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The Worst Genocides in History

The Worst Genocides in History

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Genocide is one of the terrible and disgusting truths and realities of human history. As far back as humanity itself, there has been murder and hate of a those who were different. The motives for hate have always been varied, trivial, and based in a far away misconstrued truth. The effects have destroyed a great many lives and ambitions. The results of genocide are always a loss for the human race beyond the literal sense. We are forced to think of what could have been and who would have come through to carry humanity forward amongst the masses and millions upon millions of those lost. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, ripped and forever estranged from memories or hearts of those who lost them. For a child to never have met their parent, for a parent to have lost a child, for a generation to have been wiped out in name. The lives lost are gone forever, without a semblance of return and all to a cause as dastardly as the reasoning for a people’s removal in the first place. There is no warrant to an extermination of a people in entirety, but history shows time and again that humans are not well adhered to learn from mistakes. The following are ten striking examples of genocide within a not too distant history.

 

The Holocaust

The first is takes us to Germany, and is one of the most famous and well-instilled understandings of what a genocide is, and what it looks like. The first example is the Holocaust, or rather the extermination of the Jewish ethnicity and identity. At the rise of Germany’s power following its defeat in World War 1 with leader Adolf Hitler came his vision for Germany. Riddled with ideations of a unified race in Germany and a eugenics tirade that meant the exclusion of all non-whites and the explicit targeting of the Jewish, Hitler and his accomplices carried out the Holocaust. Initially, the Holocaust began with rounding up of Jewish people into communities or ghettos to remove them from the mainland of germany into areas where control and subsequent extermination would be facilitated. With growing appeal and prosperity, the German population grew complacent to the rules and ideations Hitler had propagated, and the Final Solution would come into place. Over six million jewish and polish people would be taken to concentration camps where they would work themselves to death, and then be disposed of in mass furnaces, gas chambers, or through mass executions. A truly horrid example of genocide of high caliber and complacency.

 

The Armenian Genocide

The Armenian genocide is a genocide that left very little evidence and is an example of a horrible genocide that took great amounts of planning and secrecy to deny accounabiltiy. The Ottoman government was in charge of removing and disposing of over one million Armenians during 1915-1918. The Ottoman empire had been far from the empire it used to be, especially around the turn of the nineteenth century. Being pressured and disheartened by losses of lands in Africa and around Europe and the middle east, they were faced with needing to address concerns and qualms the Armenian population faced. The Armenians were a Christian minority that faced misrepresentation but still contributed to the economy and general country. The Ottoman government however, was not ready or willing to share power and especially not representation to the Christian minority in the already shrinking Muslim empire. The government ordered massacres of the Armenians in the hundreds of thousands, but saw the most success in their evil plans through deportations. By relocating Armenians to the desert, and making them walk the way there, they found that many would die of exhaustion and illness. All the while, their involvement in World War 1 found them able to secretly rid themselves of Armenians in the fields under the pretense of war. The secrecy and disguises used to kill off over a million Armenians is a truly sinister genocide in its nature.

 

The Bosnian Genocide

The Bosnian Genocide resulted with the following of the disassembly of the USSR. Yugoslavia was home to many diverse ethnic groups and had lived rather peacefully during its time. Serbia took upon wars with the new countries seeking their independence. When Bosnia attempted to seek its own independence and secede, Serbia took upon war with Bosnia, to supposedly defend Christians living in the area. Serbia took to ethnically cleansing Bosnia of its Bosniaks, the musilm Bosnians. Bosniaks were taken to concentration camps, where the women and young girls would be gang-raped systematically, and the others would be tortured and murdered. At the United Nations discretion, Sarajevo would be declared a safe space. What ended up happening was the murder of 31,000 women, children, elderly, and “battle-aged men” in the city of Srebrenica. The betrayal of accords and treaties were not met with opposition by the United Nations, with it instead turning a blind eye to the mass slaughter. Only as recently as the late 90s and 2000s were those responsible finally being charged and dealt with. It is a truly horrific gencoide of recent times. The Bosnian Genocide serves as reminder that genocide is not a relic of the times of grandfathers and great grandfathers, but products of the time of many young men and women today.

 

The Anfal Genocide

The Anfal Genocide is another example of a genocide in recent history. Anfal is the arabic word denoting “The Spoils of War.” In context of the Quran, it is the eighth chapter in which it tells the tale of followers who pillage the lands of those who are non-believers. The term is believed to have been adopted for the extermination of the Kurds in Northern Iraq as means to religiously justify the atrocities and killings inflicted upon the Kurds. In less than a year, the Anfal was carried out in 1988 from February to September.  In action, the Anfal carried out came in the form of mass bombings and interrogations where subjects between the ages of fifteen and seventy were killed after providing information. They would drop chemical attacks, and then burn homes and places of gathering. Later they Anfal turned to relocating Kurds to army camps where men were separated from women and children, where the men would be executed in mass, and the women and children were executed in mass separately. Towards September, Saddam Hussein offered amnesty to the remaining kurds, but in effect, close to ninety percent had already been wiped out. The estimates for how many were murdered range greatly, with ranges being anywhere from 50,000 to 180,000. These populations were not the spoils of war, but rather the results of evil beliefs and horrible reasoning to exterminate an entire people for no real reason.

