by Anna Plunkett
This year, 27 January marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Holocaust. The camp was liberated by Ukrainian forces of the Soviet Union on the 27 January 1945. By the time these forces arrived much of the camp had been dismantled by the Nazi guards but many of its prisoners were too ill and too weak to leave the site of their illegal detainment and planned extermination. To many the liberation of this large and well-known concentration camp marked the end of the Holocaust, one of the darkest episodes of modern history. Nevertheless, the crime of genocide is far from one resigned only to the history books, as this series will show, it remains relevant to our analysis of the world today.
The Holocaust, saw the extermination of over six million Jews between 1933 and 1945 from across all parts of Europe. Whilst there is no denying the absolute destruction that decimated the Jewish community and other minority groups as part of ‘The Final Solution’ (1942-45), the crimes of the Holocaust do not stand alone. Genocide, the act of intentionally exterminating a population has occurred throughout history. The Genocide Convention, signed in 1951, was introduced after the Holocaust to try and protect populations from such acts of annihilation. However, with all its good intentions and international agreements, genocide remains a part of the reality of the contemporary era.
Historical cases of Genocide including the Armenian Genocide and the Genocide of the Indigenous Populations of the United States of America continue to impact their respective communities today. More contemporary cases include the 1994 Rwandan Genocide where violence escalated at such a dramatic rate the UN Peacekeeping forces were forced to evacuate. The aftermath of which forced the international community to reconsider their role and response to such atrocities within a globalised world.
This January, the International Court of Justice, a mechanism from within the United Nations, published its interim ruling on the case of Genocide within Myanmar. It found evidence to support the accusation of genocide put forward by The Gambia and has authorised a full investigation into the case. Genocide has become synonymous with the worst crimes humanity can face. In law, we have committed globally to protect populations from it. Yet, genocides continue to occur, and their effects are felt over the generations of affected populations. This series will highlight various cases of genocide, analysing the act itself and how the enacting of such crimes is still relevant today.
Part 1: Elisabeth Beck writes on the importance of Holocaust and Genocide Education within Germany and how this highly institutionalised form of learning requires adaptation to benefit Germany’s increasingly diverse population.
Part 2: Hannah Rose reflects on the 75 years of remembrance of the Holocaust, considering the importance of remembrance to the communities affected as well as younger generations, as a method of prevention, and as a reflection of crimes being committed against other minorities throughout the world.
Part 3: Karla Drpic will discuss the role of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia analysing both its successes and failures on the local and international level, before reflecting on what the future of reconciliation after genocide may look like for future generations.
Part 4: Mariana Boujikian questions the finality of the end of a genocide, analysing the transgenerational impact of genocidal acts on victimised groups through her research on the Armenian Genocide and its survivors in Brazil.
Part 5: Will focus on the failure of the UN mechanisms to respond to the ongoing genocide against the Rohingya, arguing that the statist system the UN employs has left it ineffective in engaging in the protection of persecuted populations.
Anna is a doctoral researcher at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. She received her BA in Politics and Economics from the University of York, before receiving a scholarship to continue her studies at York with an MA in Post-War Recovery. She was the recipient of the Guido Galli Award for her MA dissertation. Her primary interests include conflict and democracy at the sub-national level, understanding how various political orders are impacted by transitions at the sub-national level. Anna’s main area of focus is Myanmar’s ethnic borderlands and ongoing conflicts in the region. She has previously worked as a human rights researcher focusing on military impunity and its impact on the community in Myanmar.