The Holocaust is the pinnacle example of genocide. While the debate over the final death toll continues, most can agree that it was in the high millions. Even the people who say the Holocaust didn’t happen can agree that the potential death toll puts it at the top of the genocide list. Millions of innocent people lost their lives at the hands of a leader that wanted to exterminate the entire European population of Jews. Who knows what would have happened if he succeeded?
However, there have been many other genocides around the world throughout history. These genocides may not get the recognition that the Holocaust does, but they are still tragic events. By focusing only on the Holocaust, it’s possible to forget that other genocides have happened. In some cases, a genocide is taking place even today in our modern world and most of us don’t even know about it.
Here are the 15 worst genocides aside from the Holocaust.
15. Generalplan Ost (Slavic Genocide by Nazi Germany)
The Nazis targeted far more than just Jewish people. As WWII raged on, Nazi Germany began to target places outside and around the areas that it had already taken. Rather than just subjugating the local population, the Nazis wanted to clear them out and make space for their proposed “master race.” As a result, many Slavic people were exterminated by the Nazis. In fact, it is the second most deadly genocide aside from the Holocaust. Since it was perpetrated by the same group, it is easy to see how it spread so quickly and targeted so many different innocent people.
14. Holodomor (Ukrainian Genocide)
Holodomor was another major genocide that resulted in a large number of deaths. It was a famine in Ukraine that ultimately resulted in millions of Ukrainian deaths. Unlike many other genocides, this one was attributed to deaths by starvation rather than outward violence. It was attributed to the Soviet government as well, but not until 2006. The government targeted food production areas and destroyed many of the crops. As a result, the country couldn’t produce the amount of food needed to maintain its population. Nearly 2.5 million people died as a result of the famine, including people killed in violence throughout the country as a result of the famine.
13. Cambodian Genocide
In Cambodia, the Cambodian Genocide claimed the lives of countless people of Cambodian-Vietnamese descent, as well as nearly 50% of various other groups. The Khmer Rouge is responsible for the genocide and it claimed nearly 3 million people’s lives. There was a civil war in Cambodia that resulted in the Khmer Rouge taking power within the country. As the strongest force in the country, it could do as it pleased. The Khmer Rouge tried to implement socialist policies which, among other issues, caused the forced relocation of the targeted population out of urban areas. Combined with political killings, resource failures, starvation, and a host of other problems, these policies killed 25% of the population and continued until the country was invaded by Vietnam.
12. “Great Crime” Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide (1915-1922) was another deadly genocide with a high death count. It happened in what was the Ottoman Empire, currently the countries of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Nearly 75% of the Armenian population in Turkey was killed. The Ottoman government targeted Armenians in several stages. First, they deported nearly 300 of the leading Armenian thinkers, leaders, and artists in the country. Many of them became the first group to be killed in the genocide. Once underway, the government began forcing able-bodied males into forced labor or the army leading to the deaths of most of them. Alternatively, women and other segments of the population were forced out of their homes into death marches that resulted in nearly 1.5 million deaths. It is often referred to as the Armenian Holocaust.
11. Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan Genocide has been the topic of movies, artworks, books, and other creative means for many years due to its impact on the world. In Rwanda, there are two prominent groups: the Tutsis and the Hutus. Both sides had been at odds for many years. When the Hutus gained control of the government, the alienation of the Tutsis eventually turned into a massive genocide. The government followed the same plan as many other genocides where it systematically alienated the Tutsis, which devolved into a slaughter. What brought this to the attention of people around the world is that it began in 1990, so there was plenty of recorded evidence about it. Unfortunately, many countries around the world resisted getting involved in Rwanda’s internal struggles until it became abundantly clear that international action was needed.
10. Greek/Pontic Genocide
The Greek and Pontic Genocides, which are considered separate events, are often grouped together since they occurred at roughly the same time and in the same area. The Ottoman Empire is responsible for this genocide as well. It targeted Pontic Greeks, a subgroup in Greece, while targeting Christian Greeks for extermination. Many people fled to neighboring areas to escape. Nearly one-fourth of Greece’s population either left the country, or was killed because of the government. This genocide was triggered by the Turkish national movement which focused on promoting different groups in the country and alienating the indigenous groups. As a result, many of these indigenous groups were killed or displaced.
9. Assyrian Genocide
The Ottoman Empire continues to contribute to this list as it engaged in many of its genocidal activities in and just after WWI. In this case, nearly 750,000 Assyrians were killed at the same time that Greek and Armenian people were being targeted by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire attempted to purge the Assyrian population from the empire as well as Persia. It is often researched and mentioned with the other genocides as a part of one major event since the perpetrators and the circumstances are similar. However, this genocide was different in that the Assyrian population was not targeted for displacement. Ottoman troops did not capture and deport anyone, they exterminated everyone that they could.
