The Causes of Genocide Essay Example

The three main causes of genocide are economic depression, dehumanization and propaganda. An example of genocide at its core is the Holocaust, where citizens willingly joined Hitler in his expedition to eliminate the Jews during a time of economic depression. Jews were being dehumanized and weren’t deemed worthy enough to live in this world, justified by Hitler and the Nazis.They enforced and encouraged these policies through means of widespread propaganda, reaching all of Germany by the end of 1933. Genocide quite literally means “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group” (Merriam Webster). Genocide has been simplified to killing people in a mass amount, but there are many psychological aspects that are behind the justification and implementation of genocide. 

The first cause of genocide is economic depression, and how lack of resources, and suitable living conditions justified the destruction of groups of people. The Soviet Union committed genocide on the Ukrainian people. They used them in order to feed Russia, and it was called the “Russification” of Ukraine. The “Soviet 5-Year plans” were set in stone in order to force rapid industrialization, and the goal was to be able to feed the citizens of Russia.“The state imposed huge quotas for wheat which were especially severe in Ukraine. “Any opposition to collectivization was met by brutal force. Secret police and Red Army units were sent to villages to collect every last bit of grain by force”  This meant the Soviets were willing to industrialize by any means necessary, and would take food forcefully, in order to feed Russian cities. This was significant to genocide, because it was a cause of many deaths, in a short amount of time, towards a specific group of people (Ukrainians). Another example of economic depression, and it’s connection to genocide, was pre Holocaust Germany. From 1929, to the early 30’s, Germany was in a state of great depression, where unemployment was at an all time high of 6 million. Hitler and the Nazis used this large decline in economy, as a path to nationalistic support, and eventually full blown tyranny. 

The next cause is dehumanization, which is the deprivation of a person or group, of human like qualities. The clearest example of dehumanization was the Holocaust. 17 million people were dehumanized based on the idea that Jews should be treated as quite literally nothing, slaves at most. The idea of the “Germanic race” was that the Aryan race was superior to all others, and that anyone who contests against this must die. This was promoted through propaganda by Hitler, in order to convince the Germans that he had a stable plan to get them out of the great depression, by dehumanizing and exterminating the Jews. An example of Hitler’s motives is described here, “When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they established a Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Joseph Goebbels. The aim of this “black propaganda” machine was to spread throughout Germany enmity against the Jews and other minority groups that were targeted, the “undesirables,” as they were coined.”(Jerusalem Post 18)

The Nazis population, and many others referred to the Jews as “rats”, and as metaphorically “subhuman” meaning they were literally subhuman, and lacked the traits to be deemed worthy one. Because of this idea, it was easy for people to accept the fact that 17 million people were killed because they weren’t seen as human. The widespread propaganda justified the dehumanization that was committed, which ultimately lead to the Holocaust. Another small example to add was the dehumanization displayed in the Rwandan genocide, where humans were reduced to cockroaches, which display no human like qualities, and is known as a pest who needs to be exterminated by any means necessary. “Tutsis were now called inyenzi (cockroach). The term became ingrained in the public sphere as almost every single Kangura edition, hate radio RTLM and outspoken politicians claiming to defend Hutu power referred to human beings as cockroaches” (The New Times Rwanda). Referring to Tutsis as cockroaches was used as a powerful breakthrough to gain power, as it instilled an idea that the Tutsis must be removed from the Rwandan population. Using a nation wide radio for propaganda, the Hutus further advanced their motives through mind control techniques, to persuade the people to think of the Tutsis in a negative light.

As propaganda was heavily used in creating an atmosphere for the Rwandan genocide, propaganda was also used to further perpetuate the start of genocides throughout history. A strong example of widespread propaganda is the Cambodian genocide. The Cambodian people were victimized, specifically through study, because the Cambodian government limited what people could learn regardless of social status. What people learned was controlled by the government, and the Cambodian people were kept from the truth, due to the fact that they weren’t educated enough to be conscious of what was happening to them. The clean slate argument was apart of Cambodian rule, as described here: “In order for the Party to pursue its ideological objectives of first first ‘wiping the slate clean’ and then ‘writing on the slate’, it had to maintain control over the population both physically and mentally” (Yale Cambodia).

The Cambodian government instilled their own ideas in the people's minds, so they weren’t able to make their own decisions. This allowed for prolonged control in the central government of Cambodia, because it was like the people didn’t have a mind of their own, and it was as if they didn’t know any better than to side with Cambodia. The reason this is so significant is because if you are able to control someone's motives and ideals, it is easy for them to be dehumanized because they don’t have a mind of their own to back themselves up. The Cambodian people didn’t know right from wrong, they only knew Cambodia. This connects to genocide, because prolonged control allowed the Cambodian government to kill more people, due to the fact that they were in control as long as they were. 

What ties economic depression, propaganda, and dehumanization together is quite obviously genocide. Economic depression allowed corrupt leaders to take control, propaganda promoted those corrupt ideas, and dehumanization allowed for a deflated sense of self worth among the population affected. Deflated self worth reduced confidence, and lowered the chances of people rebelling, because that would just enforce the negative ideas. An example would be that Tutsis were labeled as cockroaches, and if the Tutsis fought back, they would enforce that very idea, which would only justify the propaganda further.  What made each of these so powerful was how cohesively they worked together to lead to genocide, and if one cause failed, another would rise again and prevail, just as relevant as the last. The three main causes of genocide are economic depression, dehumanization and propaganda, and that's why.



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