Genocide Studies - Analyse the question of resposibility

Seminar Paper, 2006

13 Pages



1. Introduction
1.1 The essays approach to responsibility
1.2 Different levels of responsibility

2. Crimes according to the Geneva Convention
2.1. Legal and moral resp onsibility
2.2. No legal but moral responsibility

3. The ingridients for Genocide
3.1 The arisen of the Nazi Party/ NSDAP
3.2. Bystanders, companions, accomplices and participants

4. Memorialisation in Literature/ Another aspect of responsibility
4.1 “Der Vorleser”
4.2. A perpetrators’ responsibility

5. Conclusion

6. Reference

1. Introduction

Different types of genocide victimise different groups of the„others“. The process of dehumanising, objectifying and giving the perpetrators a victim hood varies a lot. Something all genocide have in common besides the fact that people are victimised, might be: There are people responsible for the genocide.

This essay tries to analyse the different levels of responsibility and will provide answers by looking at different type of genocide and several stages within different genocide.

But first it seems to be useful to discuss what responsibility is and how to distinguish between different levels and components. Furthermore it will be discussed the boarder between legal and moral responsibility.

1.1. The essays approach to responsibility

To account responsibility one must be able to say who did what, why, when, and with what effect in order to make a judgement. This is normally not done while genocide happen, but is tried to be accomplished afterwards[1] as well. However those 4 different aspects are the main components which are to be identified in order to analyse responsibility. Throughout the essay they will be related to each other and some implications will be drawn.

Subjects are responsible for their (who) actions (what) if these lead (when) to, or help to victimise people in whatever manner (what extend).

In general answering that question looking on the decisions of the government is a good point to start. The Holocaust therefore shows by all the laws that were passed by the German parliament that of course the Nazi regime itself with its party members and all the ones who agreed on the laws that caused the inhumane treatment of the Jewish and the Untermenschen are responsible for what happened. Their actions at a certain time can be linked to the destiny of victims and therefore it can be claimed that they are responsible for it.

While the Weimarer Republik was a democracy Hitler changed a democracy pseudo-legally into a dictatorship (Winkler 2002: 551), so some guilt can also be found by those that did let that happen, mainly the German population that was allowed to vote (Election result in per cent for the NSDAP on the 31th of July: 37,3; on the 6th of November: 33,1 / Vote turnout in percent: 84,1 and 80,6/ see Winkler 2002: 526) and did not enter the resistance at that very early stage.

They are responsible as this can be seen as the start of what we know finally has lead to the final solution, the Holocaust.

However the more responsibility must be distributed to others later in the genocide, as during the deportation and final solution it gets more and more unbelievable that the Germans didn’t know that genocide took place.

The „Konzentrationslager“ weren’t hidden in the countryside, ghettos for Jewish people were established and the deportation happened during day light as well. This can also be applied to the Armenian genocide as it happened openly; in the genocide in Rwanda there is no doubt that people saw what happened as it took place in their neighbourhood, they have been living in since birth. In fact “their neighbors turn[ed] to demons” (Stockman 2000: 30­31).

The idea drawn by this section is, that with this kind of understanding of the term “responsibility” more than just the actual murderers but also bystanders and so on need to be judged responsible and therefore face a trial. The examples are given to illustrate different levels of responsibility.

1.2. Levels of responsibility

Some of the examples in 1.1 showed that different level of responsibility can be identified. This essay is meant by analysing different genocide to show that for instance the members of Nazi Leadership (elites) have a higher responsibility in genocide while the German population (ordinary men) not entering the resistance has a lower level of responsibility.

There are scholars such as Goldhagen who doubt that and claim that it was “immanent in the conversation of German society.” (Goldhagen 1996: 345) furthermore, that every German shared the view of the Nazi elite, in particular their world view and is therefore responsible to the same extend.

Bauer argues that “by claiming that German society had been permeated by [this Nazi elite view] ever since the Middle Ages, however, [Goldhagen] is widely wrong.” (Bauer and Finkelstein 1998: 126)


[1] The longer Genocide has happened ago the more difficult it is to distribute responsibility. This can be seen as a problem that increases about time.

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Genocide Studies - Analyse the question of resposibility
University of Technology, Sydney
Genocide Studies
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genocide, studies, analyse
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Frank Weinert (Author), 2006, Genocide Studies - Analyse the question of resposibility, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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