Could a holocaust happen again?

Answering in honour of Holocaust Memorial Day today.

The key ingredient is not a mad dictator - a dictator can kill critics, but cannot order murder on the scale of the Holocaust, because people wouldn't carry it out. Even assuming this dictator has a few regiments of mindless followers who obey his orders with religious fervour, they are not enough to kill so many people. Historians estimate that 500,000 people were directly or indirectly involved in the Holocaust. 200,000 people were involved in the Rwandan genocide. This is not a few regiments of madmen.

The key ingredient is the idea that there are more valuable and less valuable classes/groups of humans. If some are more valuable, then there are times when the survival or well-being of the more valuable needs to be assured by the unfortunate elimination of the less valuable (e. g. the Lebensraum doctrine). At a greater extreme, this idea means that some groups might be characterized as expendable even when the more valuable group is not particularly under threat, maybe just for economic benefit. At the greatest extreme, this idea means that some groups are inherently unworthy of living and ought to be killed or sterilized as a preventive measure (e. g. Hitler's view of disabled people).

Racism and Anti-Semitism were a particularly wide-spread form of this idea and they are still not eliminated today. Same for xenophobia, which is actually gaining ground in some countries. Ableism, sexism. A red flag is when a human is declared to be sub-human (as Obama a couple months ago) or depicted as an ape or other animal (as Mario Balotelli in European soccer). You can tell from these examples that the "the womb he [Hitler] crawled from is still going strong", as Bertold Brecht put it - not just in the third world, not just in Germany, but in every country including the USA and other advanced Western societies. This means that the Holocaust could happen again, as soon as madness or an unfortunate circumstance meets this latent idea of there being inferior groups of humans.

No human is sub-human, not even Hitler himself. He was a terrible human for sure, but undoubtedly human. And so were all his helpers. That is the true horror of the Holocaust.

No, it isn't. Not on that scale anyway.

The reason the holocaust went on as long as it did was because the Nazis were able to hide it to an extent. What I mean by that is, yes, people went around and talked about it and many people heard stories about the killing, but nobody could say that they have conclusive evidence of the Holocaust going on, and the rumors people heard were about individual events or individual camps, not about everything. Only after the end of the war did conclusive evidence of the crime in its entirety come to light. So even though there were rumors about individual events and individual camps, the Nazis could always say those were malicious rumors spread my the enemies, which was actually a plausible story, in a vicious war like WWII, all sorts of fictitious accusations are going to fly around, so when the Nazis said "what Einsatzgruppen? There are regular German soldiers at the front behaving honourably, and the communists and Jews are spreading malicious rumors about them. There are no Einsatzgruppen, that's a vicious lie" it was actually a plausible denial, particularly because their crimes were so outrageous that most people couldn't really believe people could do that to each other.

Nowadays it's a different story. If some state or another organization organized murdering people at an industrial scale, evidence of that would be quickly available and spread. Videos would surface, interested governments could take photos of the events using spy satellites, even comercial news agencies could send drones in the air and film the events.

Remember in the Bosnian war when the Srebrenica massacre happened and NATO bombed Serb forces right afterwards to prevent further massacres and end the war? That is one way how an event such as the Holocaust can be prevented.

But what can happen in the modern world is something like the Rwanda genocide. Rwandan genocide happened in a country that is usually not in the global spotlight, so news traveled slow. When the death rate was large enough for it to be "newsworthy" in the west, hundreds of thousands had already been killed. At the beginning of after two months foreign intervention forces started to arrive and the genocide was over. In the beginning there was news of unrest in Rwanda. In the west it didn't really make the headlines, because western attitude at the time was something like "What? Unrest in another African country? Aren't they all in a civil war?"

The characteristics of Rwandan genocide were that it happened really quickly, that the news of the events traveled slow and were not taken seriously at first and they the genocide was organized as a mass festival of butchery, there were hundreds of thousands perpetrators. In Rwanda there was no organized industrial killing like in the Holocaust, the only organization there was was wide distribution of machetes, whipping people up into a hateful murderous frenzy and a signal through the radio for the killing to start. Not much organization compared to the real Holocaust with its factories of mass murder and systematic deportations of whole communities to those factories. Rounding people up, deportations, gassing or shooting and disposal of corpses, it was all organized, the perpetrators were trained and paid, the facilities planned and built, the locations guarded and even camouphlaged to an extent. I think it was Sobibor where the Nazis were rounding up geese around the nearby town every time a mass gassing took place, so the geese noise would cover up the screams of the victims.

