The twentieth century was an epoch of the economic, social, cultural, and political progress of humanity. The economy became global, the communist system collapsed, and the worlds society began a process of its democratization. Moreover, the two World Wars, a parade of socialist revolutions, famine, natural disasters, and a series of genocides happened in the last century. Prominent American writers, Elie Wiesel and Samuel Totten, depict two of the most tragic historical events of the twentieth century: genocide of the Jewish people in the World War II and genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Those disasters caused deaths of millions of innocent persons. The aim of the paper is to compare both genocides for defining motives, similarities, and differences, using the works of Elie Wiesel, Samuel Totten, and Rafiki Ubaldo. The major reason of the genocides was the enrichment of so-called elite in a totalitarian regime of one nation or ethnic group at the expense of another. Only misanthropic totalitarian regimes could conduct genocides, excusing such actions as the necessary conditions for the prosperity of the whole nation.
A famous American author, Nobel Laureate, and former Auschwitz and Buchenwald prisoner, Elie Wiesel, portrays the atrocity of Nazism in German concentration camps in his book Night. He experienced horror, famine, the terrible anguish of body and mind, and humiliation from the higher race of Hitlers Nazi Party. They killed every Jew, irrespective of age, gender, religion, social position, or political viewpoints. Elie Wiesel describes his own feelings and sufferings, which he experienced in the death camps in 1944 when Nazis were conducting the genocide against the Jewish people. They turned Jews into slaves, inferior beings, and were eager to destroy the whole nation. Before sending Jews to Auschwitz, a German officer used to order, Anyone who still owns gold, silver, or watches must hand them over now. Anyone who will be found to have kept any of these will be shot on the spot (23). Therefore, Nazis killed for money, watches, and precious things.
Samuel Totten, an American investigator of genocide in Rwanda, Professor of the University of Arkansas, together with Rafiki Ubaldo, a prominent journalist, who survived in the Rwanda genocide, devotes his work, We Cannot Forget: Interviews with Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, to the terrible tragedy in the last years of the twentieth century. Rafiki Ubaldo was a helpful advisor for Samuel Totten while interviewing former Tutsi victims of Hutu radicals. This book became an important documentary source of the crimes against humanity in Africa.
Elie Wiesels main message is to warn the human civilization about the grave threat of the Nazism resurrection. What helped him to survive in a concentration camp was faith. It inspired prisoners to overcome all their sufferings, pain, and desperations. The main character is Eliezer, a Jewish teenager and a prisoner of the concentration camp, who considered the words life and faith to be synonymous (Wiesel 14). Moishe the Beadle, Eliezers mate, mentions: I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions (5). He wants to find the answers to all questions and believes God will solve his problems. Moishes faith is a conversation with God inside his soul till the last day. Both Moishe and Eliezer believe their life without faith is aimless. The death camp changed Eliezers viewpoint concerning faith. It was Holocaust because Nazis killed tens of thousands of innocent people, including women, children, and old individuals, for their ethnicity and religion. It forced many prisoners to lose their faith, turning them into inferior humanlike creatures that were simply a part of the mechanism for eliminating people, invented by the Nazis. Nevertheless, Eliezer did not lose the faith. Wiesel was against both Nazism and its brutality, but he believed in God. Only his faith let him survive in the death camps.
The work We Cannot Forget: Interview with Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda of Samuel Totten and Rafiki Ubaldo became the real evidence of the fact that humanity learned nothing from the past, which was described by Elie Wiesel in Night in 1956. If somebody does not learn lessons from the past, then the past will occur again, as it did in Rwanda in 1994. The major reasons for such a terrible disaster in the African country were avarice, hatred, and ignorance of the local Hutu tribe, which were fostered by European colonists. In fact, the Tutsi, the Hutu, and the Twa had been peacefully living since the early years of the Kingdom. As the authors state, the Tutsi and Hutu began speaking the same language, Kinyarwanda, practicing the same religion, living and working side by side, and even intermarrying (Totten & Ubaldo 2). The people of Rwanda were divided according to their traditional occupations, which determined the belonging of individuals to a certain ethnic group. King Rwabugiri formed a governmental system, in which three chiefs dealt with military, cattle, and farm issues. It impressed European colonists, who regarded Africans as inferior human beings.
The authors state that the German, Belgian, and French colonists brought racist theory to Rwanda, which caused a civil war after independence and eventually the genocide of Tutsi (Totten & Ubaldo 3). Thus, Europeans thought that the Tutsi were superior to the Hutu and the Twa. In addition, the Belgian colonists implemented special cards to divide people into Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa, depriving Hutu and Twa of their rights of higher education. After the end of the colonial system, the Belgian government changed its policy under the influence of the UN disregarding all limitations for the Hutu tribe. As the result, two nationalist parties emerged for protecting interests of Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Furthermore, Flemish priests began to support the Hutu after gaining independence in 1962. Totten and Ubaldo mention, The Catholic Church helped to bring about the Hutu revolution (5). In 1990, the Civil War began. It caused the Rwandan genocide when about 1 million of Tutsi people were murdered. It is known that Tutsi could be beaten and killed at any time, and their houses could be burned, for no reason at all, just because they were Tutsi (Totten & Ubaldo 39). Unfortunately, Tutsis wealth was the major reason for genocide because Hutu began to kill those who were doing business in the marketplace. They also began killing cows of Tutsis [as they desired the meat to eat], and destroying and looting the homes of Tutsis (81).
Totten, Ubaldo, and Wiesel describe genocide as a logical result which comes during a ruling of any totalitarian regime. Since childhood, teachers of local schools had fostered hatred to Tutsi in their Hutu pupils. Undoubtedly, Nazis did the same regarding Jews in their schools in the 1930s. The difference between Nazism and the Hutu regimes was in the methods of how they killed their victims. Thus, Nazis built special furnaces in their death camps to burn Jews. They used special gas to kill their victims before it. The Hutu regime did not have that equipment, but they used machetes, clubs with nails, and hoes. Moreover, Hutu infected Tutsi with AIDS to cause more deaths in this tribe. Both regimes robbed their victims, stimulated hatred to kill them, and nurtured ignorance to excuse their crimes. Owing to the facts, both European colonists and the Catholic Church were guilty of the disaster in Rwanda. They could have prevented the genocide. However, Hutu killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsi even in the church in 1994. It is impossible to find an excuse for their actions. Though, the faith in better life should remain because it is what saved Eliezer in German death camps in 1944. The authors who are brave to depict the genocide tell the truth and make the mass slaughter the most shameful phenomenon in the world. Without a shadow of a doubt, this crime is against humanity.