David Beker Genocide Essay
1 Humans have committed crimes ever since the first laws were created, and some were obviously worse than others. Genocide is one of the worst crimes against humanity, but it only officially became a crime in 1948. It is the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic, religious, or racial group, and it has resulted in the deaths of thousands, or even millions of people. Over 100 million people were exterminated in genocides during the 20th century. The Holocaust and the Cambodian Genocide, which both took place during that time, share similarities between each other and were both very impactful instances of genocide.
2 Genocide officially became a crime during the Nuremberg Trials, when the International Military Tribunal tried top Nazi officials for “crimes against humanity,” which included persecution based on racial, religious or political grounds. After the Nuremberg trials revealed the horrible extent of Nazi crimes, the United Nations General Assembly made the crime of genocide punishable under international law. During World War 2, the Holocaust occurred, and that genocide was partially caused by Germany’s loss in the previous World War, causing Hitler to blame the Jews on Germany’s defeat and try to exterminate them. Another reason why Hitler wished to kill the Jews, was that he saw them as racially inferior in comparison to the Aryan race. While the Cambodian Genocide only took place after World War 2, it was likely influenced by the Holocaust.
3 The Holocaust is a very well-known genocide that took place in Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories from 1933 to 1945, resulting in the deaths of about 6 million Jews. It was started by Adolf Hitler, who viewed the Jews as an inferior race. By playing on the fears of the German citizens being outnumbered by inferior people and using an “us vs them” mentality, as well as using the Jews as a scapegoat for all of their problems, many German citizens were convinced that Jews were bad and must be eliminated. Despite the atrocities being committed, the international response to the Holocaust was slow, with many prominent analysts doubting the authenticity of reports made on the situation, and the United Nations focusing primarily on winning World War 2 rather than putting a stop to the genocide. But, after the war was over, the Nuremberg Trials were held, where prominent Nazis were tried and punished for their crimes.
4 There are 10 different stages of genocide, and they are all essential to defining what a genocide is. The first stage is called classification, and by using the aforementioned “Us versus them” mentality to differentiate the Jews from the Aryans, with the Aryans being the “Master Race” and the Jews being the “Inferior Race,” Hitler segregated the two, thereby classifying the Jews. The second stage, symbolization, involves identifying the differences between groups by naming them, or by using visual symbols to distinguish “us” and “them.” This included the use of the Nazi Swastika armbands that Nazis wore and yellow Stars of David that the Jews wore. This was meant to further separate Jews from Aryans in Germany. Stage three, discrimination, restricts a group’s rights, such as when Hitler enacted the Nuremberg Laws that removed German citizenship from Jews and prevented them from securing government or academic employment. Stage four, dehumanization, has the aggressors denying that the victim group is even human so that it becomes psychologically easier and politically acceptable to treat members of that group with cruelty. When using propaganda, the Nazi party often referred to Jews as vermin and rodents. Later on when the Jews were being systematically killed, they were stripped of their identities and assigned numbers. Stage five, organization, is about organizing and supporting the groups that conduct the genocidal massacres, such as when the German government organized its soldiers to massacre the Jews. Stage six, polarization, was when the divide between “us” and “them” wass increased, such as when the Nazis used more effective propaganda. Stage seven, preparation, was when the government began to plan for more extreme actions, such as the stockpiling of weapons, and further organizing the Jews. Stage eight, persecution, involved putting Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, and even building extermination camps. Stage nine, extermination, was the systematic killing of Jews in death camps, and was used as the “Final Solution” to the Nazi’s problems. It included the use of deadly gases, overwork, starvation, and medical experiments to exterminate the Jews. The final stage, denial, occurs both during and after the genocide, and was when evidence of the previous stages was hidden, denied, or simply destroyed to prevent future backlash. By blaming the genocide on things such as civil war and famine, and calling it “ethnic cleansing,” the Nazis attempted to avoid prosecution. The Holocaust affected many individuals and groups of people in various ways. The United Nations created the International Criminal Court to control crimes of such a scale as genocide, but the Holocaust devastated European Jewish communities and destroyed hundreds of Jewish communities completely. Also, many Jews became refugees after the Holocaust, and would not return to their home countries due to the anti-semitism prevalent in those countries, which resulted in the creation of the state of Israel by the United Nations. Furthermore, many Jews were affected by the Holocaust, with the loss of family members and friends as well as the many restrictions put on Jews previously with the Nuremberg laws.