So, no, the Holocaust as it happened, with three years of organized murder taking place at designated factories of murder, could not happen in modern times. But a repeat of the Rwanda genocide could. If you let someone whip people up into a murderous frenzy, arm them and let them loose, it could happen again. And remember, Rwandan genocide, though the death toll was smaller than the Holocaust, was still on the same scale. 11 people died in the Holocaust, 1 million in Rwandan genocide, millions in both events.

Another type of Holocaust that could happen in the modern world is the nuclear Holocaust. Drop a megaton range weapon or two on Mexico City, Seoul, Constantinople, Cairo, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and you have millions of victims in an instant and millions more dying from radiation sickness over the next year. Those two types of mass murder could happen in the modern world,


22 November 2018

Question: "Could something like the holocaust happen again today?"

If you mean mass murder, yes. It has already happened after WW2.

If you mean in every detail like the German Nazi plan it its peak, the answer is yes, also.

But there are more efficient ways to exterminate people now.

The propensity of human beings to attempt to rule the world by exterminating opposition has never changed all through the history of mass human behavior.

There have always been evil people willing to exterminate as many people as they deem appropriate, or just as many as they can exterminate with impunity.

Ethnocentric intolerance is a worldwide phenomenon and has occurred all through history. It is not universally expressed as intolerance based on visible phenotype, as you can discern for yourself by asking what arbitrary visible phenotype if any separates the conflicting parties in the examples below:

Armenian Genocide - Wikipedia

Nanjing Massacre - Wikipedia

Rwandan genocide - Wikipedia

Bosnian genocide - Wikipedia

Cambodian genocide - Wikipedia

There are far too many examples to list here, even from the last 100 years.


It may also be the case that Syria has been using crematoria to remove evidence of its crimes against humanity:

"At least a half-dozen Syrians have told The New York Times over the past four years that they either witnessed the burning of bodies or smelled odors that made them wonder if bodies were being burned. Several mentioned an unpleasant smell like burning hair near prison or military facilities, or in areas recently taken by pro-government forces."

by Gardiner Harris, Anne Barnard, and Rick Gladstone

15 May 2017, The New York Times

Syrian Crematory Is Hiding Mass Killings of Prisoners, U.S. Says


It depends on what you mean. If you mean whether it is possible for genocides in general to take place again, unfortunately the answer is yes; since the Holocaust, there have been other genocides, including in Rwanda, in Darfur, in Iraq and in Syria, etc. Although the UN was established in the aftermath of the Holocaust to prevent future genocides, the organization has been ineffectual in this mission and more often than not serves the interests of human rights abusers rather than those aiming to defend human rights. This is in part the fault of the way the UN is organized and in part the reluctance of member countries to put their own troops at risk or to violate the sovereign authority of another country to defend the powerless when it is not in the country's short-term self interest to intervene in such a way.

Now, if by Holocaust, you specifically mean attempts to commit genocide against the Jewish population of the country committing such a genocide, then I think this is unlikely given that most Jews live in Israel (which, as a Jewish-majority country, would not commit genocide against its majority population) or in the US (where, though anti-Semitism is an issue, is not so anti-Semitic as to make that likely in the near future), and Israel would intervene and rescue the Jewish population if this happened elsewhere. Attempts to commit genocide against the Jewish population by seeking to destroy Israel, on the other hand, is unfortunately a real worry, especially given certain regional powers who aim to make that happen. That being said, such an attack would be very different than the Holocaust of WWII in form, even if the attackers may be motivated by similar goals.


When you say "something like the Holocaust" - what do you mean?

Do you mean brutal killing on the level of genocide? or do you mean systematic killing in death factories like the Germans did?

Unfortunately, the answer for both is "yes".

The brutal killing thing is going on now. It does not matter if it is one or millions - murder is murder, and killing out of hate because of race, religion or nationality, then the difference between one and a million is due to the capabilities of the murderer. "If he could have, he would kill 'em all", and you really don;t need to search far and wide to find examples of today. Maybe not millions, but it is due to lack of capability, not lack of will... so it will be one, dozens, hundreds... these are human beings, not stats!

