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 1904–1905; 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 (1925–1927) 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 Turks—led 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.

In 1996 Rwandan Hutu refugees return home after having fled to Tanzania in 1994 fearing the retribution for a Hutuplanned genocide of the minority Tutsis. The Rwandan genocide stands as an event that could have been prevented had there been a will by the United Nations and other great powers to intervene. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
In 1996 Rwandan Hutu refugees return home after having fled to Tanzania in 1994 fearing the retribution for a Hutuplanned genocide of the minority Tutsis. The Rwandan genocide stands as an event that could have been prevented had there been a will by the United Nations and other great powers to intervene.

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 (1928–1933). 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 (1921–1927), 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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Conquest, Robert. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Dadrian, Vahakn. Warrant for Genocide: Key Elements of the Turko-Armenian Conflict. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1999.

Dadrian, Vahakn. German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide. Cambridge, MA: Blue Crane Books, 1996.

Dadrian, Vahakn. The History of the Armenian Genocide. Providence, RI: Berghan Books, 1995.

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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.

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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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