Quotations about   genocide

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Throughout our nervous history, we have constructed pyramidic towers of evil, ofttimes in the name of good. Our greed, fear and lasciviousness have enabled us to murder our poets, who are ourselves, to castigate our priests, who are ourselves. The lists of our subversions of the good stretch from before recorded history to this moment. We drop our eyes at the mention of the bloody, torturous Inquisition. Our shoulders sag at the thoughts of African slaves lying spoon-­fashion in the filthy hatches of slave-ships, and the subsequent auction blocks upon which were built great fortunes in our country. We turn our heads in bitter shame at the remembrance of Dachau and the other gas ovens, where millions of ourselves were murdered by millions of ourselves. As soon as we are reminded of our actions, more often than not we spend incredible energy trying to forget what we’ve just been reminded of.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Facing Evil,” Interview by Bill Moyers (1982)
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Added on 30-Apr-21 | Last updated 30-Apr-21
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For the moral point of this matter is never reached by calling what happened by the name of “genocide” or by counting the many millions of victims: the extermination of whole peoples had happened before in antiquity, as well as in modern colonization. It is reached only when we realize that this happened within the frame of a legal order and that the cornerstone of this “new law” consisted of the command “Thou shalt kill,” not thy enemy but innocent people who were not even potentially dangerous, and not for any reason of necessity but, on the contrary, even against all military and other utilitarian considerations.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
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Added on 4-Mar-21 | Last updated 4-Mar-21
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Every nation, like every individual, walks in a vain show — else it could not live with itself — but I never got over the wonder of a people who, having extirpated the aboriginals of their continent more completely than any modern race had ever done, honestly believed that they were a godly little New England community, setting examples to brutal mankind.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
Something of Myself, ch. 15 (1937)
Added on 11-Sep-13 | Last updated 17-Jul-17
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A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.

Josef Stalin (1879-1953) Georgian revolutionary and Soviet dictator
(Attributed)

Alternate versions:
  • "Death of one man is a tragedy. Death of a million is a statistic."
  • "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic."
  • "When one dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it is a statistic."
  • "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic."
The actual quote (such as is supported) appears to be "When one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it's statistics." It is found in David McCullough, Truman (1992), said by Stalin to Churchill in Tehran when the latter was concerned over the potential casualties of opening a second front in France prematurely. McCullough cites it to Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, The Time of Stalin: Portrait of Tyranny (1981).

On the other hand, Mary Soames (Churchill's daughter) said in a BBC interview with Andrew Marr (11 Nov 2011) that she overhead Stalin say this to her father at Potsdam, when Churchill was upset over the death of a family friend and then apologized to Stalin given the high number of Russian war casualties.

The earliest mention of the quote and Stalin is a 28 Sep 1958 book review.

Compare to Erich Maria Remarque, Der schwarze Obelisk (1956): "Sonderbar, denke ich, wir alle haben doch so viele Tote im Kriege gesehen, und wir wissen, daß über zwei Millionen von uns nutzlos gefallen sind — warum sind wir da so erregt wegen eines einzelnen, und die zwei Millionen haben wir schon fast vergessen? Aber das ist wohl so, weil ein einzelner immer der Tod ist — und zwei Millionen immer nur eine Statistik." [Strangely, I think we all have seen so many dead in the war, and we know that more than two million of us are unvalued -- why we are so excited because of an individual, and we have two million almost forgotten already? But that is probably so because a single death is always a death -- and two million only a statistic.]

Also compare to a 1932 essay on French humor by Kurt Tucholsky, German journalist, pacifist, and satirist. He wrote of a diplomat in the French Ministry of Foreign affairs, who said: "The war? I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!"
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Nov-17
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