Comparing the Nazi Holocaust and
Genocide in Uganda

by Melissa Black

December 4, 2005

web project for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Holocaust

UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2005

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Genocide has plagued history throughout time. Although the Jewish Holocaust is the most studied and well known, it was not the first episode of genocide in history, and it wasnít the last. Genocide is often thought of as something of the past, and that the world learned its lesson after World War II. Unfortunately though, not only has genocide continued, but there currently is one unfolding in Uganda. The Lordís Resistance Army, made up of rebels trying to overthrow the government, is mimicking the Nazis in many ways, and their leader Joseph Kony is following in the footsteps of Hitler. There are many similarities that link Nazi Germany with todayís situation in northern Uganda, but they have their differences also.

The most tragic similarity between the two genocides is the lack of intervention. The Holocaust went unstopped throughout World War II, and now, after 19 years, the LRA still has not been stopped for the genocide it is still committing. Six million Jews died before an intervention was made and World War II ended. Because of the circumstances hindering a proper census, it is hard to give exact numbers of casualties, people who have been abducted, and refugees. According to imcworldwide.org, "More than 1.6 million peopleóincluding 95% of the population in some districtsóhave been displaced by the violence", and "Ninety five percent of the land has been abandoned". Also, an estimated 30,000 children have been abducted by the LRA and transformed into child soldiers (latimes.com). Currently the exact statistics of the Ugandan victims is unknown, but the number is high, and unfortunately growing. Not only are there the people who were directly killed by the LRA through violence, but there are also all the people who have been killed by them through starvation, and their rape victims who die of AIDS. Currently, there are only about a million and a half Acholi still alive as result of the brutalities inflicted upon them by the LRA (blackcommentator.com). It is going to be a long time before the struggle comes to an end, and only time will tell how high the body count will reach.

Victims of both genocides victims were deprived of the basic living conditions along with necessary means of survival. Upon the arrival in the concentration camps, they were stripped of all worldly possessions that they still had, including their own clothes, which were replaced with prisoner uniforms. The children of Uganda similarly lack possessions of their own for the most part. Even though they are still in street clothes rather than prison uniforms, they received many of their possessions through charities because adequate clothing is so scarce. Starvation killed vast amounts of people during the Holocaust, and currently in Uganda, people die of malnutrition constantly. These victims are deprived of the most basic necessities of life, not to mention how treacherous the psychological effects are on victims.

During the Holocaust, a common method of survival involved going into hiding. Hiding was not always successful, but it did save many lives. Right now, in an attempt to remain free from the LRA, children hide for their lives each night. The LRA comes and abducts children in order to turn them into child soldiers relentlessly. If caught, children are trained to kill, and sometimes are even forced to kill their families. In an attempt to escape this horrible fate, the Acholi children of Uganda commute nightly to hospitals and bus stations. There, thousands of children sleep where it is safer until morning.

Ugandan children waiting for a bus
Night commuting children in Uganda hiding from the LRA
Buchenwald inmates
Prisoners packed into bunks at Buchenwald Conc. Camp

Although the night hiding is safer, the community hiding areas are horribly overcrowded (Invisible Children). In the Jewish concentration camps, living arrangements were also extremely overcrowded and unsanitary. Multiple people shared single bunks as many others were forced to revert to sleeping on the ground. In both situations, people were packed together like sardines. The images alone show similarities by illustrating the large numbers of people all packed in together.

Unlike the Nazi Party in Germany, the LRA does not have the broad popular support that Hitler did. For example, the LRA does not have the successful propaganda campaign like the Nazis, and they especially donít have the countryís popular support. Instead they are a small band of rebels, at the most, only made up of 4,500 non-abducted members (wikipedia.org). People do not typically join the LRA on their own accord, but instead they are abducted and forced to kill with the LRA. Their only way out then is escape, which is highly unlikely, or death, which is a lot more common. The Acholi who do not choose to join the LRA are considered to be against them, which the Lordís Resistance Army considers to be a justification for murder. The LRA then goes on to "cleanse" the people in the area who refuse to join them, or whom they consider "untrustworthy" (globalsecurity.org). The Lordís Resistance Armyís decision to kill people because of their lack of support for the LRA coincides with Hitlerís persecution of political opponents and people who simply voiced opinions contrary to those opinions belonging to the Nazis. Many members of the Social Democratic Party for example were imprisoned in work camps simply because Hitler wouldnít tolerate anyone speaking out against him.

Although not identical, both the Jewish Holocaust and the situation unfolding in Africa have religious motives. During World War II, the Germans targeted the Jews for murder on the principle of their Jewish faith. They used massive amounts of propaganda to gain support. In Uganda, the Acholi arenít necessarily being targeted for their religion, but rather the Lordís Resistance Army abducts them for their army whose goal is to convert the country into a nation of people who derive their government from the Ten Commandments. The Lordís Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, is dedicated to waging war on the people of Uganda in an attempt to overthrow the government. They are a group of religious fanatics determined to institutionalize a government that rules the nation by its twisted interpretation of the Ten Commandments (wikipedia.org). Apparently, they overlooked a couple, including the one forbidding murder. The Lordís Resistance Army doesnít allow anyone to disobey the Ten Commandments and work on Sunday. A method they have used in enforcing the rule is cutting off the arms of their victims in order to make it impossible for them to use their arms during work (blackcommentator.com).

Throughout the Holocaust, the Nazis had a clear plan in mind, complete with goals. They wanted to create their "perfect" Aryan race, and achieving that goal meant implementing their "Final Solution", or putting an end to the Jewish race. Hitler was obsessed with German world domination. The Lordís Resistance Army of Uganda doesnít even have a clear set of goals (wikipedia.org). Nazi Germany expanded to cover a large amount of territory during World War II. The Nazis plagued several countries in Europe, making an international problem. The LRA on the other hand, has remained in Uganda for the most part, other than their contact with southern Sudan. One can assume that had Hitler kept his Aryan race to just Germany, and not invaded other countries, he would have been able to successfully eliminate the Jews. It wasnít until he provoked foreign involvement that he really had to face opposition.

The Nazis held an extremely racist view of the Jews. They were thought of as filthy parasites with whom they did not even want to associate. The associations between the Jews and Nazis were those of a prisoner guard relationship. The Lordís Resistance Army also thinks very poorly of their victims, but they still associate with them by taking them into their army, and making sex slaves of the women. Children who are abducted by the LRA go through a systematic desensitization process in order to train them to be numb to violence, and kill. The young girls abducted by the LRA also have more sexual contact with them. The girls are forced to be sex slaves to them, and often find themselves left with children by their rapists, and AIDS (imcworldwide.org).

Neither the Jewish Holocaust, nor the genocide unfolding in Uganda is meant to be trivialized. They both have similarities and differences that show the horrendous atrocities that they have had to endure. Both groups are linked to their destruction by motives pertaining to religion (whether it be the religion of the oppressed, or the religion of the oppressor) and their living conditions cannot be excused. The crimes committed against the Jews were permitted to go unstopped for years, similar to the lack of intervention occurring in Uganda currently. The Nazis had a clear cut plan with popular support unlike the Lordís Resistance Army. Despite the things they have in common, and the things they donít, it is obvious that they both have gone through tremendous amounts of suffering at the hands of ruthless villains.


About the Author (back to top)

Melissa Black
I am a fourth year history major with a minor in Latin America and Iberia Studies at UC Santa Barbara. My portion of the project was about comparative genocide between the Nazi Holocaust and the situation currently unfolding in Uganda. Unfortunately, the current events in Uganda are virtually unknown by the public. I hope that will change soon.


prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on12/6/05; last updated: 12/14/05
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