7.8 Mass Atrocities After 1900

5 min readjanuary 22, 2023

Jed Quiaoit

Jed Quiaoit



AP World History: Modern 🌍

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Atrocities depicting the dark side of humanity did not stop at the Rape of Nanjing or any other vicious war crime before that. Genocides and other acts of ethnic violence were committed to destroy specific groups, races, and/or populations, often viewed as inferior based on hierarchical principles such as Social Darwinism.


One of the most notorious instances of mass violence was the Holocaust. In history, it goes down as the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism, claiming the lives of 6 million Jews. The Holocaust began in 1933, shortly after the Nazi party came to power in Germany, with the implementation of discriminatory laws against Jews and other minority groups. These laws stripped Jews of their rights and property, forced them into ghettos, lead to children being picked on and excluded in schools, and adults getting blacklisted from getting jobs. A brutal example of these attacks occurred on Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass), when Jewish houses and businesses were trashed, burned, and destroyed.
Things only worsened as, in 1941, Hitler implemented his final solution: the extermination of all Jews. Jews and their families are rounded up and brought to concentration camps (the most infamous one being Auschwitz). The Holocaust also included the forced displacement of millions of people, including the forced expulsion of Polish Jews and other minority groups from their homes, as well as the forced relocation of Jews and other minority groups to these concentration camps. They are then overworked and starved to death. Most perished in gas chambers and summary executions routinely conducted by Germans. As Allies from both sides advanced to Germany, they were horrified by the sights of the concentration camps spread out across Germany and Poland.

The Nuremberg Trials

The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals held in Nuremberg, Germany, after the end of World War II to prosecute prominent leaders of the Nazi regime for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. The Holocaust was a central focus of the Nuremberg Trials, as it represented one of the most heinous and systematic war crimes committed during the war. The Holocaust is considered one of the worst atrocities in human history. Up to this day, memorials and commemorations are still conducted in honor of those who survived and perished during the Holocaust.

Other Mass Atrocities

Target Group(s)
Number Killed
Armenian Genocide
During & after WWI
Ottoman Empire
~1.5 million
Holodomor & famines
1920s and 1930s
Soviet Union
~3.5 million
Cambodian Genocide
Late 1970s
1.5 to 2 million
Rwandan Genocide
500,000 to 1 million

Armenian Genocide

The genocide was carried out by the Ottoman government, which was led by the Young Turks. The government implemented a plan to deport and massacre the Armenian population living in the empire. The Armenian people were rounded up, forced to march long distances into the Syrian desert, and killed along the way. Many were also killed in mass killings and through other means such as starvation, disease, and forced labor. The Armenian genocide also included the forced displacement of the Armenian population from their homes and the seizure of their property. Many Armenian women and children were also forced into sexual slavery, and thousands of Armenian children were forcibly taken from their parents and raised as Muslims.

Holodomor & famines

The Holodomor was a man-made famine that occurred in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-1933. It is estimated that between 3 and 7 million people died as a result of the famine. The term "Holodomor" is derived from the Ukrainian words "holod" meaning "hunger" and "mor" meaning "plague". The famine was not only caused by the requisition and collectivization policies which led to food shortages and widespread starvation, but also by the Soviet government's refusal to provide any aid to the affected areas, and by the government's decision to export food from Ukraine while the population was starving. The Soviet government also imposed strict censorship and control over information about the famine, making it difficult for the outside world to learn about the scale of the disaster.

Cambodian genocide

The Cambodian genocide was a mass extermination of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge, a communist regime led by Pol Pot. It is estimated that approximately 21% of the population was killed as a result of the genocide. The Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 after a long and bloody civil war. Once in power, they implemented a radical and brutal program of social engineering aimed at creating a classless, agrarian society.
To achieve this goal, the Khmer Rouge forced the entire population of cities and towns to relocate to rural areas to work in collective farms. This caused widespread starvation, disease, and death. The Khmer Rouge also implemented a policy of mass execution, targeting perceived enemies of the regime, including intellectuals, professionals, ethnic minorities, and religious groups. Prisoners were held in mass detention centers and subjected to torture, rape, and execution. The Khmer Rouge also implemented a forced labor policy, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people through starvation, disease, and overwork. The Khmer Rouge also targeted specific groups for extermination, including the Cham Muslim minority, the Vietnamese minority and the Buddhist monks. Many Cambodians were forced to marry and have children with other people chosen by the Khmer Rouge. These children were taken from their parents and raised in collective state-run orphanages, where they were indoctrinated with Khmer Rouge ideology.

Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan genocide was a mass extermination of the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus by the Hutu-dominated government, known as the Interahamwe, and the military of Rwanda that occurred in 1994. It is estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during the 100-day genocide. The genocide was characterized by its brutality and speed. The Interahamwe and government-controlled military units systematically hunted down and killed Tutsi and moderate Hutu men, women, and children. Many Tutsis and moderate Hutus were also killed in churches, schools, and other places where they sought refuge. The genocide was also characterized by its widespread use of rape as a weapon of war.
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