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8 Stages of Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 2994 words Published: 11th Dec 2020

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Genocide as defined by the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, is any act committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethical, racial or religious group. This could mean the killing of members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and or forcible transferring children of the group to another group (Stanton). After the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1996, Gregory Stanton presented his literature to the United States Department of State titled “The 8 Stages of Genocide”. Encompassed in his paper, he suggested that genocide matures in eight stages that are predictable however not inexorable.

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Stage one as outlined by Stanton, he calls this the classification stage. Encompassed in the classification stage, characteristics include a “us versus them” mentality. All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them”’ by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality (Kelleway 38). Classification is the primary method used for dividing the society and thus creating a power struggle between groups of people. It is in this stage where the perpetrator of the genocide attempts to clearly define a scapegoat. With regard to Nazi Germany, classification was made on a racial premise; despite the fact that they likewise manufactured racial groups for religious groups, an example being the Jews. In Nazi Germany bigotry was joined with the study of social Darwinism. In short, social Darwinism adherents believe that indistinguishable guidelines from Darwinism can be applied to the human social science and politics. And secondly, natural selection. Simply, only the species better at adapting will endure in the struggle for survival (Holocaust Atlas). Described in Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, the racial hierarchy and classification of the Nazis were outlined. In this piece of literature, it was depicted that the Aryans, their way of life and cultivating races, were the fittest of individuals. Inside these culture creating races the Germanic individuals were the most fit. The least developed individuals were the Jews, Africans, Gypsies and the Slavic individuals (Lewy 202). Adolf additionally held that the inferior individuals would damage the superior races. All in all, there were two distinct characteristics for people that were identified: racial hygiene and racial purity. For the former it was to have a clean race. This implies that the most undesirable individuals inside a race must be terminated. This expelling of individuals fits the checklist to be considered a genocide. These individuals can be the physically or rationally hindered or the individuals who are not of pure German lineage. In Nazi Germany, this virtue was attempted to be set up by the constrained killing and sterilization of individuals. For the latter, racial purity is prohibited for races to explicitly interact with one another. On account of racial purity, the desire is to expel various gatherings from the general public by any means. This can be set up by exiling those people out of the country or by committing genocide.

Once the target group is established and stage one runs its course, then enter Stanton’s second stage of genocide: symbolization. In this stage symbols or names are used to signify the classifications.  In addition to names and symbols, the type of dress and colors and religious visuals are also used. “Other symbols, like customary dress or facial scars, are socially imposed by groups on their own members” (Stanton). In this stage, the general public is made mindful of fabricated issues identified with the target group through false narratives and propaganda. In Nazi Germany, exhibits for example, "the wandering Jew" a presentation was displayed with anti-Jewish substance and symbols. Hitler believed that film was a vital tool for molding public opinion. The Nazis first established a film department in 1930 and had taken a personal interest in the use of film to promote the Nazi philosophy and agenda. Soon after the Nazi takeover, Hitler insisted in speeches that the role of the German cinema was to serve as the symbol or "vanguard of the Nazi military" (Eisner 329). To ensure that the propaganda worked best Hitler needed solid images, slogans, and symbols in which the Nazis were maestros in this. This was a result of the classification stage. In Nazi Germany, you were either a German, Germanic, Jew, Gypsies and so forth. In any case, one could not be part of two unique groups simultaneously. This classification made it simpler for the propaganda to induce polarization within the general public. Moreover, solid images were required. Right up to the present time despite everything we very well perceive the Swastika banners and the distinctive Nazi uniform, as well as the yellow Jew star with the holocaust. On account of the Jews it was difficult to shroud their Jewish heritage. They needed to mark their shops or business as Jewish, they got a “J stamp” on their official paperwork, and they needed to wear the yellow star of David on their attire. Gestapo soldiers symbolized individuals with various colored triangles. Homosexuals were deemed a pink triangle, brown was reserved for gypsies, green for criminals, and red triangles were reserved for political advisories (Plant). The entirety of the individuals who were set apart with triangles were easily targeted and harassed, however the primary reason why they would stamp these individuals with these symbols was so they can be easily pointed out.

The third stage of Genocide according to Dr. Stanton was termed “dehumanization”. This implies one group is denied their humanity and their superior envisions them as creatures or vermin. This stage is a significant advance in the genocide process. This because it conquers the typical human distaste against executing other humans. Since the targeted individuals is not to be considered human, the reasoning behind killing them is deemed acceptable. The people are more justified the killings in that they do not feel a sense of guilt in committing such acts of violence. Dehumanization invokes superiority of one group and inferiority of the other (Stanton). In trying to mask the atrocities in mass killings, dehumanization justifies such murders as “ethnic cleansing: or use of the term “purification”.  A prominent example of the dehumanization process we saw was through the multiple human experiments the Nazis conducted on prisoners inside concentration camps.  One example of dehumanization occurred in 1941. The Luftwaffe directed experiments with the purpose of finding a solution to avoid and treat hypothermia. The experiment exposed prisoners naked outside for hours with temperatures as low as 21 °F. Other than examining the physical impacts of low temperature exposure, the experimenters likewise surveyed various strategies for rewarming survivors (Bogod 1115). "One associate later affirmed that victims were tossed into boiling water for rewarming" (Berger).

Stage four as outlined by Stanton was noted as the organization stage. According to Stanton genocide is a group crime and therefore must be organized. The state organizes arms and financially supports groups that executes and conducts the genocidal massacre. On account of the Nazis, the state provided and permitted groups for delivering the propaganda and financed genocide with the materials and cash required. For the case of Nazi Germany, the most famous example of this organization stage playing out was “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass”. What occurred during this event was on November 9, 1938, the German propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, called for vengeance for the murder of a German ambassador in Paris by a Jewish German refugee (Schwab 14). After this call and organization of retaliation a malicious horde broke out and violence ensued. The German SA paramilitary did not mediate the situation and looked on as the consequences of the mob violence resulted in the destruction of numerous Jewish synagogues, obliteration of Jewish businesses and the outright beating and deaths of many Jews (Martin 42). "In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, dozens of Jewish people were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by" (Holocaust Memorial Museum).

