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Essay on the Europe’s Bloodiest Hundred Years Recorded in the 20th Century

The twentieth century has been proposed by various proponents as being the bloodiest recording the highest number of immortality rates[1]. Niall Ferguson in “The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West”[2] claims that the period following 1900 a violent and bloodiest century was seen in the world and huge contrast to any other era. He cites the Second World War as one important man-made holocaust and a period filled with great tribulation and disaster.

In appreciating Ferguson’s approaches, one needs to take a keen look at the history of the worlds near death grapples of crumbling kingdoms, ideological and nations view for supremacy, and powerful countries usage of smaller nations as chess pieces. Next are the people and racially affiliated individuals looking for compensation against earlier committed offenses while acting out on their frustrations and wrongly misplaced tempers. The situation paints a picture of a nation divided with the poor rising against the wealthy, person against person, illiterate against intelligentsia, racial, religious and communal factions fighting each other.

The culmination of these atrocities saw Europe shoveling an estimation of 167 Million to 188 Million of its citizens to early graves[3]. It is almost impossible to talk about the twentieth-century conflict without mentioning World Wars One and Two, the Vietnamese and Korean Wars and the social-political appraisal of fascism in Germany, China, Japan, Italy and Eastern Europe[4]. In equal measure, “The Economist” publication of the year 2010 and March 10th, speaks of the horrible (Gendercide) which was a European purgation of baby girls as they were killed in the scores of hundreds of millions simply because of being inferior[5].

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Despite their limitations in scope and influence, European wars have been characterized as some of the bloodiest in the history recording huge scores of dead civilians. Throughout history, scholars believe that Stalin was responsible for twenty million deaths in the Soviet Union while Lenin his counterpart tens of millions[6]. Next, China’s regime of the Mao records dozens of millions of deaths (of the Chinese civilians), while Pol Pot murdered twenty percent of the Cambodian population. This cycle of death is repeated in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Africa, South and Central America, South East Asia and Mexico.

In a bid to justify their criminal actions, several regimes hid their goals in correct statements citing issues to do with democracy, independence, liberty and “the greater benefit” assertions. Their greatest incentives for warfare, however, lay in driven initiatives of ethnic copious or social conflicts while some harbored a need for a god-like predominance and sovereignty of affluence and authoritarianism[7]. In this essay, therefore, I seek to expound on the atrocities of war marking this century and the European nations set the platform for my thesis. I will, therefore, speak on the subjects of World Wars One and Two, the Cold War, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the reasons for warfare in the twentieth century.

World War 1 and 2

World War One for instance, as Ferguson stipulates was a senseless bloodbath emanating from tactics learned by military commanders during their colonial warfare days and took the practice back home (Europe). It is however recorded as the most distinctive war as it formed the basis for the improvisation for newer warlike strategies that have been in existence since then. It is the culmination of World Wars One and Two that the Europeans realization of its supremacy came to an end amidst tremendous bloodshed. These wars incorporated the usage of air craft’s, machine guns, poison gas and tanks which were all the result of the then emerging technology. It is a war which characterizes nearly the first half of the twentieth century and runs between 1914 to1950[8].

Numerous questions are raised as to what propelled the European nations to undertake such earth shattering military decisions rendering extreme calamity in this century. In seeking to answer this question, Kershaw postulates that politics of violence play a significant role in wars between nations as the fight for power and dominance is evident. The First World War One records immortality rates of military fatalities at above eight million with a five million estimation of civilians. These civilians constitute citizens of Poland victimized by drought episodes with the majority of victims emanating from the Eastern front side of Europe. The Second World War records a higher number of dead military and civilian with an outstanding forty million deaths recorded (the highest in history)[9].

It had an impact on the displacement of between four to five million refugees in the year 1918-1922 with the numbers rising to about forty million displaced individuals in the years 1945-1950. This period is equally characterized by the deportation of civilians, their flight due to repression, genocide, ethnic cleansing and terror manifested episodes. With the actual statistic of a third dead victim (s) in the First World War and a distinctly estimated constant ratio of two-thirds casualties (twenty-seven million people) scholars started to take notice of the huge disparities in numbers. Despite the numerous suggestions that technology was the brain behind the massive killings, historical pointers highlight that war was changing.

The initial planning for warfare was to exclude civilian population, and this was marked by the First World War where the western front was a relatively restricted zone. The Eastern Front, however (comprising of soldiers and militiamen) had an entirely different scenario as violent warfare took place. Civilian life, therefore, was to remain unscathed, but however, this ideology was not to continue for long. It began narrowing remarkably with the French extremist militants and the atrocities carried out on the noncombatants presented in the Franco-Prussian Bloodshed and the American Civil Battle. Increased levels of brutality and savagery witnessed in France became featured in World War One as civilians now became the focal prey of attack and destruction which worsened in the Second World War[10].

