The Use of the Term 'Genocide'

Paul Flewers paul.flewers at
Sun Oct 24 13:12:15 MDT 1999

Anders Püschel wrote: < The Jews weren't the only victims of German (by
no means only "Nazi") genocide during WWII. The Slavs and the Roma
(Gypsies) were exterminated on the same racist grounds as were the Jews.

Yes, you're right here about other people than the Jews who were
subjected to a genocidal treatment, particularly the Gypsies. However,
there were some complications with the Nazis' attitude towards who they
called 'untermenschen'. It made no difference whether a Jew was a
middle-class, assimilated Berliner, indistinguishable from his German
neighbour, an very visible Chassid in a Polish shtetl, or anyone in
between, all Jews were a target for the Nazis; as were all Gypsies. But
some Slavs were treated differently to others. Poles were treated worse
than Czechs and Slovaks, Serbs worse than Croats. Some Nazis, including
the pathological anti-Semite Alfred Rosenberg, wanted to try to win
support for the Nazis amongst the Western Ukrainians, who were generally
anti-Russian, but this was overruled by Hitler, and Ukrainians as a
whole were badly treated.

I do dispute Anders' statement about < German (by no means only "Nazi")
genocide >. It is true that people who were not members of the Nazi
party took part in the slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs. But without
the Nazi party being in power in Germany, it is very unlikely, perhaps
even impossible, for the mass killings that took place in Europe during
1939-45 to have occurred. Even had Hitler fallen prior to 1939, the
dynamics of German imperialism would have led to a big European war.
Nonetheless, such a war would have been less ideological and more a
rerun of the First World War, and therefore less destructive of
civilians and prisoners-of-war. In other words, the Nazis' control of
Germany was crucial for the war to take on the genocidal aspects that it

>From what I have read, it seems that anti-Semitism was less strong in
Germany than in many other parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Per head
of the population, the Nazis had more support in Austria than in
Germany. Many Germans were disgusted by the Nazis' Kristallnacht
state-run pogrom in 1938, whilst many non-Germans in Eastern Europe
readily took part in pogroms against Jews as the German forces advanced
eastwards; for example, many Lithuanians participated in the killings in
the Kovno ghetto. Some of the SS brigades involved in some of the worst
pogroms were largely made up of non-Germans. Once again, it was the Nazi
control of German imperialism that allowed this to happen.

I think an important point here is the mechanism by which ordinary
people with no particular prejudices, or only mild prejudices, can
become involved in atrocities during a war, doing things that they would
not normally do. This does not just apply to the sui generis example of
Nazi war crimes, but those committed in many other wars involving many
different countries during this century.

Paul F

More information about the Marxism mailing list