A Memory of Solferino

A Memory of Solferino is one of the goriest readings that our class has had, especially regarding the gruesome descriptions of the death of soldiers through what was equivalent to torture in The Battle of Solferino.

Some of the descriptions of the fighting that really stood out were the explanation of horses crushing brains, limbs flying everywhere, and piles of bodies around the battle grounds. One of the hardest things to read was the description of the dead soldiers pasts, explaining how they had families with kids and wives and describing the sweet people that the soldiers were before war. One paragraph explained how the parents raised their child with compassion and love, and were proud of him and his service, just to get a short letter explaining his death in a battle.

Reading about war and death is very difficult, but learning the pasts of people that die in war, and hearing their stories about their families creates a mild attachment and makes these descriptions of death even more challenging to learn about. After the descriptions of fighting there were descriptions of hungry soldiers that had almost no medical care with hollowed out eyes and faces full of pain.

This part of the reading was just as painful to read as the stories of fighting. One quote that summarized the amounts of torture following the war was “I slept quietly without being suffocated by foul smells and harassed by flies (which, having had their fill of dead bodies, must need to come and torment the living)” This explanation about the flies made it evident about the extensive amount of deaths and gave me visuals of the dead bodies getting swarmed with flies.

The remainder of the book described people who went out of their way to help the injured from war.  This last section gave hope after the tragic parts of the battle and was a nice way to end the reading A Memory of Solferine. But, after this reading, the part that left the biggest impression was the recalling of the gory and deaths of the Battle of Solferine. 

Questions:

What could’ve caused Dunant to lose his hope in his older years of life after having so much hope during the war in his younger years of life?

The word genocide was never mentioned during this reading, because these mass amounts of deaths happened in a battle does that mean it is not a genocide despite one side doing much better than the other? Are war or battles never considered genocides or close to genocides even in special circumstances?

What are the circumstances that usually qualify something as a genocide? Is it moral to consider a situation a genocide or not a genocide, is using the word genocide used too loosely or not used enough?

Holocaust Museum

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Last Saturday I visited the Holocaust museum with my History of Genocides class. Despite me living about 20 minutes from D.C. this was my first visit to this museum. I never realized how big the museum was, and I was thoroughly impressed with my visit.

One of the most impatful things I saw was the shoe room, and the rooms following it. The shoe room exhibited hundreds of shoes that were collected from people who removed them before getting gassed at the concentration camps. To visually be able to see hundreds of shoes that belonged to people who died in this horrific event hits you like getting slapped in the face.

The statistics of the amount of people who died in the concentration camps was also very emotional. The one statistic that stuck out to me was that 90% of people who came into concentration camps would get gassed on that same day.

One of the reasons the shoe room really stuck out to me is because I am a very visual person, I comprehend and learn things better when they are presented to me in a visual way. There was more visual exhibits following the shoe room. My favorite visual part of the museum was the photographic representation of holocaust survivors arms with the tattoos that some people were given. It was surprising how much you could learn about someone from seeing their arms and the differences in jewelry and the way they styled their nails, very thought provoking to see the differences in how these people now portrayed themselves after the events that suffered through and witnessed.

Lastly, the part of the exhibit that was the hardest to watch was a small video with no sound that played in one on the final rooms. This video showed piles of dead bodies in mass graves, Nazi’s slinging bodies that were completely stick and bone and throwing them into these graves, and simply hundreds of starving people that were going to die within hours. This video disgusted me to see how poorly they were treated, and how almost inhuman they looked being so malnourished, I couldn’t understand how the Nazi’s could throw them around so seemingly unaffected about what they were doing. Overall, despite how sad this museum was I am extremely happy to be able to experience it and I believe it greatly helped my understanding of the Holocaust.

Killing Civilians – Chapter 7

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In this final chapter of Killing Civilians, Slim discuses the psychology of  soldiers that commit genocide. As soon as I began to read the chapter I was excited to discover this topic more, it interests me and may become my project topic.

