Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis

Discussion of GENOCIDE as a term

It is a point which often seems to elude discussion that the term "genocide" is not exactly an immutable and fixed referent, but is a legal term coined fairly recently in response to a very specific history. The decision whether or not a particular atrocity may be labeled "genocide" is often complicated, for example, by the fact that political murders of whatever scale do not consitute genocide. The reasons for this should be patently obvious, when one recalls that Stalin was in power at the end of World War II and at the time of the definition of the UN resolution. In my own opinion, however, a definition of genocide which excludes murders on the scale of the Stalinist purges or of, say, Mao's Cultural Revolution, is a pretty useless one. The definition of genocide is coded in other ways as well. Rape is not considered a genocidal act, although its intent is often more than an expression of violence, but a deliberate attempt to permanently defile its victims and render them unfit progenitors. (This approach obviously assumes that a raped woman _is_ thenceforth "unclean," a conception with which I most forcefully disagree, but what I think is much less important in this case than what the victimized think.)

Kaki Bernard kaki_bernard@facing.org

From: Franklin Littell <FHL@VM.TEMPLE.EDU>

The problem of reaching agreement seems tied to the fact that "genocide" is not yet a fixed term of reference. The fundamentalist Muslim govern- ment of northern Sudan has for ten years been campaigning to root out Christianity in the southern half of the country. c800,000 have died and large numbers of children have been kidnapped by the authorities and are sold as slaves in Khartum. Is this genocide?

If so, why are the inter-tribal and inter-clannish atrocities in "Bosnia," no where near as massive, condemned as "genocide" and allowed to become a serious threat to European/American international relations while both Europeans and Americans virtually ignore the crimes in Sudan?

Atrocious as the Third Reich oppression of the Poles was, like the Soviet oppression of subject peoples or like the oppression of subject peoples by the present Indonesian dictatorship, where is the evidence the Germans intended their murder rather than their enslavement? The Third Reich intention toward the Jews is indisputable: murder and the eradication of their culture and civilization.

Or are there degrees of genocide, as there are - in court - degrees of murder? - FHL

From: Aharon Meytahl <cd004928@pop3.interramp.com>

The intent of remembering the crimes of Germans against Poles and Russians is certainly commendable, in particular when "the 'courage of not knowing' is in fashion" - if I may use an expression of Miroslav Holub written in different context.

The suggestion as how to do it is not. History of Poland and of Soviet Union during Second World War is of paramount importance on its own ground and should be commemorated by its people and historians, after their own fashion. Such history should not be degraded to second class resident in history of others. It has its own justification and interest.

Again and again, various individuals and groups are complaining why the Jewish Holocaust does not encompass other atrocities, those of Armenians, Cambodians, of Rwanda and Biafra. Those events deserve better. They should be studied and researched, on their own merit, which does not derive its importance from the Holocaust.

Aharon Meytahl

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http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Holocaust/genocide-as-term.html - - - Last modified: Friday, 06-Aug-2004 09:19:17 EDT