Genocides and Lemkins Principle - Essay Example

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Boston College
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Raphael Lemkin, a Polish attorney, and writer, coined the word genocide in 1941 by combining two  words, genos a Greek word that means race, and cide, a Latin word that means killing. The United Nations defines genocide as the various means via which the following acts are committed, usually with the intent to destroy, in part or in whole of an ethnic, national, religious, or racial group, for example, killing members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions that subsequently lead to physical destruction, causing serious bodily harm to the group members, impose measures geared towards preventing births among the group members, or forcibly transferring the children of that group to another. For this reason, it can be considered as the intentional destruction of national or ethnic groups, which has been part of the history of human history for millennia. However, since the 19th Century, its nature and scale have dramatically changed, which is attributed to various factors, including the rise of nationalism, as well as political affinities and national affinities.

Dramas demonstrate real happenings of genocidal incidents. In the last decade, there have been an increase in the number of artistic materials, mainly artistic and literary expressions about genocide, for example, that happened in Rwanda. In essence, these have been influenced by looking into the history of how genocides happened, mainly attributed to social, religious, ethnic, and political reasons. Essentially, in 1994, Rwanda had a genocide where perpetrators, as well as victims, played their role as the whole world watched. In this current paper, the researcher focusses on genocide drama with special references to the Eyes of the Heart by Catherine Filloux, A Patch of the Earth by Kitty Felde, and Maria Kizito by Erik Ehn.


The 20th Century, characterized with World War I and II, was one of the bloodiest period in human history, which was primarily plagued by the two world wars that saw many people die globally, as well as the cold war between the Soviet Union and the West, which subsequently fought proxy wars in developing and decolonizing countries. For instance, in World War I, the then government of Turkey staged barbaric massacres in modern times, coined the death march of the Armenians in the country. Since the world had not witnessed such crimes, no actions were taken against the government, perhaps because the world was unable to grasp the scope of the atrocity.

In 1933, Lemkin proposed to the International Conference for Unification of Criminal law held in Madrid requesting the codification of what he termed as the connected crimes of vandalism and barbarity to outlaw the annihilation of ethnic, religious, social, and national collectivities. According to Uvin, genocide is exacerbated by the fact that the people are socially dead, just like the Tutsis and Hutus who participated in the Rwandan genocide, and compared them to them to the Jews and Nazis (Uvin 113). As such, since then dramatization of genocides have been part and parcel of writers, play writers, as well as film directors. Examples include Eyes of the Heart by Catherine Filloux, A Patch of the Earth by Kitty Felde, and Maria Kizito by Erik Ehn. These have been performed in the stages of the United States.

Theatre has its origin in daily rituals, as well as the very rituals of everyday life including death, marriage, and birth. Genocides are unique events that forever obliterate the rituals, and generations, in this case, are lost, family lineages destroyed, and community life disrupted. In essence, no society has readily prepared rituals that are mainly intended to deal with the aftermath of collective experiences of destruction and death, and thus, new rituals, after a genocidal event, must be prepared for people to deal with mourning their dead, commemorating the event, preserving the memory, and creating a path to reconciliation.


Maria Kizito by Erik Ehn is one of the dramas about genocide, and specifically features the Rwandan genocide that happened in 1994. It is as a result of Ehns research in the country. The play mainly meditates on a recent trial where two nuns of Rwandese origin were charged with genocide. In essence, they were accused and subsequently found guilty of facilitating and encouraging the murder of seven thousand refugees that sought shelter at the convent as the Rwandan genocide happened. The name of the nuns was Sister Maria Kizito along with her mother superior called Gertrude Mukangangwa, and thus, the play was mainly about faith. As such, the play highlights one of the rituals that happen every day, such as prayer and a belief in God. As such, the play highlights the history of drama, primarily because it highlights some of the daily happenings of the Rwanda genocide. Maria Kizito, however, does not explain the source of the genocide or fix the blame, instead, it attempts to enter and portray the inner life of a genocidal perpetrator. In essence, this is one of the features of drama, where the actors should portray the real happenings of an event. In essence, dramas were created to portray the daily rituals of events, and the play, Maria Kizito by Ehn is no different.

According to Amanda, the play showcased legendary theatre in that it reflected government-driven information campaigns that were based on carefully scripted history (Amanda 47). In essence, this type of theatre is just like propaganda, but is intended mainly for social good. In essence, this type of drama has its history from the fact that playwrights attempt to imagine a society where its ethnic functionalities are separate ethnic identities disappear under the underlying myth of one Rwanda, primarily because of the different groups of people, including Tutsi, Twa, and Hutu, the main ethnic communities of Rwanda. For this reason, it can be highlighted that the history of genocide drama emanated from the variant communities and differences regarding political inclination, religious differences, or tribe. In fact, the Rwanda genocide was mainly exacerbated by the different ethnicities in the country.

