Dehumanization and the Beginning of Genocide
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Well, Hitler had a laundry list of people he wanted killed. Apart from the Jews, there were the Sinti and the Roma, the people that we call the Gypsies, and they were just marked for annihilation. Their Holocaust may reach as high as a half a million. Jehovah’s Witnesses, the sweet little religion—you know, the people who knock on your door on a Saturday morning. Because they wouldn’t swear absolute loyalty to the Führer, they were marked for death. The leadership of the clergy, Catholic priests and nuns in particular, were marked for execution. They were to be rounded up as potential leaders of Nazi opposition. The list went on. Racial types: if you were of African ancestry, you didn’t quite make it. I mean, I’m blond and blue eyed. That was the ultimate type of human being that would survive in the racial pool, the genetic seed for Hitler. But Hitler himself didn’t; he had, you know, black hair and brown eyes; he wouldn’t have met his own racial criteria. But the list would have gone on and on.
I think dehumanization is the first step in carrying out a genocide. You have to convince yourself that this other group is different; they’re really not human beings. And it wasn’t just the Germans. I mean, the ancient Romans wrote that the Britons were too stupid to be slaves. And centuries later, the British wrote that the Irish were absolutely hopeless: just get them off the land, because they didn’t even know how to farm it properly. The Irish came to America and wrote that the African Americans were just ignorant savages. So, what we have is a lot of cultural differences, and you can use those cultural differences to dehumanize the target group, and that is always the first step of genocide. But I’m a cynic. I think the root of all genocide is money. Someone makes a profit off of it.