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Mass crimes against humanity and genocides

A list of atrocities from 1904
until the end of World War II

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The descriptions below, of mass crimes against humanity, are sorted by the starting date of the atrocity. 

The numbers of victims are not particularly accurate; often records are very incomplete.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1904 to 1907 Namibia, formerly German South-West Africa German government, (Christian) Hereros, Animists 35,000 to 105,000

This was the first genocide of the 20th century. Some Hereros have suggested that the Nazi Holocaust was patterned after this genocide some three and a half decades later.

Germany ruled Namibia from 1880 to 1915. In 1904, Herero warriors were angered at the German settlers who had enslaved their people, lynched their men, and stolen their land, cattle and women. On JAN-12, they massacred about 200 German civilians. Although the uprising ended on 1904-AUG-11, the German army continued to exterminate the Hereros until 1907, resulting in the deaths of perhaps 65,000 persons. As is usual in these mass slaughters, the number of victims is unknown. The Herero population alive at the time range from 50,000 to 120,000. About 15, 000 survived.

On 2004-JAN-12, the 100th anniversary of the Hereros uprising, Wolfgang Massing, Germany's ambassador to Namibia, expressed his regrets. He said that while history could not be undone, "we can give back to the victims and their descendants the dignity and honor of which they were robbed...I also wish to express how deeply we regret this unfortunate past."

Later in 2004, German Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul finally gave the Hereros what they have been asking repeatedly: her country's apology. She said: ""We Germans accept our historical and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time....The atrocities committed at that time would have been termed genocide." She promised continuing economic assistance, but ruled out financial compensation for the descendents of the victims. describes Herero present-day spirituality: "The ancestral cult still plays an important role in the lives of many Herero people. In the evenings, they often sit in front of the 'Okuruo'; the holy fire, which may never be allowed to burn out. The chief establishes contact with the ancestors and in a loud self-talk, asks for advice and help or confesses mistakes and sins. 1,2,3

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1915 to 1922 Turkey Muslim government Armenian and other Christians 1.5 million Armenian Christians; unknown number of Greek Christians and Assyrians

"The [Christian] Armenian genocide of 1915-1916 effectively wiped out the Armenian population of Turkey, claiming some 1.5 million victims. Perhaps 75,000 Armenians endure in Turkey today, most of them in Istanbul." 4 The current government of Turkey denies that the genocide ever happened.

A full description of this genocide is located in two essays. Part 1  Part 2

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Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1928 to 1953 USSR Communist government Public 20 million 5

There was tremendous loss of life during the Communist era, 1917 to 1987. The death toll peaked during the Stalin era, 1928 to 1953, when the Communist government systematically exterminated millions of its citizens. A minority died from being worked to death in the camps of the gulag. The government  employed additional methods such as: terrorizing the public by random executions, purges, show trials, and artificially induced famines. An additional 21 million died during the civil war and during World War II. 6,5

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1935 to 1936 Ethiopia Italian fascists Ethiopian army & population No reliable data

During 1935-OCT, the Italian government attacked Ethiopia from neighboring Eritrea without a declaration of war. The Ethiopian Army resorted to execution by castration of Italian POWs and the use of illegal "dumdum" bullets. In retaliation, the Italians carried out a systematic extermination campaign in Ethiopia by spraying two poison gasses --phosgene, and iprite (a.k.a. mustard gas) -- from airplanes and committing other horrific atrocities. According to a statement by Ethiopia's emperor Haile Selassie:

"Special sprayers were installed on board aircraft so that they could vaporize, over vast areas of territory, a fine, death-dealing rain. Groups of nine, fifteen, eighteen aircraft followed one another so that the fog issuing from them formed a continuous sheet. It was thus that, as from the end of January 1936, soldiers, women, children, cattle, rivers, lakes, and pastures were drenched continually with this deadly rain. To systematically kill all living creatures, to more surely poison waters and pastures, the Italian command made its aircraft pass over and over again. That was its chief method of warfare."

One result of the aggression by Italy was that the League of Nations' credibility was seriously undermined, and Italy was encouraged to form an alliance with Nazi Germany. 25,26

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Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1937 Nanking, China Japanese army Chinese public 320 thousand

This is a relatively little known massacre -- perhaps because memories of it were overlaid a few years later by stories of many other World War II atrocities. There were many incidents of mass crimes against humanity during the 1930's perpetrated by the Japanese army. Of these, perhaps the most serious was the "Nanking Massacre." On 1937-DEC-9, the Japanese invading army launched a massive attack on the city of Nanking -- then the capital of China. Three days later, the Chinese defense forces retreated across the Yangtze River. Then began "an orgy of looting and mass execution." 300,000 to 340,000 civilians died; 20,000 to 80,000 women were raped. "The war left a legacy of distrust, which even today, tarnishes relations between Japan and the other countries of East Asia." The Japanese government has maintained that the death toll is greatly exaggerated; some politicians have even claimed that it never happened. Fortunately, many army personnel took snapshots of their victims, thus documenting the atrocity. 7,8

horizontal rule

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1940 to 1945 Poland, mainly German army volunteers Jews, Roma, etc. On the order of 11 to 15 million 5

This has been called the Shoah in Hebrew, the Holocaust in English, and the Devouring among the Roma. Some 11 million people were first declared sub-human and then murdered. Some were killed when the towns and cities in which they lived were captured by German troops. Others were rounded up, and transported to extermination camps, mainly in Poland where the gas ovens waited.

bullet Jews: About 6 million were killed, mostly in death camps. Hitler's goal was to completely clear all Europe of Jews. Jews refer to this as the "Shoa."

bullet Poles: About 3 million were killed. This represented about 10% of the population, and one third of the Catholic priests in the country. 9.10

bullet Roma: (Roma are still often called by the derogatory term, Gypsies). At first, the Nazis thought that they could be "re-educated."  About 1940, the Nazis decided to exterminate them. Approximately 400,000 Roma were killed. Roma survivors refer to this tragedy as Porajmos (the devouring).

bullet Homosexuals: Estimates of the number executed or worked to death range from 50,000 to half a million. 11,12,13 It is an interesting fact of history that when the death camps were liberated at the end of World War II, most of the inmates were freed, while homosexuals were generally transferred to other prisons.

bullet Jehovah's Witnesses: About 10,000 Witnesses were imprisoned in concentration camps during the Nazi period, mainly because they were conscientious objectors. An estimated 2,500 to 5,000 died. 14

bullet Disabled persons: About 150,000 Germans who were crippled or mentally ill were murdered. They were considered "life not worthy of life."

bullet Others: This included millions of Slavs, Russians, socialists, and various types of dissenters.

Adding the loss of life due to World War II to the above deliberate, methodical exterminations gives a total death toll of about 34 million which can be attributed to Hitler.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been involved in over 100 successful legal actions against Nazi war criminals since 2001. They will soon run out of suspects. In mid-2014, 69 years will have passed since the end of World War II. An suspect who was 18 year old at the end of the war reaches 87 years of age in 2014 -- well beyond the average life expectancy in Germany. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office said sardonically: "I’m one Jew who prays for good health for these fugitives." 27

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1941 to 1945 Croatia Ustaša (Roman-Catholic/Fascist regime) Jews, Roma, Serbian Orthodox Christians, anti-fascist Croats. Unknown; estimates range up to one million 15

These atrocities were perpetrated by the Ustaša regime, the Independent State of Croatia, which was established in power by the Nazi government of Germany during World War II.  They fiercely hated Serbs, Jews, Communists and all other non-Catholics. Their goals were to convert Croatia into a pure Croatian and Roman Catholic independent state. On 1941-JUL-22, Dr. Mile Budak, the Ustaša Minister of Education and Cults, said: "The movement of the Ustashi is based on religion. For minorities-Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, we have three million bullets. We shall kill one part of the Serbs. We shall transport another, and the rest of them will be forced to embrace the Roman Catholic religion. Thus, our new Croatia will get rid of all Serbs in our midst in order to become one hundred percent Catholic within ten years." 15

During 1941 to 1943, the regime slaughtered at least 250,000 Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia, and more than 20,000 Jews. Most were systematically exterminated at the Jasenovac concentration camp, and similar facilities. "Ustaša units, often encouraged by Catholic clergy, carried out a program of compulsory conversion of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism; resistance often resulted in murder. Some Serbs, particularly members of the elite, were not even offered the option of conversion to avoid being killed." 16 "Conditions in the Jasenovac camps were horrendous. Prisoners received minimal food. Shelter and sanitary facilities were totally inadequate. Worse still, the Ustaša guards cruelly tortured, terrorized, and murdered prisoners at will." 17After mid-1942, a further 7,000 Jews were dispatched to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland for slaughter. "The Usta?a government was dissolved in May 1945. After the war, most of the Usta?a leaders escaped to South America or Spain." 18

"Since the end of World War II, political and ideological conflicts in the area have made the documentation and verification of victim statistics extremely difficult. To cover the trail of terror and murder, authorities of the Independent State of Croatia burned official records from the Jasenovac camps first in early 1943 and again upon evacuation in 1945." 19

On 1945-MAY-12, 600 inmates attempted to break out of the camp; only 70 succeeded. Former inmates meet on the site of the concentration camp annually on the anniversary of the event. In 2003, for the first time, a Croatian head of state joined in the remembrance. President Stipe Mesic expressed his "deepest regret for the innocent victims of those who tarnished Croatia's name." 19

More information:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Regret for slaughter of Hereros," Daily Dispatch, 2004-JAN-12, at:
  2. "Namibia: Germany apologizes for colonial genocide," The Toronto Star, 2005-AUG-15, Page A8.
  3. "Okakarara Namibia,", at:
  4. "Genocide history brief," at: 
  5. "Question: Who was the Bloodiest Tyrant of the 20th Century? Answer: We don't know," Twentieth Century Atlast, at:
  6. "20th Century Democide," at: 
  7. "Nanking, 1937," at:
  8. "Nanjing Massacre: 300,000 Chinese people killed; 20,000 women raped," at: Includes descriptions of biological warfare, treatment of POWs, and other atrocities.
  9. Y.F. Edeiken, "Non-Jewish survivors and victims," The Holocaust History Project, at: 
  10. Richard C. Lucas, "Forgotten Holocaust: How could 5,000,000 be killed and forgotten?," at: 
  11. "Excerpts from Vera Laska," at: 
  12. Eugen Kogon, "The Theory and Practice of Hell," Ferrar, Straus, New York, (1950), Page 38. 
  13. Frank Rector, "The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals," Stein and Day, New York, (1981), Page 116.
  14. "Jehovah's Witnesses and Nazi Germany Index," at:
  15. "The embodied devils: Who was who in NDH?," Balkan Repository Project, at:"
  16. Jasenovac," Jewish Virtual Library, at:
  17. "Jasenovac," Holocaust Learning Center, at:
  18. "Croatian President Mesic Apologizes for Croatian Crimes Against the Jews during the Holocaust," Yad Vashem, at:
  19. Peter Popham, "Croatians gather to mourn victims of 1945 atrocities,", 2003-MAY-12, at:
  20. "The Armenian Genocide," at:
  21. Sofia Kontogeorge Kostos, "Before the Silence," at:
  22. "Memories from Smyrni - 1900 - 1922,"  at:
  23. Roberto Lopes, "The Hellenic Genocide," at:
  24. Bernhard Zand, "Armenian Genocide Plagues Ankara 90 Years On," Der Spiegel, 2005-APR-25. at:
  25. "The fascist genocide of the Ethiopian people 1935-1941," Global Alliance for Justice, at:
  26. "Second Italo-Abyssinian War," Wikipedia, as at 2010-DEC-25, at:
  27. Editorial board, "Why Nazi hunting remains critical," New York Times, 2014-JAN-10, at:

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or: Home page > Religious violence Genocide >  here

Copyright 2001 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JAN-1
Latest update: 2014-JAN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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