Background of the Rwandan Genocide
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was caused by the civil war and the economic crisis that was a basis for the population’s growth as well as its battle for power in its own country. The end of the 1980s, when the economy of the country faced an economic free-fall, was the prelude to genocide. With food shortages caused by poor harvests, high density of population, hunger, and the rise of corruption within the elite sphere, the country was on the verge of genocide.
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Furthermore, the politics of the Rwandan president Habyarimana were not accepted despite the fact that there was no freedom of speech in the country. The country’s political structure had also been influenced by the French government that pressured the president of Rwanda to create a multi-party system of organization (Haperen 102).
By the year of 1990, approximately a million citizens from the Tutsi population were exiled and ignored by the government. Thus, an emancipation movement was created in order to overcome the regime of President Habyarimana as well as to return the exiled Tutsis to the country. The proponents of the emancipation movement called the Rwandan Patriotic Front returned to the country in the fall 1990 to live within the population of Tutsi.
In 1992 the militants from the Rwandan Patriotic Front occupied the northern parts of Rwanda, attacking the Tutsi population that was scared of the attacks from both governmental and Patriotic Front armies. The governmental army killed hundreds of Tutsis without being punished for it. In 1992, the Rwandan army that was backed up by the French supporters halted the Rwandan Patriotic Front militants. During this time, the region of Central Africa had been experiencing social instability.
With the deep concerns from the United Nations, President Habyarimana was encouraged to begin negotiations with the Patriotic Front leaders to solve the issue. This was the time when the president was forced into a complicated position in which he was expected to make his political behavior moderate. However, his domestic affairs and rhetoric became extreme (Haperen 102).
Hate Campaigns and Propaganda
President Habyarimana encouraged the campaign of propaganda that was targeted at separating the Hutu population from the Tutsi population. The Tutsi population was a primary target of the hate campaign in which it was criminalized. The criminalization method of propaganda was already tested by Hitler and Lenin. Furthermore, the most influential Rwandan newspaper called Kangura or Wake Up published the ten commandments of Hutu that represented a set of strict guidelines on how to contact the Tutsi population.
With the ten commandments, the government perpetuated an image of the Tutsi as being the enemies of the Hutu population. Furthermore, governmental propaganda had brought together images of injustice, war, cruelty, and oppression.
The Role of Radio
However, the illiteracy of the population had prevented a broad spreading of the newspaper, so the government used radio as another tool of propaganda. The only radio station that existed until 1992 broadcasted the presidential announcements, addresses, as well as explained the bulletins of propaganda. On the other hand, the Rwandan Patriotic Front created its own station that gained major popularity among the Rwandan population.
To respond, the government created another station called Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines which drew the audience with the help of the widely popular musician Simon Bikindi as well as other personalities that came from the presidential elite. In addition, governmental propaganda also largely influenced the intelligent population that was exposed to the government-funded lectures (Haperen 106).
The Role of the Church
With the arrival of the Belgians to Rwanda, the Catholic Church had played the role of the state church. The Hamitic ideology of the superiority of the white population over the ‘inferior peoples’ was predominantly influenced by the white Catholic priests who were able to endorse their racist views to Rwandan children they taught. With support from the Belgians, the Catholic priests were able to institutionalize the ethnic identities of the Rwandan populations in order to influence the political relations within the country.
The proposition that the polarization of society with the use of ethnic stereotypes would further become a crucial component of the public life of Rwanda. Combined with the other factors that already existed within the Rwandan society, the ethnogenetic theories led to the devastating consequences (African Union 12).
Genocide is defined as “a form of one-sided mass killing in which the state or another authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are identified by the perpetrator” (Hintjens 246). However, some may have a view that genocide can be implemented as a form of self-defense within the timeline of civil war. Thus, the responsibility for the genocide should be put on trial for the war crime, not a crime of genocide.
However, very few view the 1994 killings in Rwanda as genocide at the very beginning of the actions. The government, led by the proponents of President Habyarimana, reserved for genocide as the only solution to the issues that existed in the Rwandan society. With the killings that started in the season of planting crops, the 1994 harvest resulted in being more than two times less than the 1993 harvest. Furthermore, by the middle of 1994, the majority of the Rwandan cattle were dead (Hintjens 258).
Kigali as the Primary Point
The killings of the Rwandan population started as a result of the president’s Habyariamana’ assassination. On April 6, 1994, as the presidential plane was approaching the town of Kigali, two missiles were fired into the airplane, hitting the tail and the wing of the missile. With the president dead, the Rwandan Prime Minister Sgathe Uwilingiyimana became the head of the country; however, her rule did not last long.