The chapter begins with discussing an author; Gardner. Gardner explores the ideas of mind changing which can influence people to believe, or even participate in, situations such as genocide. A quote that stood out to me was “the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina means that millions of people… have begun to find real resonance in the scientific reports on climate change. The substance of the reports has not changed. Instead, real life events have changed their readers.” This quote resonated with me and I believed it reflected a quantity of events that have occurred, it also reflects something to consider while watching news and made me consider the effects of the Holocaust on the issue of genocides.

Throughout the rest of this chapter many aspects were considered in reasons for, or somewhat against, protecting civilians. After reading this chapter, for the first time did I consider the possibility of a civilian not being innocent. Throughout media civilian deaths are always viewed as negatively and as completely unacceptable, but looking at these deaths in a different perspective in Killing Civilians made me somewhat understand the military tactics of genocides. I still do not consider mass killings acceptable but it was entertaining to consider the aspect of civilians helping the enemy side.

Lastly, I believed the idea of causing soldiers to commit genocides by mind changing was understandable if this mind changing is viewed as manipulating. I found this book very informative when going into detail about the situations regarding genocide, and it put genocide in a different viewpoint for me that will help me understand these situations better as we continue to explore genocides.

 

Questions :

According to Gardner’s book, what out of 7 ways to change someone’s mind is the most productive?

Is it a civilian’s obligation to always support their country in war, despite the war crimes or violence that country is committing?

Which group is most marginalized for getting killed in war regarding civilian situations of war?

Killing Civilians – Chapters 2-6

These chapters of Killing Civilians discusses the gruesome details of genocides by referencing many stories about the violence in genocides. One of these references was discussing rape in genocides. Rape is commonly a part of genocides leaving many women to even commit suicide because of rape. Soldiers would gang rape women or even rape people in front of families before killing them; one story even detailed the soldiers cutting off the girls breast and labia, later killing her by practically cutting her in half with her breast in her hand. This can be really hard to read but I never knew this detail about genocides before and therefore makes me more heated about the subject. Despite these details making me more mad it makes me more interested in the topic and researching more details (possible paper topic).

I also find the topic of psychology very interesting, and this reading referenced the soldiers having to look into the eyes of people they killed; watching them scream in pain and look terrified before death. This made me wonder about the type of personalty a solider has to have to be able to watch and cause that suffering day after day.

This topic was also touched on when it referenced genocides by air. The book explained “carpet bombing” ensuring that almost no one in a town could survive an attack by air. It also detailed stories about singular bombs that planes would drop, these bombs would lure out the town’s civilians to help the injured, after the streets would fill with people helping then the pilots would drop more bombs to ensure even more deaths.  But, this part of the reading also referenced how genocides by air was easier because the pilots didn’t have to witness the fear in peoples eyes or here the screams as they killed, yet the amounts they were killing were more than the soldiers on the ground. The difference between the actions of pilots and soldiers is an interesting topic especially regarding the mindsets or psychologies of both.

 

Questions:

How can anyone justify rape or be able to kill many, then rape, and kill again?

In total, how many accounts of genocide have occurred?

What is the most commonly used method or weapon to commit genocide?

 

Genocides: A World History – Chapter 2

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This chapter of Genocides: A World History opens up with explaining the connection between war and genocides. It then continues to detail the explanations of the Mongols and the genocides they committed . The Mongols would dominate huge amounts of territory by invading and killing almost everyone in the territories. Yet they would skillfully take those with talents such as blacksmiths and send them back to become slaves, they would also take women and children and give them to soldiers.

Although for some cities the Mongols were more relentless and would kill all. There were accounts of soldiers killing civilians of a city, then waiting until the civilians that survived crept back for food, then the soldiers would kill again and repeat this until there was no one else left to kill. These extensive amounts of Mongolian genocides was never really understood but it’s believed it was simply for power; to see “the people half dead with fear” made it easier to be able to conquer and rule.

