order of events as well as official pronouncements that indicate intentionality, while for others a general tendency of a state, party, or bureaucracy is sufficient.

The scholars Helen Fein and Ervin Staub have independently developed typologies for understanding victimization. According to Fein, there are five categories that help define victimization by stages of isolated experiences: definition of the group; stripping of rights, often by law; segregation from the bulk of the population; isolation, which has physical as well as psychological dimensions; and concentration, the purpose of which is extermination. Staub, who has written extensively about genocide, has created a structure of motivational sources of mistreatment that may end in genocide. This includes difficult life conditions of a group, the fear of attack on fundamental goals of the society that leads a group to become perpetrators, cultural and personal preconditions that create threats that result in responses to protect identity, and societal-political organizations that necessitate obedience to authority and submission to authoritarian tendencies. Staub places extreme importance on the role played by bystanders, who can create resistance to genocidal conditions, support genocide, or be neutral, which in itself becomes a form of support for the perpetrator.

Most genocides occur in an international war or civil war environment, as was the case with various people groups such as Jews, Roma/Sinti, Armenians, and Tutsis in Rwanda. The genocide of native peoples in North America and Australia, by contrast, occurred in the process of colonization of native lands. A related area to genocide, although less focused and involved with total killing, is the category of "crimes against humanity." The phrase was first used in a 1915 when Allied declaration that exposed what was later called the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The more contemporary international meaning of "crimes against humanity" is derived from Control Council Law No. 10 (1945) (the basis for the prosecution of crimes committed by Nazis who were not tried for the major offenses in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg), dealing with Nazi crimes in the context of World War II: "Atrocities and offenses, including but not limited to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds whether or not in violation of the domestic laws of the country where perpetrated" (Taylor, Control Council Law No. 10, Document).

In a retroactive sense, the United Nations Convention can apply to events that focus back on the destruction of Native American peoples in the western hemisphere; the mass killing of Herreros in Namibia in 19041905; the Armenian genocide from 1915 to 1922; the genocide in Cambodia at the hands of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979; Rwanda in 1994; and Bosnia in 1992.

Use of the "stable" categories of victim groups, who are victimized for things that cannot be changed, is critical to understanding genocide. "Crimes against humanity," on the other hand, which can be equally devastating, can apply to both "stable" and "unstable" categories. Thus "race" is a stable and unchangeable category. "Political affiliation" or "religion" are "unstable" and can be changed. The crime of Jews during the Nazi era (from 1933 to 1945) was not that the Jewish people practiced an "illegal" religion, but rather that they had the misfortune of having "three or four Jewish Grandparents" (Nuremberg Law, 1935). The Nuremberg Law of 1935, therefore, allowed the perpetrators to define characteristics of the victim group.

Another term related to genocide and apparently first used to describe population transfers by the Yugoslav government during the early 1980s and more particularly in 1992 is ethnic cleansing. The term generally refers to removal of an ethnic group from its historic territory, purifying the land of "impure" elements perceived as a danger to the majority group. As the term was not in existence in 1948 when the United Nations Convention was approved, it was not considered a form of genocide. Ethnic cleansing can be lethal and give an appearance of genocide, or it may involve involuntary transfer of populations. Forms of transfer, however, existed in the early twentieth century, such as the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations after the Greco-Turk War of 1920 and the transfer of millions of Germans out of Poland and other East European territories after World War II.

Three Examples of Twentieth-Century Genocides

The twentieth century was one of mass slaughter that occurred because of world wars, revolutions, purges, internal strife, and other forms of mass violence. Genocide, however, appeared as something new with greater ferocity, perhaps because of the availability of the technologies of industrialization to be used for mass murder and the willingness of regimes to use these methods. Above all, however, the willingness to embrace genocide as a formula for removing the "other," a perceived enemy, represents the absolute opposite of the seeking of accommodation through diplomacy, negotiation, and compromise.

The Holocaust and Roma/Sinti Porrajmos. The Holocaust (Shoah in Hebrew) refers to the destruction of approximately 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, from 1939 to 1945. The word existed before World War II and means "a burnt offering," or something consumed by fire. The word Holocaust is considered by most authorities as specific to the Jewish destruction by Germany because of the cremation of the dead in ovens and because of the religious implications of the word for issues involving the presence and absence of God. Porrajmos ("The Devouring") is the Roma word for the destruction of approximately half a million "gypsies" by the same German government. Jews and the Roma/Sinti were victims on a racial basis, a "stable" category invented by the perpetrators. Other groups were persecuted by the same regime but did not face inevitable destruction. Such groups included male homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, political opponents, priests, habitual criminals, and other national groups, such as Poles. Groups also persecuted and subjected to murder in many cases were those Germans who were handicapped or had genetic diseases. The Nazi T-4 killing program began on September 1, 1939, and continued for several years, leading to the deaths of approximately 300,000 individuals in hospitals, wards, and gas chambers. The Holocaust produced the word genocide.

The mass destruction of both Jews and Roma/Sinti necessitated several steps. Gypsies were already regarded as social outcasts. Jews had to be removed from German society as an assimilated group. The first step was identifying and blaming the victim. Jews had received equal rights as citizens in the German empire and were full citizens when National Socialism came to power on January 30, 1933. The Roma and Sinti never received full rights and were the victims of varying restrictive laws and exceptional police surveillance. The rise of anti-Semitism associated with social Darwinism in the late nineteenth century helped define the Jew as the "non-Aryan," which was part of a general campaign against the ideas of human equality being developed since the eighteenth century. Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (19251927) focused on the Jew as the scapegoat for all of Germany's and civilization's ills.

The second stage of the Holocaust was identification of the victim group, which took place through use of bureaucratic, baptismal, church, and synagogue records. This permitted the removal of Jews from the German civil service in April 1933, and a gradual removal from German society over the next six years. Identification of the group permitted use of special internal documents marked with a "J" ("Jude") by 1938 and the insertion of the middle names "Israel" for Jewish men and "Sara" for Jewish women. The immediate German plan for the Jews before 1939 was not extermination, but emigration. The solution for "the gypsy menace" was less dependent upon emigration, as the Roma/Sinti were equally despised in other countries, being identified as a "criminally inclined" group. Identification permitted the withdrawal of rights, "Aryanization" of property, and exclusion of Jews from the cultural and professional life of the country.

The issue of physical extermination started with the beginning of the German military offensive into Poland, which began on September 1, 1939, with the occupation of Poland and its 10 percent Jewish minority (approximately 3.5 million Jews). Military units ("Wehrmacht") and SS ("Shutzstaffeln") began to carry out mass shootings of Jews, concentration in ghettos, and imposition of conditions of slave labor and starvation that accelerated the death rate. Mass killings in death camps began in 1941 using carbon monoxide gas and hydrogen cyanide. The first such killings marking "Endlosung," or "The Final Solution," began in the summer of 1941. The Wannsee Conference, held outside Berlin on January 20, 1942, was a bureaucratic meeting of the SS presided over by Reinhold Heydrich and designed to summarize and systematize the genocide. Mass extermination took place in six large death camps (vernichtungslager ) in the borders of the partitioned Polish state: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Majdanek. Auschwitz became an identifier of genocide against the Jews because it claimed approximately 1.25 million victims.

The Holocaust and Porrajmos possess some unique aspects compared to other genocides. The genocidal killing was not conducted in one country but across Europe, from the North Sea to Mediterranean, from the French Atlantic coast to the occupied territories in the Soviet Union. Neither Jews nor Gypsies had their own state or historic territory within the boundaries of Europe. In both cases children were killed as a means to prevent reproduction of the group. The extermination of the Jews and Roma/Sinti ended only with the defeat of Nazi Germany.

In the aftermath of World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg helped refine the legal concept of crimes against humanity and genocide. The trial of the surviving Nazi leaders, corporate leaders, doctors, General Staff and Wehrmacht officials, and Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads used on the Eastern front for genocidal actions) established the precedent for trials in the aftermath of genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda during the 1990s. The total military collapse of Germany allowed the full extent of the genocide to be known. In other genocides where there has not been a total military defeat of the perpetrator country, a consequence is denial of genocide.

The Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide either sought immigration to democratic countries outside of Europe, such as Palestine (now Israel) or the United States, while a smaller number remained in Europe. The Roma/Sinti had no option to emigrate, as no country was interested in taking them in. They returned to their countries of origin. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be regarded as a consequence of the anti-Semitism in Europe and the Holocaust, as the Zionist response to the Holocaust was to lobby and create a Jewish state.

The Armenian Genocide. The Armenians emerged as a people in the sixth century B.C.E. in Eastern Anatolia and lived there continuously until the twentieth century. They were the first national group to convert to Christianity in the year 301. The last Armenian kingdom collapsed in 1375. Thereafter, Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire. Armenians were considered a loyal minority in the empire until the late nineteenth century. At the end of that century, Christian minorities living in the western part of the Ottoman Empire used the support of the Great Powers to achieve autonomy and later independence. The first attacks on Armenians occurred in 1881, in the aftermath of the Congress of Berlin that helped create Rumania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania. In 1894 Kurdish attacks on Armenians occurred in the town of Sassun, leading to protests and reports by Christian missionaries and international interest. In 1895, as a response to a British, French, and Russian plan to create a single Armenian administrative district in the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid II permitted more widespread attacks on Armenians in an effort to stifle Armenian nationalism and perceived separatist tendencies. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Armenians were killed in 1895 and many were forcibly converted to Islam.

The events that overtook the Armenians in 1895 are usually called "massacres." However, in light of the subsequent massacres in Cilicia in 1909 and the beginning of the genocide in 1915, most historians have seen the entire period from 1895 through 1922 as possessing genocidal intent. The "stable" element of the genocide was Armenian nationality and language. Christianity represented both a stable and unstable element, as some Armenians were allowed to live if they accepted Islam. The genocide of 1915 started on April 24 and was connected with fears of Armenian separatism and disloyalty toward the Ottomans. Another theory relating to the genocide is that the Ittihadist Party, the ultranationalist faction of Young Turksled by Enver Pasha, minister of war; Talaat Pasha, minister of internal affairs; Grand Vizir, military governor of Istanbul; and Jemal Pasha, minister of marine sought to create a great "Pan Turkish" empire with ties to the Turkish-Muslim peoples in the East. The Christian Armenians stood in the physical path of such a plan. The attack on the Armenians did not have the technological sophistication of the German genocide against the Jews, nor the extreme racial overtones. The Armenians were living on their historic homeland, as opposed to the Jews, who were a Diaspora people living in Europe.

The beginning of Armenian genocide witnessed the deportation and murder of the Armenian intelligentsia and leadership. Armenians in the army were murdered. Military units attacked communities in the Armenian heartland, men were killed, women raped and killed, and children sometimes kidnapped into Turkish families. Groups known as "Responsible Secretaries and Inspectors," sometimes described as "delegates" (murahhas ), organized and supervised the deportation and massacre of the Armenian convoys. The other was the "Special Organization" (Teskilatl Mahsusa ), which comprised the bands in charge of the killings, the majority of whose members were criminals released from the prisons.

