Why Did They Kill? Interpreting Genocide and Its Perpetrators

Course Code
HIST 2559
Credits
3
Department
Jeffrey Rossman
Associate Professor

The twentieth century was characterized by repeated episodes of one-sided, state-sponsored mass killing. When such killing targets racial, ethnic, religious, or national groups - as it did in the Ottoman Empire during World War I (Armenians and Greeks), in Europe during World War II (Jews, Slavic peoples, the Roma and Sinti), and in Rwanda in 1994 (Tutsis) - it is known under international law as genocide. In this reading and discussion course, we will engage primary sources from twentieth-century genocides, key works of scholarship, and relevant documentary films in an effort to understand the complex but tragically recurring process whereby ordinary people are transformed in specific historical circumstances into genocidal killers.