Friday, June 21, 2013

A Light on Our Darker Side

One of the most prominent features of the twentieth century was genocide and ethnic cleansing. Why this happened, and continued to happen, is the basis of the book by Norman M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe.

Naimark certainly has no lack of subject matter to choose from; so he focuses on Europe, and certain key events of genocide and ethnic cleansing which work as watershed moments in this type of activity. He handles the Armenians and Greek of Anatolia, the Nazi attacks on the Jews, the Soviet deportation of the Chechen-Ingush and Crimean Tartars, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland during and following the Second World War, and the various acts of ethnic cleansing that occurred during the Wars of Yugoslav Success in the 1990s.

This covers most of the twentieth century. Naimark draws important distinctions between genocide and ethnic cleansing, and how they often overlap. He shows how the rise of virulent nationalism fostered the surge of both acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the twentieth century. The rise of mass transportation and technology aided in killing, but he shows how sadly easy it is to kill large numbers of people by deporting them, depriving them of food, shelter, and medicine.

All in all, this important book sheds a light on a very dark part of the human psyche.

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