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GENOCIDE: Holocaust was not unprecedented

Letter by Michelle M. Ryder, Lake Tapps on May 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm with 26 Comments »
May 1, 2012 1:16 pm

The brilliant commentator Leonard Pitts Jr. recently described the Nazi crimes as “singular, unprecedented in their sheer awfulness” (column, 4-26). I don’t agree: Hitler’s crimes were inconceivably vicious, but they weren’t unprecedented.

The racist hate that enabled the mass slaughter of 6 million Jewish Europeans and another 6 million to 10 million Slavs, homosexuals, disabled people, Roma and Jehovah’s Witnesses had been practiced as a matter of routine by European colonists around the globe for centuries.

If we consider the Holocaust in the context of tens of millions of innocent indigenous bodies deliberately strewn across the Americas (or the mass casualties racked up in the colonies enveloping Africa and Asia), its barbarity appears typical, not abnormal. The violence of the Holocaust remains shocking and “singular” in the Western mind because the cold-blooded killing characterized by Hitler was for the first time inflicted upon the wrong type of victim: light-skinned Europeans.

The claim that Hitler’s crimes were unprecedented is a social piety that blinds us to the sordid realities of past and present. It distracts us from the lesser-known crimes against humanity, like the Circassian genocide in Russia, the Holodomer in Ukraine, and the genocides of Cambodia and East Timor.

Narrowing our attention to a single genocide cheapens the word itself and the magnitude of suffering it highlights. Figuratively, it creates a genocide Olympics and, literally, perverts history. We have the capacity to honor all the victims of such unthinkable cruelty and suffering, the likes of which we must stop claiming the world hadn’t seen until World War II.

Leave a comment Comments → 26
  1. Publico says:

    I know you mean well Ms. Ryder. The Holocaust had unique aspects that some of us think made it unprecedented. One could argue either way, but arguing about which event was worse is a little too much like a game of negatives.

  2. Dave98373 says:

    The Holocaust was unprecedented for reasons other than the body count and the color of those bodies. But as already stated, I’m not sure what your point is other than you comparing tragic events in trying to find a “winner” most deserving of a medal for the most inhumane in the genocide Olympics.

  3. cclngthr says:

    The aspects of the Holocaust is present today.

    A lot of comments I read in various articles here (TNT) have the same tone of using Holocaust aspects in modern society to “rid society of defective people.”

    People want to limit education to a particular group of people, and have all others be refused an education.

    People prefer to end societal programs that treat all people equally.

    People want to limit jobs that pay well to those who fall in the same category as those who are “genetically perfect.”

    People believe that services such as healthcare be only available for those who are able to afford it and also be genetically free of defects or pre existing conditions.

    Those who fall into the undesirable category, people seem to advocate they be put away and not be allowed to live in a free society and likely prefer they be owned, or able to be sold as things rather than a person.

  4. averageJoseph says:

    Well… beerBoi?

  5. bobcat1a says:

    The difference is that the Nazis battle cry was racial purity while that of the colonialist’s was winning souls for christ. Different sermon, same result.

  6. Frankenchrist says:

    Today’s Republicans are just like Hitler, except without the sense of humor.

  7. GeronimoV says:

    Excellent letter, well-written and very necessary. Thank you!

  8. philichi says:

    Frankenchrist: Conservatives fear government. They have watched big government kill 30 million under Mao in China, 30 million under Stalin in Russia, 8 million under Hitler in Germany. Should I go on? Do I need to speak of locking up Japanese in the US under FDR.

    Liberals fear the private sector. They complain about about a business earning too much in profit! However, at least business have no reason to kill people.

    If Hitler was a conservative, he certainly wouldn’t have been killing job creators.

  9. Bobcat – winning souls for Christ – made it easier for colonials to justify killing the natives – the dear departed who were saved went to heaven, those who were not were heathens and pagans so deserved to die.

    Conseratives may say they fear government but they want to use the power of government to further conservative agendas and they have no problem with Big Brother interfering in individual lives as long as taxes on the rich are kept low.

    Example: the Tennessee Legislature just barely failed to pass a bill outlawing the use of ‘gay’ and prohibiting teachers from discussing gays in the agenda in the classroom.

    Now, a Tennessee Legislator has introduced a bill to outlaw holding hands in public.

    ‘business have no reason to kill people’ except to obtain raw materials, ports, and markets.

    Try reading a history of the British East Idea Company, Hudson Bay Company, or American Fruit.

  10. BlaineCGarver says:

    QUOTE: The brilliant commentator Leonard Pitts Jr

    Anything that follows THAT retarded statement deserves zero consideration…..

  11. BGC – go easy on Philichi – he’s just a young fool – unlike your self who is an old fool.

  12. philichi says:

    Thank you for the compliment on my age. However, I am older than the current President. You or correct to be leery of age. I hope that our next one is older and wiser.