Maria Kizito and her mother superior in the play spend most of the time in prayer. However, in the play, the refugees and nuns pry out of the Bible of Genocide in that all readings, for example, hymns and psalms, relate to the genocide where many Hutus and Tutsis were killed. Besides, the play highlights dramatization of grassroots theatre. In this dramatization, after genocide, there is a potential for reconciliation, which in the long run helps calm people and stop the genocide. In the case of the play, it plays a significant role in recent dramas, which usually portray the need for reconciliation. In essence, just like the Rwandan case, survivors and perpetrators in plays use reconciliation manly for uniting their communities in dancing, acting, singing, as well as acting together, which help forge new relationships as well as reconcile and heal themselves (Amanda 47). As such, the genocide, which culminated in reconciliation, enabled Ehns play, Maria Kizito to highlight the reconciliation, which mirrored that which ended the genocide in Rwanda. For this reason, it can be deduced that actual events have played a role in dramatizing genocides. Essentially, the play was not meant to be an explanation or a condemnation of the genocide, Ehn tried to provide a space of time whereby the audience can be with Maria, not to try judging her guilt, but to try to let the audience be with her in her guilt (Edmondson 70). For this reason, the history of genocide drama lies in the real situation happenings of genocide.

Also, the real happenings help shape plays. For instance, Maria Kizito employs as an aspect of hallucinatory realism, which according to Edmondson (69) uses the tension between fact and poetry, as well as reality and nightmare. As such, the nightmarish aspects of the real happenings of genocide, such as that of Rwanda, helped shape Maria Kizito. The play does not highlight any information about the background of Maria that contextualizes her actions in the tradition of naturalism and realism (Edmondson 70), and thus, the history of genocide, as in the play, disregards aspects of naturalism and realism. Even son, Ehn was able to create a glimpse of this incomprehensible but specific world of the Rwanda genocide (Edmondson 71).

In addition, just like the genocide that happened in Rwanda, A Patch of the Earth by Kitty Felde was inspired by the genocidal happenings of the Bosnia in the Srebrenica Massacre where approximately 8,000 Bosnian boys and men coupled with an ethnic cleansing of about 30,000 refugees, around and in the town of Srebrenica in Herzegovina and Bosnia, by the units Army of Republika Srpska following the command of General Mladic in the war of Bosnia. As such, the play is reflective of this genocide, and thus, it can be derived that the happenings dictated the play.

It is believed that the ancient religious rivalries led to the outbreak of the violence in Yugoslavia, particularly, in the 1990s. For instance, in the 14th century, Bosnia was an example of how people of variant religions could live harmoniously together. However, due to ethnic violence over the years, it exacerbated the massacre. In 1389, Turkish Muslims fought Christian Serbs during the Battle of Kosovo, and subsequently occupied much of Yugoslavia, and 500 years later, in 1876, Serb allegations of Muslim cruelty led to the war with Turkey leading to deaths of 12,000 Orthodox Christians near Bulgaria. On St. Vitus Day on June 28, 1914, a Bosnian Serb led to World War II, and Serb casualties during the war were almost two and a half times compared to those suffered by the French. In effect, the Versailles Treaty ended the war, but Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs were not happy. Croats said that the Croats wanted it all, but the Serbs pointed out that the Croats spoiled it. Second World War, however, divided Yugoslavia. Croats sided with the Germans but were accused of committing atrocities that even the Nazis found appalling. Serbs were required to wear blue armbands while Orthodox priests were massacred in the war and six hundred children and women were thrown off a cliff on Vitus da at a Franciscan Monastery. For this reason, just like the Rwandan genocide, the Second World War provided a platform for many deaths.

Therefore, it can be derived that the atrocities in Yugoslavia highlighted in A Patch of the Earth by Kitty Felde were mainly derived from the happenings of genocidal happenings in Bosnia in 1995. Therefore, genocide drama is derived mainly from real happenings that happened to actual people. The play highlights Drazen Erdemovic, a young and disinclined soldier, who in 1995, in Srebrenica, was one of those given orders to kill. Just like that of Ehn, Maria Kizito, the play allows us to fit in the shows of Erdemovic, even though Felde allows this incompletely and briefly, and thus, allows us to consider the internal struggle of the soldier with the stain of guilt that is recorded to persist regardless of the external pronouncement of the court. In the play, Drazen Erdemovic is highlighted to face the ultimate dilemma. He is a reluctant soldier who has been ordered to kill unarmed Bosnian Muslim boys and men or be killed if he does not follow the instructions. The plays begin with the sentencing of the war criminal Eremovic, whom fellow soldiers refer to him as a cry baby. He had managed to fight for three armies in the Bosnian war, but say that he had not killed a soul, not until one July afternoon when together with his mates were sent to a corn field located in Srebrenic...

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