The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective

By Sharfman, Glenn | Shofar, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective


Sharfman, Glenn, Shofar


edited by Robert Gellately and Ben Kierman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 396 pp. $22.00.

Robert Gellately, a specialist in Nazi Germany, and Ben Kierman, the preeminent authority on the Cambodian Killing Fields, have compiled a book of essays that examine the numerous genocides of the twentieth-century. This volume will be invaluable for scholars of all disciplines who seek to gain a greater comprehension of what, on the surface, seems incomprehensible. The editors have gathered articles on the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge genocide, Armenia, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia, as would be expected, but other essays examine less well known examples in Namibia during the first decade of the last century, Guatemala (Mayan), Ethiopia, and Indonesia (East Timor). One of the questions that permeate the book is whether scholars can find similarities between and among the horrific examples of mass killing. Comparative genocide is a difficult subject to study, both emotionally and also methodologically. Eric Weitz, in a fascinating piece on "The Modernity of Genocides," argues that in the last century genocides "have become more frequent, more extensive, and more systematic" (p. 71). He contends that the intensity and volume has increased not only because of technology, but also because of a culture of killing that is frequently linked with race. While not ignoring past examples of mass murder prior to 1900, Weitz claims that both technology and ideology have defined what makes genocide modern.

Weitz's analysis is on the macro level and does not explain why in some instances genocide occurs and in others -- where similar conditions exist -- it does not. His use of race and purity as an integral factor is, however, convincing. The most perplexing, but also the most interesting, account is Omer Bartov's "Seeking the Roots of Modern Genocide: On the Macro- and Micro-history of Mass Murder." Bartov's article includes a synopsis of one relatively small example of genocide during the Holocaust, the murder of the Jews of Buczacz, which is illuminating because it is really only on a case-by-case basis that one can begin to understand the complexities of genocide. Some towns like Buczacz offer an example where Jews were murdered by their neighbors for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, the ideology of race and purity. In other European towns similar to Buczacz some Jews were saved for a variety of reasons that can blur when looking at genocide from a larger perspective.

Most of the contributors broach the differences between what constitutes genocide legally as opposed to what denotes mass murder; the 1948 UN Resolution on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide is reproduced in the appendix. This distinction has recently become more important with the advent of war crimes trials. Jay Winter's interesting article, "Under the Cover of War: The Armenia Genocide in the Context of Total War," argues that the Armenian example serves as a bridge that links the several cases of deportation and mass murder during the nineteenth century with those more violent and systematic episodes of genocide in the twentieth, "when the motives of ethnic greed and hatred were mobilized by unscrupulous elites in the context of total war" (p. 213). Winter points out some differences between the Armenian episode and the later incidences of ethnic cleansing, but in the end he sees more continuity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.