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Red Terror victims Ethiopia (made by Thijs Bouwknegt)

Holocaust & Genocide Studies

Genocide is the complex process of the systematic persecution and destruction of a group of people by a state or armed group. It is estimated that in the 20th century, some 40 to 60 million defenceless people fell victim to deliberate extermination, including six million Jews in the Holocaust. The start of the 21st century was not much better, with mass murder in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Syria and elsewhere.

The Holocaust and Genocide Studies core team conducts scholarly research into modern genocides. It provides academic education (BA, MA, Ph.D and Postdoc level) on modern genocides and contributes to the internationalisation of research into the Holocaust and modern genocides by establishing and expanding networks and partnerships at home and abroad. Every year in September, the core team hosts the NIOD Annual Lecture for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, where prominent scholars present the state of their research to a broad audience. The core team promotes social debate in the Netherlands on the Holocaust and other modern genocides, among other things by organising public lectures and film symposiums.

The field of genocide research is developing rapidly and NIOD does not only follow these transformations, it also takes the lead by historicizing episodes of mass violence with a prehistory, a clear beginning, a dynamic development, an end, and an aftermath.

The HGS team promotes research on separate themes and the way they are linked and thus contributes to the development of genocide studies in at least three ways:

1. The Holocaust remains a cornerstone of the historical and social scientific understanding of modern genocide. It is not only the largest European genocide in terms of scope, intensity, and impact of violence, it also took place in the city where NIOD is located. Sustained interest in the Holocaust depends on innovative future research, attractive education, and public engagement. Upcoming HGS publications on the Holocaust will deal with Jewish councils in Western Europe and the Holocaust in Belarus.

2. How do people become perpetrators involved in mass violence? Over the past two decades, the focus of genocide research has shifted to the process of collective perpetratorship. This view helps us understand the complexity of killing from different analytical perspectives by distinguishing between the highest level (architects, heads of state), the middle level (organisers, technocrats), and the lowest level (the actual killers). HGS researches perpetration in the contemporary mass violence in Syria and Iraq, among other things.

3. The aftermath of mass political violence is long and persistent, and genocides are often experienced for generations after the violence took place. HGS therefore also concerns itself with the study of the political, social, and legal aftermath in post-conflict societies (transitional justice). In this dynamic field of research, we also study ways for dealing with perpetrators and victims. HGS takes a prominent position in this field through its academic publications and expert advice on transitional justice processes relating to mass violence in sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, and the Soviet Union.


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