A Changed World: The Long Term Impact of The Holocaust
Throughout history there are many of what we term ‘watershed events’. These are events of such magnitude that they have a lasting impact on the world and have the capability to change the worlds for ever. One such watershed event is the Holocaust. In this essay we will explore what the lasting impact of this event has been and how it has changed the world that we live in.
The dictionary definition of ‘holocaust’ describes it as ”destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war.” This is actually a fairly accurate description of the event known simply as ‘The Holocaust’ During the period of time between 1933 and 1945, the German Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, engaged in the mass murder of approximately six million Jewish people leading up to and during World War II. This was genocide on a massive scale with almost 7 out of every 10 Jews in Europe being killed. However, there were also millions more victims of the Holocaust who were not Jewish. These were made up of politicians, journalists, teachers and anyone else who dared speak up against the mass murdering of Jewish people or who spoke out against Hitler and his Nazi in general. Other groups were also targeted including Polish Catholics, Serbs, disabled people, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses albeit to a lesser extent than the Jews.
The Holocaust was a horrific event in our history and it is one that will never be forgotten, especially given the fact that the impact of the event can still be felt worldwide. As World War II came to an end and the dust began to settle, over the years it became clear that changes had to be made in order to address the moral failures that had allowed something like The Holocaust to have happened. Among some of these changes were legal changed and international agreements between various countries that were designed not only to punish those perpetrating such atrocities, but also to ensure that it never happened again. In 1948, The Genocide Convention was adopted and by 1950 more than the required 20 countries within the UN had signed it allowing it to come into effect. This essentially was a pledge by the United Nations members to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. However, it was not until 1994 that the convention was properly invoked when a tribunal was set up following genocide in Rwanda where Tutsis were slaughtered as they sought refuge in churches. In 1998, the first convictions for Genocide were secured and a permanent court was established to convict such atrocities.
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This also led into criminal trials being established in order to hold government officials who were accused of crimes against humanity accountable for their actions in an international court. In 1942, leaders from Britain, American and the Soviet Union joined forces to make an official declaration of the mass murder of Jews in Europe and resolved to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity. During the period between October 1945 and October 1946, a total of 22 major war criminals were tried for charges against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and conspiracy to commit the afore mentioned crimes. Crimes against humanity are defined as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and persecution based on political, racial or religious grounds. The international protection of human rights was also expanded dramatically and for the first time ‘informed consent’ became a key factor in all medical procedures in order to put an end to medical experimentation on human beings like what had happened in the Nazi concentration camps where doctors were conducting often macabre experiments with the prisoners against their will.
In conclusion, The Holocaust was a reprehensible crime which has had a lasting impact on the world. It has changed a great deal in terms of legal and moral protection afford to civilians who are often caught in the middle of war and conflict. It is sad that our world needs such protections as the Genocide Convention, but at the same time encouraging that at least the majority of the world seems to have learned from The Holocaust and is taking measures to ensure that genocide on this scale never happens again and if it does that it will be punished.
The Genocide Convention – https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-I-1021-English.pdf
Genocide Timeline – https://www.ushmm.org/confront-genocide/defining-genocide/genocide-timeline
War Crimes Trials – https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005140