State Violence in the Twentieth Century

History 102

Web Module # 3

  Genocide, Democide, and The Holocaust

            The Twentieth Century has witnessed more mass killings than in any previous century.  It is estimated that about 170,000,000 persons were systematically and cruelly killed by the actions of governments.  In many cases, these governments were their own.  Some were killed because of hatreds that were centuries old.  Some were killed to further political goals. Some were killed in war, but most were killed not for what they were as individuals, but for who they were as a group.  By comparison, although the numbers also are staggering, the deaths among soldiers is relatively small.  Of course, the invention of ever more efficient killing weapons and weapons of mass destruction made the wasting of human life that much easier.  Inhumanity and killing have always been part of humankind’s history, but the Twentieth Century has done it so efficiently and in such a magnitude that new words had to be invented to describe the relentless slaughter that is so much a part of the history of this century. 
          The legal concept of crimes against humanity was first put forth in the famous Andersonville trial after the end of the American Civil War.  Its universal acceptance in international law, however, would only come about after World War II and the revelation of the full dimensions of the Holocaust.  In this century, crimes against humanity would become one of the most defining political characteristics.    The great tragedy is that these Twentieth Century slaughters have deprived the future of the world’s most valuable resource: its peoples.  In the final analysis, the Twentieth Century may well become known not for its great inventions, but for its killing fields.   This web module is designed to acquaint students with the both the scale and character of systematic slaughter.


For the preliminary analysis do the following:

In your own words define and explain the problems in conceptualizing mass state murder.

Explain the need for the new term “Democide.”

Guided by the questions, determine which are the most relevant statistics at the  Democide Web Site.

Determine which 20th Century example of state homicide you wish to explore.

Describe the documents that your group will use in exploring the specific case study of mass murder selected to analyze.


  For the final analysis each Web Module Analysis Group must submit a single paper that does the following:

Explain what the materials at the “Freedom, Democide, War Home Page” taken together tell use about state violence in the 20th Century.

Explain what were the causes of the state violence your group has decided to explore in depth.

Explain why you think the 20th Century has seen so much state violence.

Conceptualizing Mass Murder

Genocide and Holocaust:

     Click on the PBS “Frontline: The Crime of Genocide” and read the Alain Destexhe’s definition of genocide and the Holocaust.
      Frontline: The Crime of Genocide

Read the definition of Genocide. What is the history of the term Genocide? What is the working definition of Genocide? What is the history of the term Holocaust? What would constitute a Holocaust? What is the problem in using these terms to describe the systematic killings of the Twentieth Century?


Click on the “Freedom, Democide, War Home Page” Web Site constructed by Professor R.J. Rummel..

                              Freedom, Democide, War: Home Page

Read Professor Rummel’s Introduction.

What does Professor Rummel want to prove with the data and materials located at his Web Site?

Does it seem logical?

Click on the Democide button.

What is the definition of Democide?

Why do we need a new term?

Explore the “Freedom, Domicide, War: Home Page.

What strikes you most about the materials contained at the Web Site?

How does the Twentieth Century compare with Domicide in previous centuries?

Search the site for statistics on battle casualties in the Twentieth Century and compare them with Domocide in this century.  Which is larger?  By how much?

Who were the Twentieth Centuries biggest mass murders?

Researching Mass Murder in the Twentieth Century

Select one of the cases of Genocide, Democide or the Holocaust to look at a little closer and carry out the following assignment.  In conducting your research identify the following areas of historical interest.

Why did the events take place?

Who was involved in the events?

What were the results?

How did the rest of the world react?

In doing your research, be careful to distinguish between secondary materials that were written after the event or by non-observers and primary materials that are contemporary with the event or generated by actors in the event.  In developing your report identify three (3) primary documents that seen to best offer insights into the nature of the events you are researching.

Web Sites Offering Links to materials on Genocide, Domicide, and the Holocaust.

Genocide: Resources for Teaching and Research.”  Go to Links and then to Link Page 2.

Holocaust and Genocide Studies.”

Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.”  Go to Web Links.

Revelations from the Russian Archives” This is a Library of Congress site.

The Holocaust History Project.”  Go to Documents.

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