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Genocide and the Holocaust (October 2023): Psychology

By Claudene Sproles


Donald Dutton offers a psychological and sociological glimpse into human behavior and the ease with which groups can be incited to mass violence in The Psychology of Genocide, Massacres, and Extreme Violence. Martin Shaw’s What Is Genocide? expands on Lemkin’s original definition by addressing the sociological aspects of genocide, particularly the concept of “genocidal intent.” He contends that ruling groups destroy civilian social groups through the eradication of their culture and power. Readers are advised to consult the second edition for the most up-to-date content. For an anthropological exploration of genocide see Alexander Laban Hinton’s Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide. Through a series of essays Hinton links anthropology and modernization as contributors to genocide.

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen analyzes genocide as “eliminationism” of a group in Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault against Humanity. Eliminationism begins with repression and transformation, and ends with some sort of expulsion from society, whether deportation or ethnic cleansing. Goldhagen further argues that genocide could be prevented with some effort from either the United Nations or democratic governments, but history has shown that both are reluctant to be involved. E. N. and Barbara Anderson explore what causes ordinary citizens to become complicit in genocide in Complying with Genocide. They contend that social pressure coupled with fear and uncertainty can prompt an ordinary populace to turn to violence. Focusing on empathy, love, and understanding can mitigate these destructive actions.

Works Cited