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Post-Genocide Poverty Reduction
Genocides have occurred for decades; however, the aftermath of genocide lasts longer than the length of the genocide itself. One common problem for survivors is trying to deal with post-genocide poverty reduction. Many Jewish immigrants of the Holocaust experienced mass poverty that continues to be reported into this decade. In fact, he Telegraph reported in 2015 that more than one half million survivors are living in poverty.

After the Rwandan Genocide, Tutsis and Hutus alike had to deal with the ruins of their communities; many other populations across the world have experienced genocide and needed to focus on development and poverty reduction efforts in one way or another. The following three communities received significant organizational aid in poverty reduction methods after their respective genocides.

The Holocaust: Restitution and Aid

During the Holocaust, Jewish people were typically looted by Nazis or other community members. In 2009, the European Shoah Legacy Institute developed a two-day conference with 47 countries and the EU to urge restitution for the assets stolen from Jews during World War II, and also made efforts to ascertain social aid for poor Holocaust survivors.

France and Germany sold “heirless Jewish properties” to raise funds for social benefits; Germany established a $1 billion home care program for survivors; Austria and Poland pay pensions to survivors who suffered in their country yet live abroad. Efforts like this made the European Shoah Legacy Institute’s goals of poverty reduction and restitution in Holocaust survivors  realized.

The Rwandan Genocide: Empowerment

Inclusive Security is a noteworthy organization related to poverty reduction and female empowerment. After the Rwandan genocide, this organization empowered women to recognize their place at the table and to take initiative in rebuilding their communities.

Since the genocide, the country experienced 8 percent economic growth each year, is projected for further progress and millions of Rwandan citizens have been lifted out of poverty. Also, women have been motivated to take leadership positions and now 64 percent of elected parliamentary seats are held by women.

Inclusive Security states, “Women help create peace that lasts. When women are included in negotiations, the agreement is 35 percent more likely to endure for at least fifteen years.” Female empowerment has one of the driving factors of Rwanda’s successful transition out of genocide.

The Darfur Genocide: Education

In 2012, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) started a project in Soudan called “The Youth Volunteers Rebuilding Darfur Project.” This project’s objectives are to:

  • Improve the environment for sustainable peace in Sudan through increased respect for rights and human security
  • Reduce poverty and increase equitable economic growth.

The approach is to train and equip youth and women to expand Sudan’s economy through businesses. This program also supports the future by educating on environmental sustainability. The UNDP’s future-oriented approach allows youth and women to gain tools to build a successful community.

Post-Genocide Poverty Reduction

These three case studies of the Holocaust in the 1940s, the Rwandan genocide during the 1990s and the Darfur genocide in the early 2000s illuminate various strategies for post-genocide poverty reduction. Restitution and aid provides a short-term solution to a long-term goal, as it allows survivors to immediately gain the assistance they need to reestablish themselves in society.

However, further steps are crucial to sustaining a life without poverty after a genocide. Empowerment and education are key steps to reducing poverty in the long-term. Overall, a combination of these three approaches is key to poverty reduction in the aftermath of a genocide.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

What is Genocide?Answering the question “what is genocide?” can be done as easily as looking in the dictionary. The word comes from the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix -cide, meaning killing. Putting the prefix and suffix together, Merriam-Webster defines genocide as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group.

While the dictionary definition is technically accurate, there is much more information and context necessary to truly answer the question “what is genocide?”

The term “genocide” was first coined in 1944 by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin to describe the Holocaust. Lemken created the term to describe what the Nazis were doing to European Jews. During the war, Lemken saw every member of his family except his brother killed by the Nazis. More than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in a targeted attempt to destroy the Jewish people.

After the war, Lemken fought to have genocide recognized as a crime under international law. During the Nuremberg trials, Nazi officials were charged with crimes against humanity, and genocide was used as a descriptive term for their actions. Genocide was recognized as a crime under international law by the U.N. General Assembly in 1946, and in 1948 the U.N. approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention).

The Genocide Convention defines genocide as any of five acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. These acts are killing 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 forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

There are some critics who say that the U.N. definition is too narrow. It is incredibly difficult to prove “intent,” difficult to determine the definition of “in part,” and the definition does not include political groups, social groups or the destruction of a group’s environment. There are also complaints that the term “genocide” is overused and misused, often in relation to actions not meant to destroy a people group.

Asking the question “what is genocide?” should also lead to an understanding of why recognizing genocide matters. While genocide is not commonplace, its effects are devastating. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum lists four instances of genocide since 1990. These occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Sudan and Iraq. These four genocides resulted in a death toll in the millions. These high casualty counts demonstrate why recognizing and responding to genocide is a necessity.

Genocide continues to be an issue today, as many are accusing the Burmese government of genocide of the Rohingya population, a Muslim minority group in the country. International attention given to the situation in Myanmar is putting pressure on the Burmese government to account for what is happening. With one million Rohingya living in Myanmar, this example shows the continuing need to identify and prevent genocide.