  13. I was older than the last three Presidents at the time of their elections.

    I am less leery of age that of potential and ability

  14. Frankenchrist says:

    Today’s Republicans are just like Hitler except that Hitler didn’t give women the crawling creeps like today’s Republicans.

  15. philichi says:

    Frankenchrist how many Republicans do you know that call themselves National Socialists? Sen. Bernie Sanders is a Socialist and he votes with the Democrats. How many Republicans want to take businesses and property from the rich? That is what the NAZIs did. In the late thirties the NAZIs were “the toast of the town” every professor prided himself on being a good NAZI. Now, in our town, who is the toast of the town? Who do the professors vote for now? Not the Republicans.

  16. The one that shot his family and a 16 month old child in AZ did.
    Most of the neo-nazi’s do and we know thay aren’t voting for the black man in the White House.
    Whats your point little philichi?

  17. I’m of the opinion that if the far right thought they could get away with it, the ‘camps’ would be open and running full steam.

  18. philichi says:

    xring So did you vote for a current President? Did you think that his 2 years as a US Senator, and community organizing history made him qualified to lead the nation. Or did you think that he simply made nice speeches? With his experience, would you let him run your business? Lemon aid stand? Balance your check book? Borrow your car?

  19. philichi says:

    kluwer: I think that you may still mistakenly believe that the NAZIs are from the right. That is the biggest lie in history. The difference between the left and the right is size and scope of government. The Nazis were big government liberals. That is not debatable. That is settled history. Move on.

    The right believes in limited government, not a government so large that it drives around and picks up Jews and puts them in camps. The right believes that government should be part time, not one like Mao’s that takes the food of the farmers and allows millions of them to starve.

  20. philchi –

    The Nazis took wealth from Jews and gave it to Aryans in the form of lucrative government contracts.

    How many republicans want to take wealth from the middle and working classes and give it to big business and the rich in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and no-bid old-boy contracts?

    Any professor who did not toe the Nazi line soon found himself to be a former professor.

    Who now has a former advisor who fit the right wing template?

    Yes, I did vote for Mr. Obama and shall do so again this November.

    What I say was four more years of continued, unecessary war; tax breaks for the rich and big business; and more jobs going overseas; lead by a manchurian munckin and his pet failed-beuty queen sidekick.

    By voting for Mr. Obama I am trusting him with the life and well being of American and her citizens.

    Something I would not entrust to any of the current or past gop clownadates.

    Last and best GOP POTUS was Ike.

    The right believes in limited government for the rich and big businesses but wants a big brother government to control the masses and enforce their right wing social engineering agenda.

  21. kluwer says:

    “The Nazis were big government liberals. That is not debatable. That is settled history. Move on.”

    Please, leave the lies to ailander, at least she tries to make it sound some what believable.
    You just make incredibly stupid comments and expect others to ‘move on’.

  22. kluwer says:

    “Mao’s that takes the food of the farmers and allows millions of them to starve.”

    I didn’t think it possible that someone knew less about history than aislander but….it seems you do.

  23. philichi says:

    The Nazis took wealth from Jews and gave it to Aryans in the form of lucrative government contracts
    Any professor who did not toe the Nazi line soon found himself to be a former professor

    Now the left tries to take the wealth from investors and give it to Teachers unions and other government workers unions. Obama calls that “investments” Now, professors are scared to say the truth about global warming.

    thank you for making my point for me.

    Perhaps I should have backed up and explained how the “great leap forward” worked under Mao. (Obama just calls his socialism “Forward”) Farm regions competed with one another in production. The bureaucrats would each come to Mao and brag about superior production from their region even when it was bad. Mao would ask that all crops be turned in at the end of the harvest. Even the families food was taken. (to make the bureacrat look good). Families were so poor and so hungry that they even resorted to eating their own babies. (families would trade with one anther to make this possible) You see, liberalism leaves death in its wake. It is all done in the name of compassion and social justice.

    Would you like to dicuss Fidel Castro, Chavez, and Ortega next, or just stay in the 40s? It doesnt matter, it all ends with body bags and fences. Welcome to your left my friend. “Those that ignore history”, you know the rest.

  24. Pli,
    You either can’t/don’t read posts. I, not Kluwer, made the “Nazis took’ comment.

    ‘Forward’ is, among other things, the Wisconsin State Motto.

    The Great Leap Forward was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China (CPC)from 1958 to 1961 which used centralized planning decisions aimed at using China’s vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern communist society through the process of rapid industrialization and collectivization.

    Hay, do you thing ‘Forward! the light brigade was a commie plot to help the russians defeat the british in the Crimean War?

  25. averageJoseph says:

    Good post Philichi. And xring, nice job inadvertently augmenting it.

  26. Re: “The difference is that the Nazis battle cry was racial purity while that of the colonialist’s was winning souls for christ. Different sermon, same result.”

    Colonialism was in large part driven by notions of racial purity, with religion thrown in for good measure. I recommend checking out this short visual piece on the history of race and western colonialism:


    Michelle Ryder

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