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The Twentieth Century has been described as the "century of genocides."

However, "there are considerable disagreements among experts concerning whether a specific complex of behaviours merits the designation genocide[.]" (Genocide: Definitions and Controversies For example, in Rwanda and Genocide In The Twentieth Century, by Alain Destexhe with a foreword by William Shawcross (reproduced at it is argued that "there have really only been three genuine examples of genocide during the course of the twentieth century: that of the Armenians by the Young Turks in 1915, that of the Jews and Gypsies by the Nazis and, in 1994, that of the Tutsis by the Hutu racists." In contrast, in a submission to the United Nations, others have argued that the Rwanda killings were not genocide. See "WHY THE RWANDAN WAR WAS NOT GENOCIDE"

One source of this disagreement might be a certain intellectual sloppiness in regard to the use of the term, "genocide." For example, William Shawcross argues at length:

"[T]he word genocide [has fallen] victim to a sort of verbal inflation, in much the same as happened with the word fascist. It has been applied freely and indiscriminately to groups as diverse as the blacks of South Africa, Palestinians and women, as well as in reference to animals, abortion, famines and widespread malnutrition, and to many other situations. The term genocide has progressively lost its initial meaning and is becoming dangerously commonplace. In order to shock people and gain their attention to contemporary situations of violence or injustice by making comparisons with murder on the greatest scale known in this century, 'genocide' has been used as synonymous with massacre, oppression and repression, overlooking that what lies behind the image it evokes is the attempted annihilation of the entire Jewish race. . . .

The inevitable consequences of such misuse of language are a loss of meaning and a distortion of values"

From RWANDA AND GENOCIDE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Alain Destexhe with a foreword by William Shawcross (reproduced at
Indeed, even those who expressly define "genocide" do not agree on a definition. For example, Encyclopedia Britannica defines "genocide" as "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, religious, political, or ethnic group." (, while others have defined it as "the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence." Armenian Genocide, and the Convention On The Prevention And Punishment Of The Crime Of Genocide defines "genocide" as: "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such

:(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Essential Question
Time Allotment
Technology Use
Quick and Dirty
Long and Involved
Moderate Size
East Timor

Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit

Subject: History
Grade Level: 12th
Lesson Plan Author:
G. Danning