The Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust: How they Compare Essay

            Genocide as defined by Hinton is the destruction of a nation of an ethnic group. “The twentieth century has been a murderous era. Tens of millions of noncombatants have been killed, not necessarily for what they did or failed to do but for their collective identity and their ascribed group membership. Indeed, not long after the Second World War, even as a few survivors, scholars, and others tried to grasp the enormity of Nazi crimes, they became aware of fresh instances of mass murder as well as other catastrophes that have come to light from the recent past.” (Melson, 1996). The United Nations lists five acts against a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group that qualify as genocide.

They are as follows: Killing members of the group, Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.  Genocide has occurred around the world for various specific reasons. These instances include the political massacres in Indonesia, Biafra, Burundi, Rwanda, Lebanon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Cambodia, the destruction of the Kulaks, the Holocaust, the Ukrainian famine, the Gulag, and the Armenian Genocide. The events that occurred during the Armenian Genocide are comparable to that of the Holocaust but because of the nature of Germany at the time, the Holocaust is what many people think of when they think of the term “genocide.”

            When genocide occurs in two separate phases: “one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national patter of the oppressor.” (“Genocide”, 2002). With this explanation of genocide, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why it would occur. Chalk and Jonassohn (1990) state that there are four separate motives for why genocide occurs. These are: to eliminate a real or potential threat, to spread terror among real or potential enemies, to acquire economic wealth, or to implement a belief, a theory, or an ideology. When genocide occurs, though, more than one of these motives is usually in place with one of them being the dominant reason. Genocide does not occur as a command, however. The perpetrators have the desire to eliminate a mass group but they do not conceive this idea as genocide. The array people that have committed this awful crime had their different reasons for wanting a certain to group to cease to exist, and they were all unique and unjustified.

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            The Armenian genocide was carried out between 1915 and 1918 in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Turkish government planned and carried out these vicious acts. The Armenian people experienced deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, massacre, and starvation. Most of the people were removed and sent to Syria. Most of them died in the desert from thirst and hunger. The Armenian Genocide was a highly politically motivated act and it was because of the new belief systems emerging in the area during that time that it occurred.(Rosenbaum, 2000).

            “The Armenian genocide and the Holocaust are the principal instances of total domestic genocide in the twentieth century. In both cases, a deliberate attempt was made by the government of the day to destroy in whole an ethno-religious community of ancient provenance. When one compares the situation and history of the Armenians in the Ottoman empire to the Jews in Europe, a pattern leading to genocide becomes apparent.” (Rosenbaum, 2000)

            Both the Armenians and the Jews had lower class status in the nineteenth century. Throughout that century, though, they rapidly started becoming higher status. Their social groups became known as the “Armenian question” and the “Jewish problem.” This is simply because the Armenians raised question and the Jewish were becoming a problem. The Ottoman Empire was typically Muslim and Europe was typically Christian. Never before had they been forced to deal with another religious group starting to get close to their status in society. In both Germany and Armenia, neither group had ever experienced that violent of treatment as they did during the genocides.

            The Turkish government were motivated by their own ideology and their victims were of a certain ethnic group which was rising above their previous low class status. The perpetrators of the Holocaust, however were motivated by their own blatant racism and anti-Semitism and ideologies of how the world should work. They had specific death camps setup which had a sole purpose of massacring people. (Rosenbaum, 2000)

            These two tragic events not only affected a large population of people but they also changed the way societies view those groups. The Armenian genocide is obviously not as widely known about as the Holocaust, but both still had detrimental effects. People from around the world continue to view Germany as a country that committed such a terrible act against Jews. The two events had similarities in that two groups of people were killed because of the simple fact that someone did not like their uprising in the world. They differ in that the Armenian genocide had geographic limitations whereas the Holocaust had intentions on a global scale. The effect of these two events have left a scar on both societies that may never heal.


Chalk, F., & Jonassohn, K. (1990). The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Chirot, D., & McCauley, C. (2006). Why not kill them all?: the logic and prevention of mass political murder . Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Genocide: An Anthropological Reader (Blackwell Readers in Anthropology). (2002). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Melson, R. (1996). Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust (New Ed ed.). Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

Rosenbaum, A. (2000). Is the Holocaust Unique?: Perspectives on Comparative Genocide (2 ed.). Oxford: Westview Press.