Those Armenians who survived the initial onslaught were subjected to forced marches into the Syrian Desert. A major destruction site was Deir Zor. The genocide witnessed the murder of 1.5 million Armenians, the destruction and obliteration of cultural institutions, art and manuscripts, churches, and cemeteries. The genocide also resulted in the creation through the survivors of the Armenian Diaspora, with large centers in Aleppo, Beirut, Jerusalem, Damascus, Baghdad, France, and the United States.

Unlike the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide was well covered in the American and European press. The United States was neutral in World War I until March 1917 and also had extensive missions, hence extensive reportage from eastern Turkey. First news of the genocide reached the Allies on May 24, 1915. Their response was a strong statement promising to hold the Turkish leaders accountable for the destruction of the Armenians. In May 1918, as a result of the destruction, Armenians in the Northeast section of Anatolia declared an Armenian Republic. At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the Allies agreed to sever Armenia and Arab lands from the Ottoman Empire. The United States was offered a mandate over Armenia but it was rejected when the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Paris Treaties. The independent Armenian Republic collapsed in May 1921 and became part of the Soviet Union.

In June 1919, the chief Turkish representative in Paris, Grand Vizir Damad Ferit, admitted misdeeds had occurred "that drew the revulsion of the entire humankind" (Dadrian 1995, p. 328). An American report by Major James G. Harbord concluded that 1.1 million Armenians had been deported.

Talaat Pasha, the main architect of the genocide, was assassinated on March 15, 1921, in Berlin by an Armenian student, Soghomon Tehlirian. Talaat had been condemned to death in absentia by the Turkish court martial on July 11, 1919. On July 24, 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne signed by Turkey and the Allies excluded all mention of Armenia or the Armenians. The new Turkish Republic was extended international recognition and the Ottoman Empire officially ended. In July 1926 the Swiss journalist Emile Hildebrand interviewed Turkish president Mustafa Kemal who blamed the Young Turks for the "massacre of millions of our Christian subjects" (1926, p. 1). Nevertheless, the Turkish government through the remainder of the twentieth century continued to deny that genocide had occurred. Armenians and academics have continued to press for recognition of the 1915 to 1922 events as "genocide."

Rwanda. Rwanda was proclaimed a German colony in 1910. In 1923 the League of Nations awarded Rwanda to the Belgians. Before Rwanda achieved independence from Belgium, on July 1, 1962, the Tutsi, who made up 15 percent of the populace, had enjoyed a privileged status over 84 percent who were Hutu and 1 percent of a small minority called the Twa. The Belgians had favored the Tutsi because they came from the north, the "Great Lakes" region of Rwanda, and appeared lighter skinned and were taller, hence "more European." Racial concepts based on eugenics were introduced by the Belgians, as well as an identity card system. After independence, the Hutu came to dominate the country and reversed the earlier discrimination imposed by the Belgians. The Tutsi were systematically discriminated against and periodically subjected to waves of killing and ethnic cleansing. Many Tutsi fled Rwanda into Uganda.

In 1963 an army of Tutsi exiles invaded Rwanda. The unsuccessful invasion led to a large-scale massacre of Tutsis. Rivalries among the Hutu led to a bloodless coup in 1973 in which Juvenal Habyaramana took power. In 1990 another Tutsi invasion took place, this time by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). In 1993 the Hutudominated Rwandan government and the Tutsi rebels agreed to establish a multiparty democracy and to share power. After much resistance President Habyaramana agreed to peace talks in Tanzania. The Arusha Accords stipulated that the Rwandan government agreed to share power with Hutu opposition parties and the Tutsi minority. United Nations (UN) peacekeepers would be deployed to maintain peace in the country.

However, despite the presence of UN forces, a Hutu plot and arming of the Hutu civilian population took place during early 1994. In what is now referred to as the "Dallaire fax," the Canadian lieutenant general and UN peacekeeper Romeo Dallaire relayed to New York the informant's claim that Hutu extremists "had been ordered to register all the Tutsi in Kigali" (Des Forges 1999, p. 150). He suspected a plot of extermination of the Tutsi. Dellaire asked for more troops to stop any possible violence. Instead, his force was reduced from 3,000 to 500 men. This turned out to be the preplanning for genocide, which involved Hutus from all backgrounds, including the Catholic Church.

The genocide began on April 6, 1994, when an airplane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi was shot down, killing both men. From April 7 onward the Hutu-controlled army, the gendarmerie, and the militias worked together to wipe out Rwanda's Tutsi. Radio transmissions were very important to the success of the genocide. Radio Mille Collines, the Hutu station, broadcast inflammatory propaganda urging the Hutus to "kill the cockroaches." Killers often used primitive weapons, such as knives, axes, and machetes. Tutsi fled their homes in panic and were snared and butchered at checkpoints. The Hutus' secret squads, the interahamwe, used guns and clubs. Women and younger men were especially targeted as they represented the future of the Tutsi minority. Women were raped in large numbers, and then killed. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsi fled to Tanzania and Congo to newly formed refugee camps.

With international organizations helpless and both the European powers and the United States fearful of declaring events "genocidal," the Tutsi RPF took the capital, Kigali, in early July 1994 and announced a new government comprised of RPF leaders and ministers previously selected for the transition government called for in the Arusha Accord. When the genocide finally ended, close to 1 million people had been killed. Further, 800,000 lives were taken in what is estimated to be a 100-day period, a faster rate of killing than during the Holocaust.

Early in December 1994 a panel of three African jurists presented a study of the murder of Tutsi to the UN. It concluded, "Overwhelming evidence points to the fact that the extermination of Tutsi by the Hutu was planned months in advance. The massacres were carried out mainly by Hutus in a determined, planned, systematic and methodical manner, and were inspired by ethnic hatred." Amnesty International concluded that "the pattern of genocide became especially clear in April, when frightened Tutsi were herded systematically into churches, stadiums and hospitals" (Amnesty 1998, p. 23).

Genocide trials began in Rwanda in December 1996. All experts have testified that a relatively small armed force could have stopped the massive killing. The Rwandan genocide lacked the larger context of a world war, which was a factor in both Armenia and the Holocaust. The Holocaust represented more of a technologically based killing after initial shootings suggested negative side effects on the perpetrators. Nazi Germany also sought a solution through emigration before embarking on the "final solution." The Armenian genocide seems similar to events in Rwanda, with hands-on killing and little lead time before the genocide actually began.

Genocide of the Plains Indians: North America

The issue of genocide in the New World is a contentious one for many reasons. First, there are vast variations from demographers regarding the population estimates of the New World in 1491, and North America in particular (the high being 18 million, the low 1.8 million). Second, there is no argument that perhaps 90 percent of the Native American population died between 1492 and 1525. However, while some populations were hunted down and subjected to cruel tortures, most seemed to have died because of immunological deficiencies that prevented resistance to European diseases. Third, while there was never a declaration of intent to kill all native peoples, removal policies by the United States and Canadian congresses, nineteenth-century federal bureaucratic agencies, and public statements created a popular perception that elimination of the Indian tribes was a necessary event for the success of European colonization. One of the consequences of the huge Native American population loss through disease was African slavery to replace necessary labor pools. Bacteriological warfare was used for the first time by Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who ordered smallpox-infected blankets be given to the Ottaws and Lenni Lenape tribes in Massachusetts, with catastrophic results (Churchill 2000). The aftermath of tribal reductions in the nineteenth century has been calamitous for remaining tribes and has been called genocide.

More to the heart of the definition of genocide are American and Canadian policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Native Americans qualify for categorization of a "stable" population under the guidelines for application of the United Nations Convention. Actually, the Native Indian tribes were identified as the barbaric "other" in the American Declaration of Independence. In the last section of this historic document, Thomas Jefferson made the following accusation against the government of King George III: "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions." It is no surprise, therefore, that the eighteenth and subsequent centuries witnessed a reduction of native populations through use of military forces, massacres, creation of reservation systems, removal of children from families through mission schools, and loss of native languages and significant aspects of culture. Jefferson's description of the Indian tribes, largely propagandistic, might be likened to a charge that native peoples had declared war on the United States. However, it should be taken as the first step in a policy that ultimately saw ethnic cleansing of Indians and perhaps genocide.

The "Indian removal," begun in 1830 by President Andrew Jackson's policy, was implemented to clear land for white settlers. This period, known as the "Trail of Tears," witnessed the removal of the "Five Civilized Tribes": the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole. The Cherokee resisted removal, as they had established awritten constitution modeled after the United States model. In 1838 the federal troops evicted the Cherokee under terms of the New Echota Treaty of 1835. Indian historians sometimes describe the result as a "death march." Approximately 4,000 Cherokee died during the removal process. The Seminole were removed from Florida in ships and at the end of the process on railway boxcars, similar to deportations of Jews during the Holocaust. The Indian Removal Acts pushed more than 100,000 native peoples across the Mississippi River.

Forced assimilation for native peoples was first defined through Christianity as the answer to the paganism of the native peoples. A Christian worldview, linked with the sense of predominance of European (Spanish and Portuguese at first) civilization, necessitated an inferior view of the native "other" that could be modestly corrected through religion. Christian-based schooling provided a tool for the process of eradicating native languages. Boarding schools in particular, which lasted through the 1980s, were instrumental in this process. Captain Richard H. Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, observed in 1892 that his school's philosophy was, "Kill the Indian to save the man" (Styron 1997). Boarding and mission schools forbade native children to speak their tribal languages and forced other assimilationist elements upon them: mandatory school uniforms, cutting of hair, and prohibitions on any native traditions. The result was that children who survived such treatment were aliens in two societies, their own as well as the world of the white man. Ward Churchill's writings have demonstrated the social impact, which was illiteracy, inability to work, high rates of alcoholism, chronic diseases, and low life expectancy. Accusations of forced sterilizations of Native American women have been advanced and many have been proven. Natives call this cultural genocide covered by the United Nations Convention.

An associated aspect of genocide of native peoples involves issues related to pollution of the natural environment. As native peoples lived in a tribal manner without large cities (except for the Aztec and Inca cultures that were extinguished earlier), their concern for nature was continual and they saw their own lives in a balance with nature. The earth was also seen as possessing a cosmic significance. The Native American ecological view of the earth sees it as threatened by industrialization and modernization generally, and explains environmental pollution in these terms as well as in the pursuit of personal profit.

Mass Murder in Ukraine: Crime against Humanity or Genocide?

