The origins of genocide and mass killing


Ervin
Staub


University of Massachusetts at Amherst

 

Copyright 1999 by Trauma, Research, Education and Training Institute, Inc.

 

 

Starting points that originate the social and psychological steps leading to genocide or mass killing.

 

Difficult life conditions (economic problems, political conflict, great social change)

 

Group conflict—over rights and privilege, territory, and so on. Self-interest

 

Responses to these life conditions:

Turning to one's group for identity

Scapegoating

Destructive ideologies that identify enemies

 

The evolution of destruction:

 

Individuals and the group change as they begin to harm another group

 

Cultural characteristics that make this evolution likely:

 

Devaluation of another group

 

A history of intense mutual antagonism

 

Overly strong respect for authority

 

A monolithic rather than pluralistic culture

 

Unhealed wounds due to past victimization or suffering


The important role of bystanders

 

Passivity or complicity by internal and external bystanders makes the evolution of violence easier and more likely

 

 

The role of leaders

 

Leaders and the elite of a country can use life conditions, culture—already existing
inclinations--to intensify hostility and create violence

 

The use of propaganda

 

The creation and advocacy of an ideology

The creation of paramilitary groups

 

Halting and preventing genocide and mass killing