Dehumanization and Extermination

Part of my latest anthropology class assignment is to write about genocide and the process of it. When I first received the assignment, I was super confused. I thought genocide was just when someone was an extremely racist person and decided to kill everyone that they hated. I didn’t know that there was a process to it, as in a PLAN was actually made for the wiping out of huge groups of people. As I learned more and more about different genocides over time, I learned that they have all followed the same pattern, and that fact scared me.
These kinds of topics always got me really angry. In fact, any type of action where innocent people are killed or hurt always angered me. I just wanted world peace. Was that too much to ask for?
So I did a whole lot of research today about genocide and the process behind it. It turns out there are 8 stages to genocide: classification, symbolism, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. I am not going to go into a huge amount of detail with each other because it will just stir up anger in me again that I am not ready for. I have an organic chemistry test tomorrow that I still need to prepare for.
But right now I am not interested in organic chemistry right now, because I am now super intrigued by this topic.
I read about the different genocides that have happened over history. Of course, the first one to come up was the Holocaust led by Adolf Hitler. In the past (like during my senior year in my room at like midnight during winter break. Random, I know), I had already sat and watched a 3-hour documentary about the event. After watching it, I had rage that you would never believe. I watched the concentration camps and what were inside. I imagined myself inside those people’s shoes and my stomach felt like it was turning inside out. Imagine the fear that those people felt. I imagined how some of those people had already accepted their fate. And it’s interesting to know that over 6 million (at the top end, 11 million) people had their lives taken away by this event. By this hatred. And what really angered me was at the end of the documentary, how people denied that this event even happened right next to them. American soldiers forced people out of neighboring places (who all said that they had no idea, though the smell of dead bodies was unavoidable) to come and see what their country was doing. Many people got sick, others started crying, and others still could not believe it. Even now, I still cannot wrap my head around it. How can people not realize that over 6 million people were being burned, buried alive, poisoned, stretched, shot, tortured, forced into labor, gassed, etc. right next door to where they resided??

The only times that I have ever been filled with that much rage was when I watched a 2-hour 9/11 documentary while doing my hair. I watched as there were people jumping out of the fiery buildings of the Twin Towers. The most shivering part was when you heard the loud crash when the person fell. They showed how the person went through the ceilings of the buildings and through the ground due to the speed. When they hit the ground, there was nothing left of them but the blood and shattered body parts. I was so enraged at the fact that people had to make a choice of how they wanted to die. I watched different people’s perspectives on that day: the people in Times Square, the people miles away in apartment complexes, the people inside the Twin Towers, the firefighters, and I also read the messages sent from the airplanes before the crash. Another chill went through me when I learned that there were no survivors from all four planes that day.

Another time was when I watched a 2-hour documentary last semester for my Children’s Literature class. That one talked about the racism prevalent during the 50s-60s in America, and it showcased all the main civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Additionally, it showcased a man who was a homosexual during the time, and who was just as prevalent and active as the main two, but due to his sexuality he did not receive as much recognition. This was the first time that I was hearing about the fight for equal rights for same-sex marriage. I was soo surprised by this fact, because it was not until last summer in June did same-sex marriage become legal in all states. So their fight went on for just as long, if not longer, than the fight for equal rights of all races.

Over winter break, my mother and I watched the movie Selma, which was also another movie that stirred up so much anger in me. I had watched it over the summer by myself, and right after watching it, I was hit with so much anger… so much hatred… I did not know what to do with myself at that moment. After watching the movie, I researched more about what happened during the time, and I realized that all the events that were mentioned in the film were true. I thought they were just a way for the film director to increase the severity of the event. The movie started out with the 4 little girls being killed in the Birmingham bombing. I read about the result of that. They found out who the person was, and they put him on trial. They showed him pictures of the girls he had bombed, and he actually became sick and threw up in the courtroom. It was that reaction that made me realize that at the time, he may not have noticed them as children… and people. He dehumanized them.

Now, after doing this research, I have answered my long-standing question as to how people could mindlessly mass murder so many people at once without a single blink of the eye.

They dehumanize them. They call them “vermins” and “cockroaches” that need to be taken out. This is why these killings are not named “murders”, but “exterminations” because the murderers do not see them as human.

I then read about other genocides, and I learned about the genocide that happened in Cambodia during the 90’s, which brought up a new emotion out of me. This was a genocide that happened recently, one that killed over a million people, and apparently this is one that the United States knew about…

What?

You mean to tell me that people knew about this one, but no one wanted to help the people? The children? How could we be so heartless?

Something that gets me extremely emotional is the fact that people who were weak children, the old, mentally disabled, or ill were immediately killed without a second thought. Since they would slow down the movement of the extremists and they were seen as “no help”, they were immediately gone.

What really confused me for a while was looking at the different photos where Hitler is hugging children and laying out on the beach, I then remember that he was a normal human being… in fact he was a normal human being during his reign. Unfortunately, his view on humanity and a certain group of people was severely skewed. While doing my research for this paper, I learned that he was really good friends with a couple who decided to follow his orders. This family had 6 children. I looked at the picture, and those kids looked like the most innocent children on Earth. I just couldn’t believe the parents that they unfortunately had the chance of having.

When it was nearing the end of WWII and Germany was losing, Hitler committed suicide with his wife at the time (who he had married the day before. I personally think it was so he wouldn’t die alone.) and he killed his dog (which I still will never understand.). After that, this man who had a family, decided to poison all 6 of his kids with cyanide after hiring his dentist to inject all of them with a shot of morphine, making them fall unconscious. Afterwards, he and his wife went up to a garden, and committed suicide there.

It’s interesting to know that after these genocides, in many cases the people who performed these acts end up committing suicide. It is as if they realized what they had done. Were they possessed during the action? Were they in a fixed mindset that could not be broken unless taken out of the situation?

I think I am done talking about this topic. Anytime when I dwell on this subject for too long, my stomach goes into knots, my temperature begins to rise, my blood starts to boil, and I start to develop a hatred for a certain group of people (though this is temporary, but unfair to stereotype like that).

I am so passionate about this topic and injustice in general, I’ve always wondered if maybe I could continue studies in this topic here in college. I would love to take another anthropology class dealing with these topics(it also helps that my anthropology TA likes me 🙂 ).

 

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