Totalitarian Mass Killing

Alex J. Bellamy

in Massacres and Morality

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199288427
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745430 | DOI:
Totalitarian Mass Killing

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This chapter explore debates about the legitimacy of mass killing by totalitarian states in the 1930s and 1940s and the principle of civilian immunity. The most prominent of the totalitarian states, Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union, typically justified mass killing by reference to ideologies of selective extermination that shared important family resemblances with ideologies generated in the European colonial context. These ideologies removed entire nations, races, socio-economic classes and other group types from basic moral protections and portrayed the killing of group members, and sometimes the extermination of whole groups, as a positive good — necessary for security or human progress. Though there were important differences between them, genocides and mass atrocities unleashed by Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany attempted to remould societies by annihilating class and racial enemies. The Holocaust and the other totalitarian depredations of the period created a strong political imperative immediately after the Second World War to strengthen the principle of civilian immunity, remove the necessity exception and formalise it as an international legal rule.

Keywords: Nazi; Stalin; ideology; genocide; Holocaust

Chapter.  16176 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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