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Modern Genocides

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Eric Colantonio

GFCL Genocide

Dr. Hubbard

12/3/13

Modern Genocides

        Even with certain global justice outlets, such as the UN, Genocides still plague the modern world. Perhaps two of the worst took place under Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia (1975-1979) and the Nazi Party rule in Germany (1933-1945). In both cases, the ruling party killed millions of people were killed or displaced. Writer of Blood and Soil, and leading expert on genocides, Ben Kiernan defines genocide as, “acts committed with the attempts to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, ethnical, or religious group.” In the pre modern world genocides were mainly associated with the victor of a war committing genocide on the losing community such as British Colonists burning down a Pequot village, killing several thousand people. However modern day genocide, such as the ones that took place in Cambodia and Nazi Occupied Land require a lot more complex tactics and propaganda to convince people to kill people they have lived and grown up with because of ethnic, education, religious or racial reasons. Although the genocides in Cambodia and Germany varied in many ways, they still held some shocking similarities.

        To understand the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, one must first look back in time to understand the origins of anti-Semitism and German Culture. Anti-Semitism has strong roots in European culture but some of the main influences on Hitler and Nazi culture came from the teachings Nietzsche, Goethe, Martin Luther and many others. Although Hitler was not religious, he was greatly influenced by the works of Marten Luther. After Luther led the separatist movement, he invited the Jewish community to form a new religion. When the Jewish community refused, Luther ripped the Jewish people apart in his writing, Jews and their lies. Luther published, “If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words, ‘I baptize thee in the name of Abraham.’” Luther had wide spread respect and influence in Northern Europe so his ideas of anti-Semitism spread rapidly. In addition to Luther’s writing, Hitler and the Nazi’s were also influenced by the works of Goethe and Nietzsche. Goethe wrote about how Jewish people sold their soul to the devil and sold out Christ. Nietzsche wrote in his book, Ubermensch of a superior race, which of course German people have interpreted as their own. All of these late 19th century and early 20th writings influenced the holocaust.

In addition to the literature of the time, leading Nazi’s took influence and obtained ideas of destiny on three prime examples from the ancient world. The first, however largely built on a myth was the idea that Germanic People were dependents of Trojans after the Fall of Troy. The idea stems from Roman historian, Tacitus in his work Germania. “like the descendants of Aeneas, refugees from the fall of Troy.”(419) Nazi’s paraphrased a story written almost 2,000 years before their time to reassure their superiority. The second influence of German superiority was the idea that Germans and Romans both have the same common ancestors. This idea was brought to the public eye in 1930 in the writings of Richard Walther Darre. “’The patrician families of Old Rome were Indo-Germanic” derived from “the same racial substratum” and thus “we cannot find any differences between Old Roman and Germanic concept of the relation of family and soil”’ (420). Many Nazi beliefs are rooted in the idea that Germanic people were the decedents of hard working land owners in Gaul and northern Europe, in the Roman Empire. At the same time, Germans were told that the superior class in the Roman Empire, Patricians were Indo-Germanic people. The third idea that influenced Nazi ideology was the idea of racial superiority in Sparta. “This, however was the result of systematic racial preservation, so we see in the Spartan state the first racialist state” (420). Hitler, as well as many other Nazi thinkers believe that Sparta was a superior state because of its racial preservation and purity. All three of these ideas were ideas used by the Nazi Party to get people to buy into the party’s ideas.

Finally, Germany was a country of great national pride and was still stressed out over the fact that they lost WW1. Germany had unified in 1871 and caught up to the rest of Europe technologically, educational and militarily by the 1910’s. From the early 1900’s to the end of World War Two Germany has prided themselves on being a military power so after the war, Hitler and many other World War One veterans were disgruntled. The new German government, Weimer Republic was headed by Jewish people which also tipped off many Germans. The Nazi party grew in popularity during the great depression when people lost everything and fell back on the Nazi Parties radicle ideas. The Nazi Party coming into power along with the rise of Hitler set the ground work for more than a decade of unjust intolerance…

Cambodia, on the other hand has a different story. During the 1950s, under French Colonization, many guerilla groups formed with the aim of gaining independence. When the French left Cambodia a few years later, they ceded ruler ship to Prince Sihanouk. After some shady actions by the Prince, including allowing the US to bomb the Vietnam side of Cambodia, Saloth Sar (Pol Pot) joined the Cambodian Communist Party. Within the party, Saloth Sar formed the Khmer Rouge movement that would eventually launch a guerilla war against Sihanouk. After the United States officially pulled out of Southeast Asia, Pol Pot’s army seized the capital city.  After the Khmer Rouge takeover, “the DK regime thus perpetrated genocide against Cambodia’s ethnic Vietnamese population” as we as “forbade the use of minority and foreign languages, repressed Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, and directed a fierce extermination campaign against the ethnic Cham Muslim minority, one third of whom, over 90,000 people perished” (549). In addition, the regime killed educated people, people who looked like an ethnic minority but really were not, and worked thousands more to death. Pot’s main goal was to create a pure blooded, utopian society but as history has taught us, the search for utopia always results in dystopia.

        The Cambodian Genocide and the Nazi Germany holocaust have some aspect that are strikingly similar. In both cases, the leading party sought to ethnically clean the population. In both cases the leading party used a cult of antiquity, or return the country to its former glory to justify genocide. It is also important to note that in both cases, the US did not intervene until it was too late, if at all. One of the aspects common in most genocides is often referred to as a “cult of antiquity” or a movement towards traditional ways. According to many German writers of the time, including former of Reich Minister of Food, Richard Darre, cities were “un-Germanic”. “the Germanic people made their settlements outside of cities… and lived on the land, following the laws” (430). According to many Germanic thinkers of the era, tradition Germans lived farm life styles in harmony and peace, and anybody who tries to intrude on that lifestyle should be killed. Likewise, in the Khmer regime, the belief that rural lifestyle was vastly superior to urban lifestyle came to rise. Kiernan writes, “they maintained an ideological fever for rural life that Maoist egalitarianism and Cultural Revolution only reinforced” (545). In Cambodia, the regime led by Pol Pot believed that most people had a duty to serve their country on the farms and labor camps. In both countries, a Cult of Antiquity was used to justify the genocides that took place within their nations.

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