There is no doubt that between 6 million and 7 million people died in Ukraine during the period of Joseph Stalin's plan to create a new and massive plan of social engineering by collectivizing agriculture (19281933). The results of collectivization may be called a crime against humanity, although the intentionality necessary to prove genocide is missing. Most of the killing and starvation involved a group defined by economic class rather than race. There was also a concerted attack on Ukrainian nationalism and culture that witnessed the killing of priests, and attacks on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, intellectuals, and political opponents. During the nineteenth century there were various failed Tsarist plans to eradicate Ukrainian culture, all of which had failed.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's first application of Marxism in agriculture attempted a centralized policy of War Communism from 1918 to 1921. This policy, which focused on collectivization, failed miserably. Lenin followed with a compromise, the New Economic Policy (19211927), which, while successful, raised some fundamental questions about the future of Soviet agriculture. A debate erupted in 1924 within the Communist Party and became known as the "Industrialization Debates." Leon Trotsky argued for collectivization, while his opponent, Nikolai Bukharin, argued for maintaining private plots in the rural economy. Stalin, general secretary of the Communist Party, aligned himself and his supporters first behind Bukharin to defeat Trotsky, and then adopted Trotsky's position to defeat Bukharin. The result was the first five-year plan and the decision to collectivize agriculture. This decision assumed a vast transformation of the peasantry from a private to a collective society, and was undertaken based on the Marxist principle that human behavior could be changed.

Part of Stalin's logic for the agricultural sector was that, because the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was cut off from most foreign trade because of international blockade, a super-tax of sorts would have to be levied on the peasantry to help pay for industrial equipment that might be imported. Thus, private holdings were forced into collectives (kolkhoz ) and the tax was imposed through forced deliveries of grain to the state. The kulak class of private peasants opposed the policy and fought back. Stalin's response for Ukraine, the most productive agricultural region of the USSR, was to seal it off, especially in 1931, and maintain grain exports even if it meant starvation of the peasantry. That the forced grain deliveries were coming extensively from the Ukraine was significant, as Ukrainian nationalism had a long history and an independent Ukraine had existed for a short time after the 1917 Revolution.

The forced grain deliveries of the first two years of the five-year plan produced a famine in 1932 and 1933 that claimed between 6 and 7 million lives. The famine happened in relative silence, as most reporters from foreign press agencies were kept out of the famine areas. The famine spread beyond the Ukraine into the North Caucasus and Volga River basin. Forced collectivization in Central Asia carried away as much as 10 percent of the population in some areas. The famine affected not only crops, but also animals. The absence of fodder led to the massive death or slaughter of animals, and caused a massive reduction in farm animal population by 1933. Peasants who tried to flee or steal grain to survive were either shot or deported by the Soviet police, the NKVD.

The relationship between the question of genocide in Ukraine versus crimes against humanity is a complex one. Those who argue that it was a genocide see Stalin's actions as not only motivated by economics but as a pretext for the attack on Ukrainian nationalism, which paved the way for physical elimination by the police and military authorities of the Ukrainian elites. Leo Kuper, one of the founders of modern genocide thought that Stalin's actions against national and religious groups qualified as genocide under the UN definition. Other scholars have seen the events of the famine and collateral deaths through police action related to economics, class issues, and political forms of killing, which are excluded by the Genocide Convention. Using the information available since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, it appears that the intent of the Soviet government was to alter the economic basis of both agriculture and industry. The potential for resistance was greater in agriculture than industry because of its traditions of private holdings. Stalin's response to resistance was ruthless, and direct mass murder or permitting murder through famine was his response. While the debate about the Ukrainian famine may continue, there is no debate that it was a crime against humanity.

Genocide involves death and dying, not of individuals but of entire groups. The issue is never a comparison of numbers, but rather the intent of perpetrators and consequences for the victim group. The United Nations Convention aspires to both prevent and punish genocide. Thus far, it has been unsuccessful in preventing genocide. Trials begun in the period after 1992 in the Hague and Arusha related to events in Bosnia and Rwanda bear witness to the success or failure of war crime tribunals. Genocide remains a threat wherever national and ethnic tensions run high, when preconditions such as Helen Fein and Ervin Staub have suggested appear and trigger the use of violence. Genocide can be prevented by the willingness of outsiders, particularly powerful nations, to act through intervention. However, such intervention seems easier to speak about in theory than in practice. The psychologist Israel Charny has called genocide "The Human Cancer." This disease of genocide, so prominent in the twentieth century, has the potential to reappear in the twenty-first century because of new technologies and smaller but more powerful weapons, often in the hands of both nation-states and substate groups.

See also: Capital Punishment; Famine; Ghost Dance; Holocaust; Mass Killers; Terrorism


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Fein, Helen. Accounting for Genocide. New York: The Free Press, 1979.

Heidenrich, John G. How to Prevent Genocide. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

Hildebrand, Emile. "Kemal Promises More Hangings of Political Antagonists in Turkey." Los Angeles Examiner 1 August 1926, 1.

Ignatieff, Michael. Human Rights As Politics and Idolatry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Ignatieff, Michael. The Warrior's Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience. Toronto: Penguin, 1999.

Kuper, Leo. Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

Lemkin, Räphael. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Division of International Law, 1944.

Mandani, Mahmood. When Victims become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Mazian, Florence. Why Genocide? The Armenian and Jewish Experiences in Perspective. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1990.

Power, Samantha. A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Riemer, Neal, ed. Protection against Genocide. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000.

Rosenbaum, Alan S. Is the Holocaust Unique? Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.

Schabas, William A. Genocide in International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Smith, Roger, ed. Genocide: Essays toward Understanding, Early Warning, and Prevention. Williamsburg, VA: Association of Genocide Scholars, 1999.

Stannard, David E. American Holocaust. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Staub, Ervin. The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Totten, Samuel, William S. Parsons, and Israel W. Charny, eds. Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views. New York: Garland, 1997.

Internet Resources

Styron, Elizabeth Hope. "Native American Education: Documents from the 19th Century." In the Duke University [web site]. Available from

Taylor, Telford. "Final Report to the Secretary of the Army on the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials under Control Council Law No. 10." In the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library [web site]. Available from


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Mass slaughter of human beings by other human beings has been a recurrent phenomenon over the centuries, but until recently neither governments nor international legal specialists had sought to devise formal rules and institutions that could help prevent, or if necessary punish, the perpetrators of large-scale atrocities. Massacres that took place during and immediately after World War I, when Turks killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians, and the systematic annihilation of millions of Jews and hundreds of thousands of Gypsies (Roma) by Nazi Germany during World War II, gave rise to the concept of genocide, which is defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group." Scholars have differed in their analyses of the concept, but the most widely accepted understanding of genocide pertains to the deliberate slaughter of vast numbers of human beings.

Origins and Evolution of the Concept

The term genocide was coined in the mid-1940s by Raphael Lemkin (19001959), a lawyer of Polish Jewish origin who escaped from Poland after the Nazis occupied it in September 1939. Lemkin fled to Lithuania and then to Sweden before eventually reaching the United States in April 1941. In November 1944 he published a lengthy book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, which exhaustively documented the legal basis of the Nazis' policies of mass extermination, deportations, and slave labor. The book is best remembered nowadays for Lemkin's use of the new word genocide. He settled on that term after much deliberation and defined it as "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." Because the word became indelibly associated with the Nazi Holocaust, it promptly gained wide currency as the standard by which to judge human destructiveness. Lemkin himself, however, never believed that the term should refer only to carnage and atrocities of the magnitude perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews. He wanted it to encompass all attempts to destroy cultural or ethnic identities, regardless of whether the perpetrators were seeking to exterminate every member of the targeted group.

From the time Lemkin's book appeared, the term genocide has stirred controversy both in the public arena and among scholars. Lawyers, scholars, and political leaders have differed over the scope and nature of the crimes involved. Some, like Lemkin, have sought as broad a definition as possible, not limiting it to large-scale killing. Others, including many prominent historians and political scientists, have advocated a more restrictive definition, focusing on clear-cut cases of mass slaughter and attempts at systematic extermination. Still others have questioned whether genocide necessarily requires the targeting of a specific cultural, ethnic, racial, or linguistic group. Scholars who express reservations about this last point have argued that if genocide depends on the targeting of a particular cultural or ethnic group, slaughters such as those perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 19771978with a death toll as high as 1.5 millionwould not be covered. By the same token, many of the atrocities committed in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin or in China under Mao Zedong would not be classed as genocide if the target had to be a specific ethnic or cultural group. Although Stalin did carry out mass deportations of nationalities in the 1930s and 1940s, most of his other violent abuses, affecting tens of millions of people, were not directed against ethnic groups per se. The same is true of most of the slaughters and systematic atrocities perpetrated in China under Mao. By excluding many of the worst abuses and crimes of the twentieth century, the requirement of a targeted cultural or ethnic group has arguably been the most controversial aspect of the concept of genocide.

To help fill these crucial gaps, Barbara Harff and Ted R. Gurr have argued that the concept of politicide should supplement genocide. Politicide, as Harff and Gurr define it, refers to the killing of groups of people who are targeted not because of shared ethnic or communal traits, but because of "their hierarchical position or political opposition to the regime and dominant groups" (p. 360). Similarly, Rudolph Rummel has suggested that the term democide could cover all intentional killing of unarmed civilians by governments. According to Rummel, democide includes the slaughter of cultural and ethnic groups, the massacring of politically marginal groups, and all other government-sponsored killing of unarmed civilians. The concept has come under criticism for being too amorphous, but Rummel has sought to refine it in a number of books. Although neither "politicide" nor "democide" has been widely adopted by other scholars, the coinage of these terms highlights the continuing dissatisfaction with the term genocide.

One other issue that has sparked occasional disagreement is whether genocide must be deliberate from the start. This question has been most often raised in analyses of devastating famines such as the one that occurred in southern regions of the Soviet Union in 19321933 or in Ireland in the 1840s. The Soviet famine, which killed as many as four million Ukrainians, a million Russians, and a million Kazakhs, resulted from policies adopted by Stalin to crush the Soviet peasantry and to force the collectivization of agriculture. Some scholars, such as Nicolas Werth and Andrea Gnaziosi, have argued that even if Stalin did not set out to kill so many people, the famines were the inevitable result of his policies. They also have pointed out that when Stalin learned that vast numbers of people were dying of starvation, he took steps to keep peasants from escaping the affected regions, thereby consigning them to certain death.

The Soviet famine has come up particularly often in discussions of genocide because of what some writers, such as Robert Conquest, perceive as the deliberate targeting of Ukrainians (though it should be noted that, proportionally, more Kazakhs than Ukrainians died in the famine). Other specialists such as Jean-Louis Margolin have argued that even when famines do not affect concentrated ethnic or cultural groups, the deaths may still amount to genocide. Among the examples cited by those who subscribe to this view are the terrible famines in China in the late 1950s that resulted from Mao's Great Leap Forward policies. Although Mao undoubtedly did not foresee that the Great Leap Forward would cause tens of millions of people to die of starvation, he failed to take any remedial action even when he became aware of the scale of the suffering. Hence, scholars such as Margolin have argued that the death toll during the Great Leap Forward should be added to the millions of other victims whom Mao deliberately set out to kill.

