Term Paper: Compare the Holocaust to Two Other State Sponsored Persecution of a Group of People

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Genocide

Despite the fact that humans have been violently killing off humans since the beginning of civilization, the word "genocide," which encompasses that of "holocaust," did not exist before 1944. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish attorney, who wanted to describe the Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews, combined geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with -cide, from the Latin word for killing. Lemkin saw it as "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." On December 9, 1948, following the end of World War II and the horrors of the holocaust, the United Nations established the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and "genocide" as an international crime, which signatory nations "undertake to prevent and punish." It defined the word as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Despite the fact that numerous cases of group-targeted violence have occurred throughout history and even since the convention was established, the legal and international creation of the term is based on historical periods following 1944. When the word should be used continues to be debated. There are those who feel that the Holocaust is the standard for genocide and no other event can compare, regardless how heinous. On the other hand, many agree that the Soviet Union's murder of millions of Ukrainians and what has been taking place in Darfur since 2003 definitely fall within this definition. Regardless of what is or is not genocide, it does not appear that the world is any closer to being able to stop such atrocities than they have been in the past.

After Stalin had accomplished his atrocities against the Ukraine, "a quarter of the rural population, men, women, and children, lay dead or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no strength to bury their families or neighbors" (Conquest cited in Williamson, 2005: 125), as nearby, well-nourished squads of police or party officials stood by and watched them die. Such circumstances surely bring to mind the mass killing instigated by the Nazi regime. As Courtois (1977: 9) wrote in the Black Book of Communism, "the genocide of a class may well be tantamount to the genocide of a race." Surely, he argued, the death of the Ukrainian kulak women and children, who the Stalin regime purposely sacrificed "is equal to" the death of a Jewish child in the Warsaw Ghetto, dying from the Nazi instigated starvation. Yet, there are those who disagree, such as Conquest (Hollander, 2008: 39), who believe that the Holocaust was the worst case of genocide in modern times, because of the apocalyptic nature of the Nazi "racial utopia," and the total helplessness of the Jews in the face of the attack on their true existence as a people, the sheer amount of the murders, and the "industrial nightmare" of the extermination camps' gas chambers and ovens.

Similarly, Evans attests, "There was no Soviet Treblinka, built to murder people on their arrival" (Kiernan, 2008: 486). Other scholars call Stalin's crimes in different wording, such as a "classicide," "democide," or "politicide," because unlike the Holocaust they were not ethnic, national and religion based, although they constituted mass murder. Others argue that Stalin's murderous deportation of the "punished peoples" during the war, which was part of his instrument of mass killing, definitely can be classified as genocide. They question why should the term genocide only include the attempted or eventual decimation of national, ethnic and religious groups, but not those of a social, political or economic nature? Does it make any difference to the end results and the millions of lives lost? Considering the word genocide in this broader context, the Soviet Union's "Great Terror" can be deemed an accurate term for such horrors against humanity.

Between August of 1937 and November of 1938, 700,000 people died, or an average of 1,500 a day in what Conquest called the "Great Terror" (Kiernan, 2008). Between the years of 1932 and 1933, about 7 and 8 million people died of famine and its related side effects, 4 million in the Ukraine, which at one time was one of Europe's richest grain harvesting regions. Another million died outside of the Ukraine, particularly in Northern Kuban. This eradication was due to a combination of economic, political and ethnic factors, including the Bolsheviks' resolve to quickly modernize the nation and destroy the strength of the kulaks, the affluent peasantry leadership. In November of 1927, Stalin ordered an attack on collective farmers and collective farms, which continued to resist changes. Then, beginning in 1928, Stalin and others supporting his cause started a planned operation to force industrialization on the Soviet Union and destroy any economic backwardness.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Ukrainians continued to support its traditional independent, individualistic farming method of private ownership of land. The arrival of the new Russian communal and collectivistic spirit was entirely different to them, so they fiercely defied the Moscow leadership and the desire to bring a new industrialization to the Soviet Union. One way the Ukrainian farmers demonstrated their opposition to collectivization was by slaughtering their livestock. In due time, such actions of defiance resulted in the death penalty for the Ukrainian farmers.

The Soviet nation state took control of the grain harvest and attacked the kulaks to purposely remove this upper class of the peasantry from the countryside. This attack impeded grain deliveries and began to forcefully keep food from the peasants. All seed grain was to be turned over to the authorities. Widespread grain shortages resulted in severe hunger and desperation. This largest wheat growing area, becoming bereft of food supplies, began slaughtering their animals not for political reasons as was previously done, but instead for food to stay alive.

On February 19, 1933, Stalin went even further by stipulating that those who did not work deserved to starve. Further, the borders between Russia and the Ukraine were sealed when thousands of Ukrainians were searching for food. Stalin said that they "fled across the entire European regions of the U.S.S.R. And are demoralizing our collective farms with their complaints and whimpering" (Hollander, 2008: 44). The Ukrainian peasants were not allowed in the cities where some food was still available. The Soviet Union also turned down other countries that offered to provide food to the Ukraine, and there was a complete ignoring of human suffering. Stalin said it was unnecessary and denied that there indeed was a widespread famine. In fact, the Soviet Union began to blame the Ukrainians for the famine.

This could clearly be seen as genocide, or Stalin's government wishing to eliminate a total class of people. The Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars and other "punished peoples" of this historical period were designated for elimination, if not physical, then as identifiable ethnic groups (ibid: 46). The kulaks were considered "bloodsuckers, spiders and vampires" (Weitz, 2003: 62). The socialist offensive that Stalin instituted in late 1928 was the implementation of violence against all types of opponents. The Great Terror's huge, state-enforced transformation of agriculture into industrialization reinforced what the Bolsheviks had been instituting earlier since the civil war. They were creating such havoc and confusion, that the nation state grew even more powerful, at the loss of millions of people. Overall, Stalin's actions exemplified some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, if not of all history through the Soviet Union's repression, oppression and eradication. To reach the goal of annihilation, it put all of its citizens into categories of class, nationality and politics with the goal of destroying those who did not conform to the overall plan. Hryshko (1983) sums up the statistics of 1932 and 1939 by use of comparison. When comparing the 32,680,700 persons living in Ukraine in 1932 with the number of 30,960,200 in 1939, taking into account the normal 2.36% annual population increase, in seven years Ukraine had lost 7,465,000 persons. According to Hyrshko (1983), of this total number, some 4,821,600 people, or close to 19% of the Ukrainian population, died in the years 1932 to 1933.

Finally, only a few years ago on November 28, 2006, or the Parliament of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada, passed a law defining the Holodomor, or "murder by hunger," as a deliberate Act of Genocide. In the few years since then, numerous other countries, such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Estonia, Ecuador, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Poland and the United States have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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