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The Stages of Genocide

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The Stages of Genocide




Oral history video clip featuring Gregory Stanton, the Director of Genocide Watch. This video was originally produced by Media Entertainment, Inc., for the 2000 documentary The Genocide Factor.


Media Entertainment, Inc.


Genocide Factor Collection, Oral History Program, Tampa Library,
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.


Tampa, Fla. : University of South Florida Tampa Library.




Stanton, Gregory


Tape number: 4062D


video / mp4




Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Proctor, Cecily


Stanton, Gregory


Genocide is a very predictable process. I’ve studied it for over twenty years now, and it is a structured process. It’s a process that you can actually see happening, developing almost like a storm, like a hurricane on the horizon. In every culture, we distinguish between groups. There’s always an “us” and a “them.” So the first step is always classification. The second step is that we symbolize. So the second step is symbolization: we always, you know, name this group or that group. Here’s a Hutu and here’s a Tutsi, and so forth. The third step, and this is where we start getting genocidal, is dehumanization. It’s when we start saying, “This group is not human.” It’s where we start calling them cockroaches or rats or vermin. It’s the dehumanization when we start beginning the genocidal process. So this third stage, dehumanization, is the beginning of genocide. That’s when we should begin to get concerned. The fourth stage of genocide is polarization. It’s when you have groups polarizing away from each other, in which groups no longer commingle, in which they try to—they essentially get into ghettos, they go off into completely separate societies. The fifth stage is organization, in which a genocidal elite will form. It becomes a political elite, in which a leader, for instance, will rise who has a genocidal agenda. He will organize his followers to carry out genocide, in which he’ll get militias organized, in which the elite will be the genocidal groups, will organize to carry out the genocide. The sixth stage is in which they draw up the death lists. It’s identification of the group—of the people who they’re gonna kill. It’s in which they put yellow stars on the people who are going to be killed; it’s in which they take them off to concentration camps. They segregate them off, and so forth. And then, of course, the final stage, the seventh stage of genocide, is the actual extermination, and I use that term advisedly, because in the minds of people committing genocide, they aren’t killing human beings. They’re exterminating. They’re exterminating rats or cockroaches. They’re not killing human beings. They’re actually exterminating some other species. And that is something really hard for most of us to think about. But the whole genocidal mindset is something, which is hard for us to think about. So this process, this seven-stage process which is common to every genocide that I’ve studied, is something you can see. And then, of course, there’s a final, if you will, an eighth stage that runs through the whole process and that then follows up, and that’s denial. They’ll always deny they did it, and all the way through they’ll deny that they are doing it. And they’ll dig up the graves and they’ll burn the bones, and they’ll try to destroy the evidence. The Nazis did it. The Serbs are doing it in Kosovo. Even today, when you go to Serbia, most Serbs won’t admit that genocide was committed in Kosovo. It’s just a very interesting thing that this denial is a very universal phenomenon with genocide. Today, most Turks won’t admit that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians. It’s an amazing phenomenon, but it is a very, very powerful one. It has to do with collective guilt; it has to do with group feelings, group guilt. But it’s common to all genocides.

Original Format

Beta tape




Media Entertainment, Inc., “The Stages of Genocide,” USF Library Special & Digital Collections Exhibits, accessed July 11, 2020,