The deliberate and systematic destruction of an entire people or ethnic group has been called the crime of all crimes. We are unable to comprehend rampant mass violence against a group of defenceless civilians solely aimed at annihilating them. Yet mass violence has always been a part of the history of mankind. The 20th and 21st centuries have even seen the worst episodes of mass violence, despite all pretensions of civilisation.

Conflict between and against ethnic groups has become a major part of political violence in the 20th century. States have repeatedly used ethnic cleansing as a means to achieve national statehood and unity. Throughout history, religion has been an important motive in the killing of civilians.

But the 19th century saw other factors, such as the merging of nations and class. Ideology turned out to be the force behind genocide. Bureaucratic efficiency, coupled with technological progress, shows us that violence can have disastrous, large-scale and irrevocable consequences.

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A crematory at concentration camp Struthof in France