5 The Cambodian Genocide, also known as the Khmer Rouge Genocide, took place in Cambodia from 1975-1979. About 2 million Cambodians were killed by overwork, disease, starvation, torture, and execution. This genocide was caused by the Khmer Rouge, who, led by dictator Pol Pot, sought to drive the people out of the cities and into the fields to create a communist utopia. One problem Khmer Rouge had was that there were many Cambodians who did not want to move to the fields, so the Cambodians ended up being forced by soldiers holding guns out of the city. Tens of thousands of Cambodians died during this mass exodus, and thousands more died in the fields. Also, intellectuals and other people who were educated were imprisoned or killed, because Khmer Rouge saw education as western influence, and they wanted to avoid that to maintain their communist utopia, where everyone is a simple farmer. But, the Khmer Rouge wasn’t the only thing killing Cambodians at the time. The Cambodians gained independence on the onset of the Vietnam War, and when North Vietnamese forces were massing in Eastern Cambodia, the U.S. started a bombing campaign. The bombs killed many Cambodians, and forced many more to flee to the Capital City, where they would then be forced into fields by the Khmer Rouge. The international response to this genocide was very minimal. Although many reports of the atrocities taking place were written, and more and more people believed them to be true, the U.S. government took little action. Gradually, the U.S. took a stronger stance against Khmer Rouge, but only with public statements, and didn’t actually take steps to stop the genocide or to help the victims.
6 The Khmer Rouge Genocide also followed the ten stages of genocide. For the first stage, classification, the citizens were separated into two different categories, the “new people” and the “old people.” The “old people” were the ones that lived in the rural regions and the “new people” were the ones that lived in the urban areas and were thought to be “tainted” by western views such as education. For the second stage, symbolization, people in the Eastern Zone of Cambodia were forced to wear a blue scarf and those who wore glasses were targeted as “new people,” because glasses were seen as a sign of education. Discrimination, the third stage, involved the maltreatment of people who were deemed intellectuals. Dehumanization, the fourth stage, was when civil and political rights were taken away and “new people” were viewed as viruses or diseases that threatened the well-being of the society. After that, the fifth stage, organization, was when education, economy, and anything foreign was banned or abolished. The sixth stage, polarization, introduced no-mercy policies through propaganda and slogans, such as “You can arrest someone by mistake; never release him by mistake” and “Better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake.” This would cause the deaths of even more people, as Cambodians were shot and killed for doing almost anything, such as smiling, crying, or even speaking a foreign language. The seventh stage, preparation, was when the people who lived in the city were moved to the fields. The eighth stage, persecution, had the educated people being imprisoned and tortured, and in the ninth stage, extermination, these people were killed on a massive scale to “cleanse” the society. During the final stage, denial, Pol Pot died before he could go to trial, and Khmer Rouge sealed off the country from the outside world. Like the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge genocide affected many people in several different ways. Thousands of Cambodians lost their family or their home, and each local community lost some of its members as well. Because Khmer Rouge sealed away Cambodia from the outside world, it took a while for other nations and the rest of the world to even find out about what was going on in Cambodia, let alone do something about it. Practically all of the Cambodians were displaced, leaving many refugees to be taken in by nearby nations.
7 Even though the Holocaust and the Cambodian Genocide took place in different settings, they both followed the ten stages of genocide, and destroyed the lives of millions of people. For both, the perpetrators believed that the deaths of many people is necessary to improve society, with the Nazis wanting to “cleanse” Germany of Jews, and Khmer Rouge wanting to create an agrarian utopia made up entirely of simple minded, uneducated farmers, while killing off those who are educated or foreign. Also, camps of some kind were incorporated into both of these genocides, and the destruction of a specific group was the goal for both the Nazis and Khmer Rouge. Based on my study, the international community’s responsibility concerning genocides should be to prevent genocides before they can start, to stop them from progressing into other stages, and to help the victims in a reasonable fashion. Not only that, but it is also important to educate citizens about genocides that have already occurred to help prevent history from repeating itself. And finally, when a government learns of a genocide taking place, it should act quickly put an end to that genocide, because both the Holocaust and the Cambodian Genocide could have been stopped earlier and fewer lives could’ve been lost if the United Nations had acted sooner.
8 All and all, genocide is a horrible crime, and it is mainly done by only a few powerful people manipulating many weaker people. It is often thought by the perpetrators that genocide is a necessary evil when seeking to better their society, as was the case with the dictator Pol Pot during the Cambodian Genocide, but the end does not justify the means. As stated in the last paragraph, genocide must be prevented, and it must be stopped, so that no more people have to suffer the loss of their entire community to people they once considered friends, like when the Nazis ruthlessly killed Jews during the Holocaust, even though many Nazis had been friends or neighbors with their victims before. Although each genocide is contextually different, they are all fundamentally the same, and can be prevented to save millions of lives. All we need to do now is to try to help others understand what genocide is and what causes it. By doing so, we can prevent any more genocides from happening again.