On the other had, if you talk about the systematic killing in a death factory which is the new level of evil the German Nazis made - then the answer is... yes. In fact, the mere fact that Germany of the early 20th century, the center of culture, science and art, the greatest western, modern, intellectual society of the time created this evil shows that the enlightenment is not a barrier for the darkest darkness, democracy is not a promise for freedom and modernism is not a safeguard from barbaric brutality. It just makes it worse. And if it happened once - it can happen again!

So the lesson is, we might be modern, western, democratic, liberal, enlightened, cultured etc. but we still have the human animal - who can play the piano literally while killing people. It is because it did happen we must remember because now we know how low we - as a cultured, modern society - can go, and that modernism and technology can serve also our darkest sides. We must remember there is no such thing as "small hate". We must be careful of demonizing any group or even a single person.

So, yes, regardless of what exactly you meant. Because it happened, it can still happened, which is why we must never let it happen!


I believe so. As was already said, a few events of genocide have occured
since the holocaust, and the world seems to have let them occur (some more than other). In contrast to the answer which depicted Korea's dictator, my personal opninion is that such a thing can happen anywhere, and by the hands of anybody - even cultured, educated "good" people. In my opinion, blaming a dictator for leading a group of people to commit such crimes is a very shallow way to look at the issue. Also dividing the world into "good" and "evil" is simplistic and dangerous - good guys can also do bad things sometime. (For a lightweight example, see McCarthyism)
Each of us bears a responsibility not just to fight such things, but make sure we do not become perpetrators and facilitators of such acts. Don't say "I'm above this - I'm incapable of doing such things". Youll be surprised by how easily one can be motivated to look the other way, or commit such acts.

A very good talk about this IMHO is given by Philip Zimbardo:
http://www.ted.com/talks/philip_...

First, realize that the "Holocaust" is not unique, even though the word has been appropriated for political use, and I think that is unfortunate. As a historian, I consider any form of mass murder to be a holocaust and the word genocide is about the same. In this particular case, the dictionary definitions are unsatisfactory.

The fact is the Native Americans suffered a holocaust at the hands of the British and Spanish colonists. Estimates vary, but as many as 4 million may have died by direct murder, disease or starvation. Africans suffered a holocaust during the passage from Africa to the Americas, and estimates of 4 million dead on the Middle Passage are considered realistic. Both these are frequently downplayed by the Americans because they prefer to deny the deaths.

Under Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution (1970's), the death toll due to mass starvation created by the government killed up to 60 million people. In the Soviet Union under Stalin, famine because of collectivization killed from 6 to 13 million during the 1930's. More recently, the killings of the Tutsi peoples by the Hutu in Rwanda accounted for about a million dead (1994). At the turn of the 19th century, the Turks expelled all the Armenians, which resulted in a forced death march that killed about 1.5 million Armenians. So, depending on what you consider a "holocaust" to be, or whether you simply want to call these other events genocide, mankind has been at the business of murdering his fellow man, often for religious, racial and/or political reasons for a long time. In my book, these are all holocausts, and we are likely to see more. When, or how, we do not yet know, but if there were a nuclear war, it could kill 100 million or every last mammal on this planet, leaving this blue and green world a scorched brown.


The answer is no....holocaust is not a simple genocide.... it was an organised crime where millions of people were gased and cremated and their ashes scattered without ceremony with no ritual of remembrance....it was not a regular ethic cleansing that happened in the past and regrettably will happen again, and will be punished as such ultimately.
Holocaust was a profanity for human values, a most heinous crime that tried to vanish not only life but also the human soul. An attempt to wipe out the memory for the existence of millions of people like if never existed.
It was a crime highly organised and executed with concentration camps, gas chambers, crematoria and a detailed  methodology of extermination .
It was not a woe of war of any kind but the result of cold blood organised murder.
Today media and human values are impossible to accept such "last solutions", and every nation that will attempt such a thing again will face swift vengeance from the entire planet.
and every leader that will envision such path will not last enough to see it executed.
So the answer is absolutely no.
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