8. Dzungar Genocide (Zungharian Oirat Genocide)
Although the death tolls on this list are decreasing, that doesn’t reduce the severity of these genocides. In many cases, the populations that were targeted were smaller, so the deaths had a bigger impact. The methods used are also focused on single person attacks rather than multi-kill weapons like guns and bombs. The Dhungar Genocide is a perfect example. The Dhungar’s population was limited to roughly 600,000 in 1755-1758. Over a three-year period, nearly 80% of that population was killed. This was a group of Buddhists in China that was targeted by the Manchu Qing dynasty. In this case, the government catalyzed the genocide in response to resistance efforts by the Dzungar after their territory had been seized.
7. Porajmos (Romani Genocide)
Nazis had a hand in many of the genocides referred to as holocausts around the world. The Porajmos is referred to as the Romani Holocaust. Romani (or Gypsies) were targeted by the government based on their race. Like Hitler’s attempt to turn people against the Jewish people, Hitler targeted nearly every race that did not fit his master plan. Gypsies have often been seen as outsiders in most cultures. Nazi Germany was no exception except in that it sought to annihilate the Romani people by any means necessary. Luckily, the Romani people’s nomadic tendencies and ability to leave areas quickly helped limit the death toll to a staggering 25% of the population when it could easily have been much higher.
6. Genocide by the Ustaše (Jewish and Serbian Genocide)
The Nazi genocide efforts were not limited to areas within its control. Several other states also participated in different ways and extents. Croatia participated in the extermination of Jews and Serbs during WWII which led to a 90% reduction in the Jewish population. There were even concentration camps in Croatia. In much the same way as Hitler, the Ustaše regime in Croatia outlawed different racial groups and began removing them from society. While many Jews were sent to camps in Croatia and Germany, Serbs were exterminated extensively in Croatia. In many ways, the efforts of the Ustaše regime rivalled that of Nazi Germany although, arguably, on a smaller scale. Still, hundreds of thousands of people died because of the government’s views on race.
5. The Bangladesh Genocide
When looking back at genocides, most people tend to think that they all happened and ended decades into the past. However, research will show that like the Rwandan genocide, there are many other genocides that occurred in the last 50-60 years. Bangladesh had a major genocide in 1971. In less than one year, the government and multiple groups within the country murdered and raped up to 3 million people. This was a planned attempt to quell a developing rebellion in the country where parts of the country were looking for self-determination rights. A civil war for independence lasted nine months. Researchers cannot seem to agree on the number of people that died. Estimates say that the highest count was 500,000, but other sources claim up to 3 million.
4. East Timor Genocide
In many cases where genocides happen, it involves one country invading another. When Indonesia invaded East Timor, the situation quickly turned into a genocide. Indonesia quickly gained the upper hand and occupied the country. The initial invasion resulted in the wholesale slaughter of much of Timor’s population to gain control, but didn’t stop there. The Indonesian government began a suppression and pacification campaign to keep control of the local population using violence, intimidation, and murder to reduce the amount of resistance it encountered. The government even went as far to start a man-made famine by restricting food sources to starve the population. As a result, up to 45% of the country’s population was killed.
3. Burundian Genocides of Hutus and Tutsis
The conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis (the same groups from the Rwandan Genocide) is not limited to one country. Burundi had two similar genocides involving both groups. The first genocide occurred when a large number of Hutus were killed by the Tutsi-controlled army. A Hutu rebellion had begun in part of the country where Hutus began killing Hutus that resisted the rebellion and as many Tutsis as possible. In response, the government declared martial law and the army began suppressing the rebellion, killing a large number of Hutus. Experts say that the government targeted specific people in the early part of the genocide. Nearly 20 years later, a Hutu-controlled government started another major genocide focused on the Tutsis and linked to the Rwandan genocide.
2. Kurdish/Anfal Genocide
Iraq has seen its share of violence and problems over the years. In the 1980s it experienced a Kurdish genocide. During the Iraq war, Kurdish citizens became a target for multiple groups in the country. When a campaign against them began, it turned into a genocide that killed nearly 182,000 Kurdish people in the northern part of the country. One of the most surprising parts of the genocide (aside from the high death toll) was the fact that chemical weapons were used. Several poison gas attacks in Halabja killed and injured thousands of people. Several countries openly recognize this as a genocide and a major violation of human rights agreements.
1. Guatemalan Genocide
Rounding out this list is the Guatemalan Genocide, which has also been called the Silent Holocaust. Normally, genocides are quick affairs that last a few years, but the Silent Holocaust lasted from 1962 to 1996 (34 years). The Guatemalan government and military had been involved in a civil war for many years. During its operations, thousands of Maya people were killed. The prevailing views of the Maya people by the government were not positive to begin with. When insurgents began operating in their territories, the government ceased the opportunity to target the Maya as collaborators. The genocide included several noted massacres, repression campaigns, forced disappearances that lasted through several military government leaders and resulted in one of the most tragic and long-running genocides in history.
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