Investigating Genocides

May 3, 2023
6:30-8:30 PM
Zoom – registration required below

In a 1949 interview, Raphael Lemkin stated, “I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times.” Although he coined the term “genocide” to describe the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews, his interest went beyond the Holocaust. Lemkin dedicated his life to genocide prevention and to studying patterns of injustice and violence that pervaded history and spanned the globe.

MCHE’s mission calls upon us to utilize the lessons of the Holocaust to combat genocide. Through this partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, we present public history workshops focused on other genocides. Graduate students from Dr. Andrew Bergerson’s World History Colloquium will present case studies in genocide, lead participants in a discussion about each study, and highlight the insights that these genocides might provide about the Holocaust.

This workshop will feature two panels of graduate student-led presentations. Please see sessions below for complete descriptions of the topics.

Panel 1

Ellie Rieber, From Aleppo to Auschwitz: The Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust
From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Government terrorized and killed around one million Armenians in what is today called the Armenian Genocide. Scholars draw attention to similarities between this event and the later Holocaust, both in terms of their methods and their mindsets. Studying the two genocides together allows researchers to analyze these similarities and the transnational relationships between the two mass atrocities.

Erik Harm, Between Hitler and Stalin: Postwar Soviet atrocities against non-Jewish Poles, 1937-1953
During Joseph Stalin’s reign over the Soviet Union, the Peoples’ Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) targeted non-Jewish Poles with mass killings, forced deportations, and imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag system. With the opening of Eastern European and Russian archives, a growing number of historians now call these actions a genocide. This paper will outline these policies in the comparative context of Nazi Germany’s systematic targeting of European Jews.

Izabella Fletcher, Rhetoric as a Tool of Genocide: The 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine
On February 24, 2022, Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine in an ongoing attempt to annex its territory and “de-Nazify” the state. Russian troops continue to perpetrate what many scholars consider to be genocidal acts against the Ukrainian people and their infrastructure. The Kremlin maintains that it is the Russians, however, that are victims of genocide and employs this propagandistic narrative as justification for war.

Panel 2

Gabe King, Black Genocide Reconsidered: A Contemporary Defense of the Civil Rights Congress’ 1951 Petition “We Charge Genocide” 
In 1951, William L. Patterson and the Civil Rights Congress petitioned the United Nation’s Genocide Convention to recognize the conditions of the Jim Crow South as a crime against humanity. Although prior scholars have examined the efforts of the United States government to suppress the petition, little critical attention has been paid to its empirical merits. This presentation will use 21st-century models of genocide to argue that the U.S. Government should be held responsible for genocide against African Americans following the end of Reconstruction.

Jack Meara, The Guatemalan Genocide: Military Government, US Intervention, and the Fear of Mayan Marxism
From 1981 to 1983, the Guatemalan military government murdered two hundred thousand Mayan citizens who were suspected of communism. Scholars have argued that the Guatemalan government succeeded in eliminating the communist threat. This paper will demonstrate that their short-term success unintentionally strengthened bonds between ethnic groups, leading to the rise of contemporary left-wing indigenous political parties.

Elijah Winkler, The Intersections of Two Traumas: the Holocaust and the Nakba in Memory and in History
Between 1947 and 1948, the armed forces of the newly created state of Israel uprooted an estimated 750,000 Arab Palestinians from their homes in what is known as al-Nakba (the catastrophe). Recent studies of the letters, literatures, and oral histories of both Israelis and Palestinians show how the Holocaust and the Nakba became foundational events within historical narratives that often deny the validity of the other. This paper will explore this process in an effort to bridge the historiographic gap between these two catastrophes.

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