Genocide (1943) is like homocide, but where homocide is the murder of one man (Latin, homo), genocide is the murder of a people (Latin, gens). Like what Hitler did to the Jews, what Americans did to the American Indians or what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.
When Hitler killed the Jews it was not against international law. In fact the word “genocide” was not even in the dictionary! The crime is ancient but our idea of it is a creation of the 1940s.
The word “genocide” was coined in 1943 by Raphael Lemkin. He had gone to the League of Nations ten years before to try to get it outlawed, but they turned him down – even though they knew that the Turks had killed over a million Armenians in the First World War.
It did not become a part of international law, the law between nations, till 1950, five years after the fall of Hitler, and America did not agree to it as a part of internatiounal law till 1988!
As a part of international law the word has a very particular meaning:
Genocide means any of the following acts committed to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- 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.
Killing soldiers is not genocide – that is just war. But killing women and children and old men – unarmed people – just to wipe them out because of their race, religion, country or culture – like Jews, Armenians and Tutsis – that is genocide.
Killing people in huge numbers to carry out a revolution or to put down a revolution does not count. So the 20 million killed under Stalin, the 20 million under Mao and the half million under Suharto do not count as genocide.
That is no accident: the word was invented by the winners of the Second World War, so Stalin had a hand in it.
Some genocides from 1800 to 1945:
- 1800s: Australia: aborigines: ?
- 1600-1900: America: American Indians: ?
- 1904-1908: Germany: 60,000 Hereros and 10,000 Nama in Namibia
- 1915-1917: Ottoman Empire: Armenians: 1.5 million
- 1933-1945: Germany and Eastern Europe: Jews, Gypsies and Slavs: 11 million
- 1937-1938: Japan: Chinese: 300,000 at Nanjing
- 1941-1945: Yugoslavia: Serbs: 650,000
All the genocides since 1945 that have killed at least 100,000 people:
- 1945-1974: Ethiopia: Oromo, Eritreans, Somali: 150,000
- 1947: India: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs: 100,000s
- 1961-2003: Iraq: Kurds, Shiites, Kuwaitis: 190,000
- 1962-2007: Burma: Shan, Karen: 100,000
- 1983-2005: Sudan: Nuer, Dinka, Christians, Nuba, etc: 1.9 million
- 1992-1995: Bosnia: Muslims: 200,000 – Srebrenica
- 1994: Rwanda: Tutsis: 800,000
- 1994-2000: Ethiopia: Oromo, etc: 100,000
- 2003-now: Sudan: Darfuris: 250,000
The eight stages of genocide:
- Classification: the division into “us and them”;
- Symbolization: applying symbols to the them to mark them out as pariahs, objects of hate;
- Dehumanization: seeing the pariahs as not truly human.
- Organization: training and arming;
- Polarization: silencing the voices in the middle that still stand up for the pariahs;
- Preparation: separating the pariahs from everyone else;
- Extermination: killing them;
- Denial: lying about it.