Furthermore, stage five of Stanton’s literature was known as the polarization stage. Genocide advances in a descending cycle of killings until it arrives at the vortex of mass homicide. Execution by one group may incite retribution killings by the other. Such slaughters are aimed for polarization and the deliberate end of conservatives who might slow the cycle. In addition, polarization is when extremists attempt to drive two groups apart. The Jews were frequently told by Gestapo officers that they were not qualified nor were they worthy to live in ordinary towns so they interned the Jews into ghettos which were oftentimes messy, usually riddled with sickness, arguably a food desert. This was the first case of the polarization of the Jews. This is polarization in light of the fact that a gathering of individuals distinguished themselves as a more noteworthy being and portray the different as the weakest link. They additionally think they vary from different as us and them thus reinforcing the classification stage outlined in stage one. Also entailed in this stage of polarization Stanton describes that laws are passed in effort to forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Polarization was exhibited in Nazi Germany most famously via the Nuremberg Laws. The Nuremberg Laws were anti-Semitic and racist laws enforced throughout Nazi Germany. "The laws excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or related blood” Ancillary ordinances to the laws disenfranchised Jews and deprived them of most political rights" (Kershaw 345).

Stage 6 is titled the preparation stage. Preparation for genocide includes identification. Lists of victims are drawn up. Individuals are compelled to convey identification cards distinguishing their ethnic or religious identity. Differentiating who from who, significantly speeds the genocide process. The preparation by concentrating people is accompanied by harsh living conditions for the Jews in the ghettos and concentration camps. Interestingly enough no killings are performed at an expansive scale during this stage. Stanton details that weapons for execution are stockpiled and extermination camps are built. “In the in the meantime the assets needed to commit genocide are stockpiled. In the case of the Nazis this meant the equipping and training of the paramilitary or “Einsatzgruppen” and the construction of the death camps” (Holocaust Atlas). The most notorious death camp built associated with the Holocaust is Auschwitz.

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The seventh stage, the final solution, is extermination. It is considered extermination, rather than murder, because the victims are not considered human, they are considered vermin. Killing is described by euphemisms of purification such as ethnic cleansing (Stanton).  The culprits did no longer consider the victims to be as human and in their view, they were not committing atrocities, in their view they were "eliminating the vermin". Most genocide is state sponsored and armed forces usually collaborate with local militias. During this stage, the mass killings commence and genocide begins to run its course. In the beginning the Jews were being concentrated into ghettos as they were informed they were just being relocated. In reality, they were being relocated to remote areas to their death sentence. At first many of the Jews and others deemed undesirable were murdered via firing squad and the bodies were buried at mass grave sites.  In 1941 collaborating with the local militia, SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski alerted his superior, Heinrich Himmler that the Nazis had been murdering Jews at close range all summer long however was worried about the method and its traumatizing effects on the soldiers. Himmler realized he needed to find a new method that would spare psychological trauma and that birthed the infamous gas chambers (PBS). The SS elected in 1941 that gassing Jews would be a substantially more productive approach to accomplish the "Final Solution". Mass murdering in gas chambers started in 1942. Victims would be packed into vehicles to be shipped to extermination camps, where they would be informed that they have to take "showers" in order to be disinfected, little did they know they would be gassed to death.

The final stage according to Dr. Stanton is the stage of denial. For every genocide that has occurred, there has always been a denial of it. Denial is when the culprit attempts to cover up the evidence of the genocide ever occurring. They deny the crimes that have been alleged against them and often blame the victims. For the case of the Nazis denial was fueled by the irrational hatred of the Jews. One of the infamous pieces of publication that came about of the Jewish holocaust was by David Hoggan. In his publication titled “The Myth of the Six Million” Hoggan claims that no Jews were killed during the holocaust. He denies the holocaust ever happened even though the evidence such as mass grave sites and crematoriums still exist and stand to this day. One part that Stanton mentions with regard to denial is that there is a mentality to blame the victims. Stanton claims that the deniers group also suffered huge losses in the “war”. The killings were in self-defense. Interestingly enough, Hoggan in his book argued that all of the evidence for the holocaust was fabricated after the war in an attempt to justify what Hoggan dubbed as a war of aggression on Germany (Dawidowicz 34).

In conclusion, genocide is something that can be dissected, comprehended and nonetheless be prevented. For Stanton, genocide is a procedure that advances in 8 stages outlined above. These stages do not progress on a linear scale and may coincide with one another. Prevention measures can take place at any stage need be. For instance, in the case of stage two, Jews were mandated to have their national identity along with their religious affiliation stamped on their ID’s and passports; this could have been easily outlawed and in turn giving people more privacy instead of marking them. An example that Stanton uses in trying to prevent genocide at the dehumanization stage is “vigorously protest use of dehumanizing words that refer to individuals as creatures or vermin”. He also suggests denying individuals who use these words visas and freeze their foreign assets however this may be a difficult task to accomplish. One way that I can suggest in preventing a genocide is a large scale armed intervention. This is only necessary and should only be resorted to if the genocide matures to the extermination stage. The international community must be held accountable and must support operations by providing any resources needed in the attempt to prevent mass murders.

Works Cited

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  • “The Stages of Genocide & the Holocaust.” Holocaust Atlas, https://holocaustatlas.com/the-holocaust-the-second-world-war/the-stages-of-genocide-the-holocaust/.
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