In the entire history of mankind, there have been many incidents when millions of people died fighting for freedom, for honour, for glory, for a peaceful sky above their head. But unfortunately on the pages of history there are sheets that will always remain stained with blood, on which we will not be able to count the number of those who lost their lives, we will never know the names of all those who died because of someone’s cruelty, and we will never know the names of all who committed this bloodshed. The name of this terrible crime against humanity is genocide. In this paper, I am going to look again at the terrible events of the history of the Second World War, and try to understand what could push thousands of soldiers to such an unjustified crime. In this work, I’m going to give examples of the most brutal genocides manifested such as ‘Holocaust’ and ‘The Rape of Nanking’.
The Holocaust and genocide stands apart from all the varieties of violence that we are capable of, not only as the evilest but as the most difficult to understand. Genocide is a special term for criminal acts committed against a group of people to destroy it in whole or in part. Genocide is an act against specific nation, ethnic, race or religion group by killing members of such a group, causing serious bodily harm or mental disorder, deliberately creating conditions that are designed for its complete or partial physical destruction. Genocide is when all human laws and norms are repealed.
When we recall all these historical events the question arise, what could have contributed to such cruelty that even an animal is incapable of? Recording to the book, Steven Pinker believes that ‘killing so many people in so short a time requires methods of mass production of death.’ To understand what kind of methods of mass killing these are, first, we must understand the motives of people which drives them to come to these methods. Human sympathy plays one of the main roles, as it can divide people into different categories based on sympathy or hostility. People by nature have always trying to find differences of one race from another, to make their judgments and prove their superiority over others. Many leaders and politicians use this judgmental nature of people to cause massive hostility or disgust of a specific nation or ethnicity for their own needs. The example of using disgust rhetoric to kill thousands of people in Ireland was made by the English commander, who said ‘kill the nits and you will have no lice’.
One of the most famous and most terrible manifestations of genocide was the genocide of Jews during World War II, when Nazism, became a powerful ideology and began to implement plans to exterminate Jews, first in Germany and then through all Europe. Millions of lives were ruined during the implementation of Hitler’s plan, and only because he did not consider Jews as a nation. If we start talking about Hitler’s methods to raise feeling of disgust among soldiers and people towards Jews, these would be his biological metaphors describing Jews as a virus, or recording to the book ‘Jews were bloodsucking; Jews were a mongrel race; Jews had poisonous blood’. Hitler’s main argument was the ‘purification’ of the country and the world, and he used this term because he knew very well that disgust is easily moralised.
For more than ten years, the methods of reprisal against Jews were becoming crueler and developed on new forms. During the war years Germans build thousand concentration camps that were created for torture, in which it was almost impossible to survive due to lack of water, food, sanitary and medicine. In these camps, people did not even have a name, only a tattoo with the number that they received when they got into the camp. The main idea of these camps was to erase any human and moral qualities that Jews had.
The term ‘genocide’ first was used in 1944 by a Polish lawyer, Rafael Lemkin, who originally was Jewish. He used the term “genocide” in his book to describe the massacres of Jews in Europe by the Nazis. There he provided documentary evidence of the crimes and killings that took place throughout the territories occupied by the Nazis. Later this term was used in legal practice in crimes against humanity.
The second most terrible manifestation of genocide was The Rape of Nanking during the Second World War in the capital of China. Japanese purification process has not far gone from the horrors of the Holocaust. It was one of the cruel events that shaped the current attitude of the Chinese towards their neighbour across the eastern sea. What Japanese troops did in China is called genocide now. One of the worst episodes was the rape of Nanking. After three months of fighting for Shanghai, the Japanese moved to Nanking. Historians estimate that about 260,000 to 350,000 Chinese had been killed. What the Japanese staged in Nanking is more reminiscent of cold-blooded and systematic extermination: all men of military age were taken out of the city and killed. From 20,000 to 80,000 women were raped and murdered including kids, girls, pregnant women, and old women.
The actions of the Japanese are difficult to explain even today. Maybe they considered all Chinese, regardless of gender and age, to be suitable for the role of victim, or perhaps the history of these two countries has settled a long-standing hatred. But based on an analysis of the historical background and relying on resources, one of the reasons for such extraordinary violence can be Japanese Imperialism and their conviction of their superiority. The leader of the state is the main actor in the ongoing events since he is the one who makes final decisions. In Japan during the WW2 leader had a desire to create great Asian State and it was the decisive link to the violence in Nanking, because he conveyed his ideas to soldiers whose psychological perception of what is right or wrong changed, that they could only see Japan as a future leading power. Recording to Pinker ‘the motives of leaders is critical in understanding genocide because the psychological ingredient – the mindset of essentialism; the moralisation of emotions; and the appeal of utopian ideologies – do not overcome an entire population at once and incite them to mass killing ’. The Chinese genocide took place because the country’s economy during the Second World War was not stable, past wars with Japan gave rise to hatred of the people. Japan longed for retribution and wanted to show to the whole world that it’s a strong power. Small victories in China gave Japan hope for the future, and the government started to dream about a greater Asia co-prosperity sphere. All these aspects had a huge impact on the formation of genocide in China.
By comparing the Holocaust and “The Rape of Nanking”, we can firmly say that it was the most barbaric attacks of mankind, which killed millions of people, which destroyed thousands of families and which can never be justified. If we compare the reasons that led to the genocide in both countries, then in the case of the Holocaust it was Anti-Semitism, where the entire population was recruited by hostility and hatred of the Jews. In the case of China, the main reason was the loyalty of the soldiers to state orders. Where the desire of the government to become a world power was so strong that soldiers from a young age were taught cruelty. Based on the given examples of historical events, we can highlight a few principles that can cause a genocide: anti-Semitism, fear, hate, national crises, and government power.
But one of the main differences is the prevalence of information about this inhuman cruelty. The whole world knows about the events of the Holocaust and still provides help to Jews in memory of their loss. But most of the world has never heard of “The Rape of Nanking”, where the number of victims is just as great as in the Holocaust where the reprisals of men, women, and children in China cannot be compared even to medieval torture. The Japanese authorities still do not plead guilty about what they have done. They still have not apologised for crimes against humanity, and bloodthirsty violence committed in China.
The acts of soldiers will forever remain in the memory of the citizens, and the blood of millions innocent people will forever remain in their hands, but we should find a way to apologise and way to forgive, to give a peaceful sky to the future generation.