‘Holocaust’ comes from the Greek word ‘holókaustus’ and translates to ‘completely burned’. The term is used when speaking of the systematic extermination of entire population groups during National Socialism. In Hebrew, one speaks of ‘Shoah’, which means ‘great catastrophe’.


In 1933, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) was elected under the leadership of Adolf Hitler in the Weimar Republic with a large majority. In a coalition with the other parties in the Reichstag (apart from the KPD and SPD), the so-called Enabling Act was passed on 24 March 1933, which disenfranchised Parliament and transferred all power to Adolf Hitler.


The NSDAP pursued a nationalistic racial ideology, according to which ‘Aryan Germans’ represented the ‘master race’ and Jews an ‘inferior race’. The anti-Semitism of this ideology was so strong that the destruction of all Jewish life was set as a goal and pursued with cruel means. The Holocaust, or the Shoah, describes this genocide of the Jews, which was preceded by a centuries-long history of persecution, exclusion and defamation, especially throughout Europe and the Middle East.


In addition to Jewish people, Sinti and Roma, the homeless, the disabled, political opponents (e.g. communists, democrats, trade unionists), so-called asocial and later prisoners of war were persecuted, tortured and imprisoned in concentration camps.


Jewish people were almost completely disenfranchised, their property was confiscated, and they were increasingly deported to concentration camps. They were housed in cruel conditions, systematically malnourished and forced to do extremely hard physical labour. Many died doing it. In some concentration camps, there were gas chamber, which were used for the systematic and seemingly industrial mass murder of Jewish people.


During World War II, the Wehrmacht occupied neighbouring European countries and began persecuting and killing Jewish people. They cordoned off individual parts of the city and carried out the forced resettlement of the Jewish population into those parts of the city called ghettos. Living conditions in the ghettos were miserable, and many died of malnutrition, exhaustion and disease.


Approximately six million people were killed in the genocide of the Jews committed during German fascism. This number corresponds to about two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe at that time.


Islamism is a sociological term. It is an umbrella term for political, Islamic fundamentalist ideologies and movements. These ideologies are uncompromising and intolerant of others. Nevertheless, these ideologies are quite different, sometimes even opposed, which is why the corresponding movements compete with each other. Each ideology represents one possible interpretation of the Koran, but not the only one, while at the same time, each ideology claims to represent the only true meaning.


According to Armin Pfhal-Traughber (2011), Islamism is characterised by six characteristics:

  1. Making Islam absolute as a way of life and the state order
  2. Divine rather than people’s sovereignty as the basis of legitimacy
  3. the desire for holistic pervasion and control of society
  4. Homogeneous and identitarian social order in the name of Islam
  5. United front against the democratic constitutional state
  6. Potential for fanaticism and propensity for violence.


The corresponding interpretation of the Koran is set as a guideline for individuals and all areas of social life. Islamist ideas, therefore, fundamentally rule out the possibility that state and religion could be separate. Although the potential for the propensity of violence generally exists, this does not mean that every Islamist group sees or practices violence as a (primary) means of implementing its ideas.

Children of War

One in six children lived in a conflict zone in 2020. Children suffer particularly from wars and armed conflicts. They lose their parents, siblings, relatives and friends, home, and childhood. When children lose their families or are separated, they are often left to their own devices. Directly experiencing the extremely destructive power of weapons and bombs causes mental and physical injuries that will accompany children throughout their lives. In addition, in most cases, they can not attend school during the war. The lack of education also has far-reaching consequences for their future. Closed schools also mean the absence of an important safe space for their everyday lives, which makes them particularly vulnerable to child trafficking, exploitation, child labour and violence in general. Other important infrastructures like medical care facilities, supply of food, drinking water and electricity are often targeted in wars. As a consequence, children’s basic needs are not or hardly secured. The results are disease and malnutrition. Furthermore, children need support for dealing with their traumatic experiences, particularly psychosocial care, which is usually unavailable. Children, in particular, can hardly process what they have experienced.


In many wars and armed conflicts, children are abused in different ways. In particular, this is done by so-called children soldiers. They are kidnapped from their villages, schools or from the streets and forced to fight, torture and kill with drugs, violence and terror. With the end of the war or the ‘discharge from the army’, they continue to suffer from nightmares, anxiety and insomnia for a very long time and hardly find their way back to a normal life. In many cases, they are not accepted by their families because of their forced violence against their own group.

Sexualised wartime violence

Gender-based violence refers to physical, psychological and social violence, as well as economic exploitation and oppression on the basis of gender or gender identity. Sexualised violence is a special form of this. It is not about living out sexual instinct and sexual acts, but about living out extreme aggression, which is exercised for humiliation, power interests, and to demonstrate hegemonic masculinity.


The greater the power imbalance between the sexes in a society, the more susceptible this society is to genderbased violence during conflicts, including wars. The abuse of women as spoils of war is an explicit part of warfare. It is designed to demoralize and break the enemy by making them realize that they have failed in the role of protection against women than men.  On the other hand, sexualized wartime violence is intended to increase the willingness to use violence and the group cohesion of one’s own fighters and also serve to overcome one’s own experiences of violence and humiliation.


The largest group of these victims and survivors of violence are women and girls, but boys and men are also targeted with sexualised violence. Massive violence is also experienced by homosexual men as well as trans and intersex people in particular. Since sexualized violence is still socially taboo, victims of sexualized wartime violence often suffer from identity-destroying and traumatizing effects. It is silent out of shame and the feeling of having been humiliated and humiliated to the extreme by the enemies.


On 9 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention criminalises genocide. Acts committed with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such are called genocide. The following actions are included:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its

physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


This definition is contained in the International Criminal Code (VStGB) in an almost identical manner. The VStGB stipulates that the crime of genocide or its punishment is not subject to a statute of limitations and that this crime is also to be prosecuted without reference to the country (where the charges for the crime of genocide are being brought). According to the VStGB, genocide, along with war crimes and crimes against peace, is a crime against humanity. Due to its perceived gravity, genocide is commonly regarded as ‘the crime of crimes’. Legally, a crucial aspect is the intent to commit genocide, not the destruction of an entire group. This can mean incitement to action, e.g. killings and murder. It is entirely possible to be accused and convicted of genocide without killing a human being by instigating others to commit genocide.


Already in ancient times there were crimes that fit the definition of genocide. In modern times, genocides were often committed in colonies: by the European colonial powers during colonisation and sometimes also during decolonisation as a consequence of the random drawing of borders by the former colonial authorities.