“Genocide Since 1945” written by Philip Spencer is a book that gives a timeline of the Genocides and how it progressively became an illegal act. It starts off describing the term Genocide: the term comes from both Greek and Latin roots. The Greek root being ‘Genus’ which means ‘kind’ or ‘type’, and then the Latin root being Cido which means ‘to kill’. It was a very clever word invented by Rafael Lempkin in 1944 that is still used today. Even though it’s used today, there was a lot of debate on the definition of ‘Genocide’. The categories defining genocide included: Nationality, Race, Religion, Ethnicity. If you showed intentions to kill/destroy all or most of any of those categories, it was illegal. After talking about the definition and theories of the word ‘Genocide’, the book mentions all the different Geneva conventions that took place, like:
- The 1st Geneva Convention in 1846, which was when the Red Cross started.
- The 2nd Geneva Convention in 1906 was when the rules of war were made.
- The 3rd Geneva Convention in 1929 was when they updated the POW
- The 4th Geneva Convention in 1948 was when they made Genocides illegal. The 4th Geneva Convention had additional protocols in 1977 that stated that if you have a domestic conflict, it should be fought in the rules of international conflict.
“Genocide Since 1945” is an extremely informative and descriptive book, it sometimes got to the point where it was a little confusing because of the amount of information squished into this one little book. What I found the craziest was the fact that the US bombing hiroshima and nagasaki was never found guilty because the bombing happened before it was ‘illegal’, even though it took tens of thousands lives.
I thought it was a helpful book for when it comes to understanding the meaning of the word ‘genocide’ and how it came about.
“Bloodlands” written by Timothy Snyder is a book that focuses on the interaction between the Soviet Union and Germany in one specific area in Europe causing the bloodiest place in Western history. Snyder estimates that 14 million non-soldiers died during the time between 1933-1945. Unlike most books that just focus on Germany or just focus on The Soviet Union, this book focuses on both, which I found very interesting because we really got to see both perspectives, and see the full picture. It mentions how Stalin was afraid of Japan and Poland which resulted in him going after the Kulaks. It talks about how Hitler’s Ubermensch (Master Race) were the Aryan Race, or people with: Blonde hair and blue eyes, German, Anglo-Sanons, Indian, or Northern European. Then how the Untermensch (the enemy) were the Slavic Race: Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, semites, blacks, Jews, etc..
The reason for bloodlands was because the countries were fighting for land. One of those famous events include the Molotov and Ribbentov agreement, a plan on how Europe would be divided (with Poland as an epicenter) which they signed in 1939. The WWII them started on September 1st, 1939 with Germany invading Poland, which was the beginning of mass murders of the Polish people. Then there was the Madagascar Plan, which was a plan made by the French to move all Jews to Madagascar, but that didn’t work out very well because they couldn’t fit 7 million people in Madagascar. Which then resulted in them increasing death camps in 1943.
There were a lot of things happening in the Bloodlands, the countries that were most affected were Poland, Ukraine, Balties, and Belarus because of the Soviet-German interaction. And the term “bloodlands” was non-existent before this book, but now it’s commonly used to describe that area. I thought it was a very informative and interesting read.
“They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else” written by Ronald Grigo Suny focuses on the Armenian Genocide which was led by the Ottomon Turks. He has the full timeline of the build up to it in the first couple of chapters as well as then going into full detail of what happened during the genocide. I thought it was a super interesting topic to read about because the Armenian Genocide isn’t mentioned that much compared to the holocaust, yet is proven to be as serious. Suny writes this book in a manner that makes you really see how badly innocent Armenians were treated. It mentions all of the events that lead to the Armenian Genocide including:
- The Sarikamis which was the fight between Russians and Ottomons (Russians having Armenians and Georgians on their side).
- Ottomons describing the Armenians as feminine as well as demoting, separating, and disarming them. Leaving them deserted to die.
- Istabul Elite of April 15th, 1915
- The Van Uprising, where they rebelled in 1915
- Mass Deportation which lead to The Death March that killed around 300,000 to 1.5 million Armenians.
