Prewar photograph of three Jewish children with their babysitter. Two of the children perished in 1942. Warsaw, Poland, 1925-1926.
– US Holocaust Memorial Museum
INTRODUCTION TO THE HOLOCAUST
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.
During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority”:Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.
Holocaust Victims (The Jewish Slavic Race of Europe) Bolshevik, Russian, Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Polish.
WHAT WAS THE HOLOCAUST?
In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe stood at over nine million. Most European Jews lived in countries that Nazi Germany would occupy or influence during World War II. By 1945, the Germans and their collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews as part of the “Final Solution,” the Nazi policy to murder the Jews of Europe. Although Jews, whom the Nazis deemed a priority danger to Germany, were the primary victims of Nazi racism, other victims included some 200,000 Roma (Gypsies). At least 200,000 mentally or physically disabled patients, mainly Germans, living in institutional settings, were murdered in the so-called Euthanasia Program.
As Nazi tyranny spread across Europe, the Germans and their collaborators persecuted and murdered millions of other people. Between two and three million Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease, neglect, or maltreatment. The Germans targeted the non-Jewish Polish intelligentsia for killing, and deported millions of Polish and Soviet civilians forforced labor in Germany or in occupied Poland, where these individuals worked and often died under deplorable conditions. From the earliest years of the Nazi regime, German authorities persecuted homosexuals and others whose behavior did not match prescribed social norms. German police officials targeted thousands of political opponents (including Communists, Socialists, and trade unionists) and religious dissidents (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses). Many of these individuals died as a result of incarceration and maltreatment.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE “FINAL SOLUTION”
In the early years of the Nazi regime, the National Socialist government established concentration camps to detain real and imagined political and ideological opponents. Increasingly in the years before the outbreak of war, SS and police officials incarcerated Jews, Roma, and other victims of ethnic and racial hatred in these camps. To concentrate and monitor the Jewish population as well as to facilitate later deportation of the Jews, the Germans and their collaborators created ghettos, transit camps, and forced-labor camps for Jews during the war years. The German authorities also established numerous forced-labor camps, both in the so-called Greater German Reich and in German-occupied territory, for non-Jews whose labor the Germans sought to exploit.
Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) and, later, militarized battalions of Order Police officials, moved behind German lines to carry out mass-murder operations against Jews, Roma, and Soviet state and Communist Party officials. German SS and police units, supported by units of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS, murdered more than a million Jewish men, women, and children, and hundreds of thousands of others. Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi German authorities deported millions of Jews from Germany, from occupied territories, and from the countries of many of its Axis allies to ghettos and to killing centers, often called extermination camps, where they were murdered in specially developed gassing facilities.
THE END OF THE HOLOCAUST
In the final months of the war, SS guards moved camp inmates by train or on forced marches, often called “death marches,” in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers of prisoners. As Allied forces moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Germany, they began to encounter and liberate concentration camp prisoners, as well as prisoners en route by forced march from one camp to another. The marches continued until May 7, 1945, the day the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. For the western Allies, World War II officially ended in Europe on the next day, May 8 (V-E Day), while Soviet forces announced their “Victory Day” on May 9, 1945.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many of the survivors found shelter in displaced persons (DP) camps administered by the Allied powers. Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000 Jews emigrated to Israel, including 136,000 Jewish displaced persons from Europe. Other Jewish DPs emigrated to the United States and other nations. The last DP camp closed in 1957. The crimes committed during the Holocaust devastated most European Jewish communities and eliminated hundreds of Jewish communities in occupied eastern Europe entirely.
THE ARCHITECT OF HOLOCAUST
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler. 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo(Secret State Police). Serving as Reichsführer and later as Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and General Plenipotentiary for the entire Reich’s administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the persons most directly responsible for theHolocaust. Himmler wanted to breed a master race of Nordic Aryans in Germany. His experience as a chicken farmer had taught him the rudiments of animal breeding which he proposed to apply to humans.