Another group that committed mass amounts of killing was the crusaders. Crusaders would kill people who were against Christianity and believed that because crusaders were in a campaign blessed by Christ that the actions of killing or even rape were justifiable. In some murders from crusaders they would kill Jews or even some Christians when targeting Muslims. Pope innocent lead crusaders on some of the most violent raids with one of the worst massacres in history using the idea that “Kill them all, For god will know his own”. The pope used this massacre to scare any other cities that may want to become rebellious.

Both these groups used mass killings to gain power and scare others to subdue to their power and leadership. Overall, proving that fear and violence can be one of the best but most immoral way to gain power.

Questions:

What was really gained from killing mass amounts of people? Is power gained from fear of death true power?

Why do people still defend the actions of crusaders (especially regarding their actions being genocides or not) despite them falling into the classification of genocides?

At what point in time was mass killings or genocides truly diminished in amounts of occurrence of them happening?

Killing Civilians – Chapter 1

Killing Civilians by Hugo Slim discusses genocides in comparison to human emotions and morals. One of the most impactful stories and references that Slim uses in this chapter is about the solider who doesn’t shot. This solider is one of the only fighters who does not shot anyone at his post in a genocide in Bakedu where 350 people were killed in half an hour. He represents the ideal of compassion even during war and the idea of “even war has limits”.

This idea of war with limits was brought up during the Geneva convention of 1977,  during this convention laws regarding war including extensive legal protection for civilians was created. These legal protections were put into place to ensure that war did not become completely immorally violent. Despite these laws put into place, many future countries broke the laws during war and argued that war simply cannot have limits, and that placing limits on war is trying to refine an “uncontrollable evil”.

Both ideas of having limits on war or having a limitless war comes down to war morals, these morals are the need to win and the need to protect. This protection relates to both the protection of civilians and even the protection of soldiers, but either way the morals of war is a very fuzzy philosophy. War and genocide can come hand in hand and the morals of war are connected and discuss genocides.

In regards to war morals there is also the idea of the necessity of war. Augustine stated that war can be good despite pacifists stating that war is always bad. Overall, these differences in ideals and beliefs of war being necessary or war having limits are all fuzzy and truly depend on the person or country. Either way there has been many wars and plenty of violence connecting to the idea that humans are naturally violent.

Questions:

What is the psychology in soldiers that enables them to be so violent and okay with mass killing?

Over time has the the amount of empathy that humans have grown? Has evolution caused less violence?

Which religions value the idea of fighting against competing religions or killing for their beliefs and which do not?

Genocides: A World History – Chapter 1

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In Genocides: A World History, Nainmark introduces genocides by referencing the first written report of genocides that was found in the Hebrew bible.  He explains that because of these reports in the bible genocides and violence could be viewed as “righteous retribution” and these accounts could be why future genocides seemed justifiable. Some accounts of genocides in the Hebrew bible includes Jericho, and Joshua, and David; they committed genocides against people who refused to follow their beliefs or pray to their god.

Older genocides had no concrete evidence but there are clues that this type of violence was common in almost all ancient cultures and religions, whether the violence was for religious reasons or simply for cultures to aquire more land and become more powerful.

The book described genocide as “armies of men killing identifiable groups as a command of their political leaders involving ideologies or gods”.

The Hebrew bibles account of Joshua and Jericho are examples of genocides in command from gods, but the genocide in Carthago is an example of a genocide commanded by a political leader, for the purpose of more power. All genocides are different and one big difference has to do with who is killed, sometimes women, children, and non-combats would be spared, but other times the violence is ruthless and all would be killed. there has even been accounts of soldiers ensuring that pregnant women’s non-born children are dead to ensure the complete death of a culture.

The book describes cultural genocide as ” destruction of past culture, temples, statues, or past glory with a hard life for anyone spared”.

Cultural genocide differ from regular genocide because it completely wipes a culture away, it is not simply killing a large mass of a identifiable group. Sometimes cultural genocide can be more violent and there is most likely ancient cultures that have never been discovered because of cultural genocide. This chapter helped give a base on the history and definitions of genocides.

Questions:

Did genocides first occur because humans are naturally violent?

Does human biology impact the reason why genocides occur?

How is killing women and children justifiable in genocides? Especially for religious reasons.