This paper puts forth the hypothesis that the degree of social distance between perpetrator and victim groups prior to the outbreak of genocide is inversely related to the degree of severity of dehumanization employed by the perpetrator group during genocide. Derived from psychological theory, this hypothesis is illustrated by using a primarily literature-based method of analysis combined with a vignette-designed severity of dehumanization scale. Three genocides are compared: the Rwandan Genocide, the Holocaust as it occurred in Western Europe, and the Holocaust as it occurred in Eastern Europe. The findings for Rwanda and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe show a negative correlation between the two variables, confirming the hypothesis. The results for Western Europe, however, present somewhat of an anomaly; variations in the extermination policies of the German perpetrators in Eastern and Western Europe correspond to this difference and can, in this case, provide a possible explanation for the incongruity.


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pp. 223-250
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