Essay for Lesson 6: The Holocaust
The mere mention of the Holocaust could already arouse eerily suspicious reactions from those who know about it. The idea of systematically slaughtering the Jewish people because of unfounded accusations against their racial inferiority has heaped condemnation against the Holocaust as perhaps one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in human history. Historians would even go as far as asserting that the Holocaust is the most terrible act ever committed against humans, its impact being unparalleled by any other recorded event in human history. While one could assert the foregoing statement as a subject of an intense debate, one could only think of its impact alone as simply devastating. After all, what could be more devastating than a nearly successful ploy to exterminate a specific group of people only for political ends operationalized by groundless propaganda? While it may be unthinkable that the Holocaust may happen again in contemporary times – historians claim that the rest of the world has already learned lessons from it, its alleged status as the worst of its kind in history still stands as a matter of great contest deriving from relative points of view. True, the Holocaust is nothing short of horrible, but differing opinions may provide varying perspectives against its popular status as the worst-ever. Two possible opinions may provide alternative viewpoints contrary to the popular assertion historians have on the Holocaust: its contextual limitation within contemporary history and the absence of formidable records detailing other possible worse incidents in other points in history (Fulbrook 187-204).
Despite contentions against the popular assertion that the Holocaust is the worst crime in human history, one could not possibly contend against the premise that it is the worst crime in contemporary times. The contemporary times, which began during the 16th century, have featured several attacks against humankind, particularly in the form of wars (most notably the First and Second World Wars) and exploitative practices (colonization and African slavery). However, what sets the Holocaust apart from the foregoing manmade tragedies is the fact that its highly exploitative nature has employed a concentrated, methodical and extremely violent manner of destroying the lives of a particular group of people motivated by hatred. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party stalwarts framed anti-Semitism using racial considerations, deriving from religious anti-Semitism often used by Christians particularly during the medieval period. By defining the Jewish people as one with an inferior race than just being a deviant religious group, the Nazi Party successfully orchestrated its hate campaign systematically. The Nazi Party, under the charismatic rhetoric of Hitler, first proclaimed Germans as the superior Aryan race, in contrast to the Semitic race of the Jewish people, which it consistently treated as second-rate. The traditional image of the Jewish people as greedy for money, which has roots from religious anti-Semitism, fuelled the hatred of the Nazi Party. Accusations against the Jewish people on their alleged desire to dominate the world, with some having origins from fabricated material such as the “Protocols of the Elder of Zion” discovered in 1897, threatened the Nazi Party as it firmly placed anti-Semitism on top of its political agenda. Coinciding with the progressive industrial development of Germany, the Nazi Party succeeded in painstakingly targeting the Jewish people through resounding propaganda efforts, shrewd legal and political arrangements and machinated forms of slaughter conducted in labor and concentration camps during the Second World War. Mere figures alone – an estimated six million Jews slaughtered under the regime of the Nazi Party, could already attest to the fact that the Holocaust is the worst in contemporary times, its replicability deemed impossible due to the increased vigilance of the international community against letting such an outrageous tragedy from ever happening again. Nevertheless, one could still argue against the popular position of historians citing the Holocaust as the worst-ever in human history (Fulbrook 187-204; Spiegelman 11-32; Spielvogel 255-287).
The Possibility of Holocaust-Like Crimes
Understandably, the contemporary times have involved the development of more sophisticated methods used in documenting history, aided by various technological advancements that progressed throughout time. Yet, in asserting that a particular event is the worst of its kind in human history, one should not just look at the contemporary portion of human history, but on the entirety of human history itself. With that said, it may appear impossible to determine what could be worse than the Holocaust as a crime against humankind in human history, given that other portions apart from the contemporary times do not involve fully reliable tools for historical documentation (Fulbrook 187-204; Spielvogel 255-287).
Technological advancements such as photography, film and sound recordings have made the contemporary times a well-documented era in human history. Whereas the same have not been present in portions of human history that came before the contemporary times, one could not easily assert that the Holocaust is the most ruthless that has ever taken place. True, that sophisticated documentation tools may have helped enhance the relative yet popular consensus of historians on the Holocaust being the worst crime in human history, but the fact that the pre-contemporary times involved cryptic, if not poor, forms of historical documentation already raises questions. For instance, one could never tell at this point whether the purging of the Jewish people when the bubonic plague took place during the medieval period involved deaths higher than that recorded from the Holocaust. Motifs such as artworks and written materials could only tell a limited extent of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people when Christians blamed them for causing the bubonic plague (Fulbrook 187-204; Spielvogel 255-287).
Conclusion: Is The Holocaust the Worst Crime in Human History?
For purposes of specificity and lesser relativity, one could attest to the Holocaust as the worst crime not in human history in its entirety, but in contemporary times. Reliable historical documentation tools such as photography, film and sound recordings have emphasized the magnanimity of the Holocaust as a severely violent point in contemporary times, the replicability of which remains unimaginable to this day. However, the lack of reliable modes of historical documentation for portions of human history apart from the contemporary times puts forth the possibility that something worse than the Holocaust could have happened already. At best, one must take the claim of several historians that the Holocaust is the worst crime in human history as a relative position, given worse tragedies undocumented in human history may have happened already.
Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. 2nd ed. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus. New York City, NY: Penguin, 2011. Print.
Spielvogel, Jackson. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History. 6th ed. United Kingdom: Pearson, 2009. Print.