Alan Kramer and John Horne determined that 6,427 French and ordinary Belgian citizens were wickedly assassinated in a normal high savagery manner by the inundating German troops in August 1914 (at the very start of fighting). The same fate was witnessed by nonmilitary persons from the Eastern Front areas by soldiers from Germany, Russia, and Austria in the same year. High mortality rates of civilians equally doubled in the year 1915 when Russian troops marched from Lithuania into Western Poland rendering the death toll into an incredible number to decipher[11]. As a result, massive deportations became an ordinary event with 350,000 Jews, 743,000 Poles, 300,000 Lithuanians and 250,000 Latvians moving into the interior parts of the Russian nation.

These deportations were coupled with intensified fear and paranoia of what most ethnic based deportees claimed to be ‘the enemy within.’ In the Ottoman Empire, this fear was an incentive in what later turned out to be a major genocide constituting of up to 800,000 dead Armenians. Legends surrounding the enormous cruelty perpetuated towards the ordinary citizens now became a legitimized aspect of modern combat.

By the time the Second World War took place, there were no disparity or border lines created between the home front and the military one. It had turned into a fully fledged successful combating experience whereby whole involvements of the European citizens were incorporated both in the suffering and the skirmishing. Poland, for instance, suffered the most with a fifth of its population dying mercilessly following the long six years of combat it was exposed to thus recording the nation with the highest number of dead civilians.

The Holocaust

The Holocaust was the Nazi’s systematic annihilation of the European Jews a move which was spearheaded by the then Germany dictator Adolf Hitler[12]. Longerich argues that individuals who take on the role of carrying out mass murders do so enclosed by special constitutional rules and therefore do not act out of their will. He argues that the same can be said of the Nazi’s whose pragmatic foundation for ‘Judenpolitik’ (the policy of the Jews) and Aryanization (the confiscating, exploitation of the Jewish labor force and living regions) were justified.

The Nazis believed that it was their duty to annihilate the Jews and turn Germany into an ethnical homogenous national society. It did this by systematically and segregationally eliminating the Jews from Germany through various inhuman activities and killings. The Nazis employed nutritional and housing policies against the Jews as they viewed them as parasitic and racially inferior people who were not worthy of being German citizens. In the year 1942, several millions of Jewish lives were dependant on the conceptualization of the Nazis ‘Judenpolitik’. The years 1933-1939 serve as the most important in the European history as massive killings and genocide of the Jews was recorded[13].

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By this time, the Jewish population was totally unprepared for the persecutions that ensued and were faced with the dilemma of either fleeing from Germany or negotiating peaceful terms with the Nazi regime. However, before concrete decisions could be made, millions of Jews had been victimized in a process termed as the Final Solution, a move geared to permanently eradicate the Jews from Germany and the whole World[14]. The Sonderkommandos history comprises of a particular set of Jews who would drag their fellow countrymen into gas chambers, strip them off their clothes, burn them and wash out the murder facilities and they were done.

Saul Friedlander[15] claims that numbers reaching twenty Jewish children between the ages of five and twelve were killed yearly in a set of medical experiments on the same date that Adolf Hitler was commemorating his birthday in Berlin bunker. By virtue of being born a Jew was seen as a crime punishable by death under the Hitler regime while the same case can be said of Stalin’s with the Kulak ethnic group[16].

The Armenian Genocide and Reasons for Warfare (Twentieth Century)

The Armenian mass murder categorizes Turkish killings of the Armenians as Ottoman’s agenda of creating a racially homogenous country where Muslims would reign freely without their interference[17]. Armenians were viewed as a problematic race by the then 19th-century Sultan Abdulhamid the second. By adopting an agenda whose concepts were based on pan-Islamism, he sought to bring into one the entire Muslim Monarch inclusive of retaking the regions occupied by the Armenians. Ottoman believed that the Armenians had become susceptible and were an easily dangerous race to the Muslim community and had to be plucked out just like the Balkans[18]. Hobsbawm terms Turkey’s mass homicide of Armenian population as one of the briefest warfare’s to take place in the twentieth century which saw forced displacements, levying of identification tariffs, imprisonment and killings[19](of the Armenian citizens).

Kershaw highlights three reasons which he terms as the driving forces behind the European violence of the twentieth century. Imperialism and its colonial aspects are an ideology based on the repression of supposedly inferior countries and through the use of force exploit them for material gain[20]. It is through imperialist thinking that the 1914 violence was channeled brutal and savagery efforts towards inferior nations by their colonizers. Secondly, socialism which was initially seen as an aspect that will bring peace to nations that practiced it in a different twist of events led to the most mega bloodshed of the twentieth century starting with the Soviet Union under Stalin’s rule.