The Genocide Convention

Revelations at the end of World War II about the scale of the Nazi Holocaust spurred an effort within the newly created United Nations (UN) to set up an international legal convention that would prohibit genocide and require signatory governments to take all necessary steps to prevent or halt it. Although political leaders were initially slow in moving on the issue, Lemkin did his best to keep the issue on the UN's agenda. He repeatedly called on the world's governments to establish a legal framework that would apply to all acts of genocide, not just to those committed during interstate wars. In December 1946 the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing genocide as "the denial of the right of existence of entire human groups" and describing it as "contrary to moral law and to the spirit and aims of the United Nations." The resolution also set up a committee to draft an international treaty that would formally outlaw genocide. The result, after protracted and often arduous negotiations, was the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was approved by the UN General Assembly on a 55-to-0 vote in December 1948. The Genocide Convention was slated to enter into force after twenty of the fifty-five UN member-states that voted in favor of it submitted their formal instruments of ratification. Although some signatories of the convention, notably the United States, took many years before they ratified it, ratification by the twentieth country was completed in October 1950, allowing the convention to take effect in January 1951.

The Genocide Convention defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." In giving examples of the type of "acts" encompassed by this phrasing, the convention makes clear that genocide can occur even if no one has carried out (or intends to carry out) "mass killings." The definition in the convention is largely in keeping with Lemkin's own preference for the broadest possible scope. It also is in keeping with Lemkin's belief that genocide is targeted against an ethnic, religious, or racial group, and that the motives of the perpetrators are irrelevant. Although the convention stipulates that genocide is deliberate and purposeful (reflected in the phrase "intent to destroy") and includes "conspiracy to commit genocide" and "incitement to commit genocide" as well as the destruction itself, it does not require the signatories to determine why the perpetrators are seeking to wipe out the targeted group. Under the convention, genocide can occur irrespective of motive, in peacetime or in war.

The long delay in U.S. ratification of the Genocide Convention stemmed in part from domestic political maneuvering, but it also reflected continued disagreements among lawyers and politicians about the concept of genocide. Some U.S. senators were concerned, especially during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, that U.S. officials might come under frivolous accusations of genocide. Others worried that if the United States formally adhered to the convention, the government would be obligated to send military forces to distant countries to enforce it. Not until February 1986nearly four decades after the convention was signeddid the U.S. Senate vote 83 to 11 in favor of ratification, albeit with a list of "reservations" in the resolution of ratification. It took another two years before Congress passed legislation that actually implemented the convention by making genocide a crime under U.S. law. Moreover, even after the ratification was approved (with reservations), U.S. officials and legislators continued to debate such matters as the scope of the convention and the means of enforcement. One of the ironies of the convention, as demonstrated during the mass killing in Rwanda in 1994, is that U.S. and other Western leaders have been reluctant to enforce it. As a result, they have refrained from using the term genocide to describe even flagrant instances of systematic killing and large-scale atrocities.

Some observers, notably Samantha Power in her prizewinning book on U.S. policy toward genocide in the twentieth century, have argued that U.S. leaders would be more inclined to enforce the convention if they knew they would be held accountable for failing to uphold it. Short of some action by Congress, however, there are few if any ways to ensure that presidents will faithfully implement the convention. Thus far, Congress has not tried to hold the president or other senior foreign policy officials accountable for preventing or punishing genocide. On the contrary, many in Congress have shared the executive branch's reluctance to send troops to enforce the Genocide Convention. (Although the convention was not invoked by the administration of U.S. president Bill Clinton when it decided to bomb Serbia in 1999 to curb human rights abuses in Kosovo, some specialists argued that the convention was in fact relevant. Yet, congressional support for even that limited use of force was meager.) Power maintains that the calculus of U.S. officials on this matter will not be altered unless they are held "publicly or professionally accountable for inaction" (p. 510).

Persistent Controversies and Ambiguities

The concept of genocide has remained a source of disagreement not only in the political arena, but also among legal scholars, historians, and political scientists. Although most scholars accept the view that genocide is targeted against a particular group, many have sought to expand the criteria for identifying particular groups. Rather than limiting the potential victims to ethnic and cultural groups, scholars such as Helen Fein and Leo Kuper have argued that genocide can also be directed against political or socioeconomic groups. This broadening of the concept is in line with Harff's and Gurr's concept of politicide, but it departs from the criteria laid out in the Genocide Convention. Some specialists, however, find even the broader conception of targeted groups to be still insufficient. In particular, Rummel has argued that the requirement for victims to be members of a group is a fatal drawback for those who want to take account of the full range of government-sponsored killing of unarmed civilians. Most scholars readily agree that genocide, if conceived of as directed against groups, leaves out many instances of slaughter and atrocities, but they still find the concept a useful one for describing a particular form of extreme abuse.

Even as scholars have generally expanded the range of potential victims of genocide, they have tended to move in the opposite direction when discussing the nature and scale of acts that fit under the rubric of genocide. In recent years, relatively few historians and political scientists have used the expansive definition of acts of genocide laid out in the Genocide Convention (in accord with Lemkin's preferences). The trend in the 1990s and early twenty-first century has generally been toward a more restrictive definitiona definition that limits acts of genocide to intentional killing of particular groups. Steven T. Katz, for example, has argued that "the concept of genocide applies only when there is an actualized intent, however successfully carried out, to physically destroy an entire group (as such a group is defined by the perpetrators)" (p. viii), and Mark Kramer has defined genocide as "deliberate mass slaughter aimed at complete extermination." (p. 2). Although some scholars continue to espouse a much broader definition of acts of genocide (a definition that would include such things as mass slavery, restrictions on cultural practices, discriminatory education policies, and limits on travel), the narrower conceptions have tended to win favor in the scholarly community.

Outside the scholarly community, however, genocide has remained an expansive concept. Many advocacy groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Genocide Watch, have sought to broaden, not restrict, the definition of acts prohibited by the Genocide Convention. They also have tried to strengthen the means of enforcing the convention. These groups vigorously supported efforts in the 1990s to establish international criminal tribunals to investigate and prosecute mass atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. They also strongly backed the ultimately successful campaign to set up an International Criminal Court (ICC), which was created under a statute signed in Rome in July 1998. Although the United States and China declined to take part in the ICC, enough other governments ratified the Rome Statute to enable the ICC to begin functioning in mid-2002.

The human rights NGOs have been less successful, however, in their attempts to persuade Western governments to enforce the Genocide Convention more rigorously. No governments adhering to the convention were willing to brand as genocide the mass atrocities committed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, against Kurds, marsh Arabs, and Iraqi Shiites. Nor were any Western governments willing to regard the mass killing in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the first half of the 1990s as genocide. Even during the slaughter of some 800,000 people (predominantly Tutsis) by Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, Western governments carefully refrained from using the term genocide to describe what was going on. Officials worried that the mere use of the term would obligate them to send troops to put an end to the killing.

The unwillingness of governments to invoke the Genocide Convention in response to the massacres in Rwanda in 1994 or to the systematic atrocities perpetrated by government-backed Arab militias in the Darfur region of western Sudan in 2004 underscored the limits of both the convention and the ICC. In the absence of a concerted effort by parties to the convention to enforce it, debates about the precise scope and nature of acts of genocide are largely irrelevant. The special international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the ICC have no means of enforcing their own rulings; instead, like all international organizations, they depend entirely on individual states for enforcement. The Genocide Convention, as Lemkin recognized from the outset, is little more than a paper document unless the signatories are willing to take concrete steps to prevent mass killing and to punish the perpetrators. In a few instances, states have sent military forces to put an end to egregious human rights abuses, as Vietnam did in Cambodia in 1978 and Tanzania did in Uganda in 1979. In both of these cases, the interventions were only partly motivated by humanitarian concerns, but there is no doubt that the actions, whatever their motive, did put an end to systematic atrocities. Nonetheless, these incidents were rare exceptions. The most powerful countries, including the United States and other permanent members of the UN Security Council, have been averse to intervening abroad solely to uphold the Genocide Convention.

Despite the problems in enforcing the Genocide Convention, the document has had a notable influence on international politics. In large part through Lemkin's efforts and the widespread revulsion at the atrocities perpetrated by Nazi Germany, the convention not only attached a permanent stigma to the crime of genocide, but also helped ensure that governments could not simply brush it aside as an "internal affair" of a sovereign state. The convention made clear that unless a government lived up to certain minimum standards of conduct vis-à-vis its own citizens, that government could potentially be removed and punished by other states. No longer would sovereignty be an insuperable barrier against international action. Moving from this principle to concrete enforcement has not yet been practical, but the establishment of the principle itself has been a crucial step on the road toward more effective international responses to genocide.

See also Human Rights ; International Order ; Race and Racism ; State, The ; War .


Chalk, Frank, and Kurt Jonassohn. The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990.

Fein, Helen. Genocide: A Sociological Perspective. London and Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1993.

Gellately, Robert, and Ben Kiernan, eds. The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Harff, Barbara, and Ted R. Gurr. "Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides: Identification and Measurement of Cases since 1945." International Studies Quarterly, 37, no. 3 (September 1988): 359371.

Katz, Steven T. The Holocaust in Historical Context. Vol. 1: The Holocaust and Mass Death Before the Modern Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Kramer, Mark. "Introduction." In Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 19441948, edited by Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak, 142. Lanham, Md.: Rowan and Littlefield, 2001.

Kuper, Leo. Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982.

Lemkin, Raphael. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944.

Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Rummel, R. J. Death by Government. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1994.

Mark Kramer

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Genocide is one of the foundational moral, legal, and political concepts of modern society. While the terrible suffering named by the term is not new, the meaning of genocide is intimately bound to the creation of the modern human rights movement in the wake of World War II (19391945) and the subsequent evolution and expansion of new mechanisms of global governance.

Genocide is a term of profound moral, legal, and political significance. On moral terms, genocide references extreme inhumanity, naming a boundary where the central tenets of civilized behavior are called into question by the most reprehensible acts of political violence. Legally, genocide is understood as a crime whose severity demands immediate and total condemnation. As the special rapporteur to the UN Economic and Social Council Commission on Human Rights stated, Genocide is the ultimate crime and the gravest violation of human rights it is possible to commit (1985, part I, para. A14).

Politically, the term helped establish the foundations of modern human rights discourse and practice. The United Nations began discussing genocide in its first year of operation (1946), and the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), entered into force in 1951, was the first legally binding international human rights convention. In these interconnected ways, genocide represents a major element of an evolving human rights consciousness as well as a growing global commitment to protecting people from harm and preventing the worst excesses of the exercise of power.

Throughout human history, there are records of massacres and violence directed toward the destruction of entire peoples. References of mass violence that might be termed genocide can be found in the Bible, the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the religious-military campaigns of the Middle Ages, and the mass killing of indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, and elsewhere associated with discovery and colonization. The modern discussion of the concept is often associated with Turkish atrocities against the Armenians (1915-1923), when as many as 1.5 million may have been killed. However, it was the Nazi atrocities of the Holocaust that led to the evocation of genocide as a distinct crime, in which over 6 million Jews were exterminated in a systematic and calculated manner, along with Roma, Slavs, and other groups viewed to be dangerous or undesirable.

The word genocide was invented in 1943 by Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959). Lemkin also wrote Military Government in Europe, which was a preliminary version of his more fully developed publication Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944). In 1943 Lemkin was appointed consultant to the U.S. Board of Economic Warfare and Foreign Economic Administration and later became a special adviser on foreign affairs to the War Department, largely because of his expertise in international law.

