What is genocide? | Live Science

Acts of genocide — trying to partially or completely destroy an entire people or group — have been committed countless times in prehistory, and numerous times since. For example, Egyptian hieroglyphs on a memorial stone from the late 13th century B.C. give what may be the earliest-known mention of the people of Israel, along with the erroneous claim that the pharaoh Merneptah killed them all; and in 88 B.C. Mithridates, the king of Pontus, ordered all Italians in his lands killed, resulting in perhaps 100,000 murders and the brutal Mithridatic Wars with Rome. Many times the Romans also committed genocide against their enemies: During the destruction of Carthage in modern-day Tunisia in 146 B.C., for example, an estimated 62,000 people were executed and 50,000 enslaved (opens in new tab); and in the Gallic Wars of the first century B.C., Julius Caesar claimed that his armies killed more than a million Gauls and Germans (historians now think the real number was much lower (opens in new tab)). Many millions are also thought to have died in colonial genocides at the hands of European powers, especially in the New World and in Africa.

However, genocide has only been internationally recognized and become a major world concern in the last 80 years, alongside the industrialization of warfare and the large-scale atrocities that occurred in the 20th century. The term genocide is now almost defined by the Holocaust and other mass killings during World War II, when six million Jews and about 12 million others (opens in new tab) — including Romani, Russians, and Poles — were murdered during the Nazi German occupation of Europe. 


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