Punitive Parallels — The Genocide of Neighbors
Compare and Contrast Genocides
The world has witnessed many atrocities... some worse than others. The Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust are two of the most horrific and devastating. These two acts of genocide differed in the manners by which the killings were accomplished and because of the ideologies motivating the factions. The Germans were obsessed with ridding the earth of what they believed to be substandard humans. The Hutus were out for revenge (Lemarchand). No matter the situation, the overwhelming victimization of cultures ties these events together. Although the details of the genocides do not mirror one another, each were backed by political interests with the intention to dehumanize and completely wipe out a specific group of people.
The motivations for the killings were stemmed in histories of conflict in Africa and Europe. The Hutu tribe was looking for retribution — an eye for an eye. (Lemarchand) They lived under the Tutsi monarchy and were oppressed. The Tutsis were viewed as the upper class. They had many more opportunities, such as better education. (History.com) Another reason as to the cause of the killings were the conflicts with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF killed President Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart, Cyprien Ntaramyira, on April 6, 1994. As a result, the Hutus struck back attacking hundreds of Tutsis. (Lemarchand) Any Tutsi or who was friendly to the Tutsi tribe were assassinated on sight by any means possible (“Left”). It was all-out gang-warfare, filling the streets with the blood of the enemy. The loss of life was extreme, but the numbers pale in comparison to the numbers of Jews that were lost — nearly six million.
In contrast to the Hutus, Hitler’s goal was to achieve a pure white bloodline. The Nazis targeted not just the Jews, but also gypsies and others. The Nazi killings were ethnically motivated, whereas the turmoil in Rwanda was politically motivated. The Nazis aimed for white supremacy. They believed that Aryans were the best race and favored by Hitler. The Germans extinguished the lives of people with Polish blood, tracing everyone back to their grandparents (“The Nuremberg”). The Hutus were not so selective.
Neither Africa nor Germany were new to violence when the Nazis persecuted the Jews or when the Hutus and Tutsis fought neighbor against neighbor to the death. The first genocide of the 20th century took place in Africa, in what is present-day Namibia, under the rule of the German government (Graham). Like other genocides in history, such as the Native American massacres during the early settlement of America, “the Holocaust happened in large part because an over-powering government took advantage of a weak people who just wanted to be provided with direction during a time of disparity." (Ghostlaw) The Jews remained wealthy when the rest of Europe was reeling from the Depression. They did not fight in World War I, and they were blamed for the monetary suffering everyone else was feeling. The Germans and their allies hailed Hitler’s efforts to stop the Jews from taking over the world. The Nuremberg Laws helped them sort out the citizenry.
The Germans categorized each person, as did the Hutus. In particular, they both employed systems of identification. The Jews were forced to wear a yellow star, and when they were in the concentration camp they were tattooed on the forearm with a number. (Wiesel) The Tutsis were identified by the ethnic roll call that took place in schools. (Illibagiza) The Nazis had the “final solution” plan. Hitler also had a trained army and an abundance of military weapons, such as guns and ammunition. They amassed all the Jews and expertly annihilated them in the concentration camps by the means of gas chambers.
As for the Rwandan genocide, it was crudely executed, and most killings occurred in the heat of the moment. Hutus slaughtered Tutsis anywhere and everywhere. The blood of murdered Tutsis flooded the streets. Their bodies were even used as roadblocks. The youth killed their peers. (Lemarchand) Guns were scarce, except those owned by the military. Most Hutus used spears and machetes along with whatever else they could find. (Illibagiza) One man even talked of using a club with nails in the end of it. (“Left”) The weapons the Hutus possessed may have been handmade, but they were highly effective. The next generations of both groups were massacred in hand-to-hand combat.
Whether mano a mano or technically executed, these genocides were successful and widespread missions of pure destruction. The events may differ in where, when, how, and why they occurred, but the similarities are blatant. Between the two, the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust tore whole cultures of people from their homes and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Africans and millions of Jews. The common goal between them was the eradication of people they believed to be inferior.
Another common aspect between the two is the dehumanization directed upon the Tutsis and the Jews. Tutsis were “cockroaches”; just pests that needed to be exterminated from Rwanda. (Illibagiza) The tribes' members were given identification cards to make sure everyone knew on which side they stood, and so they could attack specific groups or people and broadcast it. (Divate “Organization”) Socially, the Tutsis were considered dead or non-human, making them easier to kill. (Divate “Dehumanization”) Laws were enacted against Jews to cut them off from society, also.
The Jewish people were displaced from their homes, segregated, and tattooed with numbers, turning them into mere objects to be destroyed. Anyone suspected of being Jewish was treated like an animal and deported to Auschwitz or one of the many other concentration camps. The Hungarian police shoved them by the dozens into cattle cars with horrible conditions. They had little food or water, and it was hot and crowded in the cars, too. (Wiesel) They were "lucky" to even reach the camps. Maybe those who died on the trains were the lucky ones. Both the Jews and the Tutsis had been told throughout history that they should be given favor, yet they faced horrifying tragedies.
Each group believed they were chosen by their religions to be at a higher status than others. Religious texts had given each group an inflated sense of entitlement. (Lemarchand) Tutsis were labeled superior to the Hutu "negroids." (Fischel) The Jews were God's "Chosen People." (“Judaism”) Although they may have been under the impression that their reputations would protect them, all became victims. The survivors have banded together to make sure the world is knowledgeable about and to prevent the atrocious things that happened to them. (Falcon) There is even a Tutsi embassy in Israel. (Kagire) The suffering will not be forgotten through the efforts of the victims of these genocides.
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