He believed that he could engineer the German populace, through eugenic selective breeding, to be entirely “Nordic” in appearance within several decades of the end of the war, After the Night of the Long Knives, the SS-Totenkopfverbände organized and administered Germany’s regime of concentration camps and, after 1941,extermination camps in occupied Poland as well. The SS—through its intelligence arm, the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD)—dealt with Jews, Gypsies, communists and those persons of any other cultural, racial, political or religious affiliation deemed by the Nazis to be either Untermensch (sub-human) or in opposition to the regime, and placed them in concentration camps. Himmler opened the first of these camps at Dachau on 22 March 1933. He was the main architect of the Holocaust, using elements of mysticism and a fanatical belief in the racistNazi ideology to justify the murder of millions of victims. Himmler had similar plans for the Poles; intellectuals were to be killed, and most other Poles were to be only literate enough to read traffic signs. On 18 December 1941, Himmler’s appointment book shows he met with Hitler. The entry for that day poses the question “What to do with the Jews of Russia?”, and then answers the question “als Partisanen auszurotten” (exterminate them as partisans”). In contrast to Hitler, Himmler inspected concentration camps. As a result of these inspections, the Nazis searched for a new and more expedient way to kill, which culminated in the use of the gas chambers.
THE ROOT OF RACIAL HATRED AND DIVISIONS OF MANKIND (RACE)
THE DISASTERS OF DARWINISM
Neo, Neural, Social, Universal Darwinism
Darwin believed that human beings are separated into two ranks, the superior and inferior, while the superior humans were given (predetermined by fate) much higher intellect and survival dexterity, the inferior however is a total opposite. Often disregarded and subjugated, the inferior ‘race’ or degenerated species were the main target for the tyrants, and as helpless and confused victims they struggled to erase themselves from the seemingly endless cruelty of this world, which clearly has been led by the superior ‘race’ since. Regrettably, their only escape was death. Darwin also believed that the inferior ones were meant to be inferior since birth, because naturally they were genetically created or existed to become lower beings and validated as ‘monkeys’ or animals within the society. They were born to be submissive to the superior ones, that is to say, to obey the oppressor thus becoming the oppressed. The superior ones were allowed to become a tyrant and freely abuse the inferior ones in a disturbing world filled with tyranny. This, was a teaching of Darwin. He suggested that the inferior beings should be demolished, and that was when the idea of Genocide came into existence and soon was adopted in the political world. Some scientists were already tempted by the Nazis plan to eradicate the Jews, and to experiment with human, biologically. Darwin was an ugly, insane, paranoid, delusional, heretical, depressed, lonely, disgruntled old man who was no more than the 18thcentury Antichrist. His followers were mostly like him, no doubt. Hitler, Stalin and Heinrich was a beast among other higher beasts. A product of Darwin’s violent method in science. As a matter of fact, Darwin didn’t have the chance to live up to this day to witness his own ‘masterpiece’, however if he does, he’s going to be the proudest bastard on Earth, why? His Darwinism method has killed more than 9 millions of innocent lives. I repeat, 9 million lives. If the guilt falls on you, how do you sleep at night?
“Darwinism” implied that because natural selection was apparently no longer working on “civilized” people, it was possible for “inferior” strains of people (who would normally be filtered out of the gene pool) to overwhelm the “superior” strains, and voluntary corrective measures would be desirable — the foundation of eugenics. That is to suggest, to commence annihilation for the whole ‘inferior’ species.
– Human evolution (Intelligent Design Movement)
– Creationism (Philosophical Naturalism, Atheism)
– Natural Selections
– Genetic Mutations (Gene drift, Gene flow)
– Pangenenesis (Genetic hierarchical sociobilogical hereditary)
– Lamarckism (The Modern Synthesis)
THE TERM “GENOCIDE”
Ethnic Cleansing (Racial hatred, religious conflicts, political strategies)
*Jewish – Mostly German-occupied, European Jews. (Innocent, non-Zions, non-Israeli Jews)
*Muslims – Bosnian, African, Palestinian. (Eastern European, Middle Eastern & African Muslims)
The term “genocide” did not exist before 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. Human rights, as laid out in the US Bill of Rights or the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concern the rights of individuals.