There were a lot of factors that lead to the Armenian Genocide, and then the Armenian Genocide wiped out about 90% of the Armenian population, which is successful as a horrific genocide. Reading about the events that caused the genocide was a very interesting read, it proved to be a pretty slow read as soon the actual genocide started. It was a very serious genocide that seems to have been swept a little under the rug, at least compared to the holocaust, I had personally little to no knowledge of it prior to this book.
For a Genocide class, this was a really informative good read. And on top of that, Suny describes the meaning of the word Genocide in the last chapters and how the word describes these mass murderers perfectly.
A Memory of Solferino was written by Henry Dunant, the humanitarian that founded The Red Cross. He had not founded The Red Cross at the time he wrote this book but the things he witnessed after the battle of Solferino is believed to have triggered his idea of The Red Cross. I had never heard of the Solferino battle before reading this book so I had no idea what to expect from it. A Memory of Solferino was a very popular book in its time (in 1862) due to the fact that Dunant was able to show how brutal it was for the people at the 15 hour fight in Solferino, but more importantly the aftermath of it. What he did best was to bring attention to help out those civilians in need, which was his main goal as a humanitarian. The biggest problem at that time was that there were so many people dying and wounded from the battle, and Dunant brought attention to the fact that there wasn’t enough space for all of the people in need for medical help.
He was there to witness more death than there should’ve been due to lack of space, the doctors had tried their best but there were just way too many people. Henry Dunant also did an excellent job in the great detail of the suffering of people, the most cringeworthy probably being the description of people getting amputated. I think he intentionally made it extremely detailed so that the reader would truly understand the pain and to bring attention to the fact there had to be changes made so that this wouldn’t happen again.
What makes this book so powerful is the fact that it was written from Dunant’s personal experience of witnessing the aftermath of the battle. And although it was confusing at times, I thought it was an interesting and an informative read.
Killing Civilians by Hugo Slim was a very interesting book to read. The book gives the reader an idea of what it is like to be a ‘civilian’ during war, which was very eye-opening because in High School history classes you were usually just taught about the battle itself, the leaders, who won, etc. instead of focusing on how much the ‘innocent’ suffered. Hugo Slim definitely brings a lot of attention in their suffering by his idea of “7 Spheres of Suffering” which are:
- Direct, personal violence of killing, wounding, torturing
- Rape, sexual violence, sexual exploitation
- Flight, Displacement, Deportation, Destitution, Dispersal, Resettlement, Forced Labor, Confinement and Detention
- First three spheres of suffering with its loss of assets and livelihoods
- Famine and Disease
- Emotional Suffering
- Post-War Suffering
The first two spheres of suffering were definitely hard to read about. Slim wrote in great detail about the different Genocides such as the Soviet State (killing 62 million from 1917 to 1954 by starvation and disease), Chinese under Kai Shek (killing 10 million people from 1927 to 1949) and Holocaust (killing 6 million), Massacres like St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572, and then Rapes and Sexual Violences, which were proved to be very disturbing.
In later chapters, he wrote about how civilians usually had to move away from their homes during wars for their safety and so that the land could be ‘free fire zone’, moving civilians from their homes was also showed weakness. Slim also talked about enforced slave labor, the three types of labor being: Military, Commercial, and Sexual, there were 1.8 million people in Nazi slave labour alone.
Also huge killers of civilians were diseases and such, but what stood out to me the most was the post-war suffering because that never really occurred to me before reading this book. He mentioned how “loss of livelihood kills people rather than a bullet” which I thought stood out to me the most because it seems very true. No matter what, a civilian’s life will never be the same after experiencing war, no matter how much it affected their lives: They could have lost their houses, possessions, their families, or even themselves.
“Killing Civilians” definitely opened my eyes to how much innocent people suffered, and how much they really should be protected because they still suffer even after the war is over. It was a good read, especially for people that don’t know much about Civilians at war and Genocide yet.