Yves Ternon

Wars and Genocide in the 20th Century Publication date : January 11, 2007

Is the twentieth century the Age of Genocide? Despite the founding of an international criminal court, the recent past does not encourage optimism: the 1990s will undoubtedly be remembered for the violent acts committed in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda.
Yves Ternon argues that some central questions must be addressed: Do the major wars of our time necessarily result in genocide? Is war simply an accelerator, a factor that facilitates mass murder, or should we seek other explanations to uncover the underlying causes of such murders?
In the light of these questions, the author re-examines the three major genocides — the Jewish, Armenian and Rwandan — that marked the twentieth century, and, in the process, he reveals the complex interactions that resulted, in each case, in massacre.
He concludes with a question that has become of utmost importance: In today’s world, has war ultimately triumphed over the Law?

“If genocide remains possible, no group of people in the world can be sure of surviving without the protection of international law,” wrote Hanna Arendt in the 1960s. Her statement remains pertinent today.
This is an indispensable reminder, now that, once again, violence seems to dominate the international scene.

A surgeon by profession, Yves Ternon has specialised for many years in the study of mass murder, particularly the Jewish and Armenian genocide. He is the author of: 1915, le Génocide des Arméniens (with G. Chaliand, 2002); L’Empire ottoman, le déclin, la chute, l’effacement (with G. Chaliand, 2002); L’Innocence des victimes (2001); Arméniens, histoire d’un genocide (1996); L’Etat criminel (1995); and Raspoutine, une tragédie russe (1991).