The term is based on the Greek word genos, referring to race or tribe, and the Latin term cide, meaning murder. Lemkin created the term to refer to a new crime committed against group victims and involving, a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves (1944).

Lemkin invented the term because he believed that the Nazis planned eradication of various groups represented an irreparable harm to global society, as well as a special challenge to existing conceptions of criminal law, which tended to focus on crimes committed against individuals.

The text of the UN Genocide Convention was completed in 1948, and in 1951 the Convention became a legally binding document. By mid-2006, 138 nations had accepted the Convention as legally binding. The Genocide Convention declares genocide a crime under international law whether committed during war or peacetime. It requires all the nations that accept the document to take measures to prevent and punish acts of genocide committed within their jurisdiction and to enact appropriate domestic legislation to criminalize genocide. The treaty also criminalizes attempts to commit genocide, conspiracy or incitement to commit genocide, as well as complicity in the commission of the crime. Nations that sign the Genocide Convention agree to try individuals suspected of having committed genocide in domestic courts or in an appropriate international tribunal (which did not exist at the time the Convention was written, but is now present in the form of the International Criminal Court). The prohibition on genocide is now so widely accepted that it has become a part of international customary law so that it is understood to be binding on all states, regardless of whether or not they have ratified the Genocide Convention.

The legal definition of genocide is found in Article II of the Convention. This definition is widely accepted and has been reinforced by its repetition in relevant domestic legislation and in the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article II defines the crime as follows:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with 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) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. (OHCHR [1948] 1951)

In this way, genocide is composed of three key elements: acts, intent, and victim group. The five enumerated acts are distinct in nature, yet unified as strategies that can either destroy an existing group (killing, causing serious harm, creating destructive conditions) or ruin the possibility of the groups continued existence (preventing reproduction and forcibly removing children). The issue of intent is complex, but is generally understood to limit claims of genocide to those cases where political violence is purposefully directed, either as an officially stated policy to destroy a group or as expressed through an analysis of repressive strategies. The idea of a victim group defines genocide as a unique crime in which individuals are targeted for repression because of their membership in either a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

Each element of the legal definition of genocide raises complex questions, many of which run counter to dominant moral and social understandings of the term. That is, genocide is widely understood to be a crime involving mass murder and the idea of destroying in whole or in part suggests some numerical threshold. So, while it would trivialize the moral power of the concept to include cases of hate crimes or small-scale racial killing, the Genocide Convention allows a case of genocide to involve few casualties, as with the forced transfer of children. Similarly, the popular understanding of the crime assumes that the mass killing of hundreds of thousands would constitute genocide, yet the Conventions definition only covers acts committed against one or more of the four protected groups and may not, for example, cover the brutal destruction of political opponents (as in the Khmer Rouges killing of 1.7 million in Cambodia in the 1970s). Equally complex is the question of whether group status is a function of perpetrators understandings of targeted victims (so that the Nazis vision of Jewish identity would define the group) or whether the concept seeks to protect a group defined by some inherent, objective, or actual identity, a problem heightened where different groups appear highly similar (as with Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis, who speak the same language, practice the same religions, and commonly intermarried).

In order to address these issues, scholars have expanded the interpretation of the crime to cover many instances of mass violence, or created new terms such as autogenocide to deal with mass murder where perpetrators and victims are of the same group, or democide to refer to mass killing based on any justification. While these efforts play an important role in evolving understandings of the crime, the Genocide Conventions definition remains the central understanding of the concept.

Despite the widespread acceptance of genocide as a crime, there were few twentieth-century attempts to prosecute individuals. In fact, it was not until 1998 that the first international prosecution and conviction for genocide took place in the Jean-Paul Akayesu case at the ICTR. This historic decision was followed by a number of additional cases in the same court (Jean Kambanda, etc.), as well as other important cases at the ICTY (Milan Kovasevic, Radislav Krstic, Dusko Tadic, etc.), allowing for the evolution of a new jurisprudence of genocide. The decisions of these ad hoc tribunals represented an important expansion of the international legal commitment to prosecuting genocide. This commitment was further supported by the creation of the ICC in 2002, which provides a permanent body for prosecuting cases of genocide and other severe atrocities. Also in 1998, a Spanish judge brought genocide charges against former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in a domestic court for crimes committed in South America. This ushered in a new era of using the concept of universal jurisdiction as a means of prosecuting individuals accused of genocide in national courts in countries distinct from where the violations occurred.

The Genocide Convention was also created to prevent genocide, ideally by stopping potential genocides before they occur, or by taking action against severe violations before they reach a genocidal intensity. Yet, since the mid-twentieth century, the world has witnessed many atrocities often described as genocide. These include Cambodia (19751979), Rwanda (1994), and mass political violence in the former Yugoslavia (19921995) that brought the world a new, nonlegal term, ethnic cleansing. In addition, there have been formal claims of genocide associated with atrocities throughout Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, especially the Guatemalan military regimes attacks on indigenous people. And, there have been claims of genocide against the former Soviet Union for military actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as state policies such as the use of famine to kill seven to fifteen million Ukrainians. In Africa, there have been numerous genocide claims, most recently in the Sudan.

The case of Rwanda is especially chilling in that an estimated 800,000 people, generally Tutsis, were killed with machetes and small arms by a Hutu-dominated regime in 1994. Before the killing began, UN peacekeepers warned of an upcoming genocide and estimated that an international force of around five thousand could have prevented the violence. During the hundred-day killing, the international community refused to acknowledge that genocide was taking place, in part to avoid the legal responsibility to act. Later, most nations recognized these killings as an example of genocide, but by then the murderous regime had been removed from power by a Rwandan rebel army.

In many respects, genocide defines the twentieth century, representing a harsh warning of the destructive capacity of modernity as well as the open promise of the benefits of international cooperation. Genocide is one of the central, foundational ideas within human rights discourse, which represents the first universal structuring discourse of an emerging global order. Genocide was defined formally through global commitment toward its punishment and prevention. In this sense, the term is almost iconic in its representation of the complexity of modernity, defining both the worst and best of human society, a word that names acts of unforgivable brutality while offering the promise of a world where such acts cannot be tolerated and can only exist within the imaginary, banished from the real through concerted, coordinated, international action.

SEE ALSO Ethnic Conflict; Ethnic Fractionalization; Ethnocentrism; Racism; Tribalism


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Horowitz, Irving Louis. 2002. Taking Lives: Genocide and State Power. 5th ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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Schabas, William A. 2000. Genocide in International Law: The Crimes of Crimes. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

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United Nations Economic and Social Council Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. 1985. Revised and Updated Report on the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, prepared by Benjamin Whitaker. Thirty-eighth Session, Item 4 of the Provisional Agenda, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/6. 2 July.

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). 1948/1951. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Daniel Rothenberg

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Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people defined by their nationality, or by their ethnic, cultural, or religious background. While public health has long been concerned with the promotion, provision, and protection of a population's health during war and conflict, genocide became of interest to the field of public health only in the late twentieth century. The public health impact of genocide is enormous; in the last half of the twentieth century alone, dozens of genocidesaccounting for over 23 million deathsoccurred, including in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Burundi, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. Recognizing the relationship between public health and genocide is important because of the contributions public health professionals can make to preventing and mitigating genocide and its impact.

Genocide may include a direct assault on public health as it did in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There, public health came face to face with genocide when acts were committed to destroy the public health of the population, thereby threatening to destroy people through inflicting serious harm to their health. Food, fuel, electricity, running water, and medical supplies were cut off from Sarajevo and its environs during the siege of that city. Since many things are essential to public health, including housing, nutrition, sanitation, and access to public health, any acts committed to destroy or seriously undermine the conditions needed for health are potentially acts of genocide if they are committed against a specific population. For instance, during the siege of Sarajevo, waterborne diseases such as hepatitis A increased because the sanitation systems no longer worked properly, 10 percent of the city's population was moderately malnourished, and the combined effects of malnutrition, cold, and lack of adequate medical care led to increased illness and deaths. In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, genocide disproportionately affected the most vulnerable Bosniansthe very young, the elderly, women, the chronically ill, and the disabled.

Genocide may also include indirect assaults on public health, as it did in Rwanda in 1994. There, massive displacement of persons from their homes created large-scale health risks to the internally displaced and refugees. While the high morbidity and mortality in the Rwandan refugee population was recognized as a public health crisis, it was also the product of genocide. Refugees from the genocide who were living in camps did not contract cholera solely because of the infectious agent, but also because they were forced to flee their homes and encounter grossly unsanitary conditions due to their status as members of an ethnic group (the Tutsi) and resultant attacks by the Hutu government.


Genocide is a particular type of mass violence perpetrated against a large population. Other threats to the survival of a population, such as arbitrary imprisonment, discrimination, mass and systematic rape, torture, cutting off essential civilian supplies, and forced migration, can perpetrate large-scale harm against that population and have many of the same implications for public health as overt genocide. However, since 1946, when the United Nations General Assembly declared that genocide is "a crime under international law," genocide is recognized as distinct from other forms of mass violence. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, enacted in 1951, defines genocide as:

Any of the following acts committed with 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 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 their group; or (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

This distinction between genocide and other forms of mass violence is as significant to public health as it is to international law. First, when public health professionals name mass violence "genocide," they can invoke the Genocide Convention in their calls for action of intervention from the international community. Second, genocide is a punishable crime under the Genocide Convention. Since many health professionals believe that justice and legal accountability facilitate both the healing of victims and primary prevention of future genocides, determining that mass violence constitutes genocide invokes legal mechanisms for punishing the perpetrators under the Genocide Convention.


The precursors, processes, and consequences of genocide are increasingly being understood, and public health contributes to this understanding in a distinct manner from other disciplines, such as the law profession and the human rights field. Specifically, public health brings to the study of genocide the unique tools of epidemiology, which is the study of the distribution of disease and the factors associated with a disease within a population. Since public health views a specific population or group of human beings in an ecological model that includes the institutions (e.g., paramilitary organizations) and the objects (e.g., weapons of genocide) they have created, it is only natural that public health views genocide in this manner, too. Thus, public health professionals can examine genocide as a disease, along with social and behavioral factors that correlate with the disease, and may even cause it.

The work that public health professionals do to examine, prevent, and mitigate genocide can be understood in terms of the three traditional core functions of public health: assessment, policy development, and assurance of services. Assessments can be performed through data collection and analysis intended to identify, document, and notify the public about potential or ongoing genocide. Here the public health principles of disease and injury surveillance can be applied to violence against a population, and the traditional tools of public healthsuch as case reports and surveillance studiesare well suited to this function. A genocide may have early warning signs that public health professionals can detect, such as escalating violence, increased refugee flows out of a country, and increasing systematic discrimination. In those cases where a war strategy targets the health of an entire group of people, public health professionals are best able to recognize the nature of the genocide.

