To: Director From: Brian Greb Date: December 1st 2006 Subj: Direct & Indirect effects of WWI on 20th century genocides Every 20th century genocide finds its roots in WWI. The total nature of that war and its millions of casualties, many non-combatant, fostered a culture of violence that made concurrent (e.g., the Armenian) and later genocides (including the Holocaust) feasible, applicable, and acceptable. The WWI-induced culture of violence would even spread outside of Europe through the various imperial systems to virtually every corner of the world. World War I was therefore both a model and a tutorial for mass, government-led violence. The genocide perpetrated against the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire was timed and conducted under the guise of the total war. The Ottoman policy to expel and exterminate non-Muslims from the crumbling empire could not come to fruition during peace time. Ordered and spontaneous massacres of Armenian populations were met with resistance (however minute) and fell short of the empires’ genocidal aspirations. Armenian resistance came in the form of its prominent leaders, quantity of men of fighting age, and access to weapons. These massacres (test genocides) conducted prior to the onset of World War I were limited in success and scope because of such obstacles. When the Ottoman Empire entered the war it was enabled to swiftly eliminate all barriers preventing it from thoroughly carrying out the extermination of its Armenian population. The first step undertaken was the arrest of 250 of Armenia’s most prominent leaders and intelligentsia in April of 1915. This coupled with the Ottoman parliament passing a law that required the disarming of all non-Muslims within the empire proved to break the back of the Armenian people and their resistance. By May of 1915 an order came down that required all the men of fighting age that had been drafted into the Ottoman army to be disarmed and assigned to labor units. That very same month the Ottoman Empire passed a temporary law of deportation which sealed the fate of the Armenian population and accelerated the genocide. The results of WWI left Germany and much of Eastern Europe spellbound and immersed in a culture of violence. This atmosphere of total war acclimatized all of Eastern Europe (especially Germany) for the Holocaust which was to follow. The thoughtless Treaty of Versailles failed addressing anything but blame, and in doing so, catalyzed the region toward a second world war. Provisions of the treaty cast an already crippled German economy into unrecoverable debt. This was exacerbated by the Great Depression which hit Germany especially hard due to the astronomical amounts of currency it had to borrow to pay down reparations levied against it by the treaty. The Nazi party appealed to the overwhelming German displeasure toward the treaty provisions and the broad economic hardships that reparations brought. The shame the Treaty of Versailles intended to bring to the German population metastasized into ardent nationalism which provided an avenue for the eventual authors of the Holocaust. At ground level, German society and the region had become acquainted with this concept of wholesale death on a grand scale. WWI industrialized death and literally dehumanized war. Entire societies were numbed by the millions of dead which made extermination of entire populations (viewed as enemies and non-human) not such a radical conception. Hitler used WWI and its results to mobilize a population (not an army) to approve, champion, and carry out genocides upon multiple ethnic groups. The former state of Yugoslavia rose from the ashes of WWI. Site to some of the most violent and deadly conflicts of the war; Yugoslavia was born with the collapse of the multi-national Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Little to no consideration was given to the many ethnic groups within the region. Its borders would be drawn irrespective of the contents of its interior. This would guarantee future conflict and give rise to nationalism in places it was virtually alien. The genocide that would take place in this region during the 1990’s was a direct consequence of its leaders focused polarization of such nationalism. The ill conceived state served as a battlefield for both world wars and its people would witness the atrocities of the Holocaust first hand. Over the next 70 years Yugoslavia would be torn by ceaseless conflict, extreme poverty, and race down the crisis spiral toward end game. Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 is also inexorably linked to the outcome of WWI. The Tutsi ruled over the Hutu in a semi-feudal system that in most respects worked. Rwanda accepted Germany as a colonial power in the late 1800’s. Germany chose to rule indirectly and did very little to change the system in place. Rwanda became a spoil of WWI that was handed over to the Belgians by the League of Nations. The Belgians altered the working system and placed the Tutsi upper class on a pedestal which only served to antagonize the inter-ethnic animosity. Belgian direct rule over the country was brutal and openly racist. Rampant zealous discrimination would become engrained in Rwandan society and result in numerous massacres, population purges, and eventual genocide. The direct and indirect effects of WWI guided each of these states toward genocide. Barriers were brought down, lessons were learned, problems were solved, and methods fine tuned. The numbing effect total war has on society’s conditions them to concepts like wholesale industrialized death. The populations’ willingness to perpetrate the genocide is what gives these regimes annihilative power. Aspiring authors then need only compose a diagnosis, formulate a plan, and use external or create internal crisis to expedite the genocidal process. The fog of WWI still lingers and it won’t be long before we add other cases to future briefs. Was it convincing? Enough evidence? A good read? let a brotha knoe.