WASHINTON, D.C. – In light of the recent International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the United Nations urges all “to honor the victims of the Nazi era” and generate awareness and education about genocide and it’s prevention. Genocide is “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves,” says the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the atrocities of such a crime have been haunting the world for generations. Although the Holocaust is often the most well-known, other genocides around the world are equally as horrific and significant. The worst occurrences of genocide in history – according to a variety of sources – are as follows:
6. Rwandan Massacre (1994) – Civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1990, a result of deep-seated ethnic conflict and corrupt political schemes. The sudden death of Rwandan President Habyarimana ignited the spark for the Hutu majority to lash out against the Tutsi minority. “Extremist Hutu groups,” states EndGeonocide.org, “killed between 800,000 and 1 million people across the country in only 100 days,” making it one of the highest-volume genocides in history.
5. Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) – Under the stalwart rule of Enver Pasha, between 1 and 1.8 million ethnic Armenians and other non-Turks were massacred, deported, or starved to death in the Ottoman Empire during and at the end of World War I. Turks have explained it as an attempt to rid the empire of any people who associated with the Russians. The mass extermination is considered the first large-scale, orchestrated genocide of the 20th century.
4. Khmer Rouge Killing Fields in Cambodia (1976-1980) – The Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government in 1976 under Pol Pot’s Communist Regime. Declaring a new era of a peasant-oriented society, the Khmer Rouge evacuated Cambodian cities and “forced these residents to labor without adequate food or rest.” Those who could not keep up with the demands were often executed. In these ‘killing fields,’ the Khmer Rouge killed between 1.7 and 2 million Cambodians.
3. The Holocaust (1939-1945) – The most well-known and meticulously documented genocide in history, the Holocaust was Adolph Hitler’s attempt to exterminate all “undesirables” from his Third Reich. The murderous effort spanned over 35 European countries throughout World War II. The Holocaust is responsible for the lives of more than six million Jews, Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, the physically disabled, and religious dissenters.
2. Stalin’s Communist Regime (1929-1953) – Though a lesser-known evil, the horror committed under Joseph Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union claimed between 23 and 50 million lives. Examples of Stalin’s murderous outbreaks include the Great Purge, which targeted political dissernters, and the Ukrainian Famine, a forcibly induced mass starvation that committed entire Ukrainian populations to a slow death.
1. Mao Zedong’s Regime (1949-1976) – Throughout his rule of Communist China, Mao Zedong terminated anywhere between 40 million and 70 million people, a number equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom. Mao’s atrocities came in two waves: “The Great Lead Forward” and the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” The “Leap” was Zedong’s agricultural development plan, which ended up starving more than 30 million farmers to death; the “Cultural Revolution” was a purge of “anti-government elements” and sent many to their death in prison camps.
Though never an uplifting topic of study, it is important to gain an awareness of the many occurrences of genocide throughout our history and learn how to further prevent this horrific crime. For more information, visit http://www.ushmm.org/confront-
– Mallory Thayer