Erik Beck

Photo: Flickr

what is Ethnic Cleansing
What is ethnic cleansing? The term ethnic cleansing refers to the mass purge of members of an ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another. Throughout history, there have been many brutal examples of it. The aim is to rid of unwanted members of society and create an ethnically pure community.

The most famous examples of ethnic cleansing occurred throughout the 20th century. First, the Turkish massacre of Armenians during World War I, followed by the Holocaust during the Second World War. The Holocaust is possibly the most horrific example of ethnic cleansing, as the Nazis annihilated around 6 million European Jews. A final example is a forced displacement carried out in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda during the 1990s.

A recent example of ethnic cleansing is the Iraq Civil War, that consequently led to the Iraqi insurgency, which began in 2011 and is still happening. Areas are being evacuated as a result of insecurity and fear. The United Nations estimates that 2.2 million Iraqis have been displaced and that nearly 100,000 Iraqis evacuated to neighboring countries each month.

It is common for ethnic cleansing and genocide to get confused, as both include mass expulsion. Genocide means the targeting of a large group and the deliberate killing of its members. The International Criminal Court has linked both ethnic cleansing and genocide very closely, labeling them both as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ethnic cleansing has many consequences. There have been many cases of depression and other forms of psychological anguish as a result of it. Communities built by refugees are plagued with sadness, and the numbers of those living beneath the poverty line continue to increase. Shortages of food, clean water and housing become more apparent as these numbers continue to rise.

Finding a solution to ethnic cleansing is too difficult due to the vast differences between various ethnic groups and members of society. The only help that can be given is to the victims of it. This can be done through the donation of resources, to help communities that are struggling as a result of brutal situations.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr

 World War II
World War II was an expansive war fought between the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and the Allied power (Great Britain, Russia and the U.S.) that lasted from 1939 until 1945. With such a complex narrative, here are only 10 facts about World War II.

  1. World War II was not only fought in Europe.
    In the North African Military Campaigns between 1940 and 1943, the Axis powers attempted to cut off Middle Eastern oil supply to the Allies. These campaigns took place in Western Egypt, Eastern Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Ultimately, the Axis powers did not achieve their goal and the Allied powers neutralized the German threat. World War II was also fought in the Pacific. On December 4th, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor damaging the American Pacific fleet. Japan went on to conquer the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Burma. However, after 1943, American forces slowly removed the Japanese from power in the pacific front. Full Japanese surrender came after the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
  2. In total WWII claimed the lives of approximately 60 million people.
  3. The Holocaust claimed the lives of six million Jews.
  4. World War II was a continuation of World War I.
    At the end of WWI, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The treaty placed most of the blame on Germany, requiring them to pay large amounts of reparations and forcing the country to disarm. This greatly angered and humiliated the German people. Hitler used the German discontent to run as German Chancellor in the 1930s in which he promised to restore Germany.
  5. The immediate cause of WWII was the German invasion of Poland.
    Although facts about World War II show a multitude of causes for the war, the invasion of Poland was a crucial event. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded and within weeks successfully conquered Warsaw. Germany annexed West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia, and the former Free City of Danzig. As a response to the invasion, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
  6. The U.S was involved in WWII before the Pearl Harbor attack.
    At the start of WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the U.S. would practice neutrality. However, on March 11, 1941, the Lend-Lease Act passed which allowed the U.S. to provide military aid to allied nations during WWII.
  7. Stalingrad was a major turning point in the war.
    On July 9, 1942, Hitler ordered the capture of the Soviet Union city of Stalingrad. As a response, Stalin deployed the armed forces to defend Stalingrad and prohibited the civilians from leaving the city. Multiple counter-offensive attacks lead to Soviet victory.
  8. The Japanese used Kamikazes aircrafts.
    Kamikazes aircrafts were manned by Japanese soldiers who were instructed to crash into Allied ships. In total, kamikazes destroyed more than 300 U.S. ships which resulted in 15,000 casualties.
  9. Germany surrendered in May of 1945, while Japan did not surrender until September.
  10. The Marshall Plan gave aid to Europe to rebuild after World War II.
    The Marshall Plan gave $12 billion to Western European countries in economic turmoil caused by WWII.

World War II is still a popular topic today because it was one of the most violent and complex wars in history. These 10 facts about World War II only give a very brief overview.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

herz-sommer
At 110 years of age, Alice Herz-Sommer lived longer than most and had experienced something that a diminishing number of people living the world today may claim: surviving the Holocaust.

As the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust, for the past 70 years Herz-Sommer has served as a living reminder of the perils of hubris and inaction — specifically, for the nations who failed to act when reports of Adolf Hilter’s ethnic cleansing plans first came to light.

Alongside her husband and son, Herz-Sommer was imprisoned in 1943 at Theresiendstadt, a concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic. Two years later, she and her son were among those released from the camp after the Soviet army liberated the camp.

