Inhumanities — past and present

 

This program was made possible by generous grants by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United State Embassy.

 

27 & 28 April 2017: Video of Program at Stockholm University

 

The Program provided a multi-dimensional perspective on genocide by: (a) a Holocaust survivor, who can provided a personal, first hand account of persecution under Nazi rule (b) a social anthropologist who has done extensive field research in the Middle East and Asia, interviewing Al-Qaeda and Islamic State and other combatants and thus can provide a contemporary perspective — he has “Talked with the Enemy” (c) by an academic who has researched and written extensively about violence and genocide in The Balkans and (d) by a law professor who will tell the untold story of how Stockholm University hosted the man who coined the term ’genocide’.

 

Speakers:

Scott Atran, French National Center for Scientific Research and Atris Director of Research.

Henry Oster (retired)

Tomislav Dulić, Director of the Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala University.

Mark Klamberg, Law Professor, Stockholm University

 

Venues:

Department of Peace & Conflict Research, Uppsala University

Stockholm University

YBC gymnasium, Nacka

 

Program background

The term "genocide" did not exist before 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. Human rights, as laid out in the US Bill of Rights or the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concern the rights of individuals.

 

Why did the twentieth century witness unprecedented organized genocide? Can we learn why genocide is perpetrated by comparing different cases of genocide? Is the Holocaust unique, or does it share causes and features with other cases of state-sponsored mass murder? Can genocide be prevented? The panel will explain the prevalence of genocide in the twentieth century--and show how and why it became so systematic and deadly.

 

The searing brutality of each genocide traces its origins back to those most powerful categories of the modern world: race and nation. The Program explained how a strong state pursuing utopia promoted a particular mix of extreme national and racial ideologies. In moments of intense crisis, these states targeted certain national and racial groups, believing that only the annihilation of these "enemies" would enable the dominant group to flourish. And in each instance, large segments of the population were enticed to join in the often ritualistic actions that destroyed their neighbors.

 

Violent Political Extremism — in modern times.

Violent political action, often involving attempts at mass murder of civilian noncombatants, continues to grow in many regions. Significant numbers of immigrant and native born youth from Western countries (including Sweden) volunteer to fight and die with The Islamic State, which is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya.

 

At the root of this turbulent state of affairs is the interaction of sacred values and a brotherhood-like bonding that produces unconditional commitment to fight and die, which also provides moral virtue for otherwise marginalized youth and petty criminal elements, and is not well understood by the general public.

 

The Panel also addressed whether contemporary violent political extremism can trace its roots back to genocides of the 20th century. Are there similarities in motivation, features, causation and method?

 

Up-rooted Persons.

This focused on the human experience and the relationship between macro-level decision-making and individual experiences that are ”close to home” for a Swedish audience. In particular, about the 4,500 Yugoslav prisoners that were sent to Norway on slave labor during the Second World War.

 

This talk began with a police report from Jokkmokk by a local police officer about a group of ”foreigners” that had been found by members of a Sami community near the lake Tarrajaure. Their fate and the fate of so many others will then be traced back to the Balkans, where it was show that the make-up of the prisoners can be used to illustrate the difference between security-oriented and exterminatory violence. It  then traced the men from their capture and incarceration at Semlin concentration camp, over their transportation in northern Norway to their life their and flight.

 

Surviving the Holocaust — a personal testimony.

This program was timely. Most survivors of the Holocaust are dead and the few remaining are aged or infirm. Soon they all will have passed and we will loose the opportunity for personal testimony. Although we can read accounts of the tragedy, a personal account is compelling and powerful, especially as for many (especially the youth) the Holocaust is in the distant past.

 

Fortunately, Henry Oster is healthy and vibrant. He also is intellectual and unique as he is a German Jew. His family was murdered by the Nazis and their bodies reduced to ash, resulting in him emerging from the concentration camps without a flicker of faith, as did many survivors.

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