Genocide 101

What is Genocide?

In order to become a successful advocate against genocide, one must have a concrete understanding of what the crime of “genocide” is. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer, first coined the term in 1944 when discussing the systematic destruction of minority groups under the Nazis. This mass killing, known as the Holocaust, claimed around 12 million lives from 1933 until 1945 and is one of the most widely known genocides. However, the Holocaust is far from being the first or last genocide in human history. While the exact number of genocides occurring before the Holocaust is unknown, there are accounts of mass killing campaigns in nations such as Australia, Haiti, and the Philippines occurring in the 19th and early 20th centuries and which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. After the Holocaust, there have been between 13 and 28 genocides, occurring all over the globe, that have claimed an estimated 18 million lives.

Genocide 102

The Eight Stages of Genocide

In addition to understanding the characteristics of genocide, another important educational component is the identification of the various stages of genocide. In 1996, Gregory Stanton, then president of Genocide Watch, presented a paper to the U.S. State Department called The 8 Stages of Genocide. Using the Rwandan Genocide as its primary model, it outlines eight distinctive stages that occur before, during, and after a genocide. Preventive measures are included within each stage so that activists and the international community may learn ways in which to help prevent genocides before they occur. Stanton ultimately expanded his list, which now includes two additional stages.

Genocide 103

Tools of Genocide

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) explicitly outlines five clauses that constitute the crime of genocide: killing members of the group, causing serious physical or psychological harm to the group, deliberately inflicting conditions of life that cannot be survived, imposing measures to prevent births and the forcible transfer of children. This broad definition means that there are a number of different instruments of genocide and ways to perpetrate it. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the crime of genocide is not limited to mass killing. This section will address some of the instruments or tools used by perpetrators to commit acts of genocide and although it is not an exhaustive list it outlines some of the main tools or instruments of genocide.