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Holocaust and Genocide Studies 17.2 (2003) 382-384

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Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe, Norman M. Naimark (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 248 pp., $24.95.

Norman M. Naimark's Fires of Hatred consists of nine case studies of "ethnic cleansing" within an historical and conceptual framework: the Armenian Genocide, the removal of Greeks from Turkey, the Holocaust, Soviet deportations of the Chechen-Ingush and the Crimean Tatars, Czechoslovak and Polish expulsions of local Germans during and after World War II, and Serbian campaigns against Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians. Naimark distinguishes ethnic cleansing (the forced removal of an ethnic, religious, or national group from a territory, without exterminatory intent) from genocide, the "intentional killing of a people or peoples" (p. 3). Despite its origin as a Serbian euphemism, the term "ethnic cleansing" is analytically useful, Naimark argues. The practice often results in large numbers of deaths, tremendous suffering, and social and cultural dissolution. Moreover, it frequently devolves into genocide.

The chilling details of the cases support Naimark's view that forced population removal causes devastating consequences. Indeed, especially in the sections on the former Yugoslavia and on the expulsions of Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia, he demonstrates that even in the absence of exterminatory intent, the deportations were carried out in ways that maximized cruelty.

One of the book's major weaknesses, however, is the somewhat restrictive and inconsistent [End Page 382] use of the term "genocide." For example, in the introduction Naimark acknowledges that genocide occurs whether the perpetrators target every member or only a substantial portion of a group. Yet, he subsequently stresses that, because some Armenians were allowed to convert to escape death, "the concept of genocide does not fit the Armenian case perfectly" (p. 36).

At a deeper level, Naimark's use of "genocide" conflicts with the UN definition, but he does not defend this or reference the extensive literature clarifying and interpreting that definition. While for him genocide requires physical killing, the UN standard, following Raphael Lemkin, recognizes that the destruction of a group can be accomplished through emphasis on other means. What Naimark considers nongenocidal ethnic cleansing, in the form of deportations accompanied by excessive violence, actually seems to qualify as genocide by the UN definition, which includes the "causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group" (though presumably this is genocidal only in conjunction with some measure of death, as occurred in the cases Naimark treats). Similarly, the fact that many Armenian "orphans" were forced into Turkish homes, contrary to Naimark's claims, reinforces the genocidal nature of Armenian suffering, given the UN definition's inclusion of forcible transfer of children from one group to another. Though Naimark's distinction between ethnic cleansing and genocide is helpful in some cases, the standard definition of genocide has more flexibility and explanatory value than he allows. Significantly, Naimark does not engage important alternative definitions and subtle examinations of definitional issues by Kuper, Fein, Chalk and Jonassohn, Churchill, Charny, and others. As a result, his framework remains rudimentary and subject to conceptual shortcomings that already have been overcome by others.

Naimark advances a number of ancillary theses. First, he argues that ethnic cleansing is a modern phenomenon linked to the development of nationalism—particularly its ethnically based form—and modern states. For different cases, he offers compelling supporting evidence, including numerous revealing details of political motives, deliberations, and maneuvering. Second, he also adopts the rare and welcome approach of evaluating cases not only through analogical comparison but also by exploring the concrete historical interconnections among them. He shows, for instance, how the Treaty of Lausanne, which retroactively legitimized brutal Turkish and Greek population exchanges of 1922 and 1923, encouraged subsequent would-be perpetrators of ethnic cleansing.

Naimark's book deserves special credit for a third virtue. Despite recent rhetoric about the significance of rape and other forms of violence against women during genocide and ethnic cleansing, few treatments substantively engage the issues. Naimark discusses gender-specific violations in detail and integrates them as essential...


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