10 of the Most Heinous and Heartbreaking Genocides in History
10 of the Most Heinous and Heartbreaking Genocides in History

10 of the Most Heinous and Heartbreaking Genocides in History

Peter Baxter - February 13, 2018

The Holocaust

No one need ever be reminded that the greatest and least disputed incidence of genocide in modern history was the systematic exterminations of Europe’s Jews by the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. However, the Holocaust, although predominately targeting Jews, was also an expression of Nazi aversion to any group or individual not conforming to a narrow definition of Aryan purity. Such groups as Slavs, blacks, Roma, various Soviets, prisoners of war of different shades, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents were all treated much the same.

The mechanics of the Holocaust are now so universally understood that nothing can be added here. Perhaps, instead of asking how, the question why might be better suited to this format. The Cambodian Genocide was ideological, but it was also random and inexplicable, and in the end, its ideological basis dissolved in undiluted murder. The Nazi extermination of the Jews, on the other hand, was strictly ideological and remained so until its conclusion.

The Israeli historian and scholar Yehuda Bauer, in probably the most frequent declaration on why it happened, proclaimed that the Holocaust was ‘… rooted in an illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest. No genocide to date had been based so completely on myths, on hallucinations, on abstract, nonpragmatic ideology which was then executed by very rational, pragmatic means.’

In other words, a ridiculous idea with no basis in rational thought was undertaken and executed with brilliant and systematic precision. Vaguely the idea was to purify the races under German control, and create thus a race-worthy of European domination. Why the Jews were targeted in particular conforms to an age-old strategy of isolating a conspicuously wealthy subculture, and placing upon it the blame for every ailment and every woe afflicting an ethnically dominant population.

It must be remembered that the rise of Nazi Germany can be attributed to the terms of the peace imposed on imperial Germany in the aftermath of WWI. The economic suffering of the German people that followed, and the rise of nationalism that this set in motion, created ideal circumstances for a merchant and banking class to attract the attention of a disposed population. Hitler harnessed this anger and dissatisfaction and directed it at the Jews. He was thus able to interweave his own warped ideology with the mood of a nation. Needless to say, not all Germans subscribed to his vision, but enough did to render it practical, and, as the old saying goes: ‘Bad things happen when good people do nothing.


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