Conclusion

The civil wars experienced between 1918-1947, paints the picture of a dark, bloody fragmented European continent. Records of massive deaths encountered in the Java warfare where 200,000 villagers were murdered in the year 1825-1830 by the Dutch army, the Algerian’s decimation of the native Californian people in the year 1852-1860 (50,000) deaths are all but examples of the European bloody massacre. The 100,000 Mozambique’s nationalist at the hands of the Portuguese forces not to mention the 11,000 Sudanese warriors annihilated by British troops in 1898 adds up to the numbers of civilians killed in the twentieth century[21].

Equally striking is the extermination of the Southwest African Herero natives by the German troops in the years 1904-1906 which saw a declination in their population numbers from 80,000 to 16,000 indigenous Herero’s. The cause of this war was an uprising by the Herero people against formidable Germanian farmers falling in the notion of colonialism. With the inclusion of the Great War and the World Wars, no other century is markedly bloodier than the twentieth century because it registers the highest number of casualties within the shortest period ever.

It is equally termed as so owing to the events before 1945 inclusive of mass executions and implementations of dictatorship which distinguishes Europe from other continents[22]. For the Russian nation, the impact of World War One set the grounds ready for the Stalinist era and the ruthlessness that came with it[23].

Without this warlike foundation, it would have been skeptical for nations like Russia to face the full wrath of Stalinism which saw the deaths of millions. The same can be quoted when someone is referring to the Baltic and Ukrainian regions which experienced elevated levels of ethnic conflict and barbarism were it not for the impacts of world war one. In summary, therefore, war is seen to be relative and a dangerous affair as it is capable of replicating itself throughout history as is witnessed above. With the many instances of warfare experienced and explored in my essay above me, therefore, rest my thesis with the statement that the twentieth century is indeed the bloodiest of all.

References

Bloxham, Donald. The great game of genocide: imperialism, nationalism, and the destruction of the Ottoman Armenians. OUP Oxford, 2005.

Friedländer, Saul. “An Integrated History of the Holocaust: Possibilities and Challenges’ in Christian Wiese and Paul Betts.” Years of Persecution, Years of Extermination: Saul Friedländer and the Future of Holocaust Studies(2010): 21-30.

https://democraticpeace.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/why-the-20th-century-was-the-bloodiest-of-all/

http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/history/violence-and-war/5956.aspx

Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.

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Longerich, Peter. Holocaust: the Nazi persecution and murder of the Jews. OUP Oxford, 2010.

Rodrigo, Javier. “Dark, bloody and savage: Twentieth-century European violence and its narratives.” Culture & History Digital Journal 3, no. 2 (2014): e014.

  1. https://democraticpeace.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/why-the-20th-century-was-the-bloodiest-of-all/
  2. http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/history/violence-and-war/5956.aspx
  3. http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/history/violence-and-war/5956.aspx
  4. https://democraticpeace.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/why-the-20th-century-was-the-bloodiest-of-all/
  5. http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/history/violence-and-war/5956.aspx
  6. http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/history/violence-and-war/5956.aspx
  7. http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/history/violence-and-war/5956.aspx
  8. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.
  9. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.
  10. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.
  11. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.
  12. Longerich, Peter. Holocaust: the Nazi persecution and murder of the Jews. OUP Oxford, 2010.
  13. Longerich, Peter. Holocaust: the Nazi persecution and murder of the Jews. OUP Oxford, 2010.
  14. Rodrigo, Javier. “Dark, bloody and savage: Twentieth-century European violence and its narratives.” Culture & History Digital Journal 3, no. 2 (2014): e014.
  15. Friedländer, Saul. “An Integrated History of the Holocaust: Possibilities and Challenges’ in Christian Wiese and Paul Betts.” Years of Persecution, Years of Extermination: Saul Friedländer and the Future of Holocaust Studies(2010): 21-30.
  16. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.
  17. Bloxham, Donald. The great game of genocide: imperialism, nationalism, and the destruction of the Ottoman Armenians. OUP Oxford, 2005.
  18. Bloxham, Donald. The great game of genocide: imperialism, nationalism, and the destruction of the Ottoman Armenians. OUP Oxford, 2005.
  19. Rodrigo, Javier. “Dark, bloody and savage: Twentieth-century European violence and its narratives.” Culture & History Digital Journal 3, no. 2 (2014): e014.
  20. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.
  21. Rodrigo, Javier. “Dark, bloody and savage: Twentieth-century European violence and its narratives.” Culture & History Digital Journal 3, no. 2 (2014): e014.
  22. Rodrigo, Javier. “Dark, bloody and savage: Twentieth-century European violence and its narratives.” Culture & History Digital Journal 3, no. 2 (2014): e014.
  23. Kershaw, Ian. “War and political violence in twentieth-century Europe.” Contemporary European History 14, no. 01 (2005): 107-123.