Assessment is equally important after a genocide occurs. The methods, effects, and outcomes of all public health interventions must be assessed objectively. Epidemiologic studies to determine and quantify the public health impact of genocide can be performed, as has been done in numerous studies of international and civil wars. The public health impact of genocide goes beyond the number of people killed. It must also be understood for its long-term effect on public health, including the destruction of medical facilities; the killing and flight of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals; the psychological impact on the survivors; and the interruption of programs for immunizations, infectious disease prevention, and prenatal care. Public health can also inform other types of assessments, such as retrospective studies to determine and identify the conditions, risk factors, and precursors that led to genocide.

Policy development may include recommending courses of action to prevent or mitigate a genocide. Again, policy development is an established function of public health in response to situations that threaten the health and safety of an exposed population. For instance, public health programs such as vaccination campaigns are proposed when large numbers of people living in a defined geographic area are at risk for illness or death from a contagious disease that vaccination would protect against. Similarly, public health policy proposals can advocate to protect groups at risk of genocide. Whenever there is a threat or occurrence of genocide, public health officials can advocate strongly for immediate international action. The principles of public health, coupled with the protests of public health professionals, can influence governments regarding the need, timing, and level of intervention required to protect a group from genocide.

Assurance of services may include designing and implementing programs that address the efforts at genocide. In the event of genocide, health care professionals can provide emergency services and physical and psychological treatment and rehabilitation of survivors. Interventions for complex humanitarian emergencies must be implemented as quickly as possible and made available to refugees and internally displaced persons.

Public health can play an important role in determining the truth about events of mass violence. Much of the work regarding genocide in the fields of human rights, law, and history revolves around determining the truth of claims for and against an occurrence of genocide. Public health contributes to these efforts through the powerful tool of epidemiology. With its methods for systematic compilation, consolidation, and assessment of data, epidemiology can be used by war crime tribunals to argue that specific war violations occurred on a scale consistent with crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide. For instance, epidemiologic investigations are useful in determining whether the cluster of methods that make up a policy of "ethnic cleansing" are consistent either with a series of unorganized and isolated acts or with a systematic policy of genocidewhich would be a punishable act under the Genocide Convention.

S. Swiss and J. Giller have demonstrated how public health methods are critical to defining the nature of a particular mass violence, such as the systematic use of rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They estimated that "based on the assumption that 1 percent of acts of unprotected intercourse result in pregnancy, the identification of 119 pregnancies, therefore, represents some 11,900 rapes." They stress that the goal is not to arrive at a final number of events but rather to determine its magnitude and extent, since evidence of a systematic pattern is critical to determining whether rape constituted part of a policy of genocide. This is because the Genocide Convention prohibits even intent or attempts to commit genocide. Though proof of thousands of rapes is useful evidence when prosecuting a case under the Genocide Convention, the Genocide Convention focuses on the perpetrator's intent to destroy a social group in whole or in part. The degree to which a genocidal plan is successfully carried out is not part of the law of the Genocide Convention. Thus, behind the inevitable complexities that surround questions of the responsibility of the different nationality or ethnic group involved in the violence, public health can analyze a genocide from a public health perspective and can contribute to the prevention of genocide and the healing of its survivors.

David P. Eisenman

(see also: Famine; International Health; Politics of Public Health; Refugee Communities; Violence; War )


Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Available at

Geller, G. A. (1995). "Humanitarian Responses to Mass Violence Perpetrated against Vulnerable Populations." British Medical Journal 311:9951001.

Human Rights Watch (1993). War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovna, Vol. 2: Helsinki Watch. New York: Author.

Levy, B. S., and Sidel, V. W., eds. (1997). War and Public Health. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mann, J. M.; Gruskin, M. A.; and Annas, G. J., eds. (1999). Health and Human Rights: A Reader. New York: Routledge.

Staub, E. (1984). The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Swiss, S., and Giller, J. (1993). "Rape as a Crime of War: A Medical Perspective." Journal of the American Medical Association 270:612613.

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The crime of destroying or conspiring to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

Genocide can be committed in a number of ways, including killing members of a group or causing them serious mental or bodily harm, deliberately inflicting conditions that will bring about a group's physical destruction, imposing measures on a group to prevent births, and forcefully transferring children from one group to another.

Genocide is a modern term. Coined in 1944 by Polish scholar of international law Raphael Lemkin, the word is a combination of the Greek genos (race) with the Latin cide (killing). In his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Lemkin offered the definition of "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves" (Lemkin 1944, 79). The book studied in particular detail the methodology of the Nazi German genocide against European Jews, among whom were his parents. Later, he served as an advisor to both the U.S. War Department and the nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders for war crimes. He dedicated his life to the development of international conventions against genocide.

The contemporary archetype of modern genocide is the Holocaust, in which German Nazis starved, tortured, and executed an estimated six million European Jews, as well as millions of other ethnic and social minorities, as part of an effort to develop a master Aryan race. Immediately upon coming to power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis began a systematic effort to eliminate Jews from economic life. The Nazis defined persons with three or four Jewish grandparents as being Jewish, regardless of their religious beliefs or affiliation with the Jewish community. Those with one or two Jewish grandparents were known as Mischlinge, or mixedbreeds. As non-Aryans, Jews and Mischlinge lost their jobs and their Aryan clients, and were forced to liquidate or sell their businesses.

With the onset of world war ii in 1939, the Germans occupied the western half of Poland, forcing nearly two million Jews to move into crowded, captive ghettos. Many of these Jews died of starvation and disease. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Nazis dispatched 3,000 troops to kill Soviet Jews on the spot, most often by shooting them in ditches or ravines on the outskirts of cities and towns. Meanwhile, the Nazis began to organize what they termed a final solution to the Jewish question in Europe. German Jews were required to wear a yellow star stitched on their clothing and were deported to ghettos in Poland and the Soviet Union. Death camps equipped with massive gas chambers were constructed at several sites in occupied Poland, and large crematories were built to incinerate the bodies. Ultimately, the Nazis transported millions of Jews to concentration camps, in crowded freight trains. Many did not survive the journey. Once at the death camps, many more died from starvation, disease, shooting, or routine gassings, before Allied forces liberated the survivors and forced the Nazis to surrender in 1945.

Following the exterminations of World War II, the united nations passed a resolution in an effort to prevent such atrocities in the future. Known as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (78 U.N.T.S. 278 [Dec. 9, 1948]), the resolution recognized genocide as an international crime and provided for its punishment. Proposed and partially formulated by Lemkin, who had lobbied nations tirelessly for its adoption, the convention also criminalized conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempted genocide, and complicity in genocide. Its definition of genocide specified that a person must intend to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Thus, casualties of war are not necessarily victims of genocide, even if they are all of the same national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. The convention requires signatory nations to enact laws to punish those found guilty of genocide, and allows any signatory state to ask the United Nations to help prevent and suppress acts of genocide.

The convention was, by itself, ineffective. Article XI of the convention requires the United Nations' member countries to ratify the document, which many did not do for nearly 50 years. The United States did not ratify the convention until 1988. Before doing so, it conditioned its obligations on certain understandings: (1) that the phrase intent to destroy in the convention's definition of genocide means "a specific intent to destroy"; (2) that the term mental harm used in the convention as an example of a genocidal tactic, means "permanent impairment of mental faculties through drugs or torture"; (3) that an agreement to grant extradition, which is part of the convention, extends only to acts recognized as criminal under both the country requesting extradition and the country to which the request is made; and (4) that acts in the course of armed conflict or war do not constitute genocide unless they are performed with the specific intent to destroy a group of people.

On November 4, 1988, the United States passed the Genocide Implementation Act of 1987 (18 U.S.C.A. § 1091 [1994]). This act created "a new federal offense that prohibits the commission of acts with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group; and to provide adequate penalties for such acts" (S. Rep. No. 333, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 1 [1988], reprinted in 1988 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4156).

In 1990 the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C.A. § 1182), a comprehensive reform of immigration laws. As part of this reform, Congress mandated that aliens guilty of genocide are excluded from entry into the United States, or deported when discovered. However, the INA lacks a clear definition of genocide, referring only to the U.N. convention drafted more than 40 years earlier.

The unclear definition of genocide makes its prevention and punishment difficult. Whether massive, and often barbaric, loss of life within ethnic, national, religious, or racial groups rises to the crime of genocide—or is simply an unpleasant by-product of war—is open to debate. Until international trials in the late 1990s, the Holocaust of Nazi Germany was the only example recognized throughout the international community as genocide.

Apart from the Holocaust, there have been a number of other events that at least some commentators have described as genocide. These include the devastation of numerous Native American tribes through battles with European settlers and exposure to their diseases; the killing of some 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks during and after world war i; the deaths of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979; the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians during the vietnam war; the deaths of more than 20,000 Christian Orthodox Serbs, Muslims, and Roman Catholic Croats in "ethnic cleansing" arising out of the civil war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the early 1990s; and the deaths of more than one million Rwandan civilians in ethnic clashes between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples, also during the early 1990s.

During the 1990s, the United Nations Security Council twice convened international tribunals to prosecute genocide and other flagrant humanitarian violations. The International Criminal Tribunals for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) were convened in 1993 in the Hague, the Netherlands, and in 1995 in Arusha, Tanzania, respectively. As the first courts of their type since World War II, their work, which sought to fix personal responsibility for mass murder, continued into the new millennium.

Given the vast scope and complicated nature of trying crimes of genocide, neither body has moved swiftly. By 2003, the ICTR had indicted 52 people and had completed nine trials stemming from the Rwanda slaughter, while also becoming the first international court in history to hand down a conviction for genocide. By comparison, the ICTY had indicted 87 people and had concluded 23 trials. During 2002, worldwide attention focused upon the opening of the ICTY's long-awaited trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, accused of ordering atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo at various times between 1991 and 2001. Arrested after flouting the tribunal's indictment for two years, Milosevic's delivery to the Hague in 2001 made him the highest-ranking European leader since the Nazi era to face trial for war crimes.

Humanitarians, politicians, and international legal scholars are struggling to find an effective way to prevent and punish genocide. Many have called for revising the genocide convention to better meet the needs of the current political, social, and economic environment, by creating a broader definition of genocide and establishing procedural guidelines. Still others have proposed international military intervention in order to prevent or stop genocide.

further readings

BBC News. 2003. "The Charges Against Milosevic." BBC News World Edition (February 20). Available online at <> (accessed November 12, 2003).

Chrisopoulos, Paul. J. 1995. "Giving Meaning to the Term 'Genocide' as It Applies to U.S. Immigration Policy." Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal (October).

Heidenrich, John G. 2001. "The Father of 'Genocide'—and Its Biggest Foe." Christian Science Monitor (June 27).

Kennicott, Philip. 2002."Nearly Nine Decades After the Massacres, a Battle Still Rages to Define 'Genocide'." The Washington Post (November 24).

Lemkin, Raphael. 1944. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation—Analysis of Government—Proposals for Redress. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Available online at <www.prevent> (accessed November 20, 2003).

Yacoubian, George S., Jr. 2003. "Evaluating the Efficacy of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia." World Affairs 165 (January 1).


Hitler, Adolf; International Law; Nuremberg Trials; United Nations.

