Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Holocaust: Than and Now

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. During the Holocaust an estimated six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. No wonder that genocide became universally recognized as a crime against humanity at the time.

Still, it would be wrong to forget that the Nazi extermination plan extended to many other groups that the Nazis considered to be inferior, undesirable or dangerous. According to Wikipedia:
In addition to Jews, the targeted groups included Poles (of whom 2.5 million gentile Poles were killed) and some other Slavic peoples; Soviets (particularly prisoners of war); Romanies (also known as Gypsies) and others who did not belong to the "Aryan race"; the mentally ill, the deaf, the physically disabled and mentally retarded; homosexual and transsexual people; political opponents such as social democrats and socialists; and religious dissidents, i.e. members of Jehovah's Witnesses. Taking into account all of the victims of Nazi persecution, they systematically killed an estimated six million Jews and mass murdered an additional eleven million people during the war. Donald Niewyk suggests that the broadest definition, including Soviet civilian deaths would produce a death toll of 17 million.
Putting this in context, also according to Wikipedia:
The sources cited in this article document an estimated death toll in World War II that range from approximately 60 to 80 million, making it the deadliest war in world history in absolute terms of total dead but not in terms of deaths relative to the world population. 
When scholarly sources differ on the number of deaths in a country, a range of war losses is given, in order to inform readers that the death toll is disputed. Civilians killed totaled from 38 to 55 million, including 13 to 20 million from war-related disease and famine. Total military dead: from 22 to 25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war.
That same article estimates that 13 million to 24 million people died in the war in the Soviet Union and that 7 million to 20 million people died in China.

How do we put these figures in perspective? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 57 million deaths that occurred globally in 2008, roughly comparable to the WWII death toll. According to the following table, the annual toll of preventable deaths in children under five is greater than the estimate of deaths of Jews in the Holocaust. More preschool children die in a couple of years from preventable causes than the total Holocaust mortality. More preschool children die of preventable diseases in a decade than people died in World War II, the worst war in human history.

Source: World Health Organization

No comments: