TThe essays in this book, written over a span of some twenty years but updated for this publication, discuss episodes of mass murder that are generally considered instances of genocide: the large-scale killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I, the near-extinction of North America's Indian population, the vicious persecution of the "Roma" or Gypsies under the Nazi regime. In line with Article II of the Genocide Convention of 1948, Lewy stresses the crucial importance of looking closely at the intent of the perpetrators. In contrast to the Holocaust, the killers in the three episodes mentioned above did not seek to destroy an entire people and these three large-scale killings therefore do not deserve the label of genocide. Lewy argues that affirming the distinctiveness of the Holocaust does not deny, downgrade, or trivialize the suffering of other people. The crimes against the Ottoman Armenians, the American Indians, and the Gypsies-even if they did not reach the threshold of genocide-involved horrendous suffering and a massive loss of life. Moreover, while nothing like the Holocaust had ever happened before, this does not mean that it cannot happen again. The genocides of Cambodia and Rwanda that took place in the second half of the twentieth century remind us that man's inhumanity to man can take many forms and is not the special prerogative of Nazis or Germans. The last essay of this work deals with the complications of humanitarian intervention to prevent genocide. As the recent support of the Libyan rebels by NATO shows, the issues raised here remain topical and controversial.
Guenter Lewy is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His books include "The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany"; "The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies"; and "The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide "(The University of Utah Press, 2005).