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Genocide. The UN Genocide Convention, passed on 9 December 1948, defined genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” Although political groups were not included—due to objections by the Soviet Union and other nations—most students of genocide consider such acts against political groups as genocide. UN conventions and statements of principles have created a body of “international law,” but enforcement mechanisms have been nonexistent, highly limited, or ad hoc, like the tribunals created to try perpetrators in Bosnia and Rwanda, and usually ineffective.

Perpetrators of genocide tend to offer justifications, such as destructive actions or intentions by the victims. Usually, these justifications are unfounded or greatly exaggerated; moreover, since old and young, women and children are killed, genocidal violence, even if partially defensive, is never morally justifiable. To understand the origins of genocide, it is necessary to consider societal conditions, the political system (genocide is less likely in a pluralistic, democratic society), cultural characteristics, the psychology of perpetrators and of internal bystanders (members of the society in which genocide takes place who are not themselves perpetrators), and the role of external bystanders (especially other nations).

Difficult social conditions are frequently the starting point for genocide. These are created by intense economic problems; by intense political conflict within a society—which can take varied forms, one of which is conflict between a dominant group and a subordinate group that is poor and has limited rights; or by very great and rapid social changes; or a combination of all these factors.

Under such conditions, people often scapegoat a subgroup of society for their problems, or create an ideology that promises a better life but identifies an enemy that stands in the way of its fulfillment. As the group or its members begin to harm the scapegoat or ideological enemy, they begin to change. Individuals and groups “learn by doing,” changing as the result of their own actions. Perpetrators further devalue their victims, exclude them from the human and moral realm, and create institutions to harm and kill them. An evolution of increasing violence leads to genocide.

All this is more likely to happen in cultures with certain characteristics. One of these is a history of devaluation of the group that becomes the victim. Cultural devaluation is usually deeply set and becomes influential when conditions are difficult, as was the case with anti‐Semitism in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. At times instead of devaluation by one group of another there is a history of conflict and violence between two groups, and intense mutual antagonism, as was the case in both Rwanda and Bosnia, in the 1990s. Other characteristics of culture that make the genocidal process probable include a strong respect for authority, a monolithic rather than pluralistic society, certain ways members of a group see their group, and a history of violence in dealing with conflict.

The evolution toward genocide is usually made possible by the passivity of both internal and external bystanders. Their passivity affirms the perpetrators. Early strong reactions by bystanders, such as protests, boycotts, and sanctions, occurring before the perpetrators have developed strong commitment to their ideology and murderous course, could inhibit this evolution.

There is a history of passivity. While internal enemies and the Jews were increasingly persecuted in Nazi Germany, all nations went to Berlin to participate in the 1936 Olympics. At the same time, U.S. corporations did business in Germany. Jews were kept out of the United States—only about one‐tenth of the legal quota of Jewish immigrants was filled. During World War II, the Allies refused to bomb Auschwitz or the railroad leading to it. At the time of the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks in World War I, the United States had limited influence over Turkey, but Germany, Turkey's supporter and ally, did nothing. In Cambodia in the 1970s, U.S. actions destabilized the country. Once the Communist Khmer Rouge took over, the United States had little influence over Pol Pot's genocidal regime. However, after Vietnam invaded Cambodia and stopped the genocide, the United States showed strong hostility toward Vietnam and joined with China to insist that the Khmer Rouge government was the legitimate representative of Cambodia in the United Nations. In the 1980s, the United States supported Iraq against Iran, even though it was using chemical weapons against its Kurdish citizens. Washington turned against Iraq only after it invaded Kuwait.

Early nonviolent actions by the community of nations might have inhibited the evolution and continuation of violence in the former Yugoslavia. However, the bombing of Serb positions in Bosnia, and the subsequent peacekeeping role of NATO and the United States, set a positive precedent.

The influences that give rise to genocide create other forms of violence between groups as well, including mass killings, and, at times, war. In the course of the evolution described above the targets of violence may expand, to other groups within a country, or to other countries. In Argentina, the murder of dissenters in the late 1970s was followed by the Falklands War. At times war provides a cover for genocide, or its violence makes genocide easier to commit, as it did in Nazi Germany, 1939–45, and in Turkey, 1915–16.

Cultural characteristics and political organization in the United States now make genocide unlikely, yet the history of exclusion of Native Americans and African Americans from the public domain rendered violence against them probable. The violence in the United States against Native Americans is perhaps best described not as genocide but as group violence, including mass killings. However, genocide and mass killing have fuzzy boundaries. Intense devaluation, self‐interest in gaining territory, conflict and mutual antagonism, and learning‐by‐doing probably all shared roles in the violence against Native Americans.
[See also Atrocities; Bosnian Crisis; Holocaust, U.S. War Effort and the; Native American Wars: Wars Between Native Americans and Europeans and Euro‐Americans; War Crimes.]


Bernard W. Sheehan , Seeds of Extinction, 1973.
David S. Wyman , The Abandonment of Jew: America and the Holocaust, 1941–1945, 1984.
Ervin Staub , The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence, 1989.
Helen Fein , Genocide: A Sociological Perspective, 1993.

Ervin Staub

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GENOCIDE. International law defines genocide as acts intended to destroy a group of people defined by their nationality, ethnicity, race, or religion. The International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 in reaction to the Nazi persecution of the Jews and other groups during World War II, lists the following prohibited acts: "killing members of the group; … causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; … deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;… imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;… forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." States that are party to the treaty must bring individuals who have committed, conspired to commit, or incited genocide to trial, or deliver them to be tried before an international tribunal. The convention, moreover, calls for its signatories to take action to prevent genocide.

The Genocide Convention came into force after being ratified by twenty nations in 1951. Although the United States was one of the original signatories and President Harry S. Truman urged the Senate to ratify the treaty, the Senate resisted because of objections by some senators that the convention would infringe on American sovereignty. When the Senate in 1988 finally joined more than 120 governments by ratifying the treaty, it attached the conditions that the United States would not be subject to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and that U. S. laws would take precedence over the convention.

Acts of genocide have a long history and they have often accompanied war, other conflicts, and colonialism. After World War II, the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal that tried top Nazi leaders interpreted its charter to mean that individuals could be prosecuted for crimes against humanity only if those crimes were committed during wartime. Rafael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer at Nuremberg who served the U. S. government during the war and coined the term "genocide," pressed the United Nations for an international standard that would prohibit genocide whenever it might occur. ("Genos" is a Greek word meaning race or tribe, and "cide" is from the Latin "cidium," killing.)

Since the passage of the Genocide Convention, numerous groups have sought recognition and redress by describing actions taken against them as genocidal. Because the terms of the convention can be interpreted strictly or broadly, there were a number of disputes over definitions, scale, and evidence. Native Americans have sought redress on the basis that the European settlement of the Americas led to death, displacement, and suffering, and that this outcome was the result of deliberate genocidal policies. A similar movement on behalf of aborigines recently gained momentum in Australia. Some Native American activists contend that genocidal policies have not ended, given the grim living conditions and poor health statistics on Native American reservations. Some African Americans seeking reparations for slavery invoke the Genocide Convention, which has no statute of limitations. Antiwar activists in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s created mock tribunals to promote their belief that U. S. military conduct in Vietnam or Soviet behavior in Afghanistan constituted genocide under international law.

Arguments remain unresolved over whether the mass killings brought about by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge in Cambodia qualify as genocide, since they targeted groups defined by economic and political status rather than the listed categories of race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. These and other cases, such as Turkey's attacks on its Armenian population during World War I, further illustrate the limitations of international law to prevent mass killings undertaken by governments against their own people. The feeble international response to massacres committed in Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s came as some signatory governments, including that of the United States, took pains to avoid invoking the word "genocide" (using instead the euphemistic "ethnic cleansing")in order to avoid triggering the obligations called for in the Genocide Convention. After the killings ended, special international tribunals authorized by the United Nations Security Council considered charges of genocide against military and political leaders involved in both conflicts. In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted the former prime minister, Jean Kambanda, and other defendants of genocide and other crimes and handed down life sentences. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sought convictions for former Yugoslave president Slobodan Milosevic and Serb military commanders accused of genocide.

By the end of the twentieth century the contradictions of international law, in which the principle of respect for national sovereignty clashed with the requirement that states intervene to prevent genocidal killings, had not been resolved, nor had the United States or other nations committed themselves to an openended policy of undertaking the risks of military intervention to protect foreign civilians. Despite the success of legal prosecutions for genocide, the more difficult question remained of how to prevent such crimes from occurring.


LeBlanc, Lawrence J. The United States and the Genocide Convention. Durham, N. C. : Duke University Press, 1991.

Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Totten, Samuel, William S. Parsons, and Israel W. Charny, eds. Genocide in the Twentieth Century: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts. New York: Garland, 1995.

Max PaulFriedman

See alsoGeneva Conventions ; Human Rights ; International Court of Justice ; United Nations ; Yugoslavia, Relations with .

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Genocide is a word coined after World War II to designate a phenomenon that was not newthe extermination, usually by a government, of a group of people for their ethnic, religious, racial, or political belonging. The term implies both a deliberate intent as well as a systematic approach in its implementation. Until international law came to terms with the Holocaust of the Jewish people in Europe, the extermination of such groups was considered as a crime against humanity or as a war crime, since wars tended to provide governments the opportunity to execute their designs. In a resolution adopted in 1946, the U.N. General Assembly declared genocide a crime under international lawits perpetrators to be held accountable for their actions. Two years later, with the full support of the USSR, the same body approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide that went into effect soon after.

Article II of the Convention defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with 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; and e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another." Article III of the Convention stipulated that those who commit such acts as well as those who support or incite them are to be punished. The Convention provided for an International Court of Justice to try cases of genocide. The Tribunal was established only in 2002. Meanwhile, the genocide of Ibos in Nigeria during the 1970s was not considered by any court; those responsible for the Cambodian genocide during the 1980s were tried by a domestic court some years later; the genocide during the mid 1990s of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda was finally considered by an international court in Tanzania, while an international tribunal in The Hague undertook a review of charges of genocide against Serb, Croat, and other leaders responsible for crimes during the Balkan crisis following the collapse of Yugoslavia during the early 1990s.

Two well-known cases of genocide have affected Russia and the Soviet Union. The Young Turk Government of the Ottoman Empire implemented a deliberate and systematic deportation and extermination of its Armenian population during World War I in the Western part of historic Armenia under its domination. Eastern Armenia had been integrated into the Russian Empire by 1828. Russia, along with other European powers, had pressed Ottoman governments to introduce reforms in Ottoman Armenia and Russian Armenians were involved in the efforts to produce change. Close to one million Armenians perished as a result. The Russian army, already at war with the Ottomans, was instrumental in saving the population of some cities near its border, assisted by a Russian Armenian Volunteer Corps. Many of the survivors of the Genocide ended up in Russian Armenia and southern Russia. Others emigrated after 1920 to Soviet Armenia, mainly from the Middle East during the years following World War II. A few of the Young Turk leaders responsible for the Armenian genocide were tried by a Turkish court following their defeat in the war and condemned, largely in absentia, but the trials were halted due to changes in the domestic and international environment.