In 1944, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. He formed the word “genocide” by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with –cide, from the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new term, Lemkin had in mind “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.” The next year, the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with “crimes against humanity.” The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term.
Raphael Lemkin (right) with Ambassador Amado of Brazil (left) before a plenary session of the General Assembly at which the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide was approved. Palais de Chaillot, Paris, December 11, 1948.
– United Nations Archives and Records Management Section.
“The allies decided in Nuremberg a case against a past Hitler, but refused to envisage future Hitlers, or like situations … In brief, the Germans were punished only for crimes committed during or in connection with the war of aggression. Crimes against humanity were not an independent category of crimes in themselves. They were only considered crimes when their connection with other crimes could be established.”
– Unpublished memoir of Raphael Lemkin.
THE CRIMES OF GENOCIDE
Human Rights Violation, Crime Against Human, Racial Slaughter, Annihilations of Newborns.
On December 9, 1948, in the shadow of the Holocaust and in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes “genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide as; 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 physical 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.
While many cases of group-targeted violence have occurred throughout history and even since the Convention came into effect, the legal and international development of the term is concentrated into two distinct historical periods: the time from the coining of the term until its acceptance as international law (1944-1948) and the time of its activation with the establishment of international criminal tribunals to prosecute the crime of genocide (1991-1998). Preventing genocide, the other major obligation of the convention, remains a challenge that nations and individuals continue to face.
This is a timeline noting the major conceptual and legal advances in the development of “genocide.” It does not attempt to detail all cases which might be considered as genocides, but rather how the term becomes a part of the political, legal, and ethical vocabulary
of responding to widespread threats of violence against groups.
THE FIRST GENOCIDE
1894: The Islamic Ottoman Empire – The Armenian Christians
Although granted their own constitution and national assembly with the Tanzimat reforms, the Armenians attempted to demand implementation of Article 61 from the Ottoman government as agreed upon at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Following pressure from the European powers and Armenians, Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in response, assigned the Hamidiye regiments to eastern Anatolia (Ottoman Armenia). These were formed mostly of irregular cavalry units of recruited Kurds. From 1894–96, between 100,000 to 300,000 Armenians living throughout the empire were killed in what became known as the Hamidian massacres. Armenian militants seized the Ottoman Bank headquarters in Constantinople in 1896 to bring European attention to the massacres, but they failed to gain any help.
THE 21st CENTURY GENOCIDES
1900: Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin, who would later coin the word “genocide,” was born into a Polish Jewish family in 1900. His memoirs detail early exposure to the history of Ottoman attacks against Armenians (which most scholars believe constitute genocide), anti-Semitic pogroms, and other histories of group-targeted violence as key to forming his beliefs about the need for legal protection of groups.
1933: Rise of Adolf Hitler (Nazi Germany)
With the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor on Jan 30, 1933, the Nazi Party took control of Germany. In October, German delegates walked out of disarmament talks in Geneva and Nazi Germany withdrew from the League of Nations. In October, at an international legal conference in Madrid, Raphael Lemkin (who later coined the word “genocide” ) proposed legal measures to protect groups. His proposal did not receive support.
1939: World War II (Nazi – Soviet Union)
World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland triggering a treaty-mandated Anglo-French declaration of war on Germany. On September 17, 1939, the Soviet army occupied the eastern half of Poland. Lemkin fled Poland, escaping across the Soviet Union and eventually arriving in the United States.
1941: A Crime Without A Name
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. As the German forces advanced further east, SS, police, and military personnel carried out atrocities that moved British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to state in August 1941: “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” In December 1941, the United States entered World War II on the side of the Allied forces. Lemkin, who arrived in the United States as a refugee in 1941, had heard of Churchill’s speech and later claimed that his introduction of the word “genocide” was in part a response to Churchill’s statement.