 

The Bangladesh Genocide

The Bangladesh Genocide occured in Pakistan, lasting from March of 1971 to December, 1971. It is a genocide that was poorly recorded and devastatingly brutal in it’s short months of terror and pain. Following the independence of India and Pakistan from British powers, the nations struggled when it came to picking up their former identities and setting up ruling for their new governments. Pakistan in particular was divided pretty heavily between east and west. The West had most of the wealth and resources, and the east was impoverished significantly. The east was heavily producing all the exports whose profits would end up in the pockets of the elite residing in the west. The political epicenter was also in the west, and tensions were steadily increasing when the elite wanted to make Urdu the official language despite only ten percent being fluent in it. After an election passed where the west would find itself losing its interests and stakeholders in the political world, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan declared martial law. Riots developed over East Pakistan and the military intervened and commenced Operation Searchlight, which was to murder and slaughter Bengali civillians. In effect, over 400,000 women were estimated to have been raped, and anywhere from 500,000 to 3 million bengalis were killed. The number is difficult to calculate as information of the events was sparse and mostly kept secretive from anyone realizing what had occurred. 

 

The Cambodian Genocide

Pol Pot is a familiar name to many Americans. During the Vietnam war, the United States was involved in a global strategy to slow and stop the spread of communism across the globe. This led to war in Vietnam, and as such, involvements with the neighboring Cambodia. Along with their tanks and soldiers, Americans brought many notions of westernism and ideas of capitalist philosophy to Cambodia. Being upset that Cambodia was being tainted, the western influences had to be eradicated. Communist group Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot ensured that they would eradicate forgein influence on those who had been tainted by it. So then began the targeting of those who were educated, from doctors to businessmen to lawyers and policemen. The citizens were rounded up and separated into camps ranging from those who were deemed most loyal and least loyal. Blatant defectors were sent to the infamous camp S-21 where they were worked to death or arbitrarily executed. The Cambodian Genocide killed over 1.7 million people. The numbers are astounding, there comes a point where numbers begin to lose value. The atrocities stack up and it is difficult to imagine what the horrors must have been like, and their sheer and utter evil. 

 

The Holodomor Genocide

The Holodomor Genocide was a manmade genocide and famine inflicted upon Ukrainians in 1932, lasting into 1933. Millions were Killed due to starvation in a grueling and disastrous genocide inflicted by Russia’s leader, Joseph Stalin. Beginning in 1929, Stalin’s Russian invasion had the goal of collectivising the land of Ukraine, where there was a lot of opposition to the advances. Seeing collectivisation as a return to serfdom, the Ukrainians opposed, which Stalin sought to remedy with a lesson in the form of mass killing through starvation. Many were forced into Siberia, where they would meet harsh fates. The others, no less harshly, were to work the fields and cultivate food, only for it to be confiscated and shipped away. There were demands for quotas which were impossible to meet, and roughly 28,000 died per day due to being overworked and severely undernourished. The death toll ranges from three million to eight million altogether. A truly severe and brutal tactic, Ukrainians were killed off by the millions in order to learn a lesson that would force them into control under the USSR.

 

The Maya Genocide

General Efrain Rios Montt is responsible, in a large part, for the extermination of the native Ixil Maya population in Guatemala. Having come into power in 1982, only a month later he ordered his “Scorched Earth” operation that targeted the native peoples, and destroyed and pillaged over 600 villages. The villages were separated by men and women and children and all were executed brutally. Rape was rampant and torture incredibly common. They were persecuted by helicopters and hunted like wild game. Over 200,000 were killed, or rather “disappeared,” and 1.5 million more were displaced from their lands, with 150,000 being driven out into Mexico.

 

The Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide took place only within the span of a hundred days. The targets were the ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate ethnic Hutu people. Hutu supremacists were largely responsible for the movement “Hutu Power” which resulted in the loss of over 800,000 to 1 million people, and 2 million more displaced in camps. The government, army, and civilians of Rwanda were all in favor and support of the movement and ethnic cleansing. With only roughly a population of seven million at the time, this genocide is an especially gruesome depletion and extermination of an ethnicity within a population. 

 

Mao Zedong: The Great Leap Forward

China has been attributed with the greatest loss of life and genocide in history. Earlier in the article it was mentioned how loss of life and its numbers begin to lose sense and relation because of how unfathomably large they are in scope and size. The Great Leap Forward is perhaps the single greatest event of systematic death to have occurred, if not certainly the largest in the 20th century. Over 45 million died during the Great Leap Forward. For a sense of perspective, 45 million are estimated to have died in all of the Second World War. During the great leap forward, human life was worthless and a mere cog in the machine of a plan for communist China. It is said that anything warranted death. A child stealing a potato would warrant the child being tied up and thrown into a pond as punishment, and of course, death being the result. Anything was allowed to happen to the constituents of China and everything did happen. People were raped, branded, beaten, tortured, executed, and overworked to death. Many parents had to bury their children alive, others were set on fire or had body parts cut off. The old were starved to death as they did not serve a working purpose to the greater goal. In a time where humans were literally the placeholder for machines, the result was an auto-annihilation of the chinese population on behalf of Mao Zedong. 

 

Genocide and What it Means for Humanity

 

Humanity loses many to illness murder, accidents, and disasters yearly. Genocide, however, is different. There is a particular pain that comes as a result of such targeted and unnecessary death, as though any death is ever welcome or warranted for a family member or loved one. What can be learned from these grave and severe mistakes that have been repeated too often in only the course of the last hundred years? Is there any hope or takeaway that can come close to making sense of the senseless? Genocide often comes with a loss of understanding, an incomprehension to the abhorrent and iredeemable, the horrors of humanity are plagued with tragedy and unresolved devastation. The greatest and immediate takeaway is that feeling when one first reads about such an atrocity. The revolting and repugnant in the stomach and frontal lobe that one feels when reading of these tragedies is the largest indication that there is something meaningful to take away immediately–the sense of despising the hate that led to those terrors. While for many generations the losses are never going to be restored, there is hope that with the more one learns, the more one can see when modern repetitions of old evils allow us to boldly oppose any sentiments of the extermination of those who are different. A reminder that life is not taken lightly, and that judgement is a burden, and its decisions are a reflection of humanity or lack thereof. 

 

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