Of the estimated 140,000 sent there, fewer than 20,000 remained alive by the war’s end.

These numbers don’t inform the reader of Herz-Sommer’s accomplished piano skills nor do they tell us about Herz-Sommer staged concerts at the concentration camp, an activity that enlivened both herself and her fellow inmates.

We have all learned about World War II. We have studied how Adolf Hitler warred against the allied forces and nearly conquered Europe. We have listened to lectures about his efforts to cleanse his empire of Jews, homosexuals, the Roma and Sinti, the disabled, blacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other targeted groups.

Herz-Sommer’s reminded us of the human experience behind a man-made tragedy. History may be compressed into facts and statistics, but she, herself, could not.

Since WWII, more genocides have occurred, some more publicly than others. The Bosnian and Rwandan genocides occurred within the past 3o years while the more recent burning of Kiev, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the Central African Republic, and the millions of Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, all illustrate conflicts plaguing the world today.

The death of one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors should serve as a stark warning that even the most horrific crimes against humanity will eventually fade away into the annals of history.

While the irreparable erosion of memory and experience is inevitable, preserving an international consciousness of these crimes is an inalienable human obligation. By doing so, such an effort will both memorialize the victims and survivors of the past and help to safeguard potential victims in the future.

 – Emily Bajet 

Sources: New York Times, oas.org, Al Jazeera
Photo: Daily Mail

Elie_Wiesel
In 1986 when a committee in Oslo, Norway, awarded Elie Wiesel with the Nobel Peace Prize, they named him one of the “most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.” More than twenty years later, this sentiment still rings true. While the world continues to change, Wiesel’s testimony of peace, atonement, and human dignity holds; the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

Born on September 30, 1928, in Sighte, Romania, Wiesel was raised in a devout Jewish family. When Elie was fourteen years old, the deportation of Hungarian Jews began. Subsequently, Elie and his three sisters and parents were packed into wagons and transported to Auschwitz.

The screams of a madwoman and the smell of burning human flesh greeted the Wiesels. This would be the last time Wiesel saw his mother and youngest sister, who were sent into gas chambers after “selection.” This moment would haunt Wiesel for the rest of his life.

“Never shall I forget that night . . . which has turned my life into one long night. . . . Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.” He described in his semi-autobiographical novel Night, “Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.”

His father later died while being transported to Buchenwald. Despite the horrors endured by Wiesel during his time in Auschwitz, Wiesel remains startlingly altruistic. His main concern was never to seek revenge, but to prevent the recurrence of the events. His books give an eyewitness account of the horrors undertaken by the Nazi Regime while analyzing the reasons behind the events.

Wiesel aims to awaken the consciousness. It is not the number of the victims, nor the human slaughter factories that Elie Wisel wants us to address. It is the ease in which people so quickly adopted a philosophy in which being a Jew was a crime.

He does not want to gain sympathy from the world, because what has happened, happened. Rather he wants an answer to the question: what are we doing now to prevent it from happening again?

Elie Wiesel was released from Buchenwald in the spring of 1945. With other Jewish children, he was sent to France and studied at the Sorbonne until he left for the U.S. to become a journalist.

Tormented by his time in Auschwitz, it took Wiesel ten years to finally put his experience on paper. His first novel, Night, was written in Yiddish with the simple intention of being a coping mechanism; it has now sold over 6 million copies and has been translated in over 30 languages.

Wiesel’s story, which initially would not be published because many deemed it too depressing, is now one that inspires people from all backgrounds. His message has attained a universal degree. It is the communication of human to humankind. The fight for freedom and human dignity is not an isolated case that we have now overcome, but is an ongoing lesson to never forget the past.

Elie Wiesel is an honorary professor at City College in New York and also holds a professorship in humanities at Boston University. He is the leader of the American Holocaust Commission, and has written 26 full-length books.

Wiesel at one point had been reduced to a number on his wrist, prisoner A 7713. Today, rather than embarking on a mission of revenge, he says, “I will conquer our murderers by attempting to reconstruct what they destroyed.”

No description of the death camps could ever accurately portray what unfolded within them, and any attempts would seem to shame the dead. Remaining silent, however, would be an even greater betrayal. With that, Wiesel took pen to paper and spoke to the world. The dead, ultimately, should not have to die in vain.

Elie Wiesel, when finally released, stared at his skeletal figure reflected in the mirror, and could only ask, “why me?” The only answer to that question was to speak of the horrors that occurred. As a seventeen-year-old boy with little education, his voice was not loud, and his words were not complex. Nevertheless, they were said, and more importantly, they were heard.

The power and tenacity of the human spirit was tested during the dark years of 1939 to 1945. Though many may be tempted to believe that the unthinkable shall never repeat, compliance and silence cause us to quickly forget. But we must remember, as Wiesel teaches us, that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

– Chloe Nevitt
Feature Writer

Sources: SparkNotes, Nobel Prize
Photo: Clive Davis