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Within a few hours after the president’s assassination, the military forces of Rwanda had marched through the town of Kigali, killing the Tutsi elite as well as the moderate Hutus that occupied influential positions. One of the first victims were the Prime Minister and her husband, the Minister of Labour, and the Minister of Agriculture. The streets of Kigali were captured by the armed Hutu population that forbidden anyone to escape the city as well as killed all moderate Hutus and the suspected Tutsis (Haperen 110).
Genocide in Rural Areas
The fact that the week after the Kigali killings the military forces began mass violence in rural areas demonstrated that the genocide was planned in advance. The above levels of power passed down orders to the prefects, then mayors and sub-prefects, and then to militants that made sure that the orders were implemented. In the majority of cases, the directors of hospitals and schools along with the local businesspeople were closely involved in the planning of murders. Contrast to the killings in Kigali, where the troops were armed with grenades and automatic rifles, the murders in rural areas were much bloodier because the murderers were not experienced enough and were killing with knives or machetes.
The genocide lasted approximately one hundred days, between 6th of April and June 1994. During that period, only a one-fourth of the Tutsi population was left alive. The estimated number of victims ranges between 1.3 million and 507 thousand people (Haperen 113).
International Intervention and Prevention
The inability of the international community to prevent the atrocious acts also contributed to the devastating results of the Rwandan population mass killings. Instead of the term genocide, the international community used the notion of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the first days of the mass murders. In the beginning, the most-known witness of the genocide, the UN General Romeo Dallaire, held an opinion that despite the murders being appalling, the army attacked the political opponents of the president’s regime. It took the officials under a week to understand that all Tutsi population was targeted (Haperen 115).
Sadly, the genocide in Rwanda could have been entirely prevented. Furthermore, even if the mass murders was allowed to start, the devastating results could have been mitigated in a significant way. The military forces from the international community could become peacemakers between the population and violent militants, enforcing an agreement to make peace (Thompson 26).
Furthermore, the United States could also become a major player in the process of genocide prevention. Despite the fact that the federal government knew about what was happening in Rwanda, it chose to ignore it. The domestic affairs were viewed as a priority over the helpless African population that suffered from mass murders (Thompson 26).
Jewish Genocide in Germany
Holocaust was one of the darkest times in the history of Germany under the rule of Adolf Hitler. It was a systematic murder and prosecution of the Jewish population by the regime of Nazis as well as its proponents. The Nazis believed that the German population was superior over other nations, especially the Jews who were viewed inferior and threats to the racial community of Germans (“Introduction to the Holocaust” 1).
The genocide of the Jewish population in Germany and later in Europe was caused by antisemitism that was perpetuated by a tradition of fear and hatred of Jews as social and cultural groups. Furthermore, the Christians deemed the Jews “Christ-killers” who should have been responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (“Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust” 111).
In 1933, the Jewish population made up less than one percent of the German population. This minority group was slowly assimilating with the dominant population. The Jews were prominent in poetry, writing, and artistry, more than a hundred thousand German Jews served in the military during the World War I. In addition, the Jewish minorities were well-integrated into the academic sphere by teaching at universities, occupied respectable positions in the public offices, and were awarded fourteen Nobel Prizes.
The first third of the twentieth century also popularized the practice of intermarriage; the Jews often converted to Christianity to raise their children in a faith that was dominant within the society. Thus, despite the fact that some Jews were still discriminated against, the majority of them integrated within the society and were confident about the future of their children. Jews also spoke German and saw Germany their homeland (“Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust” 114).
Nevertheless, their confidence was negatively influenced with the spreading of the Nazi ideologies and Hitler’s come to power as the German chancellor. Within Hitler’s framework of antisemitism as a central rationale of hatred towards the Jews, his proponents were able to justify their opinions and build the basis for their further actions against the Jewish minorities. Once Hitler came to power, he started encouraging the wave of anti-Jewish attitudes in order for the policies of isolation and murder to take place.
Despite the fact that nowadays Jewish genocide in Germany is viewed in the context of the World War II, it is important to remember that half of the Holocaust took place before the War’s beginning. Between the year when Hitler was elected as the counselor of Germany (1933) and the year when Germany invaded Poland (1939), the rule of the Nazi was trying to revolutionize Germany with its anti-Jewish ideology.
1933-1934 Nazi Revolution
Hitler’s first target were the Communists who were chosen very carefully since he was guaranteed to have allies against them. He arrested thousands of German Communists, tortured them and murdered. With these actions, the Communist power in Germany was significantly crippled.
