Is the World Doing Enough to Prevent Genocide?
Addressing the United Nations on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan remarked:
“On occasions such as this, rhetoric comes easily. We rightly say ‘never again.’ But action is much harder. Since the Holocaust the world has, to its shame, failed more than once to prevent or halt genocide.”
Following World War II, the international community cried “never again” in response to the Holocaust, and the United Nations adopted the Genocide Convention as a pledge to ensure that such horrors would never be repeated. Since that time, however, the world community has failed to prevent the occurrence of genocide in places like Cambodia, Northern Iraq, Bosnia and Rwanda, prompting Paul Rusesabagina—a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and subject of the film, Hotel Rwanda—to assert, “The most abused words are ‘never again.’ When they were saying that in 1994, it was happening again and again and again and again. So ‘never again’ to me is not enough.”
A decade after Rwanda, the international community failed to intervene decisively in Darfur to prevent another genocide from occurring. More than sixty years after the Holocaust, many question whether the world is doing enough to stop the violence.
About this Curriculum Unit
Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, presents the Jewish community and its allies an opportunity each spring to both honor the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust and to reflect on what can be done to prevent another genocide from occurring.
In the spirit of Yom HaShoah, this issue of Curriculum Connections designed for high school students explores what the world has done to achieve the ideal of “never again” and why these efforts have fallen short of averting atrocities in places such as Rwanda and the Sudan.
About the Lessons
Students are introduced to the concept of "never again" and the international commitment to prevent genocide following World War II. They will reflect on the Holocaust and actions that they can take as individuals to prevent future genocides. The lesson concludes by asking students to reflect on whether or not the ideal of “never again” has been achieved, and if they think that mass slaughter or the extermination of a group of people has occurred since the Holocaust.
Students use primary documents and text to learn the history of the term genocide, the process by which it was established in international law, and a Holocaust survivor's role in the prevention and punishment of genocide. Students create a timeline that captures critical events and ideas from the story of survivor Raphael Lemkin and his work on the Genocide Convention.
This lesson explores genocides that have taken place during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries including the Cambodian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. It also explores the world’s response to genocide and some of the reasons for global silence in the face of mass atrocities.
Students learn about the genocide in Darfur (Sudan) and its progression to today. They debate the obligations of the international community to intervene in Darfur and discuss the resistance of world governments to respond. Students are empowered to take action against genocide by implementing various student-led projects and humanitarian campaigns to aid Darfur.