1944: “Genocide” coined (Ethnic Cleansing – Jewish)
Nazi leadership embarked on a variety of population policies aimed at restructuring the ethnic composition of Europe by force, using mass murder as a tool. Included among these policies and involving mass murder were the attempt to murder all European Jews, which we now refer to as the Holocaust, the attempt to murder most of the Gypsy (Roma) population of Europe, and the attempt to physically liquidate the leadership classes of Poland and the former Soviet Union. Also included in these policies were numerous smaller scale resettlement policies involving the use of brutal force and murder that we now refer to as a form of ethnic cleansing. In 1944, Raphael Lemkin, who had moved to Washington, DC, and worked with the US War Department, coined the word “genocide” in his text Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. This text documented patterns of destruction and occupation throughout Nazi-held territories.
1945-1946: International Military Tribunal (Europe)
Between November 20, 1945, and October 1, 1946, the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg tried 22 major Nazi German leaders on charges of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and conspiracy to commit each of these crimes. It was the first time that international tribunals were used as a post-war mechanism for bringing national leaders to justice. The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term.
1947-1948: Creating An International Convention On Genocide (United Nations)
Raphael Lemkin was a critical force for bringing “genocide” before the nascent United Nations, where delegates from around the world debated the terms of an international law on genocide. On December 9, 1948, the final text was adopted unanimously. The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide entered into force on January 12, 1951, after more than 20 countries from around the world ratified it.
1950-1987: Cold war (Europe)
Massive crimes against civilian populations were all too common in the years after World War II and throughout the Cold War. Whether these situations constituted “genocide” was scarcely considered by the countries that had undertaken to prevent and punish that crime by joining the Genocide Convention.
1970s-Present: Palestine and Israel (War Crimes)
1988: US signs the Genocide Convention (United Nations)
On November 4, 1988, US President Ronald Reagan signed the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. The Convention had strong supporters, but also faced ardent opponents, who argued it would infringe on US national sovereignty. One of the Convention’s strongest advocates, Senator William Proxmire from Wisconsin delivered over 3,000 speeches advocating the Convention in Congress from 1968-1987.
1991-1995: Wars of The Former Yugoslavia (Serbs, Croats, Bolshevik – Eastern Europe)
The wars of the former Yugoslavia were marked by massive war crimes and crimes against humanity. The conflict in Bosnia (1992-1995) brought some of the harshest fighting and worst massacres to Europe since World War II. In one small town, Srebrenica, as many as 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were murdered by Serbian forces.
1993: Resolution 827 (Bosnian Muslims – Bosnia Herzegovina)
In response to the atrocities occurring in Bosnia, the United Nations Security Council issued resolution 827, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. It was the first international criminal tribunal since Nuremberg. Crimes the ICTY can prosecute and try are: grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, violations of the laws or customs of war, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Its jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
1994: Genocide in Rwanda (Tutsi Tribe – Africa)
From April until mid-July, at least 500,000 civilians, mostly from the Tutsi minority group, were killed in Rwanda. It was killing on a devastating scale, scope, and speed. In October, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the ICTY to include a separate but linked tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
1998: First Conviction for Genocide (International Criminal Tribunal)
On September 2, 1998, the ICTR issued the world’s first conviction for genocide in an international tribunal when Jean-Paul Akayesuwas judged guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for acts he engaged in and oversaw as mayor of the Rwandan town of Taba. Through an international treaty ratified on July 17, 1998, the International Criminal Court was permanently established to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The treaty reconfirmed the definition of genocide found in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It also expanded the definition of crimes against humanity and prohibits these crimes during times of war or peace. While the ICTY and ICTR and the emerging International Criminal Court have helped establish legal precedents and can investigate crimes within their jurisdictions, punishment of genocide remains a difficult task. Even more difficult is the continuing challenge to prevent genocide.
2001-2011: United States and Iraq (Political Conflicts)
2004: Genocide in Darfur (Sudan Muslims – Africa)
For the first time in US government history, an ongoing crisis was referred to as a “genocide.” On September 9, 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “We concluded–I concluded–that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility–and that genocide may still be occurring.”