The term genocide refers to the attempt to wipe out an entire people group – often a race, religion, or nationality – by killing them. Sadly, genocide has occurred throughout history.
- Native Americans in North America. From the time that Christopher Columbus first reached what would become the Americas, attempts were made at wiping out the indigenous people (often known as Native Americans, American Indians, or Amerindians). The vast majority of these were killed as a result of the diseases that Europeans brought. Although the Europeans were immune to these diseases, the Native Americans were not, causing as many as 100 million of them to die from sickness. Disease was used as a biological weapon against them, and throughout the 1700s and 1800s, the United States continued warring with the remaining natives.
- The Haiti Massacre. In an attempt to rid Haiti of its white population, Jean-Jacques Dessalines led a massacre between February and April of 1804, resulting in the deaths of up to 5,000 French Creoles of all ages and genders. According to Dessalines, the massacre was an attempt to preserve the nation. By 1805, only non-whites were legally allowed to own land or be considered citizens of Haiti.
- The Dzungar Massacre. The Dzungar were a nomadic empire that was at war with the Qing Dynasty in China in the 17th and 18th centuries. A campaign from the Qing government was aimed at the complete destruction of the people group, with 40% being killed by smallpox, 30% by massacre, and many of the remaining people fleeing the country to escape death. The result of the campaign was the collapse of the Dzungar state and the near-eradication of its people.
- Ethnic Cleansing of Circassia. Circassia, an area along coast of the Black Sea in Russia, was seen by the Tsarist Empire as a strategic necessity. For a century, Russia waged war against the Circassians, with more than 90% of the nation being annihilated or deported. According to some historians, this was the largest genocide of the 19th century, with up to 1.5 million Circassians being killed and the rest deported.
- The Holodomor. The Soviet Union was responsible for campaigns against many people groups during its existence. The Holodomor was an intentional famine caused by the Soviet government confiscating the whole harvest of 1933 in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere, leaving the peasantry with no food to feed themselves. As many as ten million people starved to death across the Soviet Union as a result, the majority of them in Ukraine.
- The Holocaust. In one of the world’s most infamous instances of genocide, the Holocaust was the attempt by the Nazi government to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population. Concentration and mass extermination camps either worked Jews to death or gassed them, with approximately 6 million being killed. During the same period, Germany also attempted to exterminate other ethic groups, including Slavs, the Romani, and even the mentally handicapped. Estimates suggest that more than 16 million people were exterminated by the Nazi government before World War II came to an end in 1945.
These are all tragic examples of genocide. It is very important to learn about the different genocides that have occurred in the past so that those who fight for freedom can do everything possible to stop genocide in the future.