TALKING ABOUT GENOCIDE A resource for pupils and students


On and around Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, we're asked to remember not only the Holocaust but also other terrible acts of genocide in the 20th century, one of the worst periods of violence in human history. Two good ways of doing this: finding out the facts, and talking about how and why human beings are capable of such evil. This resource helps you to do both.

We all need to understand what human beings are capable of. This means understanding what great things we can achieve, but it also means understanding how far, at times, human cruelty can go. The moment we're old enough, we need to start learning how it works. If we do that, we have a chance of learning how to prevent real harm being done.

You'll find that war is mentioned a good deal in this resource. That's because war makes genocide possible. Most genocide is committed under cover of war or during the conduct of it. But war is related to genocide for other reasons as well: for people and societies who believe that war is a good way to deal with quarrels, it's easy to go further and believe that war is also a good way to harm and even get rid of other people.

All armed violence and genocide start somewhere, and most of them start in small, local things. So talking about war and genocide means talking about things we all know, problems we all have to solve. Intolerance. Bullying. Violence. Prejudice. Hatred. Victimisation. Fanaticism and extremism. Hunger for power. Using weapons, physical and mental.

War is not a necessary evil. If we choose to take war out of the picture, then we can see the real roots of anger and hatred and deal with them in nonviolent ways before they get out of hand. There will always be conflicts: they are an essential part of life. But without weapons and war people could sort them out in safety.

the resource
We have collected together some facts and opinions which tell you something about how war and genocide happen, and how they affect people. We have also suggested some things to discuss, though you will want to add your own questions as well.

We hope that you will discuss many of them with your parents, your teachers, and each other, and that you can decide together which parts of the resource to use. There is plenty to choose from - which can be discussed at any time, not just Holocaust Day. Solving conflict goes on all the year round.

But if you're looking at this resource on your own, you might like to start with Talking Points (Section 2): they are varied, short, and deal particularly with the experiences of individual people. You can use them not only to think about, but also to inspire ideas for your own creative work: stories, poems, drama, art.


1. GENOCIDES. An outline history of eight genocides (Namibia, Armenia, Ukraine, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda and Bosnia), and some of the issues they raise.

2. TALKING POINTS. Bite-size passages giving glimpses into the causes and effects of genocide, with suggestions for thinking and talking about them.

3. SURVIVORS' STORIES. The stories of 8 children who survived the Holocaust..

4. WAR, TRUTH AND MEMORY: A CASE HISTORY. (Specially for older students) A study-file of information about a controversial event in 1941. It raises issues of witness reliability, memory, history and forgiveness, and shows how the damage caused by genocide sends its ripples into the future.

- introduction
- genocide convention

Selected articles
- genocide and remembance
- remembering the holocaust
- remember the killing fields
- rwanda

- external links

Material prepared by Margaret Melicharova. 2002.



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