During World War II Nazi advances into Soviet territory provided an opportunity to German forces to extend the policy of extermination of Jews into those territories. Nazi leaders responsible for the Holocaust were tried and condemned to various sentences at Nuremberg, Germany, following the war.

Russian and Soviet governments have tolerated or implemented policies that, while not necessarily qualified as genocides, raise questions relevant to the subject. Pogroms against Russian Jews during the last decades of the Romanov Empire and the deportation of the Tatars from Crimea, Chechens and other peoples from their Autonomous Republics within Russia, and Mtskhetan Turks from Georgia during and immediately following World War II on suspicion of collaboration with the Germans reflect a propensity on the part of Russia and Soviet governments to resolve perceived political problems through punishment of whole groups. Equally important, the politically motivated purges engineered by Josef Stalin and his collaborators of the Communist Party and Soviet government officials and their families and various punitive actions against whole populations claimed the lives of millions of citizens between 1929 and 1939.

In one case, Soviet policy has been designated as genocidal by some specialists. As a result of the forced collectivization of farms during the early 1930s, Ukraine suffered a famine, exacerbated by a severe drought, which claimed as many as five million lives. The Soviet government's refusal to recognize the scope of the disaster and provide relief is seen as a deliberate policy of extermination.

See also: nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist; world war ii.


Courtois, Stéphane. (1999). The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, tr. Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fein, Helen. (1979). Accounting for Genocide: National Responses and Jewish Victimization during the Holocaust. New York: The Free Press.

Walliman, Isidor, and Dobkowski, Michael N., eds. (1987). Genocide and the Modern Age: Etiology and Case Studies of Mass Death. New York: Greenwood Press.

Weiner, Amir. (2000). Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Gerard J. Libaridian

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"Genocide." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . 10 Dec. 2017 <>.

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genocide The term ‘genocide’ was introduced in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, who had escaped from German-occupied Poland to the US. As a child in the new Polish state Lemkin sensed the vulnerability of Jews, as an ethnic minority, to coercive states; his expertise in international law prompted him to develop the term to describe the systematic annihilation of an ethnic group, religion, or culture. To Lemkin's dismay, the Nuremberg Medical Trial did not recognize genocide as a crime, although medical experiments were defined as a crime against humanity. Lemkin drafted the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 9 December 1948. It was only in 1988 that the US ratified the Convention.

Although medicine at its best is antithetical to genocide, at its worst it has facilitated genocidal atrocities. The biomedical sciences (broadly conceived) have supplied rationales for defining degenerate races. Anthropologists collecting specimens accelerated the demise of the Tasmanians, who at the turn of the century were regarded as one of the most primitive races. Physiological sciences assisted in racial classification, for example with the use of blood groups, which were linked to racial types. This reached a culmination with the Nazi measures of racial screening and genocide in the occupied East. Josef Mengele had doctorates in anthropology and medicine, and other racial experts attempted to identify residual Germanic elements among the Slavs. Not only Jews, but also gypsies were defined by the Nazis as meriting total eradiction, and numerous other ‘races’, such as the Slavs, were subjected to atrocities. Medical expertise was essential to maintain the fitness of higher races by eliminating the mentally ill and the severely disabled, and preventing reproduction of carriers of inherited diseases.

Medical expertise has provided techniques of extermination. The development of the Zyklon gas chamber was transferred from sanitary practices of delousing. Instead of killing the insect vectors of diseases, the Nazis tried to kill the human hosts of the pathogens. Each of the Nazi crematoria at Auschwitz could kill and dispose of a thousand bodies each day. This represented a highly medicalized form of genocide, using techniques and ideas of hygiene.

Genocidal measures provided an opportunity for advancing medical knowledge by the performance of human experiments, and the collection of specimens of the killed. Again, this is well illustrated by Nazi medicine. Anatomical collections included the skeletons, brains, organs, and tissue samples of persons deemed racially inferior. These collections often remained in German medical institutes until the 1990s. The anatomical atlas of Pernkopf, long a standard work, contained material from children killed in a Viennese hospital, and he also used corpses of executed persons for teaching purposes. German concentration camp experiments were conducted to determine the point that death sets in under extreme conditions of cold or immersion in seawater. Other experimental victims were used to test new vaccines and drugs after deliberate infection.

Despite Lemkin's efforts to prevent repetition of Nazi atrocities, the crime of genocide can all too easily occur. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ in the former Yugoslavia had a number of disturbing features, not least the prominence of physicians among the Bosnian Serb leadership. Large-scale massacres do not necessarily require medical expertise: the Turkish killing of the Armenians during World War I or the tragic massacres in Rwanda in 1995 show that all that might be necessary for such measures is to set in motion death marches — when persons would die from exhaustion — or to wield a simple machete. Genocide seems likely to remain one of the most horrific forms of pathological human behaviour.

P. J. Weindling


Kuper, L. (1977). The pity of it all. Gerald Duckworth, London.
Horowitz, I. (1976). Genocide: state power and mass murder. Transaction Books, New Brunswick.
Weindling, P. J. (1989). Health, race and German politics between national unification and Nazism. Cambridge University Press.

See also eugenics; killing; racism; war.

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genocide A term devised during the Second World War by Raphael Lemkin and adopted by the United Nations Convention in 1948. Sociologists have been most concerned with five matters: how to define the term; its typological manifestations; the conditions which give rise to genocide; a historical analysis of it; and the consequences of genocide, not just for the victims, but also for the perpetrators.(The best general discussion is F. Chalk and K. Jonassohn's The History and Sociology of Genocide, 1989.)

There are many controversies around what constitutes a genocide, Should the witchcraft purges throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries be seen as genocide? The bombing of Hiroshima could also be included, if one is concerned with all forms of ‘death on a large scale’, but this was an (almost) unique and distinct form. Irving Horowitz (in Taking Lives: Genocide and State Power, 1980) defines genocide as the ‘structural and systematic destruction of innocent people by a state bureaucratic apparatus’. Genocide usually entails an outgroup or pariah group being defined as less than fully human, and the existence of a centralized bureaucratic authority capable of administering the deaths in a large-scale and impersonal way. In the past this has often meant the slaughtering of whole populations in war or the sacrifice of large groups for religious purposes (for example in Carthage, where the younger sons were sacrificed to the Gods). Often, in earlier periods, the consequences for the perpetrators of such large-scale murders were minimal.

Some have suggested that the conditions for genocide coincide with the conditions of modernity, and indeed that the twentieth century—far from being a century of progress—has been decisively the age of genocide. The Nazi Holocaust, Stalin's purges, and the ‘Year Zero’ or ‘killing fields’ activities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia are frequently cited as instances of modern ‘ideological’ genocide. In a celebrated study of the Holocaust (Modernity and the Holocaust, 1990), Zygmunt Bauman has argued that the Nazi mass exterminations were symptomatic of the dark side of modernity, of conditions ripe for large-scale bureaucracies, mass technology, and ideological control. This may be overstated: there have certainly been many other cases of genocide throughout history.

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genocide, in international law, the intentional and systematic destruction, wholly or in part, by a government of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group. Although the term genocide was first coined in 1944, the crime itself has been committed often in history. It was initially used to describe the systematic campaign for the extermination of peoples carried on by Nazi Germany, in its attempts in the 1930s and 40s to destroy the entire European Jewish community, and to eliminate other national groups in Eastern Europe. In 1945, the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal listed persecution on racial or religious grounds as a crime for which the victorious Allies would try Nazi offenders. It established the principle of the individual accountability of government officials who carried out the extermination policies. The United Nations, by a convention concluded in 1949, defined in detail the crime of genocide and provided for its punishment by competent national courts of the state on whose territory the crime was committed, or by international tribunal. Charging that the convention violated national sovereignty, especially in its provision for an international tribunal and in the potential liability of an individual citizen, the United States did not ratify it until 37 years later, in 1986. An international tribunal was established to prosecute genocide cases in the aftermath of the slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. In 1995 top civilian and military Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders were charged by an international tribunal with genocide in the killing of thousands of Muslims during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

See studies by I. L. Horowitz (1981), L. Kuper (1982), E. Staub (1989), S. Power (2001), and D. J. Goldhagen (2009).

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296. Genocide (See also Brutality, Massacre.)

  1. Auschwitz largest Nazi extermination camp; more than 1,000,000 deaths there. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 958959, 970, 1123]
  2. Babi Yar ravine near Kiev where Nazis slaughtered 10,000 Jews. [Russ. Hist.: Wigoder, 56]
  3. Bergen-Belsen Nazi slave labor and extermination camp. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 1187, 1188]
  4. Buchenwald showcase of Nazi atrocities. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 1055]
  5. Dachau primarily work camp, experienced share of Nazi horrors. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 1055]
  6. Final Solution Nazi plan decided fate of 6,000,000 Jews. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 10371061]
  7. Holocaust Nazi attempt at extermination of European Jewry (19331945). [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 266267]
  8. Lublin Nazi extermination camp. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 970]
  9. Majdanek Nazi extermination camp. [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 113]
  10. My Lai American army division annihilates population of entire Vietnamese hamlet (March 16, 1968). [Am. Hist.: Kane, 450]
  11. Ravensbrueck womens concentration camp in Germany. [Ger. Hist.: Shirer, 1275]
  12. Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp. [Ger. Hist.: Shirer, 375]
  13. Six Million Jews their deaths a testimony to Nazi Final Solution. [Eur. Hist.: Hitler, 1123]
  14. Treblinka Nazi extermination camp. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 970]
  15. Wannsee Conference Final Solution plotted and scheduled. [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 619]
  16. Zyklon B hydrogen cyanide; used by Nazis for mass extermination in concentration camps. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 970]

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gen·o·cide / ˈjenəˌsīd/ • n. the deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation. DERIVATIVES: gen·o·cid·al / ˌjenəˈsīdl/ adj.

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genocide the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular race or nation. The term is recorded from the 1940s, in relation to Nazi rule in occupied Europe.

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genocide Systematic and deliberate destruction of a racial, religious or ethnic group in times of war or peace. The Holocaust during World War II is an example of genocide.

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genocide XX. irreg. f. Gr. génos race (see KIN) + -CIDE2.

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Armenian Massacres

Armenian Massacres: see ARMENIAN CHURCH.

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genocidebackside, trackside •bedside • airside •Tayside, wayside •lakeside • stateside • graveside •quayside, seaside, Teesside •beachside • hillside • ringside •suicide • herbicide • regicide •fungicide • filicide • Barmecide •homicide •germicide, spermicide •tyrannicide • parricide •fratricide, matricide, patricide •uxoricide • countryside • infanticide •insecticide • pesticide • parasiticide •mountainside • Merseyside •Tyneside •dioxide, dockside, hydroxide, monoxide, oxide, peroxide •alongside •diopside, topside •broadside • downside • roadside •poolside • upside • nearside •fireside • Humberside • underside •genocide • waterside • riverside •silverside • overside •kerbside (US curbside) • Burnside

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