Within the timeline of the Nazi Revolution, the German Jews had become another target. A combination of legislative rules and a tactic of intimidation was used to create the hostility attitude towards the Jews. Even Jewish children were abused and harassed in schools by their teachers as well as students. The activists started staging public campaigns of the humiliation of the Jews and those protecting them. The Protestant Church authorities also expelled pastors who were previously Judaist (Bergen 58). Intermarriage was banned under the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor which also redefined intimate relationship among individuals and deemed them crimes of ‘racial defilement.’
The reaction of the German public was mixed. While some Germans began exhibiting signs of violence against the Jewish minorities, others viewed interactions with the Jews as an honor. There was the third population that complained about the Nazi forced disrupting their lives without taking any other factors into account. Despite the boycotts organized by Nazi radical forces against the Jewish shop owners, many German citizens still continued to go to their favorite shops regardless of who their owners were.
1934-1939 German Jews Genocide
The passing of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 designated a blow in the history of the German Jews. Any child born within a Jewish or a German-Jewish family was not accepted as the German citizen, being viewed as an inferior and not worthy of the ‘title.’ The Aryan children, on the other hand, were accepted into various Nazi youth groups with 90% of children belonging to such groups by 1939. Hitler’s goal in focusing on the children was to “create a violently active, dominating, intrepid, and brutal youth” (qtd. in Bergen 2).
The establishment of concentration camps became a completely new level of violence against the Jewish minorities sponsored by the Nazi government. People of the Jewish descent were detained in camps against their will as well as against the legal norms of imprisonment that exist in a democratic society. However, the Nazi regime of Hitler destroyed all signs of democracy. The major camps were established in Oranienburg, Esterwegen, Dachau, and Luchenburg. In the concentration camps, prisoners were made to work on various construction projects, including the building and the expansion of the camps themselves.
Furthermore, concentration camps were the main sites where the Jewish minorities were systematically killed. In the majority of cases, the European Jews were not even registered as prisoners within the camps they were killed within a day of their arrival in the gas chambers.
Despite the fact that the majority of anti-Jewish attitudes were focused in the Nazi Germany, anti-Semitism was supported by mobs and parliamentary forces that also were guilty of murdering the Jews that escaped Germany to get away from the Holocaust. The pro-Nazi movement called the ‘Iron Guard’ in Romania and the ‘Iron Wolf’ in Lithuania killed thousands of Jews that lived in those countries.
The Western-European forces also showed support for the Nazis. For instance, the Vichy Premier, Pierre Laval, cooperated with the German government in the deportation of the Jews that fled Germany and sought shelter in France. Up to eighty thousand people were forced into the trains that took people to concentration camps where they were murdered. Furthermore, Pierre Laval also wanted to deport the Jewish children that were left in France because of the lack of space in the death trains (Anti-Defamation League 7).
Could the Holocaust Have Been Prevented
Denmark is a bright example of the way Jewish Genocide could have been prevented. The percentage of the Jewish population in Denmark was small, but the society decided that they would not put them in danger. The Danes hid Jews in their own families and changed their surnames, quietly smuggled them to safer places like Sweden. This means that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the German society decided to prevent it.
On the contrary, the society supported Hitler and his anti-Jewish propaganda, showing the government that there was no opposition to the mass murders and oppression of the Jewish minorities.
Furthermore, the modifications in the anti-immigration policies imposed by the United States could also prevent the genocide of the German Jews. The restrictions in the immigration policies concerning the Jewish refugees that were looking for shelter from the Nazi regime in the States. Within the policy, professionally-trained refugees were allowed in the country as a labor force while the others were not. In addition, such regulations were also influenced by the anti-Semitic ideologies that were also present in the U.S. State Department (McDermott 2).
Another prevailing opinion on stopping the Jewish Genocide is that no one could have prevented it apart from Adolf Hitler himself. The aftermath of the World War I left Germany defeated and in lacking the resources to rebuild the country. The Germans supported Hitler because of his promises to rebuild the country and guide it to prosperity. If Hitler had decided to focus on the prosperity of the country rather than on the destruction of its population, the Jewish genocide would not have taken place at all.
African Union. Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide. 2000. Web.
Anti-Defamation League. Overview of the Holocaust: 1933-1945. 2012. Web.
Bergen, Doris. The Holocaust: a Concise History, Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009. Print.
Haperen, Maria. The Rwandan Genocide. n.d. Web.
Hintjens, Helen. “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 37.2 (1999): 241-286. Print.
Introduction to the Holocaust. n.d. Web.
McDermott, Caroline. Should the United States Have Done More in Response to the Holocaust? n.d. Web.
Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust. n.d. Web.
Thompson, Allan. The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, Ann Arbor, MI: Fountain Publishers, 2007. Print.